Chicago Sun-Times

Union Sues Locals In Effort To Lose Mob

BY Cam Simpson Federal Court Reporter
August 13, 1999

For the first time, an international union has joined with the Justice Department to sue its own locals and force a court-ordered takeover because of mob corruption.
The Chicago Laborers' District Council, representing almost 15,000 workers here in 21 union locals, will be put under the control of a court-approved monitor after a federal racketeering lawsuit and simultaneous consent decree were unsealed Thursday, said U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar.

A judge is likely to approve the deal in the coming days.

The Justice Department was joined in the suit by the Laborers' International Union of North America, which has been trying to rid itself of mob dominance since it began purging its own ranks in 1995. The nationwide internal union reforms were prompted by government threats to take stronger action, such as taking over the international union.

Stronger action is necessary in Chicago, said Robert D. Luskin, the international union's top attorney. It's the first time the government has made such a move against any Chicago union or any Laborer's branch in the nation, officials said. "People who have controlled elements of this union for a long time are not going to give up without a fight," Luskin said, explaining his international union's unprecedented decision to join the government in its lawsuit.

The Chicago Laborers' District Council, which holds $1.5 billion in assets and represents thousands of Chicago municipal workers, has been under the control of a trustee appointed by the international union since February 1998.

That trusteeship has expired, and mob influence remains despite the trustee's purging of local leaders, Lassar and Luskin said.

The new monitorship will last for at least two years.

The racketeering lawsuit alleges that the Chicago Laborers' District Council is "a captive labor organization, which has been systematically controlled, exploited and dominated" by Chicago's organized crime family, known as the "Outfit," since the labor organization's inception.

The mob's allegedly deep control of the local union might be best exemplified by the man who was vice president here when the trustee took over last year. He is John "Pudgy" Matassa Jr., named by the government as the current boss, or caporegima, of the Outfit's North Side crew. Immediately following a federal court hearing last March in which Matassa and other local leaders contested their organized crime links, law enforcement agents who had Matassa under surveillance witnessed him head to a two-hour meeting with John Monteleone, court records say. Monteleone, also known as "Johnny Apes," is identified by the government as the Chicago mob's newest underboss.

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