Column: JACK ANDERSON
September 29, 1988; Page f15
Some federal workers who load mail trucks for a living think their union is in the grip of organized crime. A recent letter to FBI Director William S. Sessions charges the mob may have infiltrated a Postal Service union George Baker, president of Mail Handlers Union Local 300 in New York City, wrote to ask Sessions to place the local in a federal trusteeship and shield it from organized crime.
The Mail Handlers Union serves 42,000 Postal Service workers. It is a division of Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), which oversees several unions, most representing construction workers and other heavy laborers.
Federal investigations have found indications that some LIUNA officials have been influenced by organized crime. The New York local wants out from under that influence.
Our associate, Jim Lynch, obtained a copy of Baker's letter. In it, Baker said the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been shown documents "that with proper investigation and concentrated review may expose one of the largest scandals ever to hit the U.S. labor movement. . . .I am requesting that your agency look into the possibility of having the federal government place Local 300 into trusteeship immediately before LIUNA or its friends take control of the local and destroy all the information that we have painfully gathered. . . ."
This cry for help should come as no surprise to Sessions. At a congressional hearing in April, he testified that for 11 years the FBI has been investigating possible Mafia control of LIUNA.
The President's Commission on Organized Crime in 1986 outlined some of LIUNA's past problems. LIUNA General President Angelo Fosco was indicted in 1981 in a case involving alleged pension plan swindles. He was acquitted. Arthur E. Coia, LIUNA general secretary treasurer, has been indicted twice and acquitted of racketeering charges involving union benefit funds.
"Although LIUNA has not achieved the notoriety of the Teamsters Union, it is nevertheless a union with clear ties to organized crime," the commission reported. And it noted that "the government has done little to end organized crime's hold over LIUNA."
In the case of the mail handlers, failure of the federal government to oversee LIUNA may have jeopardized $1 billion in the mail handlers' benefit plan. That plan covers 500,000 federal workers, including the mail handlers and thousands of other federal workers who have joined the plan.
For two years, LIUNA put the mail handlers in a trusteeship. Officials of the mail handlers contend that LIUNA just wants control of the benefit plan. A LIUNA spokesman told us the union has a "fiduciary duty" to ensure that the mail handlers do not mismanage the fund.
In June, four months after the mail handlers were released from that trusteeship, Fosco decided to impose another emergency trusteeship. One hundred mail handlers responded on June 24 by marching on LIUNA's headquarters in Washington chanting, "Fosco and the mob have got to go."
In July, a U.S. district court judge ruled that there was no "credible" reason for LIUNA's control of the mail handlers' finances