Arthur E. Coia, 79, of 42 Standish Ave.,
who rose through the ranks of the 750,000-member Laborer's International
Union of North America to become its general secretary-treasurer,
died yesterday after a long illness. He was the husband of Maria
Mr. Coia retired from his post as general-secretary
treasurer in 1987, but continued to serve the union as chairman
of its New England Laborers' Training Fund, the Rhode Island,
Connecticut, and Massachusetts State Legal Services Funds, and
the Central and Eastern Canada Region Fund.
He also served as co-chairman of the union's
Education and Training Fund, and as a trustee of the Laborers'
International Union of North America Pension Fund.
He retired from all those positions in January.
Mr. Coia joined Local 272 of the Laborer's
union in 1933, at the age of 20. Three years later he was elected
to his first union office, and later was elected to a succession
of offices, including president and business manager.
In 1954 he was named to the international
union's staff, and in 1971 became vice president of the international.
He first won election as general secretary-treasurer
Mr. Coia won recognition for his activities
in community affairs. In 1988, the Italian-American Foundation
presented him with its President's Award, and earlier the Italian-American
Charitable Society presented him with its Gold Medal Award, the
Boys Clubs of America inducted him into its Hall of Fame, and
the Grand Lodge of the Rhode Island Sons of Italy gave him its
But Mr. Coia also had his troubles. In 1986,
the President's Commission on Organized Crime alleged that he
had direct ties to the Mafia, and also said he had used his links
to mob bosses to maintain control of the Laborer's union, including
the about 8,000 members in Rhode Island.
Further, the commission said he used union
money to defend himself and his sons from federal prosecutors.
The commission report said he helped his son, Arthur A. Coia,
who was the union's business manager in Rhode Island at the time
and a lawyer, to get $40,000 from the union to pay legal fees
resulting from the federal probe. (The son had subsequently been
elected general president of the international union.)
Mr. Coia was born in Providence in 1913,
and was a son of the late Pasquale and Pasqua (Cerrone) Coia.
Besides his wife and son, survivors include
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated
Monday at 10 a.m. in St. Ann Church, Hawkins Street, Providence.
Burial will be in St. Francis Cemetery, Pawtucket.
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