By Jim Rankin
Toronto Star Staff Reporter
Feb. 5, 1999
A prominent union figure was jumped and beaten
as he arrived at work by four to five men armed with metal bars
in a daylight attack that left him with a broken arm and a gash
to his head. John Stefanini, executive director of the
Residential Alliance of Building Trade Unions and former business
manager of the largest construction trade union local in the country,
was confronted by the men outside his Vaughan office last Friday
at 10:40 a.m.
Office workers on Director Court - a series
of a business plazas near Steeles Ave. W. and Weston Rd. where
Stefanini was beaten - watched four to five men flee to a waiting,
burgundy station wagon, which was parked illegally and facing
the nearest exit. ``We just saw five guys getting off the victim,
and then they were running very slow . . . and got into a burgundy-coloured
station wagon with wood panelling,'' said one witness, who asked
not to be named. At least three of the men appeared to be
armed with metal pipes, said the witness.
Police say it is too early to talk about
motive, but they are looking into labour-related issues. ``The victim is in a business related to
labour unions, so obviously that would be something that we would
explore,'' York Region Constable Kevin Bowen said. ``It's vigilantism at its best and we would
like to have it stopped, and we would also like to find the individuals
who did this,'' said Detective Sergeant Gary Miner.
Sabastian Vili, who works in a collection
agency above Stefanini's office, ran outside when the moaning
outside his window turned into cries for help. ``We basically just helped the guy. His head
was cracked right open,'' Vili said. Stefanini, who lost consciousness after the
beating and was rushed to York Finch Memorial Hospital, has been
interviewed by police and is now home recuperating.
Reached by The Star, Stefanini said he was
``not having the best of times'' and didn't want to speculate
on reasons why he was attacked or who might be responsible. ``I prefer not to make any comment. There's
a police investigation and I'll leave it to them,'' Stefanini
Stefanini, a former business manager of Local
183 of the Labourers International Union of North America, has
been the subject of violence before. In 1990, a man the Federal Bureau of Investigation
in Buffalo described as a long-time organized-crime figure and
son of a mob chieftain, told The Star about an American Mafia
plan to have Stefanini ``dumped'' - mob talk for killed.
Ronald M. Fino, who became a top FBI informer,
described how top Mafia chiefs had debated in the late 1980s over
whether Stefanini should be killed. At one point, a hunt for a
contract killer was embarked upon, Fino said. ``Holy cow! There's no question we had extremely
big rivalries in the 1980s (over) union philosophies,'' Stefanini
told The Star's Peter Edwards in 1990 when news of the planned
hit surfaced. Mobsters connected to the union decided after
a couple of years that Stefanini should live, Fino said.
South of the border, top leaders of the powerful
Labourers International Union were then - and still are embroiled
in allegations of ties to organized crime. In 1990, Stefanini said Local 183 resisted
mob pressures in Toronto. ``We as a union fought these people
and we cleaned the union out . . . We're extremely proud of our
high standard,'' said Stefanini, who retired as the local's business
manager in 1992.
Last year he came out of retirement to head
the Residential Alliance, a new partnership of eight building
trade unions. The alliance was set up to promote harmony
among construction trade unions and do away with membership raiding
of trade workers by various construction unions. The Labourers
are not part of the alliance.