Warren Annunziata officially ceased to lead United Craft and Industrial Workers Union Local 91 several years ago. His problem these days is not being able to accept that. On November 24, Annunziata pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court to violating a federal ban on union participation by union officials and trustees convicted of serious corruption offenses. And Annunziata was corrupt. Back in 2010, he had pleaded guilty to forcibly extracting more than $600,000 in cash payments from bus companies that provide transportation for public school students in New York City and parts of neighboring Westchester County, N.Y. His prison sentence apparently wasn’t enough to keep him from collecting handsomely at the expense of dues-paying members.
Local 91 of the United Craft and Industrial Workers, based in Williston Park (Long Island), N.Y., represents around 2,000 drivers, escorts and other employees of New York-area private-sector bus companies. Warren Annunziata, now 80, a resident of Roslyn Heights, N.Y., founded and for many years headed the union, whose benefit plans over the years had amassed $85 million in assets. But the union also had an unofficial benefit plan – the Annunziata Plan. Based on anonymous complaints, an FBI investigation concluded that starting around 1992, Annunziata personally threatened executives of unionized bus companies with economic or physical harm if they failed to hand over cash gratuities to him. He also allegedly forged his identity to collect tens of thousands of dollars more from another employer. Indicted in February 2010, he pleaded guilty to extortion charges in July of that year, receiving a 33-month prison sentence in March 2011.
Federal labor law stipulates that a union official or trustee convicted of a major corruption offense must refrain from participating in all union-related affairs for at least 13 years. That happened to be Warren Annunziata’s period of banishment. But being well into his 70s, he didn’t feel like waiting for the time limit to expire. According to prosecutors, during his 2011-13 prison stretch, and continuing until March 2014, he was employed by the union under the title “executive director emeritus,” pocketing about $800,000 in “consulting” fees. The disbursements were logged as wages. During a May 16, 2013 call from prison, he reportedly told a union employee, “Keep your eyes and ears open and make a note of everything you see that you think I should know about.”
The Department of Labor, however, also had its eyes and ears open, and somehow got wind of this arrangement. According to a DOL special agent, Annunziata, operating from prison, “sought information about and offered advice, guidance and consultation on matters such as negotiations between Local 91 and employers such as the Department of Education, pending lawsuits, hiring and dismissal of employees, office policy, logistics and strategy.” He was secretly arrested on July 1, 2014 and released on $100,000 bail. While at first denying the charges, Annunziata later changed his plea to guilty. It’s not likely he’ll have another encore.