Back in May, James J. Kearney Jr. received his just deserts. A couple of weeks ago his father took a major step toward that end. On July 11, James J. Kearney Sr., formerly the business manager of Local 45 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, pleaded guilty in Newark federal court to soliciting and receiving cash bribes to allow union contractors to hire nonunion workers. The elder Kearney had been arrested last November 22, and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine at sentencing this October. The nearly 300-member construction union, since placed under trusteeship by the international union, is based in Jersey City, N.J.
As Union Corruption Update reported last December, James Kearney Sr., now 76, a resident of Belleville, N.J. (Essex County), along with Patrick Viola, business manager for Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 592, had been arrested for taking bribes from area contractors. In return, the contractors could hire nonunion labor in violation of an active collective bargaining agreement. According to court documents and statements, Kearney on four occasions – August 1, August 22, August 31 and September 2 – received secret payments made by undercover federal law enforcement officers posing as construction company employees or otherwise monitored by federal agents. In one such incident, on August 31, a witness-undercover agent handed $10,000 in cash representing payment of $5,000 for two books containing the names of union employees.
Kearney’s son, James Kearney Jr., 44, by contrast, was an embezzler rather than a bribe taker. During June 2007-September 2010, while serving as secretary-treasurer of Local 45, he made about $471,000 in unauthorized withdrawals from the union general fund account and pocketed slightly over $90,000 in member dues and other payments. The stolen money went for personal uses, especially paying off gambling debt. He wound up receiving a 30-month prison sentence plus three years of probation. This is a family, and a union, with problems.