May 27, 1998
WASHINGTON, DC_ The chairman of a House subcommittee
examining union abuses against rank and file members today released
a letter to Arthur Coia, president of the Laborer International
union of North America, warning him against acts of retaliation
against individuals testifying before the subcommittee.
"We've had two union members subjected
to harassment as a result of coming to Congress and telling their
stories, " said Rep. Harris W. Fawell(R-IL), whose Subcommittee
on Employer-Employee Relations began May 4 a series of hearings
looking into the democratic rights of the rank and file within
their unions. "Republicans and Democrats on the subcommittee
are working together to find ways to protect the rights of union
members. We cannot, and will not, tolerate any retaliation against
any witness and we will take every step necessary and possible
to protect them."
Stephen Manos, vice-president of Hartford(CT)
Laborers' Local 230 of Coia's LIUNA, told the subcommittee last
week that his testimony has "further exacerbated" acts
of harassment, intimidation and retaliation against him. These
included a May 12 complaint in a Connecticut Federal District
Court filed by Local 230's business manager accusing Manos of
defaming him before the subcommittee. Manos had testified May
4 that the business manager physically assaulted him and threw
him out of a Local 230 executive board meeting for asking questions
regarding the union expenditures.
Fawell today also sent a copy of his letter
to Coia to Attorney General Janet Reno. Fawell sent a similar
warning letter on May 8 to Charles W. Jones, president of the
Boilermakers National Transient Lodge, after Ernest "Skip"
Patterson, the local-elected president of the Boilermakers National
Transient Lodge, reported to the subcommittee that his Congressional
testimony prompted numerous threatening phone calls.
The subcommittee's "union democracy'
hearing are reviewing the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure
Act of 1959, which protects, among other rights of union members
to vote at meetings, to express any arguments of opinions, and
to voice views upon union candidates and union business.
Attachment: Chairman Fawell's letter
Mr. Arthur Coia
Laborers International Union of North America
905 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006-1765
Dear Mr. Coia:
As you may be aware, the Subcommittee on
Employer-Employee Relations (Subcommittee) of the Committee on
Education and the Workforce held the first in a series of hearings
on union democracy on May 4, 1998. We hope these hearings will
aid in determining whether legislative remedies to the Labor-Management
Reporting & Disclosure Act of 1959 are needed or whether the
existing laws simply need improved enforcement. I look forward
to working with you and many other in an effort to address these
issues in the coming months.
One of the witnesses who testified oat the
Subcommittee's May 4, 1998 hearing is the popularly elected vice
president of Local Union 230, Mr. Steve Manos. It is entirely
possible that the Subcommittee will call other witnesses from
the Laborers International Union of north America (LIUNA) in the
course of these hearings. Since Mr. Manos reports that he has
already received threats as a result of his congressional testimony
and since a previous lawsuit filed against Mr. Manos by Business
Manager Charles LeConche has been amended to include a defamation
claim involving his congressional testimony, I find it necessary
to contact you in these regard. I am certain that you agree that
it is essential that citizens are free from retaliation when exercising
their right of free speech. in the context of these hearings on
union democracy, it is even more critical that we work together
to ensure witnesses are free from retaliation.
I and the other members of the Subcommittee,
wish to state in the clearest possible terms that the Subcommittee
will not tolerate any retaliation against Mr. Manos or any other
witness who testifies before Congress and that the Subcommittee
will take every step necessary and possible to protect these witnesses
should there be any hint of retaliation. I enlist you, other officials
and the rank-and-file members of the union to join in ensuring
union democracy and an environment free from retaliation . I trust
that you understand the Subcommittee's position on this matter
and that no such action will be taken against any present or future
I appreciate you attention to this matter
and look forward to working with you.
HARRIS W. FAWELL
Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations
The Honorable Donald M. Payne, Ranking Minority
Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations
Mr. Charles LeConche, Business Manager
LIUNA Local 230
The Honorable Janet Reno
Robert D. Luskin, Esquire
LIUNA GEB Attorney