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
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.