Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Judge Continues Oversight of the Carpenters’ Union

Citing continued corruption, a federal judge has ordered a one-year extension of government oversight of the New York City carpenters’ union, which has spent 14 years under supervision.

Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. of Federal District Court in Manhattan pointed to widespread off-the-books work and the bribery convictions of several shop stewards in ordering the extension in a decision issued on Friday. Under the government’s supervision, Judge Haight and an independent investigator oversee the union.

The union, the New York City District Council of Carpenters, which represents 25,000 carpenters, had asked Judge Haight to end the supervision, saying that the union was no longer under the influence of the Genovese crime family. The union signed a consent decree in 1994 agreeing to court-appointed supervision after federal prosecutors filed a civil racketeering lawsuit alleging that organized crime figures held sway over the union and assigned mob-linked workers to high-paying and no-show jobs at many sites, including the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

The carpenters’ request to end supervision was undercut last week when a dissident candidate in a union election was harassed and assaulted at a candidates’ forum that was held in the auditorium of a Catholic school in Manhattan.

According to witnesses and accounts provided to the union’s independent investigator, the candidate was beaten unconscious outside after the meeting on Aug. 5 by a group of men who had been yelling during the forum.

On Monday, in response to the assault, Judge Haight issued a memorandum urging union leaders to ensure that there would be no more beatings at candidates’ forums. He also directed the union and the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan to inform him of the results of a Labor Department investigation into the attack.

Judge Haight rejected the union’s assertion that the standard for ending court-ordered supervision should be whether mob control of the union had ended. The judge, accepting the arguments of the United States attorney’s office, instead concluded that the standard should be whether all forms of corruption and labor racketeering had been eradicated.

Judge Haight cited federal criminal cases brought against the construction contractors On Par, Boom Construction and Tri-Built, which prosecutors said had saved on wages and benefit payments by employing carpenters off the books, with shop stewards often being bribed to turn a blind eye to the practice. The contractors paid far less into the health and pension funds than they were supposed to, prosecutors said.

Judge Haight wrote that the shop stewards and other union officials “played vital roles in facilitating, enabling or abetting the employers’ fraud” by failing to supervise job sites or keep track of hours worked.

The judge also noted that rank-and-file carpenters had reported serious corruption earlier this decade. Investigators later found that out-of-work political supporters of union leaders were frequently allowed to jump the job-referral line and were assigned jobs before many carpenters who had been out of work longer.

In asking that supervision be continued, the United States attorney’s office cited a “culture of corruption that continues to impede efforts to fight that corruption.”

But Judge Haight accused federal prosecutors of “hyperventilation” about the extent of corruption. He wrote that the “outer and visible signs of organized crime influence have been significantly reduced” and that the union officials and Genovese family members involved in corruption in the early 1990s have “departed.”

He said he took the advice of William Callahan, the union’s independent investigator, who said an important test for ending the supervision was that the union “will be able to police itself without court and government supervision.”

Judge Haight concluded that this was not the case. “The record,” he wrote, “makes clear that massive job-site corruption was taking place from the 1990s through 2006.” He also pointed to a recent indictment alleging that the Genovese family had the ability to manipulate the district council, local unions and certain contractors through early 2004.

While praising the union’s reforms, including changes in the job-referral system, the judge wrote, “It is too early to tell whether recent reforms will achieve the purpose of showing whether the union can police itself without supervision.”

He also asked whether the union’s internal culture could change so that rank-and-file carpenters would no longer be scared to speak out about corruption.

“The district council must demonstrate that the union’s efforts to combat corruption have reduced the frequency and scope of corrupt practices to the extent that this court is convinced that the union and its constituent locals can adequately police themselves, without further government involvement and court supervision,” Judge Haight concluded. “At the present time, the district council has not made that showing.”

The assault last week on the dissident union candidate, William Davenport, undermined the union’s assertions of a change in its internal culture. Mr. Davenport, according to several accounts, was heckled when he spoke at the union meeting, which was attended by about 500 members. Despite the presence of two retired police detectives hired to maintain order, a group of men stood up in the front rows and screamed, according to one longtime union dissident who was there.

“It was disgraceful — thugs took over the meeting,” said the dissident, Eugene Clarke, a member for 49 years. Mr. Clarke, who did not see the assault, said the group yelled insults at Mr. Davenport and threw a roll of toilet paper at him when he was on the stage.

When candidates running on the slate of an incumbent, John Greaney, spoke, the crowd was less raucous, Mr. Clarke said.

In a separate decision issued on Friday, Judge Haight rejected the United States attorney’s request to replace Mr. Callahan as the independent investigator.

The government said that Mr. Callahan had not been aggressive enough in unearthing corruption. But Judge Haight said he was satisfied with Mr. Callahan’s performance saying that Mr. Callahan, like his predecessor, Walter Mack, was working diligently to ferret out job-site corruption.

Judge Haight said corruption had declined, thanks in part to Mr. Callahan and Mr. Mack, but too much remained. For that reason, he chose to extend Mr. Callahan’s term for two years.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Mr. Callahan called it “an important decision that reaffirms our credibility.”


  1. He truly had no choice but to extend the decree, Itself nothing new but to what means does it apply to what will be unearthed from the ongoing, now count them three, prominent examples of what has been going on since the decree was put in place.

    More to come as jailed stewards cry out for relief from 23 hr. lockdown and start singing.

    Haight simply couldn't put himself in such a position for it would fall on him later.
    Sorry boys @ 395 couldn't pull this one out of my hat.

    Now as far as billy goes. Its a sad thing and I wish him the best in the physical sense. I guess Lcl 608 shits where they sleep.

    How can you trust an election where the majority support those who allow such circumstances to take place. Charge those two retired cops and take them down too !


  3. To change a union, it takes a crew of guys or gals to run for office. Put it on the line. Stop standing on the sidelines second guesse all the time.
    Get into the game and run. You might lose, but run again.

    Take your union back.

  4. To change a union, it takes a crew of guys or gals.

    Stop standing on the sidelines.

    Running For Office !

    The Ony Way to Go !

  5. Douglas J.McCarron
    Carpenters National Headquarters
    101 Constitution Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20001

    Dear Douglas J. McCarron,

    I’m writing you today to report unfair labor practices by the NYCDCC and its fund manager. The NYCDCC is withholding monies that belongs to the rank and file members who refuse to sign their blue card (a card that lacks transparency) and agreeing to assessments/or fines or penalties as designated, or as hereafter designated by the NYCDCC and their Local Unions.

    The NYCDCC grossly violated their fiduciary responsibilities toward its members when they resulted to extortion to get us to accept an unpopular policy that they imposed on us from their board of trustees. Also our title I (Landrum – Griffin Act) rights may have been violated as well.

    This is why a dictatorship within our Union does not work for the Carpenters best interest. It doesn’t work for our own federal government (we have the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial) and it doesn’t work for our Union as well. Our forefathers set up the way that we are governed to keep our government honest; therefore they created a system of checks and balances. Our leadership is not greater than that of our country, therefore the NYCDCC should not be allowed to rule with an iron fist to impose policy on its membership without first giving us the opportunity to accept or reject whatever they are purposing.

    We the rank and file members of the NYCDCC have a right to a democratic union and a right to have a leadership to work for our best interest according to the Union bill of rights under title I of the LMRDA. I purpose, that a letter be sent to every member of the NYCDCC in good standing, to inform them of a secret ballot vote to see if they want the right to vote on rates of dues, fees and assessments, as well as the right to accept or reject collective bargaining agreements that are negotiated by the board of trustees. Mr. McCarron, our trustees simply cannot be allowed to impose policy on its membership without conferring with its membership for approval. This fiduciary malfeasance has got to stop now.

    Peter J. McGuire, a man whom the UBC models itself after, sums it up best when he said: “We organize to assist each other to secure employment for mutual aid in case of sickness or disability, to protect each other’s rights and redress our wrongs, to obtain adequate legislation that will secure our wages from the unscrupulous sharks that infest our trade…”

    We the rank and file members of the NYCDCC are not mindless drones Mr. President, we want a voice in our union and a change in the way we are governed; I’m sure a man of your position will champion our cause and right our wrongs. Please Google and monitor this online petition: “Carpenters unite against unfair labor practices by the NYCDCC.” This ongoing petition represents the rank and file members who want change in the way that we are governed, and a true democratic union amongst other things. Thank you in advance for your consideration and what I hope to be a satisfactory support in rectifying this matter.

    Respectfully, Sheldon Johnson

    United States Department of Justice
    New York State Attorney General
    New York City District Attorney Office
    U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
    Rep. Jerrold Nadler
    Assembly member, Deborah J. Glick
    Assembly member, Richard N. Gottfried
    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
    Governor David A. Paterson
    Rank & File Members of the NYCDCC
    Various Media Outlets
    Board of trustees of the NYCDCC


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