Engineering News-Record


February 2, 1998

THE SHOTGUN MARRIAGE BETWEEN the U.S. Justice Dept. and the laborers' union will last a little while longer. The department has agreed to a one-year extension of its three year oversight agreement with the union as part of the effort to rid the union of corruption and organized crime influence.

The pact was to expire in February. But by extending the plan until Jan. 31, 1999, the union can continue internal reforms already started, including new election proceedings and changes in hiring hall practices. "Our innovative internal reform program has made significant headway and we have operated in good faith to eliminate corruption and organized crime from our union," says laborers' union General Counsel Michael Bearse.

The union claims that more than 400 investigations have been opened, 21 locals and district councils placed under trusteeship and more than 226 individuals have resigned or been removed from office. "However, our general executive board recognizes there is still work to be done," adds Bearse.

Too many reform efforts "remain in play" for the government to make any changes, says Robert Luskin, the attorney hired by the board to oversee its reforms. Most visible, perhaps, are the disciplinary charges Luskin filed in November against union General President Arthur A. Coia (ENR 11/17/97 p.15).

A closed hearing on those charges is scheduled for March 18. Independent hearing officers also are expected to rule shortly in ongoing proceedings in Chicago and Buffalo, N.Y.

Extending the agreement for another year "is a small step in the right direction," says Carl Biers, executive director for the Association for Union Democracy, Brooklyn, N.Y. But he thinks reform efforts would be more effective if the oversight plan had been extended for another three years.

Union members are more likely to come forward and get involved in union politics if they believe the risk is lessened because the oversight agreement is continuing for three years, he says

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