Big Apple Carpenters Union Local Stays Crooked

Federally-Authorized Compulsory Dues Undermine Clean-Up Efforts

(Source: September 2010 NRTWC Newsletter)

Samuel Johnson said it was second marriages that represent “the triumph of hope over experience.”

But were the eminent sage living in the United States today, he would surely agree that an attorney who accepts appointment as the federal monitor of a corrupt union is even more quixotic than a widower who remarries.

Michael Forde was the fourth chief of New York City's District Council of Carpenters union to be charged with corruption since 1980. In late July, he pleaded guilty to racketeering and other related charges. Credit: Ward/Daily News (N.Y.C.)

One such brave soul is former New York state organized crime prosecutor Dennis Walsh. This spring, Mr. Walsh became the fifth federal monitor in the past 15 years to take on the daunting task of cleaning up the notorious New York City District Council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners union (UBC).

Alleged Genovese Crime Family Associate Linked to New York Union Shakedown Scheme

In late July, Mr. Walsh achieved a breakthrough when Michael Forde, chieftain of the council from 1999 until 2009, confessed in court that he had for many years regularly extracted bribes “in the form of cash payments” from construction contractors.

He also confessed to perjury and obstruction of justice. In November, Mr. Forde will be sentenced, and he is expected to receive at least a nine-year prison term.

Mr. Forde and his cohorts allegedly allowed contractors who cooperated with their scheme to skip millions of dollars in payments to benefit funds for unionized employees. Bribe-paying contractors were also allegedly granted permission to hire nonunion employees.

Prosecutors believe that, in carrying out their illegal shakedowns over the years, New York City carpenters union bigwigs relied heavily on the assistance of construction contractors’ representative Joseph Olivieri.

Mr. Olivieri, who allegedly has longstanding ties to the Genovese crime family, is scheduled to go on trial this month.

Mob Control, Forced Unionism Pervasive in New York Construction Since World War I

Mr. Walsh has publicly admitted that, in the past, convictions of criminal union bigwigs have done little to prevent subsequent corruption in the District Council of Carpenters and other seamy construction unions in Gotham.

Indeed, Mr. Forde’s predecessor, Fred Devine, was convicted of stealing union funds in 1998, but allowed to run for reelection.

Mr. Forde himself actually thwarted Mr. Devine’s re-election bid by vowing to run a clean union!

The fact is, union corruption in New York City’s building trades has very deep roots. As a commission appointed by former Big Labor Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) once pointed out, mob control of the city’s construction industry has World War I-era roots.

In 1919, racketeer Robert Brindell established a citywide building trades union with the support of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the AFL-CIO’s precursor.

Mr. Brindell’s dirty work was facilitated by several then-recent New York State court decisions sanctioning compulsory unionism in private-sector employment.

Today, Mr. Walsh’s undoubtedly sincere promises that “this time will be different” are undercut by federal labor law.

“Since the 1930’s, the pro-forced unionism National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA, has been corrupt union bosses’ best friend,” noted Doug Stafford, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee.

Forced Unionism Culpable For ‘Almost Every Antisocial Aspect in Labor Relations’

“The NLRA forces employees to accept unwanted union representation and pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment,” Mr. Stafford explained.

“Dennis Walsh may succeed in getting not just Michael Forde, but a host of other rogue carpenters union bosses locked up, but despite Mr. Walsh’s best efforts other crooks are bound to step into the void so long as New York hardhats’ Right to Work without being forced to pay union tribute is denied.

“To stop the emergence of the next Michael Forde, Congress needs to repeal the forced-dues provisions in federal labor law and thus empower rank-and-file employees in every state to punish union corruption as soon as they see it by resigning and withholding their dues.

“As the late labor law scholar and onetime unpaid union organizer Sylvester Petro put it, the denial of the rights of ‘individual workingmen’ is the ‘basic cause of almost every antisocial aspect in labor relations. . . .’

“That’s why the Committee remains determined to pass H.R.4107, the National Right to Work Act, and thus repeal all federally-imposed forced dues.”