By LAWRENCE STRAUSS
Journal Inquirer staff Writer
Wednesday, October 12, 1988
"This is like 'On the Waterfront.' It's that backwards"
Gary R. Wall, a longtime member of a local
labor union, said this week.
Wall, a blunt, hard-nosed veteran of many
construction jobs, was referring both to the 1950s film about
about labor corruption and to his own union Laborers Local 230,
whose leadership he also contends is corrupt.
"It's so backward," said Wall,
a 42-year-old Wethersfield resident. "You can't question
anything. You can't speak out. You can't talk."
The union, which one member estimated has
1,400 members, includes workers who have worked on construction
jobs in downtown Hartford.
Aided by the wave of downtown commercial
development and a healthy economy, the union has provided steady
work to some of its members, Wall said.
But for Wall, who has worked as a laborer
since his teens, these have been difficult times.
He ran on an unsuccessful slate that challenged
the union's leadership in a June 1986 election - a move that he
maintains cost him and his allies dearly.
Wall says the union has blackballed him and,
as a result of union pressure, that he hasn't worked for more
than a year. His wife, a real estate agent, has supported him
and their two children.
"It's like a roller coaster. Most of
the time you're going down," he said of his travails.
Despite his difficulties, Wall scored a key
victory this summer. The laborer had filed a complaint with the
National Labor Relations Board, accusing the union and a construction
firm of keeping him and others out of work.
In late July an administrative law judge,
Wallace H. Nations, sided with Wall and three of his allies. Nations
ruled that the Hartford-based union engaged in unfair labor practices
when it refused to refer work to the four men.
The union's leadership is appealing the decision,
according to an NLRB spokesman.
Wall's most recent scrape with the leadership
occurred on Sept. 28, partly because of the NLRB ruling, he said.
Wall says he was removed from a union meeting and arrested after
he tried to raise several questions about the organization's leadership,
including its appeal of the NLRB ruling, he said.
"I was going to bring up that they're
appealing this case, that it's not benefiting the union, that
they're already spent $200,000 on it," Wall said.
Charged with breach of peace, Wall was scheduled
to appear today in Hartford Superior Court, according to a court
clerk and police. Wall said he plans to plead not guilty.
At the meeting, Wall said Robert Cheverle,
a lawyer who defended the union in the NLBR complaint, accused
him of telling "the big lie at the NLRB."
Cheverie also called the judge a "moron,"
Wall said. Dominick Lopreato, the union's longtime business manager
whom Wall opposed in the 1986 union election, also criticized
the ruling, he added.
Wall said he tried to rebut the remarks of
Lopreato and Cheverie. "I said that this man (Cheverie) accused
me of being a liar. This case was won on credibility, not because
they believed the big lie, and on evidence presented to the judge."
Wall said he also called Cheverie a "thief
and a liar."
At that point, the laborer said, Union President
Charles LeConche ordered him out of the hall. "Eight or 10
people moved toward me, and I told them not to put their hands
on me," Wall said.
Neither LeConche nor Lopreato could be reached
Police were summoned to the hall, leading
to Wall's arrest.
Wall's account of the incident differs somewhat
from the police report. The laborer said he never fought with
anybody during the incident and asked police to file a report
reflecting that he'd been removed from the hall "for reasons
to do with the union."
"They said if we file a report, we'll
arrest you," Wall said.
The police report of the incident said Lopreato
and LeConche said Wall "was creating a disturbance."
After refusing to leave the hall, the report added, Wall was placed
Wall remains undaunted. He plans to run another
slate against the union leadership next year.
One of his staunchest supporters, William
Cooksey Jr. of East Hartford, says the internal union strife has
taken a toll on him, too.
A veteran laborer who recently returned to
work, Cooksey, 46, said the union kept him away from many jobs
over the past few years.
"I'm devastated moneywise," Cooksey
said. "I lost my wife. I have no car. I'm totally starting
over in life now."