Laborers International Union of North America

Local 665

269 Federal Street,

Bridgeport,Connecticut 06606-5296

Mario Roma - President

Joseph Ambrosini - Secretary-Treasurer

Ronald B Nobili - Business Manager

Phone: (203) 335-7943
Fax (203)335-1261

Office Hours Monday thru Friday 8:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Re: Laborers' Local 665

V.

Connecticut Laborers' District Council

Dockct NO. 395CV002372(AVC)


For more information, call: Ronald Nobili (203) 335-7943


COURT SETTLEMENT AIMS AT CURBING UNION ABUSES

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," Rosenblatt said.

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," Nobili explained.

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.


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