For more than a decade New York City’s International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 1 padded area construction projects with hundreds of no-show jobs for their pals, many of whom had friends in the mob. Certain contractors liked the arrangement, too, as they were paid well to look the other way. Now the union will be operating under a new set of rules – those of the feds. On October 3, officials from the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor announced that Local 1 had agreed to be placed under the supervision of an independent federal monitor. Additionally, the union would implement key internal reforms in hiring, disciplinary and election procedures. By complying for the next three years, in turn the union would get a reprieve from prosecution. Already, the investigation has produced more than three dozen convictions of individuals belonging to or connected with the union, including former business agent Charles Novak (now serving a nine-year prison sentence) and Gambino crime family soldier Mario Garafola.
Local 1 was a force to be reckoned with at many New York-area high-rise construction sites. The union represents elevator mechanics and operators of temporary elevator cars for workers. During 1989-2002, federal officials charge, Local 1 operators were paid about $35 an hour for regular time and $70 an hour for overtime. Employees only could be put on the payroll from a hiring list maintained by union officials. When jobs became available, a union representative would supply contractors with the names of persons interested in work. The deal was simple: If you got hired, you joined the union (if you were not a member already) and paid tribute to the guy who hired you. But once on the job, you didn’t have to work more than a fraction of the time you were paid – assuming you worked at all. Many “workers” were not elevator operators or mechanics, and instead held full-time jobs elsewhere. Union bosses collected cash bribes either through paycheck deductions or direct cash kickbacks. The local raked in millions of dollars through this ghost-employee scam.
Federal officials are hopeful that the planned reforms will lead to a more honest union. “The series of prosecutions that led to today’s agreement demonstrate the determination of our office and our law enforcement partners to rid labor unions of corruption and bring to justice union officials who profit illegally by selling out union members they are duty-bound to represent,” stated Roslynn R. Mauskopf, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “Today’s agreement imposes much-needed reforms that will return Local 1 to the control of the rank-and file and ensure equity in job placement.” (States News Service, 10/4).