Engineering News-Record




January 31, 2000

THE LABORERS UNION AND THE JUSTICE Dept. have reached an agreement that could mean the end to government oversight of the union that began in 1995.


This latest pact, which goes into effect when the current agreement expires on Jan. 31, lifts the threat of a consent decree to racketeering charges and any possibility of placing the union into federal court receivership, according to the union.


In February 1995, the laborers and DOJ entered into an oversight plan aimed at ridding the union of organized crime influences. Under the reform program, the union adopted an internal code of ethical practices overseen by independent officers. The laborers also instituted in 1996 the first rank-and-file elections for general president and new hiring hall practices.


The new agreement, which will expire following the 2001 general executive board election, commits the union to continuing its existing internal reform program without substantial changes. Delegates to the union's 2006 convention could make changes to the reform program. There are no provisions for any extension or renewal of the final agreement.


However, if the government believes the union has violated the pact, DOJ can ask a court to decide if the proposed changes would impair the reforms.


“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,” says Laborers President Terence M. O'Sullivan.


Sullivan succeeded Arthur A. Coia, long-time general president, who resigned in December (ENR 12/13/99 p. 13).


Union officials maintain that this newest pact was not contingent on Coia's resignation.


The union's executive board attorney had filed internal disciplinary charges against Coia, who was cleared of all but one charge, including allegations that he had ties to organized crime.


“The latest pact had to do with the union as an institution and not with any one person,” says Michael S. Bearse, the laborers' general counsel.


Union officials say $ 3.8 million is budgeted for the election officer to spend on the 2001 elections, down significantly from the $ 5.9 million spent in 1996

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