Is the leadership of Local 1058 of the Construction,
General Laborers and Material Handlers Union based in Pittsburgh
a front for organized crime? That's what its parent union, the
Laborers' International Union of North America, is alleging.
But if the local is just that, can we trust
the LIUNA's internal apparatus to conduct a proper vetting? Recent
history suggests we should be wary.
It was on March 21 that Laborers' International
attorney Robert D. Luskin filed a trusteeship complaint against
the 3,500-member union local. He wants the parent union's independent
hearing officer to determine whether Local 1058's leadership should
be removed. The 12-page laundry list details an alleged 30-year
relationship among the local's leaders with organized crime bosses.
"Despite substantial evidence of improper
associations with members of organized crime, no effort has been
made by any member, officer, or other official of the union, either
before or after the LIUNA reform process began, to investigate
and attempt to rid the union of the influence of organized crime,"
states the complaint in part.
Local 1058 officials deny the characterizations.
The local is expected to fight the complaint to maintain its autonomy.
This overall "reform process" to
which Mr. Luskin speaks has come under considerable scrutiny because
of its nexus to the Clinton administration. Bill and Hillary Clinton
were quite chummy with recently forced-out LIUNA head Arthur Coia.
That, even after a Luskin-led investigation concluded Mr. Coia
knowingly associated with organized crime, permitted mob members
to influence union affairs, and accepted improper benefits from
It wasn't long before the Justice Department,
which had been hot and heavy on Coia's tail, seemed to cave, to
something . It decided to allow Luskin, a former federal prosecutor,
to conduct an internal probe. The deal allowed the union to avoid
racketeering charges and a virtually assured federal seizure.
Coia ultimately was cleared of having any mob ties, another unusual
development considering federal investigators once were so adamant
that he did.
Luskin told the Trib this week that there
is "nothing unique" in his effort to determine if Local
1058's officers should be removed. It's "just a further step
in a long-running practice aimed at nationwide eradication of
the organized crime influence from the labor union."
But if that's the case, why is the government-sanctioned
internal investigator merely seeking removal from office? If such
massive organized crime ties are suspected, why isn't prosecution
on the table?
No Local 1058 officers or board members face
criminal charges that we know of. But the complaint for trusteeship
clearly alleges a pattern of criminal association that should
be the purview of a federal grand jury, not the independent investigator
in a deal that smacks of Clinton justice and not the American
system of justice.