Linda Chavez: Welcome Back. It’s 17 after 5. It is a distinct pleasure to be able to introduce our next guest. He is somebody I have known about for a number of years now. I have actually even wrote about him in my book. But I never actually got to meet him face to face. He is in the studio with us and I want to welcome to the program, Ronald Fino.
Let me tell you a little bit about him. He was an informant actually for the FBI. He worked with providing information about some of the organized crime activities that were going on in a number of unions. And he has testified before the Congress of the United States. He testified on the kind of racketeering that went on and some of the activities of some of the unions. And he has actually even taken his expertise overseas and has actually given advice to the Russians in their attempt to crack down on the Russian Mafia. So I want to welcome to the program Ronald Fino. Welcome Ron, it is nice to finally meet you after all these years.
Ronald Fino: And the same Linda. It is a pleasure.
Linda Chavez: Well, as you know I wrote a book that was published last year and it’s actually out in paperback now. It comes out at the end of this month, it will hit the bookstores and it’s called “Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics”. And in it I quote you and I quote some of your testimony. But why don’t you tell our listeners firsthand your story and your involvement in trying to crack down on those people who really are corrupting the whole meaning of the labor movement today.
Ronald Fino: Yes, well, for over seventeen years I was a source for the FBI. Regarding organized crime, costra nostra and its control the rest ability of the Laborers, Teamsters Longshoreman and some other unions. After 1989, I surfaced as a result of a leak and I went on the FBI’s payroll under a personal services agreement and taught FBI regarding labor racketeering, testified in numerous cases. Eventually that led to working with the CIA and Russian Mafia and things like that. As well I testified in front of congress regarding the problems of LIUNA.
Linda Chavez: LIUNA for our listeners is the Laborers International Union of North America.
Ronald Fino: Yes, that’s correct. I was totally taken aback because here I was, dyed in the wool, to use that expression, Democrat, oh, supporting labor rights and worker’s rights, which of course I still do. And I was attacked and vilified by the democrats. And I was told in advance about this. And, Bob Luskin who was the GEB or General Executive Board attorney for the Laborers told me that they were going to lock me up for a little bit. What bothered me even more so after that was leaks were made by Luskin to the Village Voice in New York who ran with Jack Kemp which was not true. I mean, but he did it. He had access to confidential 302’s which are FBI reports stating that I said that Jack Kemp was mobbed up. Well, the reports never said such a thing. They talked about a conversation that I had with Jack, where he asked me if somebody else was mobbed up. And I told him to be careful. Then I received a phone call at my house from Michael Isikoff, a Newsweek reporter. And I was concerned.
“Mike how did you get my telephone number” because here I am under an unlisted name and I have a price tag on my head. And he refused to give me a name.
Linda Chavez: Well, let me just stop you there Ron because I think you know a lot of people they think that on, oh, maybe films like On the Waterfront, you know and it was about the Longshoreman’s union and the mob ties there and of course there have been very high profile cases involved in the mob ties. I wrote in my book about LIUNA, the Laborers International Union. And the close ties between the president of that union and President Clinton. In fact the chapter of that book is called “An Affair to Remember” and it was all about the funked relationship between these two, but I was talking about the way in which that particular labor leader who many people including yourself, I gather, believe had some very, very strong ties to organized crime and to some of the big New England Crime families with the Patriarca family which one that was involved with that particular man. And you know you hear this and you think oh gee that must have happened in the past because that doesn’t happen anymore. But I have in my hand, actually the semi annual report to the Congress of the United States from the Office of the Inspector General at the US Department of Labor and it is filled with racketeering, not just investigations, but with criminal prosecutions of people including in November 22, 2004 Mario Gallapega, a Gambino crime family associate and company owners pled guilty to conspiracy charges for a scheme that involved embezzling employee benefit plans and on and on. There is one after the other of these racketeering charges against unions. So this still goes on.
Ronald Fino: Oh definitely. It is still the same deal. It’s like the movie, for me at least, it’s like the movie Groundhog’s Day. I keep waking up and nothing has changed. And uh, with regard to the Laborer’s for example, Coia is still in control.
Linda Chavez: Arthur Coia is the president – was the president of LIUNA
Ronald Fino: He still controls what takes place. I was fooled. I believed in Bob Luskin and I totally followed him and soon after that I realized that a scam and a ploy to keep Coia’s cronies in power and to remove his enemies.
Linda Chavez: Again, let me interrupt just to bring our listeners in on this story. Bob Luskin was the man who was essentially appointed by the government to take over and run the union. It was essentially taken into a receivership and the federal government went in and saw that things were amiss and Coia signed an agreement with the government basically saying Oh yes, come on in and clean up the place, you know, I’m going to go along with this and I want to clean up all of those organized crime folks who may have infiltrated my union. Of course, he later got off the hook and was not prosecuted even though there was a many paged 28 or 30 page document already drawn up accusing him of racketeering. He got off the hook with respect to the feds but he did later get prosecuted by the state of Rhode Island for income tax evasion and he was relieved from his office but from what you’re telling me he’s still involved with the union.
Ronald Fino: Yes he is, yes he is. His son makes quite a lot of money off of the union and his family is still there. His law partner is General Secretary Treasurer of the Laborers, the general president of the laborers was hand picked by Arthur Coia Jr.. People who are running the union with him. The members who have no say in their union. As I said earlier, I’m pro-union. I’m anti a lot of these union bosses that are out spending the member’s money on $600 a night hotels.
Linda Chavez: Well, you know one of the things you know that I’ve been very involved in with my organization and with my activity of writing the book, etc. is to try to give union members more access to information about how their dues money is being spent. Now I have been pissed off for years at the way in which money is basically taken by the union and spent any way they want to spend it. They can spend it on the $600 a night hotels you are talking about or they can turn around and give that money in in-kind contributions to political candidates where the union members may not even support that candidate. We know, you talk about yourself as being a dyed in the wool Democrat; I was a Democrat at one time. I don’t have any problem with unions going out and collecting money from their members voluntarily to give to whatever candidate. I do have a problem when you take somebody’s union dues and without their permission you use that money to fund only one party – the Democratic party and only Democratic candidates and you do so in ways that are hidden from you, the union member.
Ronald Fino: Oh I totally agree with you, I totally agree with you. The members have to have more say. As I was mentioning prior to the show there has been a report by an attorney in Washington, Steele and Cook, that he submitted to Senator Mike Enzi regarding that type of reform. And it is something that is necessary. That I know you have been a strong proponent of that.
Linda Chavez: Well we know that the labor movement has been suffering for years in terms of it’s membership and I think that what is happening is that a lot of people are looking at unions and saying why do I want to give several hundred dollars a year of my hard earned money to this organization? I don’t really have a say where the leaders live high off the hog and they spend my money in ways that I don’t even necessarily approve of and what you’re seeing now is a huge decline in labor union membership. It is under, it is about 8.2% I think of the private sector employees are unionized in the country. About 12% of the overall or close to that are a lot of public employee union members. And now we’re seeing the AFL-CIO is about to have their big general annual meeting and it looks like several of the unions involved may actually pull out of the union, the AFL-CIO federation, because they don’t want their money going necessarily to some of these activities.
Ronald Fino: I think it’s more than that. I think that there’s a big problem with circling the wagons around public employees and governmental employees. Basically, though from what I’ve seen the private sector has been lost. They just cannot compete. There are very many ways available to them to help them compete in those areas, market recovery programs. The problem you had especially in the building trades is the few workers that remain are relatives so thus they cannot change, they’re cronies. The ordinary worker has left. He has no choice. He needs a job.
Linda Chavez: Well, in fact, we see that this continues now the department of labor I think under Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Labor has made some very good improvements to reporting that’s required. I think she would do even more if she could in terms of forcing unions to report to the public and to their members in particular how they spend their money. She’s changed the reporting detail required on the so-called LM2 forms which make the unions actually have to report on how they spend their money. My organization, US Union Watch now is posting the 990 forms – these are the tax forms filed by unions again to give some indication to members. You have, we only have less than a minute left. There is an organization that you’ve worked with that has been looking into corruption with the laborers international. Maybe you’d like to give their website
Ronald Fino: Yeah, we have a couple. Laborers.org, thelaborers.net. and I could always be reached if anybody ever wants to talk to me or email me at email@example.com. But I think that in closing the big problem that we are facing in labor unions now is the influx of the Russian mafia and all working class. This is a very serious stage so that the public has to beware.
Linda Chavez: Well, it is indeed and you can bet that the federal government is very interested. As I’ve said I’ve got this report here which talks just about that issue. Thank you Ronald Fino so much. We have too little time. Sorry we didn’t have more time. Thanks so much for being with us.
Ronald Fino: Thank you, Linda, it’s a pleasure.