The increasing overlap of labor and political activism is an insidious form of public corruption in this country. It enables union officials to deemphasize their role of representing workers at the bargaining table in favor of advocating policies to socialize the economy, building incestuous relationships with politicians, and fattening their bank accounts. This tendency was heavily felt in 2012, a presidential election year. Union leaders recognized the need to re-elect their ally and benefactor, President Barack Obama, over someone who was a wealthy Republican with a strong business background; i.e., someone they truly could despise. They got what they wanted. In the process, they further built a political infrastructure. Yet union leaders also experienced reversals of fortune at the state level - most of all, in Michigan - where they had been used to getting their way.
The Genovese crime family has a well-earned reputation as the most feared of New York City's five Mafia organizations. An FBI bust this spring may weaken that standing. Local unions are hoping so. On April 18, an 18-count indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging 11 arrestees with racketeering, embezzlement, extortion and other offenses. At least eight are Genovese soldiers or associates, including capo Conrad Ianniello, nephew of recently-deceased onetime acting boss Matthew Ianniello. U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, Eastern District of New York, stated: "This indictment is the most recent chapter in this office's continued fight against organized crime's efforts to infiltrate unions and businesses operating in New York City." All defendants, save for one, have pleaded not guilty. Her spokesman told NLPC this week that all other cases are still pending.
When it comes to protecting job turf, few unions are as ferocious as the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA). And the union isn't about to compromise that reputation, with its collective bargaining agreement set to expire September 30. "It looks like we're going to have a strike," said ILA President Harold Daggett (see photo). On August 22, talks in Delray Beach, Fla. between the ILA and a shipping industry trade group, the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX), broke down. At this writing, they remain at an impasse, though each side has agreed to meet soon.
For union officials who wanted to line their pockets with benefit payments intended for members, Joseph Olivieri was the man to see. Now they will have to go elsewhere. This Wednesday a Manhattan federal jury found Olivieri, ex-executive director of the Long Island-based Association of Wall, Ceiling & Carpentry Industries (WC&C), guilty of perjury in a case that underscored the extent of Genovese crime family control of New York City-area construction contractors and unions. As part of the Justice Department racketeering probe, former Carpenters & Joiners District boss Michael Forde and eight other defendants already had pled guilty. Olivieri, currently out on $500,000 bond, faces up to five years in prison plus prosecution for four other charges, including conspiracy and fraud.
Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in Queens, N.Y. for years had been in the pockets of the Genovese crime family until the union's leaders were brought down by federal racketeering charges a few years ago. And even after the parent union placed the local under trusteeship, there was some additional cleaning up to do. Last spring, four New York City school bus inspectors and supervisors were indicted for various acts of extortion, bribery and bribe-taking going back to the mid Nineties. Neil Cremin, Ira Sokol, George Ortiz and Milton Smith at the time pleaded not guilty. But the evidence against them was too strong. On February 6, Cremin and Sokol pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to receiving bribes; Ortiz and Smith pleaded guilty in the same court to extortion and receiving bribes.