Federal Judge Lifts Chicago Consent Decree

On Aug. 30, U.S. Dist. Judge Robert W. Gettleman (N.D. Ill., Clinton) lifted a consent decree and, thereby, ended federal supervision of the Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am.’s Chicago Laborers’ Dist. Council. The ruling came after prosecutors and union attorneys joined sides asserting that the need for strict federal oversight had come to an end. “It’s not perfect,” said Asst. U.S. Atty. Craig Oswald, but “[w]e think it’s time for the labor union to show they can run the thing free of organized crime.”

Nevertheless, on the very day that the consent decree was lifted, Steven Miller, the court-appointed monitor filed internal union charges in court seeking to discipline two CLDC bosses who are the sons of reputed mob bosses: Joseph Lombardo, Jr., CLDC’s ex-secretary-treasurer and Anthony Solano, head of CLDC’s training center. Their fathers, Joseph “the Clown” Lombardo, Sr., and the late Vince Solano, were identified in the charges as longtime mob bosses. Lombardo, Jr., was accused of contributing to the mob’s influence on CLDC, while the younger Solano allegedly permitted mobsters to influence the hiring of instructors at the training center.

In 1995, the Dep’t of Justice began a weak program overseeing the highly-questionable “internal reform effort” of LIUNA. In 1998, as part of that effort, LIUNA took over CLDC. In 1999, DOJ showed some signs of life and brought a civil racketeering suit with LIUNA alleging CLDC had been dominated for three decades by the mob. This suit, for the first time, made at least the Chicago portion of the reform effort accountable to a federal judge, rather than LIUNA’s leadership.

Jim McGough, leader of Laborers for Justice, argued that CLDC is still not free of the mob. “They’ve only scraped the surface with respect to organized crime,” he said. “They have not gone in and effectively eliminated the union officers and executives who hold their positions due to the influence and control of organized crime. In many respects, the monitorship was a failure.”

Oswald said DOJ was satisfied that much progress had been made ridding CLDC mob influence and realized that overextending its stay could leave “honest” union bosses vulnerable to attack from opponents. “We don’t think the government should be running labor unions,” he said. “Labor unions should be running labor unions, but they shouldn’t be run by organized crime.” He added: “There are still problems” and DOJ continues to have some minimal oversight of LIUNA through the 2006 election. “We’ll be watching,” he said. [Chi. Trib., BNA  8/31/01]