Luskin Goes Soft on Chicago Local, No Trusteeship

Laborers’ Int’l Union of No. Am. Local 5, based in Chicago Hts., Ill., has been placed under supervision by LIUNA through an agreement between the local and LIUNA’s in-house prosecutor Robert D. Luskin. But recent questions about Luskin’s qualifications, motives and possible conflicts-of-interest raise concerns about his objectivity in this case. The so-called supervision agreement, dated Oct. 6, released Nov. 4, accuses Local 5 of financial malpractice, improper recordkeeping, undemocratic practices and withholding minutes and financial reports from members. The move was based on ex-bosses’ “ties to organized crime.”  Several Local 5 bosses have been accused of mob-related crimes in the last 25 years, including ex-president Alfred Pilotto.

Luskin said William Clancey, a former FBI agent and current LIUNA insider, has been named supervisor and begun an audit. Luskin admitted that supervision is less severe than trusteeship, which removes bosses and brings in a administrative team for up to 18 months. Here, Luskin said he chose supervision because the local bosses agreed to cooperate in the reform process. It also saves Luskin time and money. LIUNA isn’t Luskin’s only client.

Jim McGough, leader of the reform group Laborers for Justice and a former Local 5 member, accused the local’s bosses of mob ties and corrupt practices. McGough said members were forced to pay hundreds of dollars to business agents for their union cards. He also alleged that union leaders negotiated “sweetheart deals” with employers, permitting them to avoid paying union scale in some cases and avoid payments into LIUNA pension and welfare funds in others. McGough said he doubted whether the local had conducted a contested election in 20 years and added that union officers rarely, if ever, reported their activities or the local’s finances to the membership.

A 1996 Labor Dep’t LM-2 report shows Frank Zeuberis, Local 5’s president and business agent, received $137,908 in total compensation. James DiForti, who was Local 5’s secretary-treasurer until last year, drew a compensation package totaling $94,525. Zeuberis’ wife Joan, who performed clerical duties for the local, received a salary of $38,500.  [BNA 11/4/98]