By Carl Horowitz, National Legal and Policy Center
To be euphemistic about it, Local 45 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers (IAIW) has seen better days. For that matter, so has Laborers International Union of North America Local 592. On November 22, federal law enforcement agents arrested James Kearney Sr., until recently business manager for the Jersey City, N.J. union, for soliciting and receiving cash bribes to allow contractors to hire nonunion workers. Kearney’s son, James Kearney Jr., a former Local 45 secretary-treasurer, pleaded guilty the previous week in federal court in an unrelated case to embezzling more than $560,000 from the union. During that timeline, the international union reportedly placed the local under trustee supervision. In a separate case, the feds on November 22 arrested Patrick Viola, ex-business manager for LIUNA Local 592 in Edgewater, N.J.
Taking bribes from employers in return for allowing them to hire nonunion labor long has been a common path to personal enrichment for union bosses. Federal law unwittingly encourages it by granting monopoly privileges to unions, such as exclusive representation and (at least in non-Right to Work states) forced-dues contributions as a prerequisite for keeping one’s job. And in response to the prospect of being forced to pay the extra labor costs, certain union-shop contractors may pay union officials money under the table so they (the contractors) can hire nonunion labor on ostensibly union projects. Union officials look the other way as they pocket the money. That’s the way things apparently have worked at Ironworkers Local 45 and Laborers Local 592.