By ALICE ANN LOVE
Associated Press Writer
JANUARY 20, 2000
- The Laborers union has reached agreement with the Justice Department
to loosen federal oversight, eliminating the threat of court-appointed
officers taking over and cleaning house, the union said today.
Under the new agreement, effective
Feb. 1, the union will have to keep internal anti-corruption programs
intact through its 2001 elections and the government has the right
to challenge any changes in court.
The programs have included
the first direct elections of national union leaders and an ethics
code enforced by independent officers who have placed locals and
district councils representing 68,000 members under supervision
or trusteeship, including in New York, Buffalo, New Jersey and
The internal corruption investigations
reached as high as the union's former president, Arthur Coia,
who resigned Dec. 31.
"This agreement is a clear
acknowledgment by the government that our union's innovative internal
reforms have been effective in ridding the influence of organized
crime and corruption, and in building a union that is more open
and responsive to its members," said Terence M. O'Sullivan,
who has replaced Coia as president.
In a news release, the union
said delegates to its 2006 convention would be permitted for the
first time to consider modifying internal changes that have resulted
from the federal oversight arrangement.
The Laborers International
Union of North America has more than 800,000 members, mostly in
the construction, environmental cleanup and maintenance industries.
In the 1980s, President Reagan's
Commission on Organized Crime accused the Laborers of having mob
To avoid racketeering charges,
the union agreed in February 1995 to weed out alleged mob lieutenants
from its ranks and hold direct elections of its officers. Under
that agreement, which expires Jan. 31, the Justice Department
retained the right to place the union under the control of a court-appointed
In 1996, congressional Republicans
criticized the union and the Clinton administration and questioned
why the union wasn't placed into federal trusteeship.
But a House inquiry into the
arrangement between the Laborers and Justice found no evidence
that prosecutors were improperly influenced by the close relationship
Coia had with Clinton.
Coia was cleared last year
by an independent hearing officer of charges that he had ties
to organized crime.
He was fined $100,000, however,
for a separate ethics violation under a process established under
the arrangement with the Justice Department.
That ethics violation - accepting
a Ferrari in a joint arrangement with a dealer who leased cars
to the union - had launched a new criminal investigation by federal
officials who were disappointed Coia was not ousted from the union.
Upon his resignation, Coia said he was tired of the scrutiny of his conduct and that he believes he will ultimately be remembered for his efforts to clean up the union.