Chicago Hearing Reveals Dark Side of Laborers Union

by Cathy Chestnut

Following a dramatic trusteeship hearing, several leaders of the Chicago Laborers District Council could be expelled from the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) for associating with organized crime.

The decision will come after three months of damaging testimony from a parade of seasoned investigators and former mobsters during a four-month hearing on mob domination of the District Council.

A formal Laborers Union trusteeship complaint targets seven of the District Council's 21 locals.

Named in the complaint are 23 union officials and employees, including District Council President Bruno Caruso. They stand accused of violating the union's Ethical Practices Code for being members or associates of the tight-knit La Cosa Nostra (LCN), also known as the Chicago Outfit.

LIUNA Independent Hearing Officer Peter Vaira, a former federal prosecutor, heard the closed-door testimony from July 16 through October 24, and is expected to rule soon on the trusteeship.

The LIUNA complaint charges mismanagement of the 19,200-member District Council' s combined funds, valued at $900 million. It claims fund trustees have been appointed "for 'unexpiring terms' in direct conflict" with written policies.

The complaint charges that mob control has replaced union democracy, noting "not a single contested election has occurred at the Chicago District Council or in affiliated Locals 1, 2, 5, 225, 1001, or 1006 in the past twenty years."

Under a 1995 agreement with the Justice Department of Justice(DOJ), LIUNA must clean corruption and organized crime influence out of the Laborers Union or face federal racketeering charges and a government takeover (see HARD HAT, Spring 1995).


Michael Corbitt is the former Police Chief of a Chicago suburb. He is also a convicted mob money courier. He was a star witness for the international union, linking a dozen Chicago-area labor leaders to the mob.

Corbitt recalled Bruno Caruso delivering envelopes on two occasions to the late Pat Marcy, a 1st Ward political fixer and known mob associate. Frank Caruso, who oversees the union health and welfare fund, allegedly accompanied his brother Bruno on one of those visits.

Corbitt said he delivered "garbage bags full of money" to the late Vincent Solano, President of Local 1 from 1970 to 1992.

Corbitt also fingered Al Pilotto, a former District Council Vice President and President of Local 5 in Chicago Heights.

Pilotto, who recently served time in prison for racketeering, was "the boss of the Chicago Heights crew. That's what he did for a living, as far as I knew, other than his union (affiliation)," Corbitt said.

Corbitt also spoke of convicted racketeer Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Sr., father of Chicago District Council Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Lombardo, Jr.

The senior Lombardo "was an enforcer. In my estimation, I believe that he filled up a cemetery or two . . . my opinion now is, he's still running the show in some fashion," Corbitt said.

Lombardo, Jr. took over his position from James Caporale, who went to prison in 1987 for taking kickbacks from the District Council's welfare fund.

LIUNA has accused both Lombardo and District Council Vice President John Matassa, Jr. of allowing Caporale to retain three positions and a total salary of $500,000 following his conviction.

Corbitt testified from a Florida prison, where he is serving a 20-year sentence for racketeering, bribery and extortion.

He said one time Chicago mob chieftain Sam Giancana got him in as a policeman in Willow Springs, and told him, "Just remember your friends."

During the hearing, several former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents explained the mob's history, power structure and named members or associates.

Former agent W. Douglas Gow was hired by the LIUNA to be its Inspector-General, and to conduct the in-house investigation.

Gow reported receiving an anonymous phone call on his first investigative visit to Chicago in March 1995 that "was meant to put a damper on my activities."

The expletive-filled message on his hotel answering machine threatened his family and demanded to know who he thought he was dealing with.

Gow testified that mob influence is "most extensive at the local level." The mob's chief goal is "financial gain" through control of benefit funds, union payrolls, and high-paying job promotions.

"For example, LIUNA Local 1 in Chicago provides a safe haven for known members and leaders of the Chicago La Cosa Nostra," Gow said.


Sherman Carmell, lawyer for the Chicago District Council, defended Caruso and other leaders named as mob-connected, including Matassa, Lombardo, Local 225 Business Manager John Galiotto, and District Council Sergeant-at-Arms Leo Caruso.

Carmell painted the trusteeship process as an attempt by LIUNA to divert attention from international union leaders' mob involvement and contended "that this complaint has been brought for an improper purpose."

Carmell contended that Gow is being paid by the international union, and is forced to dig up mob links or risk losing his $135,000-a-year job as Inspector General.

"It may not have been his (Gow's) decision to even bring this case," Carmell said. "It may have come from another party."

Another former FBI agent, John O'Rourke, said mob sources identified Bruno and Frank Caruso, their cousin Leo Caruso, and John Matassa as mob members.

O'Rouke testified that a mob insider told him, "They run the (26th Street) neighborhood, The Carusos run the neighborhood, that they're mob associates, that the father was the boss, and that Frank is a made guy, in the source's opinion; Bruno is an associate, as is Leo."

Federal authorities contend that Caruso's late father, Frank "Skids" Caruso, was a longtime mob boss.

Former FBI agent Bob Scigalski testified that Local 225 member Mary Williams received a Sunday afternoon visit in late 1995 by two men offering her $1,000 to step down from the Local's Executive Board.

The men allegedly told Williams that the local's Business Manager, John Galiotto, sent them. Galiotto is the son of William Galiotto, named as a lieutenant in the West Side mob by the Chicago Crime Commission (CCC).

"Our main concern is putting the rank and file back in control of their own unions, which to me is very important.

These people are being ripped off," Wayne Johnson, CCC chief investigator told HARD HAT MAGAZINE. "They deserve to have control of their own unions."

The CCC is a private, independent, non-governmental organization formed in 1919 to monitor corruption in the city. It is supported by individual and corporate contributions.

Johnson told HARD HAT that the trusteeship hearings could "purge them for the moment," but he said it may be more effective for the federal government to unseal the racketeering charges being held against LIUNA.

"I don't think they should be so gracious. They should file the charges," he said, referring to the Contingent Consent Decree that the Justice Department holds in reserve, just in case the in-house clean-up of the Laborers Union does not achieve its goals.

Robert Luskin, a former gang-buster with the Justice Department's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, was hired by the international union as an independent counsel, the reform team's prosecutor.

Luskin has said 100 people suspected of involvement in organized crime have resigned or been expelled following similar efforts in other cities.

Stanley Kravit, a labor relations consultant for three Chicago Laborers locals and Bruno Caruso's campaign consultant, told HARD HAT that local Laborers Union members have "expressed strong support and appreciation for Caruso."

Kravit also said he believes reform should have come from the inside of the union. Kravit testified about a resolution by Caruso at the 1996 Laborers Convention in Las Vegas.

That resolution would have called for a special convention to let the union's delegates vote on a clean-up process. The resolution was never enacted.

As it is, Kravit told HARD HAT, trusteeship decisions are being "made virtually in secret in Washington."

General President Arthur A. Coia and Chicago District Council President Bruno Caruso faced each other earlier this year in the first contested election in 40 years for the leadership of the troubled Laborers Union.

Some union members have questioned whether the charges against the Chicago District Council could be retaliation for that election challenge.

Rank & File Resources

Three sources of Laborers information and opinion:

The web site of Laborers for Justice and Democracy (LJD): <>.

The newsletter of LJD: The Voice,

1601 Ocean Ave. #346, San Francisco, CA 94112

An independent newsletter: Labor Voice,

P.O. Box 845, Glastonbury, CT 06033.