The Voice of the Rank & File

Number 26

May 1999

Published by
Laborers for Justice & Democracy
1601 Ocean Avenue, #346
San Francisco, CA 94112

VP Sabitoni Sees Danger In Democracy

International Vice President Armand E. Sabitoni has warned the members of LIUNA about a "coordinated effort within our locals around the State to push for rank & file contract ratification" He sees this as "part of an effort to create political divisions in our sister locals in Connecticut".

Why is Sabitoni scared of the members voting on the contract they have to work under? He says: "direct membership ratification of the contract adds an element of instability and uncertainty at the table that dilutes the negotiating committee's strength and means the committee may not be able to deliver on the contract."

Yes, these are the actual words of an International VP. If you want to read his whole letter, you can find it on our Web site at

What does Sabatoni mean when he says: "the committee may not be able to deliver on the contract" if the members get to vote on it? "Deliver" for who? The members (who cannot vote) or the contractors (who may have a bag of cash for a union leader who can "deliver"?)

What Sabitoni didn't say is that the management committee always take the proposals back to the contractor Associations for a full ratification vote by the various associations. So the boss gets to vote but the workers don't.

It is issues like this that have turned LIUNA into corporate union with lawyers like Arthur Coia driving Ferraris and lawyers like Armand Sabitoni giving reasons why members shouldn't vote on contracts. Sound like democracy to you?

One more little detail: Armand Sabitoni is a lawyer employed by the law firm of Coia and Lepore of Rhode Island. Does that name sound familiar? It is General President Arthur Coia's law firm.?

Van Bourg: "Lion On the Left" or "Housecat On the Right?"

Victor Van Bourg, attorney for LIUNA, fancies himself the "The Lion on the Left." This is what the "Lion" says about himself in an interview in the book Relevant Lawyers by Ann Fagan Ginger:

* "They [unions] don't sign the contract until they submit it to me to see if there are any legal hookers in it. And I also prepare contract Language for the union to submit, and before the whole contract is wrapped up I review it from top to bottom.

* " I would say a union should never take on an arbitrator"

* "in terms of the world's population, I earn something that puts me in the top 5% of the world. It is not hard to be there."

Rank & File members call Van Bourg "The Housecat on the Right." Here are a few of the reasons:

1.) Current contract language: "(4x10) hour day work week in which case the workday shall be ten (10) consecutive hours. Except for lunch, at straight time rates." A ten hour day at straight time! - thanks a lot, Vic.

2.) Current contract language: "Contract Administration Trust Fund shall be used to provide compensation to the employer for negotiations and administration of this agreement. 4 cents an hour" Hey, Vic, are the workers who have to take time off work compensated for going to a grievance hearings? No, only the bosses are, out of this slush fund.

3.) A permanent hiring hall arbitrator has been implemented in the Northern California Laborers Master Agreement. Van Bourg says "a union should never take on an arbitrator" Why did you put it in, Vic?

4.) Landscaping Agreement: "The $5.60 minimum is a wage package, as it includes working dues for the union. The employer agrees that during the life of this agreement that this package will be at least 10% higher than the minimum wage." Did Vic negotiated this little agreement? This work used to be done at full laborers scale!

5.) The Local 67 Asbestos Removal agreement has workers doing this most dangerous work at between $9.00 and 18.00 an hour. This work used to be done under the Laborers Master agreement at full Laborers pay. Good work, Vic (Good for the contractors!)

6.) The laborers also have a "one job agreement" that allows a scab contractor to "be union" on a single job (usually a job were they have to be union) So the scab contractor steals a job from a union signatory contractor. And right across the street the same scab contractor is working with non union labor. Wow, this really helps us organize, Vic!

But the Good News is - now we know for sure we have three millionaires working for LIUNA in Northern California: International Rep Max Warren, District Council Business Manager Archie Thomas and Attorney Victor Van Bourg. All three are earning six figure incomes while the members wages and conditions are going down the drain. ?

Big Fish - Little Fish?

Dear Brothers,

I have noticed a disturbing pattern with Peter Vaira's decisions . He seems to go easy on Coia's friends. Sam Fresina (who nominated Coia at the convention) was slapped on the wrist with a $50,000 fine and can't run for office for one term (BIG DEAL) Arthur Coia fined $100,000 and left in office (BIG DEAL)

These kind of guys, Coia & Fresina, have shoe boxes with that kind of cash in them!.

In California Vaira left Max Warren in charge of Local #270 and Warren in turn left Ray Duran in as Business Manager. The abuses against members of 270 continue to this day.

No big fish get fried!

They are just removing the little crooks to give the appearance of a clean up. When is the United States Justice department going to start prosecuting these criminals? ?

Coia Still On Hook

Coia is not off the hook yet. As we go to press LFJD learned the Coia decision has been appealed by GEB Attorney Robert Luskin. This is very positive step toward true reform in LIUNA.

Scam In Santa Ana Local 652?

As many of you read in the Laborers Magazine, Local 652 Business Manager Ruben Gomez in Santa Ana, California, has been charged with "devising a scheme to create phony invitations to conferences using union funds."

Sources tell us that Gomez would have a local union from another area send him a letter asking him to attend a political function that did not exist. Then he would take the letter to the 652 executive board and ask them to approve expenditures for the phony meeting, and take the money.

If all this is true, Gomez is not the only guilty party. Why haven't Gomez's co-conspirators in those other LIUNA Locals been charged for writing the fraudulent letters ?

We would like to know: is this a common practice for union Business Manager to help feather one anothers nests in California and Nevada?

Defrauding the union of money is not just an internal union matter. If these charges are true, Gomez and all of the officials who helped him are guilty several felonies. The evidence should go to the authorities and they should be prosecuted under the RICO act and put in jail, not just slapped on the wrist by a bogus LIUNA court. ?

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Voice of the Rank & File

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