Chicago’s Local 2 In “Emergency” Trusteeship

Laborers Int’l Union of No. Am. Local 2 in Chicago was placed under an “emergency” trusteeship May 24 by the union’s “internal reform effort” and its ethically challenged “in-house prosecutor” Robert D. Luskin. The action means that LIUNA will replace the local’s elected leaders with hand-picked successors. A cited reason for the impatient action was the May 12 expulsion of Local 2 boss John Matassa for alleged mob ties. Local 2 and Matassa became Luskin latest cause célèbre on Apr. 23 when he began the slower process of filing for a nonemergency trusteeship. Curiously, despite the rush to justice, Matassa wasn’t cited in the Dep’t of Justice’s 1994 draft racketeering complaint against LIUNA even though Matassa ran Local 2 since the mid-1980s.

Luskin’s track record in Chicago is mixed at best. When LIUNA’s “internal reform effort” began in 1995, one of the first orders of business was to oust LIUNA int’l vice-president John Serpico — a rival of general president Arthur A. Coia. Serpico was accused of mob ties and more. Luskin did oust Serpico from LIUNA but did little more to advance justice. As the Chicago Tribune reported Jun. 3, Serpico now runs the Illinois Port Authority Board which controls all Great Lakes shipping into Chicago. As the Tribune aptly said: “Go figure.” It’s safe to say that Serpico would have suffered a worse fate had DOJ cleaned up LIUNA rather than letting LIUNA clean up itself.

The good news about the Local 2 trusteeship is that David P. Schippers is the temporary trustee. Schippers was Rep. Henry Hyde’s (R-Ill.) courageous lead counsel in the recent impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton. Schippers sense of duty and honor is second to none. How he obtained the LIUNA appointment is not known, but good things may come of it. Last summer, before impeachment exploded on the scene, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Hyde had detailed Schippers lead an investigation of the U.S. Atty.’s Office in Chicago. Schippers reportedly was going to look into several problems including DOJ’s supervision over LIUNA which is based in the Chicago office. Hyde said, “We intend to exercise ongoing and vigorous oversight… If some program is not working, we want to take the appropriate action.” Those who thirst for justice in LIUNA can only hope that there is some connection between Schippers’ appointment and Congressional oversight. [Chi. Trib. 6/3 & 5/25/99, BNA 5/26/99 & 5/18/95, Sun-Times 7/2/98]