Part I:


Feds tell Laborers to oust the Mafia or else

The U.S. government is forcing the Laborers International Union, long known to be Mafia influenced, to kick out the mobsters and racketeers or, like the Teamsters, submit to close government supervision.

Following a three-year investigation, the Department of Justice has ordered sweeping changes in the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA).

An agreement signed in January between the Laborers International organization and the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois requires LIUNA to change its constitution and appoint International officers to oversee the removal of all Mob-associated officers.

If the government thinks the Laborers haven1t gone far enough in ousting the racketeers, they can put the International under federal supervision. At that point, the 700,000 rank-and-file members of the union would be able to vote for their International officers for the first time in history.

This prospect has a great many Laborers Union officials extremely nervous. It has been common knowlege for years that many Laborers International Union locals, district councils and International officers, were controlled by organized crime figures. In many locals, there has not been an honest election in generations.

Instead, local Mafia crime families appointed officers and business agents, and ran the local unions as their private businesses. Many construction jobs would have "ghost" employees who only showed up to collect their paychecks, spending the rest of their time doing chores for the local godfather.

Pension and welfare funds were looted by racketeers while union trustees looked the other way, in return for a payoff. Non-union jobs were allowed to operate without union interference in exchange for cash. Any local member who openly opposed this setup was unable to get a job and could be in line for a beating, or perhaps worse.

More Changes to Come?

Now things may never be the same again. In a statement to its members, the Laborers Union promises broad reforms. Two international vice-presidents have been dismissed from the General Executive Board. An Ethical Practices Code has been added to the union's constitution. Four new international officers have been hired to clean out the racketeers.

If the union does not move fast enough or far enough in cleaning up the corruption, the government has another card to play. It can implement a Contingent Consent Decree, stepping in with even more reforms, including direct election of international officers by the members, instead of convention delegates, the current practice.

The Department of Justice can institute the Contingent Consent Decree any time up to 1998. From now until then, they will be watching the Laborers International Union very closely for signs of corruption or wrong-doing.

Mafia Fights Back

These changes are not going down unopposed, however. One of the sacked vice-presidents, John Serpico of Chicago, is suing the union1s General Executive Board. He claims that other members of the Executive Board, including President Arthur A. Coia, are the corrupt parties. Buffalo Local #210 is suing to prevent the reforms, claiming there is no Mafia influence in the union.

Before the agreement went into effect, copies of the proposed document were mailed anonymously to union officials across the country. An accompanying letter warned union officers that "your General President Arthur Coia and the Executive Board sold you down the river...Do not give up your union to another Teamster agreement." (The Teamsters agreement with the government allowed members to vote for their International Union officers. They promptly voted for new officers who promised to cut officials1 pay and reform the union.)

On the other side, some union members maintain that the changes ordered by the government do not go far enough to weed out the corrupt influences.

According to leaflets circulated in California, it is not just International Union officers who are corrupt, but local and District Council officials, too. A New York leaflet claims Laborers General President Arthur Coia is "dirty." Many Laborers Union members want the Departments of Labor and Justice to impose the Contingent Consent Decree immediately.

According to Chris White of the Laborers for a Democratic Union (LDU), without fair hiring halls and the right to directly elect International officers, reform in the Laborers will be temporary. As soon as the gangsters find new front men to manage union affairs for them, it will be back to "business as usual."

However, contacting the LIUNA Inspector General, the man in charge of investigating the corruption, may be hazardous (see Trust the Inspector General?).

If In Doubt, Call the AUD

Laborers Union members with information on violations of free speech rights, fair election procedures or hiring hall discrimination have another way to go.

Members can call the Association for Union Democracy (AUD) and give them the information. They will record the complaint for future action, possibly in court.

The AUD promises to keep Laborers Union members' complaints confidential. They have a better record than the Inspector General. If you have information about wrong-doing in the Laborers Union, contact the Association for Union Democracy, 500 State St., Brooklyn, NY 11217. Phone (718) 855-6650.


The leading Laborers Union International officer charged with rooting out organized crime is Douglas Gow, the new Inspector General. He has an 800 phone number so Laborers can call him any time with complaints of racketeering in their locals. He has an article in the Laborers Magazine with his phone number and the guarantee that, should a member call his office, any information will be kept confidential. Sounds like a good system, doesn1t it?

But when one Laborer in California called Inspector General Gow1s office in Washington, D.C. to complain about his local1s officials, those very officials knew all about the complaint within hours. Gow's office turned the complaint over to the International Union office in Sacramento, which notified the local officials, who then reprimanded the member at the very next union meeting.

The Laborers International Union is supposed to get rid of corrupt influences. Yet their methods seem better suited to getting rid of anyone with knowledge of those corrupt influences. Hard Hat Magazine cannot, at this time, recommend that anyone call the Laborers Union Inspector General1s office with complaints, since to do so might put one's job, or even life, in danger.

However, Laborers Union members who wish to see their union reformed may consider anonymously calling the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor in order to speed up the process.

This is not a game.

Reforming the Laborers Union is a big job. The lives and jobs of Laborers Union members are at stake.

The Inspector General's office must be straightened out, or there is little chance of straightening out this large and long-corrupted labor organization.

The Department of Justice and the Department of Labor must move swiftly to restore confidence in the process of reform, or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change will be lost. The government1s intervention in the Laborers Union provides a necessary window of opportunity, but the feds alone cannot make a democratic union.Only the members of the union can do that.


A series of Mafia-organized deals has cost the Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York at least $30 million since 1989.

In September 1994, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil racketeering suit in a Manhattan federal court with the intent of imposing a court trusteeship on the Mason Tenders. A brief look at that case shows how LIUNA's new agreement with the Department of Justice may turn out.

The list of swindles in the Mason Tenders reads like a fraud training manual for mob-dominated unions. For many years, a Genovese crime family capo (captain), James Massera, ran the 10,000-member union, a unit of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), like his personal family business.

The Mason Tenders pension fund paid $24 million for a Manhattan building that had been purchased nine months before for $7.5 million. One of the hidden partners in the deal was the managing director of the New York Building Contractors Association. Additional millions were spent buying Brooklyn residential properties.

Shortly after the union bought one building and then tried to remodel it with non-union workers, it collapsed. The Brooklyn deals brought huge profits to the sellers, but not the union.

Massera's mother, under an alias, sold the union's welfare fund a Miami Beach building for $600,000 more than its appraised value. The union's welfare benefit fund paid more than $900 for each member's medical exam through a Bronx chiropractor. The chiropractor billed the fund more than $4 million.

According to an FBI investigation, James Massera is a capo in the Genovese crime family. His day job, until he pleaded guilt to racketeering, was field representative in one of the Mason Tenders unions, Local #104. But, in reality, the FBI investigators found, he was the ruler of the Mason Tenders District Council. The old leader of that union, Gaspar Lupo, held office at Massera's command. Lupo's father had held the job before him.

When Gaspar died, Massera handed the job to the next Lupo in line, Gaspar's son Frank. When Frank Lupo was indicted for defrauding the union, James Lupo, Frank's brother, took over as District Council President. In 1990, Massera was sentenced to 37 months in prison and barred from union activity for life.

The ten locals in Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York are: Local 13 in Queens, Locals 23 and 104 in Manhattan, Locals 37, 46 and 47 in Brooklyn, Locals 33, 48 and 59 in the Bronx and Local 51 in Staten Island.

Mason tenders do some of the nastiest work in construction: grunt work for bricklayers, mixing mortar and concrete, humping bricks and blocks, and demolition with jackhammers and sledges, often working with asbestos.

For this dirty and dangerous effort, they face a hard time qualifying for their pensions and health insurance. To have an army of mobster-parasites blocking democratic union reform while sucking their union funds dry is, to say the least, adding insult to injury.

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All original work Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.