Monday, April 16, 2012

Union rebel's violent life

In 1994 he was part of a teenaged gang that nearly beat to death an off-duty NYPD sergeant named Louis Cosentino who’d dared to tell them to shut up as they partied loudly in the pre-dawn hours

 Eric Gundersen (left) has a history of violence.
Eric Gundersen (left) has a history of violence.


ERIC GUNDERSEN is the earnest face of a new union that’s trying to usurp the biggest construction union in the city — the 25,000-member District Council of Carpenters.

Eric Gundersen in his youth.
Representing the upstart Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners, Gundersen gives quotes to the press and provides sworn testimony to the National Labor Relations Board.

What he doesn’t reveal is his remarkably violent past.

In 1994 he was part of a teenaged gang that nearly beat to death an off-duty NYPD sergeant named Louis Cosentino who’d dared to tell them to shut up as they partied loudly in the pre-dawn hours. Gundersen and seven fellow thugs kicked out all of Cosentino’s teeth and broke nearly every bone in his face. The News’ front page blared, “Punks beat cop so badly YOU CAN’T TELL IT’S HIM.”

“I don’t think a guy like that should represent a union,” an appalled Cosentino, who still lives in Brooklyn, told the News last week. “Your image should be above board and your word should be good. You shouldn’t be an antagonistic person.”

A News investigation has found the thuggishness Gundersen displayed in the attack on Cosentino remained a constant during the years he’s served as a union member.

Retired Transit Police Dept.
 Sgt. Louis Cosentino.
Gundersen — who did not respond to repeated requests for comment — joined a District Council of Carpenters affiliate, Local 1456, in 1998 shortly after serving his time in the Cosentino beat-down.

In 2002 he was busted in Brooklyn on 10 counts of assault, menacing and harassment. Court records don’t spell out what happened but reveal he pleaded guilty to one count of attempted assault. He served no jail time.

In June 2006, Gundersen was arrested again, this time charged with assault after he and two pals — including one who was a co-defendant in the Cosentino attack — ganged up on a worker who told one of them not to scratch his name into the bar at a Bay Ridge tavern. The trio beat the lone worker savagely, with one defendant slamming a pool ball into the worker’s face, records show. Gundersen pleaded to disorderly conduct and again did no time.

None of this was a problem with his union, Local 1456, until he was nominated as treasurer in 2010. When Gundersen told the Council about the Cosentino case — though not the other two arrests — they told him he couldn’t hold a leadership position. The law bars anyone convicted of serious crimes such as assault from holding union leadership positions.

Last July, Gundersen took a different tack when Local 1456 was dissolved after a court-appointed review officer overseeing the District Council found more corruption in the council and in Local 1456. Several leaders were kicked out of the union, and some formed the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners. Gundersen became part of the breakaway union’s organizing team and recently emerged as the group’s spokesman.

In December, he appeared at a National Labor Relations Board hearing, calling himself a “committee member” and describing the union’s plans. Early last month he repeated that role in an interview with the New York Times, stating, “They took our union. We’re looking to stand by ourselves and not have things shoved down our throat.”

Union carpenter Chris Porteus says
Gundersen physically attacked
him at this Harlem job site.
On March 12, Gundersen and another Amalgamated leader named John Harkin showed up at a job site uptown where Columbia University is building new classrooms. Chris Porteus, a District Council shop steward, was on the job and said the two tried to get on the site to lure workers away from the District Council. The job site superintendent told them they had no business on the property, Porteus said.

Porteus alleged that both men entered the property anyway, and that Harkin “got chesty with me,” pushing into him. Porteus said he pushed him back. Harkin says Porteus started it.

Porteus said, “Gundersen picked up a metal shackle and he started coming at me. He was going to punch me with it.” A security guard intervened and Gundersen backed away, but not before warning Porteus he was going to “find me off-site.”

“I don’t need that in my life right now. I’ve got to look over my shoulder when I’m leaving the site late at night,” Porteus said. “Why would you take a known criminal (to organize)?”

The Manhattan district attorney is now investigating the incident, sources say.

An attorney representing Amalgamated, Angelo Bisceglie, said he was unfamiliar with Gundersen’s criminal history. “He’s the father of a couple of kids, he’s a law-abiding citizen, and he’s doing his job,” Bisceglie said. “Eric is one of many carpenters who are basically trying to free themselves of the dictatorial system set up by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.”

1 comment:

  1. This guys a punk as a newly certified shop steward. I can tell this guy only flexes and attacks when he's got the numbers on his side or he's handling someone physically inferior.


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