Chicago Sun-Times

Union Boss Dies

By Shu Shin Luh and John Carpenter
Staff Reporters

January 9, 2000

He was a charismatic and notoriously generous man who lived a lavish lifestyle in three homes, collecting a six-figure salary at the same time he collected dues from some of the lowest-paid union workers in Chicago.

Edward T. Hanley, 67, died Friday night near his vacation home in Land O' Lakes, Wis., when his truck collided head-on with another truck on a county highway about 8:30 p.m. Mr. Hanley suffered head and chest trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene, said Vilas County chief deputy coroner Mike Gough. The cause of the accident was under investigation.

Mr. Hanley was forced to step down in 1998 after more than 25 years as head of the 244,000-member Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union. During his tenure, he was a confidante to political leaders across the spectrum, from Mayor Daley to former Gov. James R. Thompson to the Rev. Jesse Jackson to former U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski.

"He had millions of friends, from governors to mayors. He knew them all," said Jack Lavin, a friend of Mr. Hanley's for more than 50 years.

Lavin said Mr. Hanley enjoyed helping people more than anything else. "That would be his legacy," he said. "In spite of tainted newspaper clippings, his legacy will not be destroyed. People who knew him are above all of that. They knew what a great man he was."

The allegations against Mr. Hanley "were never proved to be true," Lavin said.

Yet the charges of corruption in his iron-fisted management of the union forced Mr. Hanley to step down in 1998, though he kept his six-figure salary.

A federal report released that year revealed an undemocratic union where funds were lavished on Mr. Hanley and his family to support a luxurious lifestyle. The union allegedly maintained a fleet of leased cars, many of them Cadillacs, at more than $500,000 a year. They were used by top union bosses and their family members, as well as "consultants" and officials with no apparent duties, the federal report said.

The union also owned a $2.5 million jet that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain, according to the report.

Even charitable donations were called into question, notably $450,000 given to a charity in Ireland, and money spent to fly 34 people to a ceremony to dedicate the Edward T. Hanley Basketball Arena outside Dublin.

Despite the litany of alleged financial abuses, Mr. Hanley in 1998 was granted immunity from prosecution by top Justice Department officials in return for agreeing to step down.

During a 1984 congressional hearing on alleged organized crime ties to his union, Mr. Hanley declined to answer even the most routine questions, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He denied the allegations in a 1992 interview with the Sun-Times, calling them "mob-baiting."

Martin Preib, a doorman at the Hyatt Hotel on Printers Row, was an outspoken activist against Mr. Hanley. "The sorry legacy and the state Ed Hanley has left not only our local but our whole union in is not a legacy I would wish on anyone," Preib said.

A native of the West Side, Mr. Hanley attended Loyola University before being called to active duty in the Air Force. He served in Korea before being discharged in 1955. He started in the union as a bartender.

"His rise from humble beginnings on Chicago's West Side to leadership in the union representing the hotel and restaurant workers of the nation is the stuff of legend," Ald. Ed Burke (14th) said.

Burke singled out Mr. Hanley's charitable efforts on behalf of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Maryville Academy in Des Plaines. Mr. Hanley was Maryville's man of the year in 1991.

Mr. Hanley lived in north suburban Wadsworth, though he also had homes in Land O' Lakes and in Palm Springs, Calif.

He is survived by his wife, Kathryn, sons Edward Jr. and Thomas, and four grandchildren. Services have not been announced.

Contributing: Robert C. Herguth


Hanley helped shape labor's fortunes

Edward T. Hanley's first union job was as a Chicago bartender in 1955.

Nearly a half century later, the controversial union boss leaves a legacy that loyalists and reformers agree changed the labor movement--for better or worse.

"He brought a youth element into the AFL-CIO at a time when it was dominated by stodgy old men. He gave labor a new look at the time," said Jim Strong, longtime Chicago labor writer.

"No doubt he had some faults, too, but he will long be remembered by those involved in the labor movement and politics."

Supporters remember Mr. Hanley playing a key role in bringing the Teamsters and auto workers back under the AFL-CIO, as well as attracting power brokers to Chicago.

An adviser to Mayor Daley once compared Hanley to retired Chicago Symphony Orchestra conductor Georg Solti for orchestrating a $2 billion casino-theme park deal in 1992 (that eventually fell through).

He commanded virtually unanimous support from union delegates, who re-elected him president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union five times, until he was forced out in 1998.

But union reformers describe Mr. Hanley as a labor dictator who neglected the members.

"In a day of his life, he's never listened to a rank-and-file member," said Jon Palewicz, a union activist and a bellman and banquet waiter for hotels in San Francisco.

"There were people around the country making $7.50 or $8 an hour with no pension to speak of. And here he was with unlimited expenses for himself and his family. It was just . . . I don't know what goes beyond excess."

Martin Preib, a doorman here and a union activist against Hanley, likened him to former Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa.

With one exception, he said: "The treatment of workers by [Hanley] was far worse than the way Teamsters were treated under Jimmy Hoffa."

Contributing: John Carpenter

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