By Dan Barry
Journal Staff Writer
March 5, 1987
contradicting testimony and the playing of secretly made recordings
marked a week-long National Labor Relations Board hearing on charges
that officials of the Laborers union in Hartford area colluded
with a construction firm to keep a union dissident from finding
The hearing, which ended Wednesday,
also aired allegations that officials of Laborers Local 230 refused
to refer certain members to job sites because of their opposition
to the union's hierarchy.
NLRB hearing officer Wallace
H. Nations, who is expected to issue a decision after receiving
briefs from the concerned parties, occasionally had to mediate
between loud arguments about the use of concealed tape recordings
made by Gary R. Wall, a complainant who lost overwhelmingly last
June in a bid to replace Dominick Lopreato as Local 230's business
"It was a tremendous surprise
to me." Nations said of the tapes during a break in testimony
last week. He added that several times he left both sides alone
to listen to the tapes, identify the speakers and decide whether
to use the recordings as evidence.
But he added he was available
to "referee" disputes-of which there were several.
John H. Sauter, deputy officer
in charge of NLRB's Hartford off, said Wednesday that if Nations
rules against the union and Development Consultants Inc., they
could be ordered to reinstate the complainants and give them back
pay. Also, a notice of the occasion may have to be hung at the
union hall and at the job site.
Shyscraper contractor implicated
Lopreato and other union officials
testified they feared for their physical safety because of Wall.
But one of the complainants,
William Cooksey Jr. of Ellington, testified at one point that
two union leaders once took him for a ride, then left him stranded
several miles from his car.
The NLRB hearing is just one
aspect of a bitter feud between Lopreato, a longtime union leader,
and Wall, a laborer for 18 years who has charged the business
manager's administration of Local 230 is corrupt. The dispute
has divided the union. When a supporter of one side testified,
others sat in the audience muttering they were lying.
Wall also has filed a slander
suit against Lopreato and John Pezzenti, the local's vice president,
and has lodged an appeal to the union's national leadership regarding
last June's election.
The NLRB has charged that Lopreato
and Development Consultants Inc., the construction firm building
the Northeast Plaza skyscraper project in Hartford, colluded to
keep Wall from working while Wall was campaigning for the union's
Wall had worked as a steward
at Northeast Plaza since late 1983. In February 1986, after Wall
made it known he was heading a slate challenging Lopreato, he
and about a dozen other laborers were laid off. A week later everyone
except Wall was rehired, according to the complaint.
DCI project manager Joseph
Anderson testified the layoff was because work-slow down for
the winter, adding that his own son, a carpenter, was among those
laid off. He also said he thought Wall had been "featherbedding,"
or not working while on the job.
But Wall and others testified
that union stewards are not supposed to do manual labor. And when
asked why he hadn't sought to replace Wall earlier, Anderson replied,
"Chances are you'd get someone worse."
Anderson testified he feared
for his physical safety after the layoff because he received
what he felt was a threatening letter from Wall's lawyer, David
E. Kamins. Pressed what he felt was threatening, Anderson said
Kamins' letter said he would take "whatever action is necessary."
Anderson and Lopreato denied
the layoff had been orchestrated in part to keep Wall off the
Tape recordings disclosed
But Wall revealed he had 10
tape recordings he had made by concealing a recorder under his
jacket at the job, in a bar and at union meetings.
Although much of the conversations
were irrelevant to the charges--and more pertinent to a civil
suit and inner labor actions filed by Wall--Nations did admit
the recording of a discussion between Wall and two DCI officials
in a bar on Pratt Street in Hartford the day of the layoff.
Wall testified he had heard
the union might try to get him blacklisted, so he had begun carrying
a concealed recorder.
On the tape recording one DCI
official is heard saying Wall ran a clean job - apparently contradicting
previous testimony he was a bad worker. Wall also claimed the
company officials' comments obliquely acknowledged Lopreato's
influence in the layoff.
Cooksey, whose father was Wall's
running mate last June, and James DiPietro, a former East Hartford
policeman who worked as a laborer at Northeast Plaza, testified
it was common knowledge the the layoff was directed at Wall.
William Cooksey Sr., of Wethersfield,
also testified he had been blackballed because of his association
with Wall. After a meeting in which he told Lopreato of his election
plans. Cooksey said a colleague warned him his family would suffer
as a consequence.
"You'll work in Putnam,"
Cooksey claimed the colleague told him. He added that to a laborer,
working in that eastern Connecticut town is analogous to "Siberia."
Another complainant, Joseph
DiLorato of Windsor, testified Lopreato ordered him not to sit
near Wall during union meetings before the election.
Worker plucked from job
But ill feelings between the
union administration and the Wall faction seem to have arisen
years before the 1986 elections.
For example, William Cooksey
Jr. testified he left the union in 1983 to become an ironworker,
then returned several months later. Although he wasn't a union
member in full standing, Cooksey said, Pezzenti told him he could
pay his fees with his first paycheck. Pezzenti then sent him to
a Farmington job site.
Cooksey added that later that
morning Pezzenti and Local 230's president, Charles LeConche,
appeared at the job site in a Cadillac and ordered Cooksey, then
22 to get in the back of the car.
After telling him he didn't
belong on the job, they drove him in silence to the union's Hartford
office, more than 8 miles away, and left him there, he said, even
though his was at the job site.
Cooksey later said he heard
his treatment stemmed from a dispute his father was having with
other union officials. "It scared the hell out of me,"
he said Wednesday.
Also, LeConche testified that
Wall once beat him up at a Franklin Avenue filling station in
Hartford. Wall said Wednesday he punched LeConche after an argument
because he thought the union official was getting a weapon out
of his car's back seat.
He added that LeConche never