Hiring carpenters at below union-scale wages and benefits can be profitable – for union shop stewards as well as contractors. That’s what a federally-appointed monitor of New York City’s District Council of Carpenters found after an extensive investigation into allegations of bribery at local construction sites. The monitor, Walter Mack, a former federal prosecutor, issued a report on May 5, concluding that a Queens-based construction firm, Boom Construction Enterprises, had made payoffs to Carpenters’ Union shop stewards at several construction project sites. In one case, at Bronx’s Jacobi Medical Center, stewards omitted mention of two to six workers from their daily employee reports. The probe began shortly after a union business agent told Mack’s office about an anonymous tip he’d received.
Boom’s owner, Derek McKenna, paid union stewards $200 to $800 per week, more than $80,000 in all. A bartender at O’Shea’s Emerald Bar in the Bronx served as a go-between, handing envelopes of cash to employees who’d been hired improperly. At first, McKenna denied he was involved in the scheme, but eventually he hired a lawyer and revised his statement. McKenna said in a recent telephone interview that union officials often push for this kind of arrangement. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York already has indicted one shop steward, Delroy Haughton, for taking bribes. Haughton has proclaimed his innocence.
The 25,000-member New York City District Council of Carpenters is no stranger to legal trouble. Its ethically-challenged current president, Michael Forde, was convicted last April of taking payoffs from a mob-linked contractor to allow the use of nonunion labor. But only a few weeks ago Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Atlas, after lengthy review, threw out the conviction, citing juror misconduct. Forde’s predecessor, Frederick Devine, in a separate case, had been convicted of stealing more than $50,000 from the union. (New York Times, 5/6).