NYC Labor Council Elects Successor, Institutes Reforms

The New York City Labor Council (CLC) has found a permanent successor to fallen president Brian McLaughlin.  On June 25, delegates at a meeting of the AFL-CIO-chartered federation, representing some 400 unions, overwhelmingly elected Gary La Barbera, an official with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, as its new head.  Though that union bolted from the AFL-CIO to help form a rival group, Change to Win, La Barbera, 47, impressed the CLC with his track record as a corruption fighter.  More than a decade ago, he’d begun serving as a trustee overseeing the cleanup of Teamsters Local 282, a cement-truck drivers’ union previously under the thumb of the Gambino crime family. 


During his tenure as Central Labor Council president, Brian McLaughlin (in photo), unlike the wise guys, never resorted to violence to make money.  Then again, given his access to the council cookie jar, he didn’t have to.  But last fall, his luck ran out.  He stepped down from the post he’d held since 1995 in the wake of federal criminal RICO charges that he illegally had enriched himself by about $2.2 million.  A 186-page, 44-count indictment handed down last October provided substantial evidence of McLaughlin’s direct involvement in embezzlement, fraud and bribery.  He allegedly skimmed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Central Labor Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, and other organizations.   In addition, he received more than $1.4 million in contractor kickbacks.  McLaughlin, also a seven-term New York State Assemblyman from Queens before declining to run for re-election last year, pleaded not guilty to all charges in Manhattan federal court.


The Central Labor Council obviously doesn’t want a repeat experience regardless of who happens to be president.  Toward that end, convention delegates approved a new constitution that requires the president and executive director to divide their responsibilities and that limits the president to a single three-year term.  A new 10-person executive committee, drawn from the council’s 40-member board, would advise the president and executive director.  Ed Ott, who has served as acting president since McLaughlin’s departure, will retain his post as executive director.  Jack Ahern, business manager of Operating Engineers Local 30, is the new CLC executive vice president.  

As for the 55-year-old Brian McLaughlin, free on $250,000 bail, he’s working as a $46-an-hour electrician at a residential high-rise construction site on Manhattan’s West Side, and as a $35.71-an-hour sandhog at the massive city water-tunnel project a half-mile walk away.  For someone holding down two full-time jobs while looking at a potential prison stretch, he’s taking the pressure in stride.  “Like anyone else, I’m back at work because I need to work,” he said.  “I always liked being an electrician.”  McLaughlin ran IBEW Local 3 prior to rising through the Central Labor Council’s ranks – another example of returning to one’s roots, if most likely in this case only temporarily.  (New York Times, 6/14/07, 6/17/07; New York Daily News, 6/20/07).