By MICHAEL REMEZ
May 5, 1998
WASHINGTON - Stephen G. Manos told a congressional
panel Monday that he has suffered harassment, intimidation and
physical assault for speaking out against the leader of Laborers
Local 230, the Hartford construction union he has belonged to
for 33 years.
The Glastonbury man testified at a hearing
on ``Impediments to Union Democracy,'' part of a panel that included
three other union dissidents, a professor who helped write the
current federal law and the top lawyer for Manos' parent union,
the Laborers' International of North America.
Rep. Harris Fawell, R-Ill., said the session
would be the first in a series intended to help lawmakers determine
what changes should be made in laws enacted to guarantee that
union members have a voice in their unions.
Manos, 53, said the Hartford local is the
fiefdom of its business manager, Charles LeConche. Now a vice
president of the local, Manos is challenging LeConche for the
top job in an election to be held in June.
He said LeConche and his loyalists have refused
to provide him with information about local spending, limited
his ability to speak out and used one of the most powerful tools
at their disposal - depriving him of work - to get him to back
``My own experience has shown the Laborers'
Union to be one of the least democratically run institutions in
the U.S.,'' Manos told lawmakers. ``Union resources are being
used to suppress union democracy.''
As part of his testimony, Manos submitted
a tape and transcript of two run-ins with LeConche, who became
the top Laborers leader in Connecticut after the indictment and
conviction of his predecessor, Dominick Lopreato.
Manos said a LeConche loyalist physically
attacked him at a meeting last July at Capriccio Ristorante on
Franklin Avenue in Hartford. And he said he had a tape made on
a concealed recorder to prove it.
Fawell, chairman of the subcommittee, said
the tape would be entered into the record, though not played at
the meeting, in part because of foul language. In addition, LeConche
is suing Manos over the secret taping.
On Monday, lawyers for both the Washington-based
international union and the Hartford local were ready for Manos'
In his testimony, Michael S. Bearse, the
international's general counsel, said that with prodding from
the government, the union is making progress toward making historically
undemocratic operations more open.
``We do not believe we have a perfect system,
but we do believe we are on the right road here,'' Bearse said.
As Bearse spoke, a union spokesman distributed
to reporters a packet of papers that included the police report
on the alleged assault against Manos, a case in which the police
took no action, and details of several on-the-job incidents involving
the union dissident. One of those involved his falling asleep
After the hearing, Robert Cheverie, the East
Hartford attorney who represents Local 230 and LeConche, dismissed
Manos' allegations, attributing them to union politics: Manos,
he said, wants LeConche's job.
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