New Jersey Boss Accused of Bribery

Ex-president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1262 in New Jersey, Joseph P. Rizzo, Jr., was arrested by federal agents Nov. 29 and charged with soliciting bribes from supermarkets seeking to prevent labor disruptions during the holidays. Reportedly, Rizzo solicited payments from unnamed employees for Foodtown and ShopRite supermarkets over nearly 20 years. In exchange, he allegedly vowed to ensure labor peace and offered one chain favorable treatment when the union was on strike. Rizzo was charged with four counts of conspiracy related to bribery, in a sealed grand jury indictment handed up Nov. 15.

Allegedly, Rizzo began demanding annual payments during Christmas  from the operators of Foodtown in the early 1980s. The amounts of the alleged bribes were not specified in the indictment, although it says each payment exceeded $1,000. The indictment says an unidentified Foodtown official acted as a co-conspirator. In the early 1990s, Rizzo allegedly began demanding bribes to prevent disruptive union activities at non-holiday times. In exchange, the union allegedly overlooked differences over Foodtown’s wages and working-hour policies. In one instance, Rizzo allegedly met with an unnamed Foodtown employee, who gave him a $25,000 bribe.

Rizzo also was charged with soliciting bribes from ShopRite, since Thanksgiving 1984. An unidentified ShopRite owner/operator was allegedly  a co-conspirator in that scheme.

Rizzo was arraigned in U.S. Dist. Court in Newark before Magistrate Judge Ronald J. Hedges, who allowed release on $300,000 bail. Hedges also ordered Rizzo not to have contact with members of the union, after Asst. U.S. Atty. Amy S. Winkelman told the court that authorities have “credible evidence” that he has made threats to the local’s current officers. [Record (Bergen County, N.J.) 11/30/00]