Certain locals within the Laborers International Union of North America over the years have produced plenty of mob-movie material – think of Local 210 in Buffalo. Elizabeth, New Jersey’s Local 394 has been playing in that league for a long time, given its close ties to that state’s DeCavalcante crime family. And unlike Local 210, this one is far from being cleaned up. At least that’s the opinion of the international union, itself no stranger to scandal, having dodged a massive RICO bullet in the mid-90s under then-President Arthur A. Coia, Jr. The May 14 edition of the Newark Star-Ledger reported that LIUNA has targeted the local, which represents some 470 construction workers, for a takeover. “So important to the DeCavalcante family is Local 394 that it has been variously described by DeCavalcante members as ‘the lifeblood of the family,’” LIUNA attorneys wrote in a brief that seeks trusteeship of the local. Local officials and their lawyer respond that the parent union is living in the past.
The local’s role as a hobby horse of the DeCavalcantes is well-documented. Longtime business manager John Riggi, Sr., sent to prison in 1990 for racketeering, was a confirmed crime family boss. Dozens of other officials and members of the union also have been identified in court as having ties to the family, founded by Samuel “Sam the Plumber” DeCavalcante, who died in 1997. The infiltration has gone unabated, say LIUNA lawyers. Mob guys regularly put their people in no-show jobs, extract hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from contractors who don’t hire these “workers,” and threaten violence against contractors who don’t play along. The Laborers want control over the local’s daily operations and assets for 18 months, at which point they anticipate new leadership. A lawyer for Local 394 thinks LIUNA is overreacting. “Most of the stuff they cite goes back to the turn of the century,” said Michael T. Scaraggi. Given his client’s track record, he’ll have to do some digging to make good on that claim. (Newark Star-Ledger, 5/14/06).