Brian McLaughlin probably knew all along this was a rap he couldn’t beat. The weight of evidence that he’d siphoned funds from his union federation and other organizations was too great. On March 7, the former New York City labor leader and politician pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to various racketeering charges. McLaughlin, 55, had served as president of the New York City Central Labor Council (CLC) and as a seven-term Democratic New York State Assemblyman from Queens. In 2006, a two-count federal indictment specified 21 offenses against him in connection with illegal obtaining of a combined $2.2 million from unions, contractors, taxpayers and his campaign re-election committee. Union Corruption Update has covered the case since it first broke two years ago.
McLaughlin (in photo), a licensed electrician, initially rose to become head of New York City’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3. In the mid Nineties he’d become a major player in the overlapping worlds of organized labor and Democratic Party politics, assuming the leadership of the CLC, New York City’s equivalent of the AFL-CIO; the council is the central clearinghouse for roughly 400 unions and a million individual members. He also led a secret life for most of the ensuing time, using his position to engage in a long pattern of theft. At his plea hearing, he admitted, among other things, that he’d sent out letters asking for contributions for IBEW Local 3, and that “those contributions were at times used for personal purposes…and other members of the group.” He also admitted to receiving $400,000 in cash kickbacks and three cars from street lighting contractors who’d hired union members. Additionally, he’d used the mails to take $95,000 from a bank account of a local youth athletic association.
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan informed McLaughlin that he faces up to 50 years in prison. But given his guilty plea, under federal guidelines he most likely will receive a sentence of eight to 10 years. Until September, he’ll be out on $250,000 bail. As for the Central Labor Council, life goes on under its new president, Gary LaBarbera, a Teamster. In a prepared statement, the CLC noted, “We wish the McLaughlin family well.” One senses the council has reserved most of its sympathy for the wife and kids. (New York Times, 3/8/08; New York Daily News, 3/8/08).