For several years Roland Bedwell was about last person in the world that New York City-area public works contractors wanted to see, especially if they wanted to do their own hiring. He’s now officially out of commission. On May 18, Bedwell, business manager for the Roslyn Heights (Long Island), N.Y.-based United Plant and Production Workers Local 175, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to five years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for extortion of a business owner, one of many several such crimes he masterminded while as a union leader. Bedwell had pleaded guilty last August. The actions follow an investigation by the FBI, the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General and the NYPD.
Union Corruption Update described this case last summer. Roland Bedwell, 57, a resident of Freeport, L.I., was the leader of a 15-man shakedown crew of ex-military men who he proudly described as “animals” and who were prepared to use any means necessary to coax area contractors into hiring workers from his union. Bedwell openly bragged about his ties to the Gambino crime family. The mob guys, he said, “take care of all the problems.” The biggest problem in Bedwell’s mind was that contractors might hire workers who didn’t belong to his union. In one case, back in 2011, his crew showed up at a bank parking lot in Queens to terrorize a nonunion asphalt paving crew. One of the thugs repeatedly slugged one of the workers until the subcontractor said that he would sign a contract with Local 175, which he thought was good just for a day. When he realized that it ran for three years, the subcontractor refused to sign, whereupon Bedwell threatened to kill him. In another case, the Bedwell crew blocked deliveries, harassed drivers and slashed tires of asphalt delivery trucks at a job site at LaGuardia Airport because the contractor had refused to sign a labor agreement.
Law enforcement officials eventually received word of such behavior and conducted a probe. Particularly incriminating was a conversation between Bedwell and an unnamed contractor wearing a police wire in a Queens restaurant in which Bedwell explained to the individual the kind of financial pain he was prepared to inflict. Bedwell would be arrested in December 2016 and pleaded guilty in August 2017. Following sentencing last month, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue declared: “Unions exist to protect workers, not to serve as vehicles for extortion. This sentence sends a clear message that others who attempt to do so will suffer the same fate.”