Building Corruption

The New York Carpenters’ Union has a long history of connections to the mob and corruption — one which continues to this day.  A new 29-count indictment charges the union’s boss and nine other officials with racketeering, bribery, fraud and perjury.  Incredibly, the indictment alleges almost exact crimes to a racketeering lawsuit that was brought against the union in 1990.  The more things change the more they stay the same.

The New York Times has the details:

The indictment was unsealed in Federal District Court in Manhattan hours after a 6 a.m. roundup in which seven of the defendants were arrested, some as they prepared to go to work. It charges that in exchange for bribes valued at about $1 million, they helped corrupt contractors steal millions of dollars more from the union and its benefit funds by allowing contractors to pay members cash wages below union scale without benefits, hire illegal aliens and nonunion workers and skip contributions to the union’s benefit funds.

The 20,000-member district council, which oversees 11 local unions around New York City, has remained not only a major player in the city’s labor movement but also a major force in its politics, despite a history of mob influence, labor racketeering and bribery.

Indeed, six weeks ago, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s re-election campaign put out a news release announcing that the union had endorsed his bid for a third term.

The release included a video clip showing Michael J. Forde, the district council’s executive secretary-treasurer, who is now indicted, giving the mayor a rousing introduction at a union event and sealing his support for Mr. Bloomberg with a hug.

Mr. Bloomberg, asked on Wednesday for his response to the indictment, said he was surprised and that he hoped the union members themselves would not be hurt, calling the situation “sad.”

“I don’t know whether any of the charges that I read about late this afternoon are true or not — I’ll leave that to the courts,” he said. “It’s the men and women of the carpenter’s union that have endorsed me, and I’m thrilled to have it.”

The charges, a result of a lengthy investigation by Manhattan prosecutors, the FBI and the Department of Labor Inspector General’s Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, were not Mr. Forde’s first brush with such accusations. He and another district council official went to trial on bribery charges involving the union in state court twice in recent years, with the first case ending in a conviction that was later overturned, and the second in acquittal.

Lev L. Dassin, the acting United States attorney, who announced the charges in a news release, said that the union’s leaders had failed to protect their members.

“Instead of protecting the financial interests of union members and their families, corrupt union officials and the contractors who bribed them are charged with betraying the carpenters’ union and its benefit funds to enrich themselves,” he said.