by Cathy Chestnut
Following a dramatic trusteeship hearing,
several leaders of the Chicago Laborers District Council could
be expelled from the Laborers International Union of North America
(LIUNA) for associating with organized crime.
The decision will come after three months
of damaging testimony from a parade of seasoned investigators
and former mobsters during a four-month hearing on mob domination
of the District Council.
A formal Laborers Union trusteeship complaint
targets seven of the District Council's 21 locals.
Named in the complaint are 23 union officials
and employees, including District Council President Bruno Caruso.
They stand accused of violating the union's Ethical Practices
Code for being members or associates of the tight-knit La Cosa
Nostra (LCN), also known as the Chicago Outfit.
LIUNA Independent Hearing Officer Peter Vaira,
a former federal prosecutor, heard the closed-door testimony from
July 16 through October 24, and is expected to rule soon on the
The LIUNA complaint charges mismanagement
of the 19,200-member District Council' s combined funds, valued
at $900 million. It claims fund trustees have been appointed "for
'unexpiring terms' in direct conflict" with written policies.
The complaint charges that mob control has
replaced union democracy, noting "not a single contested
election has occurred at the Chicago District Council or in affiliated
Locals 1, 2, 5, 225, 1001, or 1006 in the past twenty years."
Under a 1995 agreement with the Justice Department
of Justice(DOJ), LIUNA must clean corruption and organized crime
influence out of the Laborers Union or face federal racketeering
charges and a government takeover (see HARD HAT, Spring 1995).
Michael Corbitt is the former Police Chief
of a Chicago suburb. He is also a convicted mob money courier.
He was a star witness for the international union, linking a dozen
Chicago-area labor leaders to the mob.
Corbitt recalled Bruno Caruso delivering
envelopes on two occasions to the late Pat Marcy, a 1st Ward political
fixer and known mob associate. Frank Caruso, who oversees the
union health and welfare fund, allegedly accompanied his brother
Bruno on one of those visits.
Corbitt said he delivered "garbage bags
full of money" to the late Vincent Solano, President of Local
1 from 1970 to 1992.
Corbitt also fingered Al Pilotto, a former
District Council Vice President and President of Local 5 in Chicago
Pilotto, who recently served time in prison
for racketeering, was "the boss of the Chicago Heights crew.
That's what he did for a living, as far as I knew, other than
his union (affiliation)," Corbitt said.
Corbitt also spoke of convicted racketeer
Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Sr., father of Chicago
District Council Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Lombardo, Jr.
The senior Lombardo "was an enforcer.
In my estimation, I believe that he filled up a cemetery or two
. . . my opinion now is, he's still running the show in some fashion,"
Lombardo, Jr. took over his position from
James Caporale, who went to prison in 1987 for taking kickbacks
from the District Council's welfare fund.
LIUNA has accused both Lombardo and District
Council Vice President John Matassa, Jr. of allowing Caporale
to retain three positions and a total salary of $500,000 following
Corbitt testified from a Florida prison,
where he is serving a 20-year sentence for racketeering, bribery
He said one time Chicago mob chieftain Sam
Giancana got him in as a policeman in Willow Springs, and told
him, "Just remember your friends."
During the hearing, several former Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents explained the mob's history,
power structure and named members or associates.
Former agent W. Douglas Gow was hired by
the LIUNA to be its Inspector-General, and to conduct the in-house
Gow reported receiving an anonymous phone
call on his first investigative visit to Chicago in March 1995
that "was meant to put a damper on my activities."
The expletive-filled message on his hotel
answering machine threatened his family and demanded to know who
he thought he was dealing with.
Gow testified that mob influence is "most
extensive at the local level." The mob's chief goal is "financial
gain" through control of benefit funds, union payrolls, and
high-paying job promotions.
"For example, LIUNA Local 1 in Chicago
provides a safe haven for known members and leaders of the Chicago
La Cosa Nostra," Gow said.
DISTRICT COUNCIL FIGHTS BACK
Sherman Carmell, lawyer for the Chicago District
Council, defended Caruso and other leaders named as mob-connected,
including Matassa, Lombardo, Local 225 Business Manager John Galiotto,
and District Council Sergeant-at-Arms Leo Caruso.
Carmell painted the trusteeship process as
an attempt by LIUNA to divert attention from international union
leaders' mob involvement and contended "that this complaint
has been brought for an improper purpose."
Carmell contended that Gow is being paid
by the international union, and is forced to dig up mob links
or risk losing his $135,000-a-year job as Inspector General.
"It may not have been his (Gow's) decision
to even bring this case," Carmell said. "It may have
come from another party."
Another former FBI agent, John O'Rourke,
said mob sources identified Bruno and Frank Caruso, their cousin
Leo Caruso, and John Matassa as mob members.
O'Rouke testified that a mob insider told
him, "They run the (26th Street) neighborhood, The Carusos
run the neighborhood, that they're mob associates, that the father
was the boss, and that Frank is a made guy, in the source's opinion;
Bruno is an associate, as is Leo."
Federal authorities contend that Caruso's
late father, Frank "Skids" Caruso, was a longtime mob
Former FBI agent Bob Scigalski testified
that Local 225 member Mary Williams received a Sunday afternoon
visit in late 1995 by two men offering her $1,000 to step down
from the Local's Executive Board.
The men allegedly told Williams that the
local's Business Manager, John Galiotto, sent them. Galiotto is
the son of William Galiotto, named as a lieutenant in the West
Side mob by the Chicago Crime Commission (CCC).
"Our main concern is putting the rank
and file back in control of their own unions, which to me is very
These people are being ripped off,"
Wayne Johnson, CCC chief investigator told HARD HAT MAGAZINE.
"They deserve to have control of their own unions."
The CCC is a private, independent, non-governmental
organization formed in 1919 to monitor corruption in the city.
It is supported by individual and corporate contributions.
Johnson told HARD HAT that the trusteeship
hearings could "purge them for the moment," but he said
it may be more effective for the federal government to unseal
the racketeering charges being held against LIUNA.
"I don't think they should be so gracious.
They should file the charges," he said, referring to the
Contingent Consent Decree that the Justice Department holds in
reserve, just in case the in-house clean-up of the Laborers Union
does not achieve its goals.
Robert Luskin, a former gang-buster with
the Justice Department's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section,
was hired by the international union as an independent counsel,
the reform team's prosecutor.
Luskin has said 100 people suspected of involvement
in organized crime have resigned or been expelled following similar
efforts in other cities.
Stanley Kravit, a labor relations consultant
for three Chicago Laborers locals and Bruno Caruso's campaign
consultant, told HARD HAT that local Laborers Union members have
"expressed strong support and appreciation for Caruso."
Kravit also said he believes reform should
have come from the inside of the union. Kravit testified about
a resolution by Caruso at the 1996 Laborers Convention in Las
That resolution would have called for a special
convention to let the union's delegates vote on a clean-up process.
The resolution was never enacted.
As it is, Kravit told HARD HAT, trusteeship
decisions are being "made virtually in secret in Washington."
General President Arthur A. Coia and Chicago
District Council President Bruno Caruso faced each other earlier
this year in the first contested election in 40 years for the
leadership of the troubled Laborers Union.
Some union members have questioned whether the charges against the Chicago District Council could be retaliation for that election challenge.
The web site of Laborers for Justice and
Democracy (LJD): <www.laborers.org>.
The newsletter of LJD: The Voice,
1601 Ocean Ave. #346, San Francisco, CA 94112
An independent newsletter: Labor Voice,
P.O. Box 845, Glastonbury, CT 06033.