Federal prosecutors launched a "surgical" strike against the nation's largest labor union, announcing a racketeering lawsuit to break the Mafia's alleged domination of the Teamsters.
Spokesmen for the 1.6 million-member union called the civil racketeering suit "a vicious anti-labor attack" and said allegations of ties to organized crime were "pure myth."Hours after the lawsuit was filed Tuesday, Teamsters president Jackie Presser was readmitted to a Cleveland hospital, where he was in serious condition Wednesday. Presser suffers from brain tumors.
U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani stressed that "this lawsuit is not in any sense an attack on trade unionism or on the many, many Teamsters who are honest, hard-working people."
"We are not seeking overall control of the Teamsters union," Giuliani said. "This is a use of the racketeering statute in a surgical way to attempt to take back from the Mafia the Teamsters union."
The U.S. District Court lawsuit charged that Teamsters leaders made "a devil's pact" with the Mafia, insuring the elections of top officers, including Presser and his predecessor, Roy Williams.
Organized crime "has deprived union members of their rights through a pattern of racketeering that includes 20 murders, a number of shootings, bombings, beatings, a campaign of fear, extortion and theft and misuses of union funds," Giuliani said.
Court papers noted that four of the last five Teamsters presidents have faced federal felony charges and three were convicted: David Beck for embezzlement, James "Jimmy" Hoffa for obstructing justice and mail fraud, and Williams for trying to bribe a U.S. senator.
The government wants a federal judge to remove from office any Teamsters officers found to have violated federal racketeering laws. It also seeks appointment of a union trustee to ensure fair union elections.
Named as defendants were the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; its general executive board as a group; the executive board's 18 members and one former member as individuals; 26 alleged members or associates of the Mafia; and the mob's ruling "Commission" as a group.
Twenty-five of those 26 defendants have been convicted of Teamsters-related crimes such as labor-peace extortion, embezzling union funds or taking labor payoffs. The board consists of Presser; Weldon Mathis, the secretary-treasurer and acting president; and 16 vice presidents.
Judge David N. Edelstein granted the government a temporary restraining order that bars the board from making large expenditures of union funds or destroying union records. The order also banned the 25 previously convicted mob defendants from participating in union affairs.
A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Prosecutors have used the federal racketeering laws to uproot corruption in union locals and businesses, but it was the first time the Racketeer-Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act was used against an entire union.
Mathis condemned the lawsuit as "a vicious anti-labor attack." Two U.S. senators and the AFL-CIO, of which the Teamsters is a member, said the lawsuit overstepped government authority.
The AFL-CIO, which the Teamsters rejoined in October after 30 years, issued a statement calling it "a clear abuse of the government's prosecutorial power and . . . if sustained, would undermine a free trade union movement."
"It's pure myth that this organization is in any way influenced or controlled by organized crime," Teamsters lawyer John Climaco said at a news conference in Montreal.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, said the suit sets "a terrible precedent."
"I don't think the government or any court in this nation is capable of being a trustee over a union," he said.
At the Justice Department, Attorney General Edwin Meese III called the lawsuit "a very carefully developed, you might call it almost legally surgical step to remove the corrupt influences from the Teamsters."
Here are the names of the individuals and organizations listed as defendants in the government's civil lawsuit charging that the leadership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is dominated by organized crime:
-International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, AFL-CIO, based in Washington.
-The Teamsters' General Executive Board, also based in Washington, as a group, its 18 members listed individually, and one former member:
-Teamsters President Jackie Presser, Phoenix, Ariz.
-Secretary-Treasurer Weldon Mathis, Bethesda, Md.
-1st Vice President Joseph Treotola, Yonkers, N.Y.
-2nd Vice President Robert Holmes Sr., Farmington Hills, Mich.
-3rd Vice President William J. McCarthy, Arlington, Mass.
-4th Vice President Joseph W. Morgan, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
-5th Vice President Edward M. Lawson, hometown unavailable.
-6th Vice President Arnold Weinmeister, Seattle, Wash.
-7th Vice President John H. Cleveland, Washington, D.C.
-8th Vice President Maurice R. Schurr, Philadelphia.
-9th Vice President Donald Peters, Hinsdale, Ill.
-10th Vice President Walter J. Shea, Annapolis, Md.
-11th Vice President Harold Friedman, Pepper Pike, Ohio.
-12th Vice President Jack D. Cox, Long Beach, Calif.
-13th Vice President Don L. West, Birmingham, Ala.
-14th Vice President Michael J. Riley, Pasadena, Calif.
-15th Vice President Theodore Cozza, Pittsburgh.
-16th Vice President Daniel Ligurotis, West Chester, Ill.
-Former Vice President Salvatore "Sammy Pro" Provenzano, North Miami, Fla.
-The Commission of La Cosa Nostra, (the government's name for the "national ruling council" of America's Mafia crime families), as a group, and three of its convicted members, all of whom are in prison:
-Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, convicted boss of the Genovese organized crime family, found guilty in 1986 of being a member of the "Commission," acquitted last month of tampering in Teamsters president elections.
-Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, convicted Lucchese crime family boss, former vice president of Teamsters Local 239 in East Meadow, N.Y., also convicted of sitting on Mafia's "Commission."
-Carmine "Junior" Persico, convicted Colombo crime family boss, also convicted of sitting on the "Commission."