To: Amanda

Fm: Bob Fitch


Somehow, LIUNA's pr person completely missed the point of my critique of her boss. I never said General President Coia wouldn't allow blacks to be dues-paying members. Or that he wasn't engaged now in a massive public relations-driven organizing campaign

The point of my criticism of LIUNA, which Ms. Fisher doesn't contest, is that it's been run by the mob for sixty years. I didn't invent that charge. The Justice Department did. Given this history, what does "organizing" mean?

New Yorkers who ride the subway can see exactly what it means: look at the ads paid for by SEIU 32B-32J. They . charge that Citibank got rid of minority workers and hired lower paid whites at cut-rate terms. What union represents the workers who displaced them? LIUNA. This kind of "organizing" fills Coia's coffers, but it empties trade unionism of any meaning or advantage to the members. .

Of course, Coia claims now, under pressure of a threatened federal RICO suit that he's battling the mob. And he points to all the individual mobsters he's dismissed. But you can't get rid of organized crime just by firing individuals. The problem isn't personal corruption. It's a corrupt system. We're talking here about organized crime. New crooks simply replace the old. Even when the government steps in and gets rid of them, little changes. Look at the "Goodfellows" Local, Teamsters 295, a classic case of how top-down reform run by high priced lawyers didn't work.

The only way to change a corrupt system, is to create a new system, It's called "democracy." Bring the members into the life of the union. Allow members -- not delegates and business agents controlled by the outside power center to elect all international officers. Encourage members' participation in elections. Is this happening in LIUNA now?

You wonder. What kind of an election is it, when the only alternative to, Coia is Bruno Caruso? According to the Providence Journal, Caruso has been charged with organized crime connections and calls for breaking LIUNA's self- agreement with the government. What kind of election process is it when, as the Association for Union Democracy reports in its December Newsletter, there's no real campaign? In Northern California, for instance, members weren't informed of the election forum. Of 18,000 members, only two showed up.

Five years ago Coia's people didn't bother with The Nation. He didn't need legitimacy then. He does now. He wants to get it from Nation readers rather than from his members. As Barney Scanlon, LIUNA dissident in Local 66 wrote recently, "Those who hold top power in LIUNA and who can dominate the whole union from top to bottom DO NOT DEPEND UPQN YOUR VOTES. " The desire to preserve that domination explains why his pr people have time to respond to Nation critics but none to mobilize member to participate in the referendum on whether or not to elect officers.

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