Strong Mob Ties to 4 Big Unions Charged : U.S. Lacks Strategy to Attack Issue, President’s Crime Panel Says

Times Staff Writer

Despite a widely praised FBI investigation and other crackdown attempts, four major international unions remain dominated or influenced by organized crime, the President’s Commission on Organized Crime charged Thursday in a report buttressed by evidence gleaned from wiretaps.

The report names the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Longshoremen’s Assn., the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union and the Laborers International Union of North America as the organizations with ties to the mob.

In addition, the commission cited some smaller independent unions as presenting “special problems” for law enforcement.


Reagan Gets Report

U.S. Judge Irving R. Kaufman, the commission chairman, presented President Reagan on Jan. 14 with a copy of the full labor racketeering report, which concluded that the government lacked a coherent strategy for attacking organized crime’s corruption of labor unions and businesses.

But, most of the report, including evidence cited by the commission in its allegations of mob domination of the four international unions, was not made public until Thursday to avoid possible prejudice to a car theft ring and murder conspiracy trial in New York involving eight reputed members of the Gambino crime family.

Previously secret wiretaps of Paul Castellano, a prime defendant in that trial and alleged boss of the Gambino crime family until he was gunned down in Manhattan on Dec. 16, are quoted throughout the material.

The jury Wednesday convicted six of the defendants of involvement in an international car theft ring and found two of them guilty of murdering two men to prevent them from exposing the operation. U.S. District Judge Kevin T. Duffy declared a mistrial in the case of two other murder defendants on whom the jury could not reach a verdict.

In a separate statement accompanying the commission report, one member, Eugene H. Methvin, goes much further than the 17 other panelists in criticizing efforts by the government to counter labor racketeering.

Methvin said that the 3 million members of the “Bad Four” major unions named by the commission “depend for their livelihoods, job safety, pension and welfare funds upon international unions controlled by gangsters whose power relies upon secrecy enforced by terror and murder. This is a screaming national scandal.”


Although “heartily” endorsing the commission’s call for a new strategy, Methvin said that “the fact is the nation has a strategy against organized crime” but that the Justice Department has failed to carry it out.

He accused the department of ignoring special legal weapons that Congress created in 1970, including the power to sue convicted union officers and corrupt employers on behalf of victimized workers.

In the report’s section on the Teamsters, the commission said that information from federal law enforcement agencies pointed to “a documented relationship between La Cosa Nostra (Mafia) organized crime factions and 36 influenced Teamster local unions, one joint council and a state conference (of Teamsters).”

‘Pervasive’ Crime Ties

The commission said that the Teamsters’ ties to organized crime, at the international and local levels, have become “so pervasive . . . that no single remedy is likely to restore even a measure of true union democracy and independent leadership” to the union.

“Sustained commitment of governmental resources to dislodge organized crime from the IBT (International Brotherhood of Teamsters) through a combination of criminal prosecutions, civil action and administrative proceedings is the only approach that offers even a modest hope of success in the long run,” the report said.

The commission cited with approval the unusual case of Teamster Local 560 in northern New Jersey, which was placed in trusteeship by a federal judge who found that organized crime had captured the local, its welfare and pension funds and its severance pay plan.


“If the Local 560 case is representative of the depths of the problem, systematic use of trusteeships by the courts may be necessary to prevent organized crime from continuing to do business as usual” in the Teamsters, the report said.

The commission, relying on information provided to the FBI by a Mafia underboss, said that the Mafia played a key role in Jackie Presser’s rise to the presidency of the Teamsters Union.

The underboss, Angelo Lonardo, told of traveling to New York to enlist support for Presser’s election from Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno and the Genovese crime family.

“Salerno agreed to back Presser for the job,” the commission said. “The methods that Salerno used to support Presser have not been revealed, but Salerno’s backing ultimately made possible Presser’s elevation to the Teamster presidency.”

Despite the FBI’s widely heralded investigation of union racketeering at Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports, which in 1981 produced more than 100 convictions of union and management officials and organized crime figures, the commission said that “knowledgeable law enforcement and maritime industry officials contend that racketeers still control port activity along the Eastern seaboard.”

“Traditional waterfront corruption continues,” the report said in summarizing the commission’s investigation of the International Longshoremen’s Assn. “Jobs continue to be sold on the waterfront.”


‘Documented’ Ties to Mob

The commission said that the hotel and restaurant employees’ international union “has a documented relationship with the Chicago ‘outfit’ of La Cosa Nostra at the international level and (is) subject to the influence of the Gambino, Colombo (in New York) and Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra families at the local level.”

The Laborers International Union was described in the report as “a case waiting to be made.”