PRESS RELEASE

THURSDAY, JANUARY 20, 2000

(202) 616-2777
WWW.USDOJ.GOV
TDD (202) 514-1888

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES NEW AGREEMENT CONTINUING LABORERS UNION REFORMS UNTIL 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department has reached a new agreement with the Laborer's International Union of North America, AFL-CIO, that requires the union to continue the anti-corruption, pro-democracy reforms that it began five years ago under an earlier agreement that expires this month. The new agreement continues to 2006 and binds LIUNA to maintain direct membership election of union officers, hiring-hall reforms, and disciplinary procedures to oust corrupt union members and officials.

The agreement, announced by James K. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Criminal Division, replaces the existing five-year reform plan that expires this month and guarantees the continuation of LIUNA's ongoing reform efforts through at least September 30, 2006.

Recognizing the success of the cooperative effort between LIUNA and the United States to fight organized crime influence in the union, the Justice Department has given up the power to seek the appointment of court officers to run the day to day affairs of the union in return for than doubling the length of the previously negotiated reform program. This agreement also guarantees the government's right to veto any major change in the existing reform program and guarantees independent oversight of the next two international union elections.

Joining Robinson was Tom Walsh, Chief of the Civil Division, U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago, David R. Knowlton, Deputy Assistant Director of the F.B.I.'s Criminal Investigative Division, and Roy Landreth, Deputy Assistant Inspector General, Department of Labor.

The government began negotiating with LIUNA in 1994 to compel the union to rid itself of its decades-old history of corruption and organized crime influence. After the Justice Department served the union with a draft civil racketeering complaint threatening to compel court-supervised reforms, the government and LIUNA entered into an agreement in February, 1995, which gave LIUNA an initial 90 days to begin its internal reform program. The reform program has substantially achieved the government's goals without litigation and with the union, not taxpayers, bearing the expense.

In connection with the government's agreement with LIUNA, the union has adopted an ethical practices code and disciplinary procedures, which are administered by reform officers who are appointed with the government's consent to investigate and adjudicate allegations of corruption. These internal reform officers include an Inspector General to investigate misconduct, a General Executive Board Attorney to prosecute allegations, an Independent Hearing Officer to adjudicate charges, an Appellate Officer to hear appeals from decisions of the IHO, and an Independent Elections Officer to supervise and ensure fair and democratic elections for LIUNA's international union officers.

To date, under LIUNA's internal disciplinary process, 226 individuals (127 of whom were alleged to have ties to organized crime) have left the union either because of expulsion resulting from disciplinary charges or because of retirement or resignation.

Additionally, LIUNA has imposed than 40 trusteeships and "supervisions" of various locals and subordinate entities for ties to organized crime, financial mismanagement or lack of democratic practices within the entities. These trusteeships and supervisions have resulted in the removal of approximately 200 officers and the implementation of better financial management and greater democracy in these locals. LIUNA has also agreed to court-appointed officers in three cases to eliminate corruption: 1) The Mason Tenders District Council in New York City; 2) The Chicago District Council; and 3) Local 210 in Buffalo, New York.

In 1996, LIUNA held its first direct secret ballot election for International President and Secretary-Treasurer and that vote was its first-ever contested election for the LIUNA presidency. That election was conducted under the supervision of the Independent Elections Officer. LIUNA has also amended its constitution to provide for direct secret ballot election by rank and file union members of all of its international officers, including vice presidents, beginning in 2001. LIUNA has also implemented reform to eliminate corruption in its local hiring halls and other reforms designed to eliminate financial corruption and mismanagement in the union.

In the new agreement, LIUNA commits itself to maintain the current ethical, disciplinary, and electoral reforms until at least 2006. Additionally, LIUNA may not remove any of the ethics and disciplinary officers without good cause and may not replace them without the consent of the Department of Justice.

Robinson said that LIUNA's independent officers had done an outstanding job in working with the government to eliminate corruption within LIUNA and to restore union democracy. "It is my hope that this reform program may set an example that can be achieved through cooperation than through conflict," Robinson said. "Today's news indicates that the resolution of often difficult issues does not necessitate hostility and court action."

Noting the advances made by LIUNA, Robinson said that LIUNA is now in a position to conduct its reforms without the immediate threat of indefinite court supervision of the union. But, Robinson said, the new agreement provides for immediate access to judicial relief if LIUNA attempts to undercut its reforms in any material way.

In the area of election reform, LIUNA has agreed to retain Professor Stephen B. Goldberg of Northwestern University, who supervised the 1996 elections as it's independent Elections Officer, for the 2001 election of its international officers. Professor Goldberg will be assisted by labor lawyers Robert E. Bloch and Henry E. Murray. Scott R. Lassar, U.S. Attorney in Chicago, praised Professor Goldberg's supervision of the 1996 election, which he said was conducted in an exemplary fashion at a reasonable cost to the union. Lassar added that LIUNA is also committed in the agreement to retention of an independent Elections Officer for the 2006 election. Therefore, due to the agreement with the Department of Justice, LIUNA will have contested elections of its international officers in 1996, 2001 and 2006 under the supervision of an independent Elections Officer without any cost to the government.

"The current agreement insures that LIUNA's reform programs will continue until a culture of democratic practice is established within the union and corruption is completely eliminated from the union," said Robinson.

"This reform has been a long time coming," said Lassar, "but this agreement guarantees that after 2006, LIUNA's members will belong to a free and democratic union."

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