John Bowers may be 84, but even at that age, staring at a massive federal civil racketeering suit for the past 21 months, he’s determined to stick to his job as president of the International Longshoremen’s Association. Bowers gave his assurances at an ILA executive council meeting on March 22 in response to rumors that he would be stepping down after 20 years at the helm. If anything, the Justice Department’s RICO suit, filed in Brooklyn, N.Y. federal court in July 2005, has made him more determined than ever to remain. He said that he would not have run for re-election for his current term back in 2003 had it not been for the threat of a suit.
Bowers’ perseverance may be admirable, but facts remain stubborn things. The Manhattan, N.Y.-based union has a long and well-documented history of collusion with the Mob, especially the Genovese and Gambino crime families of New York. The 83-page RICO suit seeks the removal of Bowers and other top ILA officials, and their replacement with a court-appointed trustee, who also would oversee the union’s health and pension funds. The Justice Department has built its case primarily around the testimony of convicted Gambino mobsters Peter Gotti, Anthony “Sonny” Ciccone, and Jerome Brancato. The union from the start has denied all wrongdoing. Bowers views restoration of the union’s image as of paramount importance. “I told them I want to clear my name, and I want to clear the name of the union,” he told the ILA executive council. That raises the issue of when the union was ever in the clear. (Journal of Commerce Online, 3/22/07; other sources).