New York Times

Labor Leader Who Lived Lavish Lifestyle Dies

January 14, 2000

Edward T. Hanley Sr., who faced accusations of associating with organized crime in his 25 years of leading the nation's largest union of hotel and restaurant workers, died on Jan. 7. He was 67 and lived in Wadsworth, Ill.

The cause was a traffic accident near his country home in Land O' Lakes, Wis., the Wisconsin authorities said.

Hanley was president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union from 1973 to 1998.

For decades he was a prominent, back-slapping fixture in organized labor and was respected for turning his union into one of the nation's most aggressive in organizing members hotel maids, bellhops, barmaids, bartenders and waiters.

But Hanley was frequently criticized for his lavish way of life; he had the union buy a $2.5 million jet for his use and also had it maintain an office near his vacation home in Palm Springs, Calif.

In Congressional hearings and in prosecutors' papers, Hanley was frequently accused of maintaining ties with organized crime families, which he denied. In the 1980s the President's Commission on Organized Crime found that the hotel workers' union was one of the four most corrupt in the nation.

"He was one of those labor leaders with two sides," said Richard Hurd, a professor in labor relations at Cornell University "The most important thing he did for the union was to create an organizing department that really meant something.

"But he had a very high salary, enjoyed all the privileges of office and was aloof from the rank and file. And while he never was convicted of any criminal ties to organized crime, he was always suspected because he associated with criminal elements."

Hanley was pressured into retiring in July 1998 when a federal monitor accused him of financial wrongdoing. The monitor, Kurt Muellenberg, found that Hanley had bought a union-leased Cadillac Allante sports coupe, worth at least $60,000, at an improperly low price. The monitor also found that Hanley had received $31,000 from the union's Chicago local even though he did no work for that local, which was run by one of his sons.

Muellenberg also found that Hanley had set up a fake union local near his Wisconsin vacation home so that the local's president could do favors for Hanley and his friends.

Hanley consistently maintained that he had not engaged in financial wrongdoing.

John W. Wilhelm, who succeeded Hanley as president, praised him for allowing the federal monitor to help clean up the union. Wilhelm said the monitor's main purpose was to examine whether Hanley and the union had been influenced by organized crime, and Wilhem said the monitor's most important finding was that Hanley and the union were free of organized crime influence.

"He invited the federal government into our union," Wilhelm said. "He gave them unfettered authority to look everywhere, and to take any action whatsoever."

Edward T. Hanley was born in Chicago on Jan. 21, 1932, the son of James and Doris Hanley. His father was a tavern owner, and he grew up on Chicago's West Side, a working-class neighborhood. He graduated from St. Phillip's High School in Chicago in 1949 and served in the Air Force in the Korean War.

In the late 1950s, he tended bar at his father's tavern, and in 1964, he was elected president of the Chicago Bartenders and Beverage Dispensers Union.

A likable man, he quickly climbed the union's ladder and became president of the parent union in 1973, when he was 41. That year, he married Kathryn Dekker.

In his 25 years as its president, the union, like many other unions, saw its membership plunge, falling to 230,000 from 400,000. But it climbed again to more than 250,000.

Hanley's supporters praised him for preventing membership from dropping further, noting that he hired Wilhelm and other organizers, who recruited thousands of casino and hotel workers from Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Under Hanley, the union's organizing efforts slowly adapted to the huge changes in the industry as it transformed from small, independent operations to large, corporate-owned chains.

Some of Hanley's critics say he focused on attracting members largely to ensure that there was a steady supply of dues money to support his comfortable way of life.

"He was very generous to himself with our money," said Jonathan Palewicz, a banquet waiter and union dissident in San Francisco. "He was a labor dictator, and he wasn't that successful organizing when you consider how the industry expanded exponentially."

Hanley is survived by his wife, Kathryn; two sons, Edward T. Jr., of Chicago, and Thomas W., of Chicago; two sisters, June Hansen of Sacramento and Dolores Calabrese of Chicago; and four grandchildren.

Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company

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