Mario Roma - President
Joseph Ambrosini - Secretary-Treasurer
Ronald B Nobili - Business Manager
Phone: (203) 335-7943
Office Hours Monday thru Friday 8:00 A.M.
- 12:00 P.M
Connecticut Laborers' District Council
Dockct NO. 395CV002372(AVC)
For more information, call: Ronald Nobili
The Connecticut Laborers' District Council
settled a lawsuit on Wednesday which had been brought by its Bridgeport
local affiliate and several union members. The case was being
watched closely by union democracy activists across the country.
The plaintiffs had challenged the manner in which the district
council collected and spent mcmbers' dues.
"We won almost everything we were looking
for," said Ronald Nobili, Business manager of Laborers' Local
665 in Bridgeport. 'This settlement is a big step forward for
those of us who believe unions should be run by the members and
for the members."
The laborers' union is one of the largest
construction unions in the country. It was singled out several
years ago by the President's Commission on Organized Crime, which
concluded that organized crime had infiltrated the union. The
union submitted to federal supervision, which is continuing. The
Connecticut Laborers' District Council, the defendant in the lawsuit,
is the state-wide union body, which oversees ten construction
locals, including Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and New London.
The plaintiffs claimed in their lawsuit that
the district council circumvented federal labor laws by repeatedly
raising members' dues without the members' authorization. The
suit also claimed the district council wasted members' money on
"meals which include expensive hors d'oeuvres, entrees, and
wine, (and] paying for travel ... which bear little or no relation
to legitimate union activities."
The business manager of the district council
is Charles LeConche, who is also business manager of the Hartford
local. The plaintiffs charged that the illegal practices began
during the tenure of LeConche's predecessor, Dominick Lopreato.
Lopreato is currently serving a four-year sentence in federal
prison for accepting kickbacks from the now-defunct Colonial Realty.
The lawsuit alleged that the district council
illegally received approximately $1.2 million per year that properly
belonged to the affiliated locals. The district council used this
money to buy the loyalty of some of the locals' officers, it was
claimed. "If the local officers balked at following the orders
of the district council, they would be in the position of having
to bite the hand that fed them," said Nobili. "And,
because they were spending money that did not belong to them,
they had no incentive to practice fiscal responsibility."
The plaintiffs' attorney, Leon M. Rosenblatt
of West Hartford, commented that the district council's "scheme
was elegant in its simplicity but it was hard to trace."
He said, "I once tried to explain our case to a judge. After
stumbling over my words for about fifteen minutes, he interrupted
me and said, pointing to my clients, 'Oh, I get it. They're paying
off other people with your money.' That was it in a nutshell,"
In court papers, the plaintiffs gave the
example of a former member of the executive board of the district
council. His local in Norwalk was small, with about 245 members,
but he drew several salaries adding up to a six-figure income.
"If his own members wanted to pay him that much, it would
not have been a problem," Rosenblatt explained. "But
most of the money was paid by laborers in Bridgeport, Hartford,
New Haven and New London. and they were never given a choice."
Under the settlement agreement, laborers
in Connecticut will have the right to approve or disapprove future
dues increases in a secret ballot vote. Additionally, dues taken
out of members' paychecks, called working dues will have to be
given to the locals in proportion to the number of hours worked
by each local's members. "It will no longer be possible for
them to subsidize locals which do not practice fiscal responsibility,"
The district council has also agreed to pay
the plaintiffs' legal fees.
Herman Benson, the founder of the Association
for Union Democracy in New York, was pleased with the settlement.
"Unions have been using district councils to evade the union
democracy provisions of federal law. The successful suit of local
665 has curbed some of the most egregious aspects of this egregious
practice," he said.
Nobili said he was proudest of his members'
courage. "They took a stand against injustice. That is not
an easy thing to do in this union"'he said.