ROBERT A. DAVIS, ROBERT MANOR
February 15, 1998
The Laborers International Union of North
America has done what the Justice Department could not -- shatter
the mob's control of the Chicago District Council, a stronghold
of organized crime for decades.
Last week, a union hearing officer ruled
that the district council, which represents 21 laborers' union
locals and 19,000 members, is dominated by the Chicago Outfit,
as the mob often is called. The international union imposed trusteeship
on the council and threw out its leadership.
No one has been able to do this before,"
said Dwight Bostwick, an international union attorney who helped
prosecute the case against the council.
The international is under pressure from
the Justice Department to rid itself of organized crime. Trusteeship
hearings held here last year were part that nationwide effort.
The 4,435-page transcript of the closed-door
hearings was recently filed in federal court. Some testimony by
witnesses was amusing, some bizarre.
For example, John Matassa Jr. -- vice president
of the council, the son of a former police officer and a one-time
stocker of shelves at adult bookstores -- said organized crime
is a myth.
"It doesn't exist," he said. "I
don't believe there is a mob in Chicago."
An attorney for the international union zeroed
in. "What did Al Capone do that made him famous?" the
lawyer asked Matassa.
"He had soup lines for people that couldn't
eat," Matassa replied. "You know, I could care less
what he did."
Witnesses identified Matassa as an enforcer
and collector of payoffs, as boss of the mob's North Side Crew,
and a prominent figure in the city's pornography industry.
"Matassa is a made member of the Chicago
Outfit," concluded hearing officer Peter Vaira.
If the district council was corrupt, it was
at least forgiving.
In 1982, James Caporale, secretary-treasurer
of the district council, was charged with stealing $2 million
from a union welfare fund. Shortly after his indictment, the district
council promoted him. Although accused of stealing union money,
he remained on the payroll for five years.
And after his release from prison in the
early 1990s, he was welcomed back by his friends at the district
An attorney for the international union noted
that Caporale attended a district council Christmas party in the
"No one at the Chicago District Council
Christmas party asked why is this man, who has been convicted
of looting $2 million from an affiliated fund, at our Christmas
party after going to jail," the attorney said.
Caporale and 14 other past and present district
council officials -- all identified as mob associates -- aren't
welcome at next year's Christmas party.
"All of the officers are relieved immediately"
of their jobs, said Bostwick, the attorney for the international
Bostwick outlined what will happen next:
For at least 18 months, and probably three years, the district
council will remain under the supervision of a trustee with broad
Bostwick said auditors will examine the health,
welfare, pension and political action funds the council maintains
for the benefit of the membership. Together those funds total
$ 1.5 billion.
Toward the end of the trusteeship, elections
will be held -- the first contested district council elections
in 25 years.
"There are many, many good people in
the union's 19,000 members," Bostwick said.
"One of the things we want to do is
empower the forces of good."