BY ROBERT MANOR
October 22, 1997
A top Laborer's union official testified
Tuesday at a closed door hearing that he knew mob boss Vince Solano
-- perhaps no surprise, since the two men worked together at the
John Matassa Jr., vice president of the Laborer's
Chicago District Council, was questioned by lawyers for the Laborer's
International Union, which wants to put the council into trusteeship.
The international is trying to rid the district of individuals
it says are under the influence of organized crime.
At one point Matassa was asked if he knew
Solano, president of Laborer's Local 1 from 1970 until his death
in 1992. Solano was a known mob crew captain who oversaw North
Side gambling operations. Matassa replied that he did.
"How could he not know him?" said
one person familiar with the proceedings. He worked with him."
Matassa and Solano's offices were opposite each other on West
In June, the Laborer's International accused
Matassa and other officials of allowing James Caporale, then secretary
treasurer of the council, to retain his position for five years
after his conviction for taking kickbacks from the council's welfare
fund. Caporale went to prison in 1987.
Among those present Tuesday was Joseph Lombardo
Jr., secretary-treasurer of the district council. He is the son
of convicted racketeer Joseph Lombardo Sr., reputed to be among
the top three mob figures in Chicago.
Like Matassa, the international has accused
the younger Lombardo of allowing Caporale to hold three union
jobs at one time and collect a total of $500,000 in salary while
waiting to serve his term in prison.
After Caporale left the union, Lombardo took
over his position at the district council.
Lombardo, appearing tense, spent the day
speaking on a cell phone and pacing in the hallway outside the
hearing room. He is to testify this week.
The Laborer's union represents 19,000 workers
here, including many city employees. It has long been regarded
as one of the most corrupt unions in the nation.
No contested election for district council
office has been held for 25 years and power is concentrated in
the hands of a few people.
For example, the four leaders of the council
hold a total of eight salaried union jobs plus seven trustee positions
on various welfare and pension funds.