Saturday, August 21, 2010

LIFE - THE WHOLE NINE YARDS

"If we would have a stable society, we must have dangerous Old Men."

"The good youths are guided and disciplined by Old Men
."

STREET HAZARDS - OUT OF POCKET

Jury awards $1.3 million to man, saying cops faked confession with Polygraph

 June 12, 2010

A Southwest Side man was awarded $1.3 million Tuesday after a Cook County jury found two Chicago Police detectives and a police polygraph administrator created a false confession about him in the 2001 murder of his neighbor, according to the man’s lawyers.

Donny McGee’s award is to include $330,000 from the officers’ personal funds
, according to Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law.

McGee, who spent three years in prison, was to face the death penalty in the murder of Ethel Perstlen, 76.

Detective Edward Farley, Detective Robert Lenihan and Officer Robert Bartik fabricated a confession from McGee that was not written, audiotaped or videotaped, the lawyers added.

Friday, August 20, 2010

AMALGAMATED BANK -CHICAGO POWER - GENE HEYTOW

Banks, casinos and a ... hit list?
  (Casino owner Eugene Heytow)

      Crain's Chicago Business     May 13, 1996   Betty  Healy


         EUGENE HEYTOW 


Gene Heytow seems odd, but he's profitable

As a gambler, Eugene Heytow used to dread the sweep of the rake across a craps table. It meant he'd lost his bet.

But as a casino owner overlooking the table action from the mezzanine, every rake-off is sweet, he says, grinning.

Strange sentiments from a lifelong banker. Then again, Mr. Heytow has long been an oddity among bankers, with substantial interests in gambling and real estate and connections to unions and politics.

A secretive and sometimes eccentric 61-year-old, Mr. Heytow declines to have his picture taken - "for security reasons," he hints darkly. Yet he is wagering millions of his personal wealth on Midwestern riverboat casinos, a highly public pursuit.

Even as the sun sets on the political clout that helped make his name at Chicago's labor-tied Amalgamated Bank, an ailing Mr. Heytow is trying his hand at a new game where money and connections reign supreme.

Indeed, Mr. Heytow's name comes up more often these days at state gambling commission hearings than in banking circles, despite decades as chairman of Amalgamated and of publicly traded Oak Brook Bancshares Inc. - a suburban bank company whose middling performance suits its chairman just fine but could threaten its long-term independence.

Riverboat reshuffling

Mr. Heytow and his investment partners at Oakbrook Terrace-based Aerie Hotels & Resorts Inc. are lobbying state officials to move their money-losing East Dubuque riverboat, the Silver Eagle, to the Vermilion River in Danville. After a hard fight, they won a license last month to run a vessel in Michigan City, Ind., and they have a license pending on a Missouri boat.

If the group's projections in its Indiana application prove accurate, Michigan City could yield $73 million in annual revenues - more than any other property in Aerie's golf resort, hotel and casino portfolio.

"This is the biggest gamble of all," Mr. Heytow concedes.

Though he professes to be a banker first, Mr. Heytow's plunge into casinos is emblematic of his divergent business interests and personas.

There is the conservative, genteel banker who insists on reviewing every loan over $1 million made by his institutions, as well as smaller ones if they're at all unusual.

"I'm very averse to losses," Mr. Heytow explains. "I tend to be happier with lower risk, lower return."

There is also, behind the gentlemanly veneer, a man who's schmoozed and swayed union bosses, Republican governors and Chicago's Democratic mayors, and who's known for a sharp tongue behind closed doors.

Raised in Rogers Park, this son of a Russian-immigrant father grew up with middle-class credentials that match those of the union workers he pursues as customers.

But his Harvard education, University of Chicago law degree and self-made wealth put him in the league of the big-time pols and executives with whom he's done deals over the years.

Powerful friends

Mr. Heytow has seen the highs and lows that come with having powerful friends.

William Daley, brother of Mayor Richard M. Daley, served as president of Amalgamated from 1989 to early 1993, and former Gov. James R. Thompson was an influential friend. Prominent Chicago lawyer and investor Peer Pederson is Mr. Heytow's key partner in the casino venture.

Yet one of Amalgamated's directors until 1992 was former Chicago Teamster official Daniel Ligurotis, who was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of his son. Later, he was ousted from his union post after being charged with embezzlement.

Acknowledging that the business of riverboat gambling is rife with politics, Mr. Heytow insists he's staying out of the fray: "If you're not squeaky clean, everything you do is on the front page of the paper."

Mr. Heytow, never fond of publicity, has become increasingly reclusive in recent years. Rejecting a request to pose for a photograph, he cites an incident 15 years ago, when his name showed up on a hit list of two bank robbers caught by the FBI. Some employees say they're instructed not to call him by name if they pass him on the street.

An air of secrecy prevails at Amalgamated, which Mr. Heytow and a brother-in-law purchased from the Amalgamated Clothing Workers union in 1966.

Public silence

Today's top executives won't disclose their stake in the $632-million-asset company, nor why it's gone through three general counsels in as many years. And they never discuss family matters in public, former employees say, even though both of Mr. Heytow's banks are riddled with nepotism.

Robert Wrobel, president of Amalgamated, was once married to Mr. Heytow's daughter. Richard Rieser Jr., president of $713-million-asset First Oak Brook, is married to Mr. Heytow's niece. Andrew Heytow, Mr. Heytow's son, ran Amalgamated's computer operations until recently, but left after a disagreement with his father, sources say.

The younger Mr. Heytow has little to say about the parting. "I really don't want to talk about that," he says. He does confirm that he's still a director and an investor in the company.

Once a regular at political functions, the elder Mr. Heytow has cut back on his appearances, say bankers and others who know him. That's partly because of health problems, which range from a bad heart to chronic sinus trouble.

Though his ruddy complexion and stylishly coiffed salt-and-pepper hair bespeak vitality, Mr. Heytow leans on a cane when he walks and winces as he lowers himself into a high-backed leather chair in his corner office at Amalgamated. He sends a young driver, whom he calls "Killer," to fetch a forgotten dose of pills - one of several medications he complains he must take regularly.

"I'm an old 61," he says wearily. If Mr. Heytow's body is slowing down, his ambition is not. As the controlling shareholder in both Amalgamated and First Oak Brook - with a dominant stake exceeding 20% in each - he's free to pursue his riverboat enterprises, while also calling the shots on his complaisant bank boards.

Merger ambitions

He still dreams of merging Amalgamated with New York-based Amalgamated Bank, founded by the same union. He envisions a national institution with assets exceeding $2 billion and a populist mission - catering exclusively to workers, their union locals and their national organizations' pension funds.

Such a deal would buff the fading luster of the Loop's single-branch Amalgamated.

Although the bank is still a powerful force in public, or government, deposits (34% of Amalgamated's total deposits come from government agencies, municipalities and legislators - second-highest in the nation), it's nabbing fewer government contracts for check processing and other fee-based services than it once did. In three recent Illinois bids, Amalgamated wasn't even a finalist.

The bank's earnings fell 10% last year, to $4.6 million, a drop Mr. Wrobel attributes to increased spending on technology, advertising and hiring. Return on assets for the year was 0.73%, compared with a 1995 industry average of 1.0%. Return on equity was 11.8%, below the benchmark 15.0% for a well-run bank.

Yet Amalgamated's investors say they're satisfied. The bank pays its estimated 100 shareholders fat dividends: 30% of profits in 1995 and 27.5% in 1994, company executives say. Amalgamated's book value has jumped 35% in three years, to $39.2 million, according to Veribanc Inc., a Wakefield, Mass.-based bank research firm.

With investors earning good money, there's no visible pressure on Mr. Heytow to fashion an exit by jumping into the banking industry's merger fest.

"There's no hurry," says longtime Amalgamated investor and director Sidney Epstein, chairman of Chicago's A. Epstein & Sons International Inc., the architectural firm that designed the old McCormick Center Hotel - a Heytow property that was destroyed to make way for the expanded McCormick Place. "I think it's a very good long-range investment."

Also insisting that he's satisfied is Melvin Katten, a partner with Chicago law firm Katten Muchin & Zavis who joined the board four years ago, at the invitation of then-President Mr. Daley. Mr. Katten has been an Amalgamated investor for about 15 years, buying out smaller investors over the years.

Could be tough to sell

But if shareholders do turn restless, they may find Amalgamated tough to sell. Few banks specialize in public funds, and even fewer focus on unions. Amalgamated's clerks and tellers are unionized, an uncommon situation that most banks want to avoid.

Barring a sale, would it be difficult for investors to unload large blocks of shares?

"I suppose it would be," Mr. Katten says.

Even sister bank First Oak Brook isn't a willing merger partner. For a nine-office suburban banking company with large business clients and retail customers in affluent DuPage County, unions are anathema.

"We have two separate cultures," Mr. Heytow notes, "and I don't want to disturb either one of them."

First Oak Brook has been publicly traded since 1985, two years after Mr. Heytow and a group of investors created a holding company for a string of banks purchased over several years. Merging Amalgamated into it would open the Chicago bank to all the scrutiny and short-term earnings pressures of a public company.

Scrutiny isn't something Mr. Heytow and his bank presidents are accustomed to.

Amalgamated's 16-member board is made up of Mr. Heytow, his son, Mr. Wrobel, eight labor representatives and a handful of prominent business people, including Messrs. Epstein and Katten.

At First Oak Brook, insiders control 64% of the stock. Of that, Mr. Heytow and his wife, Mitzi, hold 21%, with a market value of $8.6 million.

Four of First Oak Brook's seven directors are also investors in Amalgamated: Messrs. Heytow, Rieser and Wrobel and Miriam Lutwak Fitzgerald, a surgeon and daughter of one of Mr. Heytow's former partners, the late Marcel Lutwak.

"The fact of the matter is that the same people are making the decisions" at both banks, observes Daniel Westrope, a senior vice-president and banking expert in the Chicago office of Principal Financial Securities Inc. "They control their own destiny, certainly, regarding whether they sell or not."

They also control their pay and perks.

Amalgamated has higher expenses than most Illinois banks - 4.1% of assets vs. an average 2.9% in 1994, according to Sheshunoff Information Services Inc., a Texas-based bank research firm.

And at First Oak Brook, where Mr. Heytow sits on the board's compensation committee, "the executive salaries are quite large for a bank that size," Mr. Westrope says. On top of 1995 salary and bonus of $550,000 for Mr. Rieser and $444,665 for Mr. Heytow, the executives accepted directors' fees ($17,000 each), an unusual practice for employee board members.

First Oak Brook did post an 8% earnings increase last year, to $6.7 million, or $1.95 a share. Return on assets inched up slightly, to an average 1.03%. Return on equity slipped a half-point to a ho-hum 14.0%.

Mr. Westrope thinks the bank company could do better, perhaps under an acquirer.

"Somebody could take those markets and do more with them than First Oak Brook has done," he argues.

No sale on horizon

But Mr. Heytow has no apparent plans to sell.

"Right now, Oak Brook is earning at a very fine rate; if nothing happens (as far as a takeover bid), that's fine," the chairman says, adding, "We entertain all inquiries."

As for Amalgamated, Mr. Wrobel says, "If anything, we'd be an acquirer. We're not looking to sell."

Mr. Heytow skirts the issue of succession at both banks. As long as he's around, he suggests, he'll be at the helm. His stated retirement date, according to First Oak Brook's latest proxy, is Jan. 1, 2007. He would be 72.

"I think our investors are very happy," Mr. Heytow says.

Meanwhile, he has more pressing matters on his mind.

Mr. Heytow and Aerie partner Mr. Pederson have put up personal guarantees of $25 million to back their $85-million Indiana riverboat project. Plenty of rough water awaits including persuading the Indiana Gaming Commission that a 70-foot-wide boat can sail a creek that measures 100 feet bank-to-bank.

"I don't know if it's going to happen or not," says Floyd Hannon, deputy director of the Indiana commission.

Mr. Heytow won't get any trouble from bank regulators, however. Bankers aren't restricted in their personal investments, says Frank Dreyer, chief of supervision at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, though he notes that, for a banker, "casinos are unusual."

If the Indiana plan does float, there will be ample competition for gamblers, both from a nearby American Indian casino on land and from New York investor Donald Trump, who's installing a higher-profile riverboat in Gary.

But it takes more than a little competition to raze Mr. Heytow: "I'm not afraid of Trump

Saturday, August 14, 2010

WHEELING ILLINOIS POLICE OFFICER WILLIAM STUTZMAN EMAILS NOTIFICATION - LOEVY "THE CREW'S LEADER

 Art Loevy--

We also approached Art and asked him to come back.  Whether you
want to acknowledge the fact or not, Art Loevy is an excellent labor law
attorney, a person we  wanted back on board.

 Art is paid 2,500  a month.  So yes John, I again can see  how you say that Art Loevy is taking advantage of the union.

Never mind that he has a very successful law firm with his son.  $30,000 a year will definitely put Art Loevy into that higher tax bracket.

 Bill Stutzman--        I have been paid $1,000 a month plus expenses,

Sunday, August 8, 2010

YEAR 1999 SUITS - STARTS PRESS RELATIONS -- LOEVY & LOEVY - TARGETING CPD STREET OFFICERS

Suit Claims Cop Beat Man Into Coma In '91

Officer Contends Fall In Drunken Stupor To Blame


October 13, 1999|By Matt O'Connor, Tribune Staff Writer.


More than eight years ago, Joseph Regalado was partying and drinking outdoors with friends when he got into an argument with his girlfriend.


When police stopped Regalado, who had a warrant outstanding for unpaid traffic tickets, he took off running, and Chicago Police Officer Jose Garcia gave chase.


What took place moments later in a nearby alley changed Regalado's life forever and is the subject of a civil rights trial that began Tuesday in federal 


In opening statements to jurors, attorney Jon Loevy contended Garcia beat Regalado into a coma, possibly with his nightstick. Loevy and Blake Horwitz represent Regalado in the lawsuit filed in 1996 against Garcia, his partner Manuel Acevedo and the City of Chicago.


One of Garcia's attorneys, Robert Barber of the city's Law Department, denied that the officer laid a hand on Regalado other than to handcuff him.
Barber suggested Regalado, 34, sustained his injuries after falling in a drunken stupor.


According to Loevy, the alleged beating left Regalado in a coma for a month. Since then, he has been paralyzed, though he's conscious and essentially "a prisoner in his own body," Loevy told jurors.


He can't move, eat or talk, though he can blink his eyes, which allows him to respond to simple questions, according to Horwitz.


But he is unable to respond to queries about how he sustained his injuries on the night of June 20, 1991, after attending a party in the 2700 block of South Kedvale Avenue.


Loevy, though, promised that the plaintiffs have a witness who saw Garcia raise an object--perhaps, he suggested, his billy club or flashlight--and swing downward, striking Regalado in the back of the head and neck.


The eyewitness, then a 16-year-old boy who was violating curfew, took off out of concern for his own safety and emerged only in the last year after learning of the civil lawsuit, according to Loevy.


When friends reached the scene, Regalado was out cold and Garcia was standing over him, Loevy said.


The officer tried to revive Regalado by pouring cold water down his pants from a hose, Loevy contended.


The plaintiff's first witness, Mary Benevides, a friend of the victim, said Regalado's breathing was "real ugly," a snorting sound she had never heard before.


She and others begged Garcia and Acevedo to call an ambulance, but the officers insisted he was just drunk and said to take him home, Loevy said.


Friends carried him back to the party, and revelers, thinking he was passed out, wrote with markers on his body and shaved his eyebrows, according to Loevy.


It wasn't until the next day, some 15 hours after sustaining his injuries, that an ambulance was called after, Benevides said, she saw "a white creamy foam coming out of his mouth."


Regalado's lawyers said experts will testify he sustained damage to his brain stem from trauma and requires 24-hours-a-day care.


Court papers indicated Regalado's family is seeking nearly $45 million in damages.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

LABOR ORGANIZATION HISTORIAN ROBERT FITCH


Robert Fitch
Author
 SOLIDARITY FOR SALE

TWO GUYS - PRESIDENT AND THE INTERNATIONAL SECRETARY TREASURER - CONTROL

Arthur R Loevy
TEXTILE EMPLOYEES (UNITE)
New York Members Blast Union
 
A growing number of N.Y.C.'s garment workers are coming forward saying that the union they believed would protect them, the Union of Needletrades, Indus. & Textile Employees, has failed them.  While most of the garment factories are unionized, advocates for the workers allege that pay and conditions in those shops are no better than in nonunion shops. "The union has a closer relationship with the boss than the worker," says Wing Lam, director of the Chinese Staff & Workers' Ass'n.
Worker Oi Kwan Lai told CSWA that UNITE failed to protect its members against abusive conditions. "It felt like being in prison," she told the association in a complaint. "We had to keep our heads down at all times once we started working. No looking up. No talking to anyone."
As more and more manufacturing work is taken abroad and N.Y.C.'s garment industry declines, "the union is afraid to enforce its contracts," said Ken Kimerling, Asian-Am. Legal Def. ; Edu. Fund attorney. "They're afraid the work will go overseas or go to nonunion shops." AALDEF recently filed three federal suits against unionized factories and others for a wide range of abuses.
A recent report by the Ctr. for Econ. and Social Rights, a Brooklyn-based "human rights group," quoted two Donna Karan workers who criticized their UNITE attorney. The workers alleged that the factory where they worked was closed after they complained about working conditions. "We thought he was a DKNY lawyer, not the union lawyer, because he kept saying that DKNY wasn't responsible for any of the conditions and the union couldn't do anything to help us get our jobs back," said one of the workers, who asked not to be identified.

UNITE blasted the dissents; UNITE boss May Y. Chen, said,"They say the union is no good, that the union is not going to do anything. That is extremely counterproductive."
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who recently met with CSWA said he plans to look into allegations that the union is not enforcing its wage agreements. "That's certainly one of the areas we intend to look into....[W]e certainly intend to...bring it up with the Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao."
Criticism of UNITE surfaced in 1998 congressional hearings. Federal agents searched the offices of UNITE Local 23-25. The search was related to the indictments of Luchese crime family operatives on charges of extorting money from garment factories to buy labor peace. A UNITE business agent pled guilty to receiving a bribe. The probe was subsequently closed.
[Newsday (N.Y.) 5/6/01]

A LOT WAS GOING ON - TIME -TO RESIGN - BUT WHERE -SUCH HEAT

Arthur R Loevy
Top Official Has Close Ties to NYC Garment Industry Mobsters  


When the stakes are high, the real crime story usually lurks beneath the respectable surface. 

That seems to be the case, at any rate, for the new labor federation, Change to Win (CTW). 

 The group, which comprises seven unions with a combined roughly 5.5 million members, held its gala inauguration in St. Louis on September 27.  Organizing millions of new workers is priority number one, announced CTW President Anna Burger, who also serves as political director for the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union.


 Her boss, SEIU President Andrew Stern, made the same point, as did Teamster President James P. Hoffa.  Somehow the issue of corruption never came up.

There’s a good reason for that.  The federation’s newly-minted secretary-treasurer, Edgar Romney, back in the 90s was a suspected bagman for the Lucchese crime family, looking the other way as the New York City garment industry, especially in Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown, reverted to sweatshop conditions of a century ago – and under union contract.  Although neither he nor other officials of his union, UNITE (the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees), were indicted, their good fortune appears to be the result of federal investigators having other fish to fry.

Edgar Romney, 62, is UNITE’s number-two man behind President Bruce Raynor.  He’s also the current international executive vice-president of Local 10, in the lower part of midtown Manhattan.  Last year UNITE merged with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees to form UNITE-HERE, with a combined 450,000 members.  But Romney a decade ago also was secretary-treasurer of Local 23-25 in New York City, long the flagship of one of UNITE’s predecessor unions, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.  (Local 23-25 and Local 10, by no small coincidence, share the same Seventh Avenue address, floor and phone number).  He comes off more as a professor than a union boss, notes union critic Robert Fitch, author of the forthcoming book, Solidarity for Sale.  “It’s hard to imagine a more implausible Mafia associate than Edgar Romney,” Fitch writes.  “The bespectacled, highly literate veteran labor leader is an African-American who is a member of Social Democrats USA and gives one of the best speeches in the New York City labor movement.”  But that’s misleading, he notes, pointing to the fact that the Labor and the Justice Departments were onto him for some time. 

In April 1997, a dozen FBI agents raided Local 23-25’s offices, carting away computers, software and boxes of records.  Federal officials, following a three-year investigation, charged that Lucchese family mobsters controlled New York’s garment industry through extortion, murder, torture and arson.  The Labor Department had prepared a 24-page affidavit which read in part:  “Romney directs Local 23-25 business agents and organizers to put pressure on companies with the threat of unionization or strike and thereafter withdrawing the threat when an agreement with an organized crime family is made, thereby facilitating organized crime control of Garment Center companies.”

The department made clear that the Lucchese crime family called the shots, with assists from the Gambinos and the Genoveses.  One Lucchese associate, Sidney Lieberman, didn’t just shake down apparel companies, he owned a few of them, too.  He would give his lawyer, Irwin Schlacter, names and addresses of non-union companies, who in turn would forward the information to Edgar Romney.  Romney then would send a union business agent down to the company owner to work out a “labor peace” agreement.  In a wiretapped conversation dated May 3, 1996, Schlacter told Local 23-25 business agent Freddie Menau that he (Schlacter) “needed to sit down with ‘Edgar’ to discuss a couple of firms connected to the Mafia.”  The UNITE agent would explain to the business owner that if he didn’t sign the contract, truckers wouldn’t make deliveries.  And without deliveries, the company couldn’t stay in business.  Any business owner who continued to operate without signing, and any trucker who delivered to such an owner, would answer to the mob, particularly Lucchese underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso, who eventually confessed to being involved in three dozen murders; Casso for a while was a government informant, and now is doing life in prison.  But if and when the manufacturer paid off the union agent, he could operate with a free hand – and pretend the union contract didn’t exist. 

UNITE at the time was leading a morally-charged crusade against Kathie Lee Gifford, who’d lent her celebrity name to a line of clothing while allegedly aware they were manufactured in Central American sweatshops.  Yet its Local 23-25, whose ILGWU predecessor had taken to the streets to fight sweatshop conditions early in the 20th century, now was winking at those very conditions, despite the contracts it “negotiated.” 

An unpublished survey conducted by the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division (and leaked to the Wall Street Journal) revealed that about three-fourths of New York City’s UNITE-organized shops were in violation of overtime, minimum wage or safety regulations. 

Disgracefully, many manufacturers, with apparent full awareness by union officials, relied heavily on child labor, typically illegal Chinese immigrants.  Edgar Romney came out of all this a lucky man.  The feds never intercepted his conversations with Schlacter, and subsequently crossed his name off the list of suspects.  Indictments did come in 1998, but against Schlacter and several Mafia wise guys; Romney and other UNITE officials were home-free.          
 
So was Romney running interference for the Lucchese mob, arranging extortion payoffs in return for substandard contracts?   Someone out there knows a lot more than they’re letting on.  At the very least, the evidence should raise a red flag among Romney’s growth-obsessed fellow chieftains at Change to Win – before it blows up in their faces. 

AND THE INTERNATIONAL SECRETARY TREASURER WAS ? TAKE A GUESS

Arthur R Loevy
Feds Finger Labor Boss
Apparel Union Tied to Mafia Shakedown

by William Bastone
October 14 - 20, 1998

Working in tandem with Mafia figures and corrupt businessmen, garment union officials were a key component of a shakedown ring that maintained an illegal chokehold on segments of Seventh Avenue, federal investigators have charged.

According to search warrants and wiretap affidavits prepared by FBI and Department of Labor
investigators and obtained by the Voice, a major New York union official has been implicated in a criminal probe that has already resulted in the indictment of 12 men on assorted racketeering charges.

Investigators allege that Edgar Romney, executive vice president of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), participated in a scheme that employed the threat of unionization as a lever to extract payoffs from nonunion firms. Romney, who has not been charged in the ongoing federal probe, worked with a mob-tied lawyer in "targeting" garment center companies for "illegal labor peace payments," according to one government affidavit.

The attorney, Irwin Schlacter, was indicted in April along with several Mafia members—including Joseph DeFede, the acting boss of the Luchese crime family—on extortion charges. The indictment states that Schlacter and another defendant, Luchese associate Sidney Lieberman—both of whom have pleaded not guilty—"used contacts with Garment Center unions to facilitate such extortion payments." While this document skirts specifics of the government's case, the law enforcement affidavits include various allegations against Romney, 55, and other UNITE officials.

As part of the government probe, which began in 1994, investigators last April raided the Seventh Avenue offices of UNITE Local 23-25.Executing a search warrant signed by magistrate Andrew Peck, a dozen agents carted away boxes of union records in search of evidence of "bribery and bribe receiving under the Taft-Hartley Act," according to court records. Romney heads Local 23-25, which handles garment center union matters and represents 20,000 workers, in addition to his role with the international union. Local 23-25 is the largest in UNITE, which has about 250,000 members in North America.

Irwin Rochman, a criminal defense lawyer hired by UNITE after the search was conducted, said, "I see not a shred of evidence" that any union officials were involved in "anything of a criminal nature." Rochman contended that Romney, who has been interviewed twice, and other union officials have "fully cooperated" with investigators and that there "is no evidence that I'm aware of...or they would have indicted him [Romney]." Joseph Bianco, the assistant United States attorney handling the garment center case, declined comment on the government investigation.

In April, Lewis Schiliro, head of the FBI's New York office, told Women's Wear Daily that he was hopeful that the first round of indictments in the garment center probe would help other probes. While not naming any specific unions or labor officials, Schiliro said, "if we get the cooperation of some of the individuals involved, and if we can lead [the investigation] in the direction of the union, that's where it's going to go." Rochman said that law enforcement's suspicions about Romney and UNITE were unfounded and cast an unfair taint on the union.

The government's allegations about the apparel union are based on information provided by at least five cooperating witnesses and from intercepted telephone calls by Schlacter.

According to the affidavits and other court documents, the informants included two wiseguys (Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso and Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco), a convicted former Local 23-25 business agent (Ed Ko), a convicted (but unnamed) former "Garment Center company owner," and a "confidential source."

James Vanderberg, a Department of Labor investigator, used statements from this snitch quintet and snippets of intercepted conversations to establish probable cause to raid Local 23-25. Included in his affidavit supporting the government's request for a search warrant are a number of allegations regarding Romney and the UNITE local, including:

Both Casso and D'Arco contend that the Luchese family
has long dominated the garment center through the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, the predecessor of UNITE.

Casso described the procedure that was followed "when a company is targeted for labor peace payments by the Luchese Family." First, Casso said, Lieberman would contact Schlacter with the name and address of the targeted company. Schlacter would allegedly then contact Romney, who would send a union organizer "to the targeted company and threaten unionization." At that point, the affidavit notes, either Lieberman or Schlacter "would work out a deal with the targeted company in which an illegal payment would be made in exchange for labor peace."

Casso, who has admitted his involvement in at least 36 murder conspiracies
, has now been disowned by his government handlers, who came to the realization that the bloodthirsty hoodlum held back details of some of his criminal escapades. Lieberman, now doing time for an exortion rap involving a Luchese-controlled Teamsters local, became the family's garment center point man after his successor, a gangster named Michael Pappadio, was whacked for skimming payoff money.

 In a bugged talk between Schlacter and a Local 23-25 organizer, the lawyer said that he needed to sit down with "Edgar" to "discuss a couple of firms connected to the Mafia." In another conversation, a second UNITE organizer tells Schlacter of a "special deal" he was offering a mob-connected garment firm. This arrangement, the organizer noted, allowed the company to be only partly unionized, an arrangement that "Edgar was happy about." Rochman, UNITE's attorney, said that this decision was not evidence of capitulation to the mob, but rather was "an organizing decision based on legitimate union considerations."

 A confidential source told investigators that in late 1996 Romney canceled a strike against a garment company with ties to Joseph "Joe Notch" Ianacci, a Colombo crime family captain. Romney did this, the source claimed, "at the bequest of Ianacci."

Among the documents seized during the UNITE raid, according to a search inventory, was a letter to Romney from a union organizer titled, "Re: Joe Iannaci." The contents of the letter are not further described in the inventory.

In a 1996 affidavit filed in support of an eavesdropping warrant
for Schlacter's office telephone, FBI agent John Giacalone quoted a source stating that Romney met with Schlacter in the attorney's suite to "discuss illicit labor peace deals." The source added that Romney was then "nervous about setting up any new labor peace deals. Apparently, Romney believes that he is the target of a federal investigation involving the Garment Center." At the time, the federal probe that resulted in April's indictments was in its second year.

Based on these allegations against Romney, a federal judge agreed to allow the FBI to record conversations—and videotape meetings—between Schlacter and several of his associates, including Romney. But while at least three UNITE officials were recorded by the government bugs, Romney was not recorded on tape. As a result, when investigators petitioned a judge to extend their eavesdropping warrant, they dropped Romney's name from the list of individuals expected to be intercepted.

Rochman noted that the only UNITE official to be charged in the federal investigation was Ed Ko, a former business agent convicted of receiving a bribe. Shortly after his arrest in early 1996, Ko began secretly cooperating with federal investigators and, as a result, did not disclose his bust to UNITE officials. In September, Romney learned that a Chinese-language newspaper had disclosed Ko's criminal problems. Confronted about the article, the 53-year-old Ko admitted to union officials that he had pleaded guilty to a felony. He was fired the following day (not surprisingly, one government affidavit describes their source's departure more kindly: after 12 years of employment, Ko "ended his association with the union").

Ko's conviction—not to mention his suspected role as a government informant—was of such concern to Romney and UNITE that the union's general counsel, Max Zimny, petitioned a federal judge that September to unseal the transcript of Ko's plea allocution. The minutes, Zimny wrote Judge Denny Chin, were needed to "cleanse [the union's] ranks of any wrongdoing and to fully protect the interests of the workers they represent." Chin, though, denied the UNITE request.



   
..

IT WAS TIME FOR A GUY TO LEAVE - BUT WHERE ? ANSWER- GET COVER

Arthur R Loevy

Clothing Union Corruption

According to Rep. Hoekstra's subcommittee, the bosses of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees are profiting from their members job losses due to a special industry proviso in federal labor law.

The May 27 report states UNITE receives "liquated damages" from companies for contract breaches which include relocating production overseas. UNITE treats the payments as its own since no explicit obligation exists to distribute the money to its members.

"So as contracts leave the country and UNITE's members lose their jobs, UNITE itself continues to receive 'a piece of the action'... Over the past few decades garment unions have lost more than half of their membership to overseas competition.

Yet during that same time, UNITE and its predecessors became the richest of all unions, as measured on an assets per member basis. UNITE not only on owns the Amalgamated Bank of New York, but also owns much prime real estate in New York City. Despite its wealth, UNITE's fully vested pensions, we are told, are worth an average of only $85 per month," said the report.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

GUESS WHO WAS THE INTERNATIONAL SECRETARY TREASURER


 Arthur R Loevy
UNITE 

Top Official Has Close Ties to NYC Garment Industry Mobsters

When the stakes are high, the real crime story usually lurks beneath the respectable surface.  That seems to be the case, at any rate, for the new labor federation, Change to Win (CTW).  The group, which comprises seven unions with a combined roughly 5.5 million members, held its gala inauguration in St. Louis on September 27.  Organizing millions of new workers is priority number one, announced CTW President Anna Burger, who also serves as political director for the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union.  Her boss, SEIU President Andrew Stern, made the same point, as did Teamster President James P. Hoffa.  Somehow the issue of corruption never came up.

There’s a good reason for that.  The federation’s newly-minted secretary-treasurer, Edgar Romney, back in the 90s was a suspected bagman for the Lucchese crime family, looking the other way as the New York City garment industry, especially in Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown, reverted to sweatshop conditions of a century ago – and under union contract.  Although neither he nor other officials of his union, UNITE (the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees), were indicted, their good fortune appears to be the result of federal investigators having other fish to fry.

Edgar Romney, 62, is UNITE’s number-two man behind President Bruce Raynor.  He’s also the current international executive vice-president of Local 10, in the lower part of midtown Manhattan.  Last year UNITE merged with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees to form UNITE-HERE, with a combined 450,000 members.  But Romney a decade ago also was secretary-treasurer of Local 23-25 in New York City, long the flagship of one of predecessor unions, the UNITE’sInternational Ladies Garment Workers Union.  (Local 23-25 and Local 10, by no small coincidence, share the same Seventh Avenue address, floor and phone number).  He comes off more as a professor than a union boss, notes union critic Robert Fitch, author of the forthcoming book, Solidarity for Sale.  “It’s hard to imagine a more implausible Mafia associate than Edgar Romney,” Fitch writes.  “The bespectacled, highly literate veteran labor leader is an African-American who is a member of Social Democrats USA and gives one of the best speeches in the New York City labor movement.”  But that’s misleading, he notes, pointing to the fact that the Labor and the Justice Departments were onto him for some time. 

In April 1997, a dozen FBI agents raided Local 23-25’s offices, carting away computers, software and boxes of records.  Federal officials, following a three-year investigation, charged that Lucchese family mobsters controlled New York’s garment industry through extortion, murder, torture and arson.  The Labor Department had prepared a 24-page affidavit which read in part:  “Romney directs Local 23-25 business agents and organizers to put pressure on companies with the threat of unionization or strike and thereafter withdrawing the threat when an agreement with an organized crime family is made, thereby facilitating organized crime control of Garment Center companies.”

The department made clear that the Lucchese crime family called the shots, with assists from the Gambinos and the Genoveses.  One Lucchese associate, Sidney Lieberman, didn’t just shake down apparel companies, he owned a few of them, too.  He would give his lawyer, Irwin Schlacter, names and addresses of non-union companies, who in turn would forward the information to Edgar Romney.  Romney then would send a union business agent down to the company owner to work out a “labor peace” agreement.  In a wiretapped conversation dated May 3, 1996, Schlacter told Local 23-25 business agent Freddie Menau that he (Schlacter) “needed to sit down with ‘Edgar’ to discuss a couple of firms connected to the Mafia.”  The UNITE agent would explain to the business owner that if he didn’t sign the contract, truckers wouldn’t make deliveries.  And without deliveries, the company couldn’t stay in business.  Any business owner who continued to operate without signing, and any trucker who delivered to such an owner, would answer to the mob, particularly Lucchese underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso, who eventually confessed to being involved in three dozen murders; Casso for a while was a government informant, and now is doing life in prison.  But if and when the manufacturer paid off the union agent, he could operate with a free hand – and pretend the union contract didn’t exist.  

UNITE at the time was leading a morally-charged crusade against Kathie Lee Gifford, who’d lent her celebrity name to a line of clothing while allegedly aware they were manufactured in Central American sweatshops.  Yet its Local 23-25, whose ILGWU predecessor had taken to the streets to fight sweatshop conditions early in the 20th century, now was winking at those very conditions, despite the contracts it “negotiated.”  An unpublished survey conducted by the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division (and leaked to the Wall Street Journal) revealed that about three-fourths of New York City’s UNITE-organized shops were in violation of overtime, minimum wage or safety regulations.  Disgracefully, many manufacturers, with apparent full awareness by union officials, relied heavily on child labor, typically illegal Chinese immigrants.  Edgar Romney came out of all this a lucky man.  The feds never intercepted his conversations with Schlacter, and subsequently crossed his name off the list of suspects.  Indictments did come in 1998, but against Schlacter and several Mafia wise guys; Romney and other UNITE officials were home-free.         

So was Romney running interference for the Lucchese mob, arranging extortion payoffs in return for substandard contracts?   Someone out there knows a lot more than they’re letting on.  At the very least, the evidence should raise a red flag among Romney’s growth-obsessed fellow chieftains at Change to Win – before it blows up in their faces.  (Robert Fitch, Solidarity for Sale, forthcoming, 2006; other sources).

WHY ONE LEAVES AN INTERNATIONAL SECRETARY TREASURERSHIP

Arthur R Loevy


LOOK BEHIND THE UNION LABEL

 Robert Fitch

This holiday season, UNITE, the needle-trades union that nearly a
century ago began to transform Manhattan’s rag trade jungle into a
social democracy, bought full-page ads in major papers across the
country. ‘’We are taking a stand against sweatshops,'’ the union
declared. ‘’When you shop this season,'’ UNITE told shoppers, ‘’please
remember the women, men, and sometimes even children who have sewn the
clothes you may purchase.'’

Here in New York, Guess Inc. stood out as the main target of the union’s
ant sweatshop campaign. On December 4, UNITE staged a protest in front
of Guess Inc.’s Soho outlet. Guess is the high-fashion, low-wage jeans
manufacturer that’s been based in L.A. But as it transferred its
nonunion operations from L.A. to Mexico, Guess found itself moving to
the top of UNITE’s list of renegade clothes producers, where now
union-friendly Kathie Lee Gifford used to be.

But on the same day as the Guess protest, just a few doors down the
street at 446 Broadway, where Soho’s fashionable boutiques begin to
bleed into Chinatown’s Dickensian sweatshops, Dennis Vacco, attorney
general of New York, held his own press conference. UNITE’s ‘’Season of
Concern'’ for sweatshop workers was about to be interrupted by an
embarrassing revelation.

Vacco announced that he was set to arrest Lai Fong Yuen, a sportswear
contractor, who had been making clothes inside 446 Broadway for Kathie
Lee Gifford. Yuen, he charged, had failed to pay nearly 100 workers for
10 weeks. When she had paid them, she had consistently violated state
minimum wage and overtime laws. Inside her three factories, workers had
regularly put in 10-to-11-hour days, seven days a week. Most had earned
only a fraction of the $5.15-an-hour federal minimum wage. Some had
earned as little as $1 an hour. In November, Yuen had tried to skip out
on her workers, sending them home, then sending in movers to pick up her
sewing machines and clothes.

For jaded New Yorkers inclined to question the novelty of Chinese
immigrants working here under sweatshop conditions, Vacco produced this
surprise: 446 Broadway was a union sweatshop.

Lai Fong Yuen had been producing Kathie Lee clothes under a contract
with
Local 23-25
of UNITE. What’s more, a recent internal Labor
Department investigation into New York City sweatshops–portions of
which were obtained by the Voice under the Freedom of Information
Act–shows conditions in Lai Fong Yuen’s shops weren’t so different from
those in the other 250 Chinatown plants where
Local 23-25
contracts are
in force.

The original survey, released by Labor Secretary Alexis Herman on
October 16, studiously avoided drawing attention to comparisons between
union and nonunion sweatshops. But the raw data suggest that contractors
with union agreements actually tend to have more wage and hour
violations than nonunion plants.

Standing in the darkened factory at 446 Broadway, Vacco pledged to
recover the money owed the members of 23-25–variously estimated at
$300,000 to $500,000. About a dozen laughing, jubilant union women
surrounded Vacco, celebrating their partial victory over the inscrutable
system of American labor law. The Chinese immigrant women called down to
dozens of their fellow workers on the sidewalk, and a few climbed the
stairs to join them alongside Vacco. But no officials of 23-25 were
invited to share the moment–either by Vacco or the workers.

UNITE–which stands for United Needle and Industrial Trade
Employees–has a history that goes back to the 1909 ‘’Uprising of the
20,000.'’ That year, Jewish immigrant women, in revolt against their
bosses and conservative union leaders, staged a mass strike that led to
the rise of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. In 1995,
the 100,000-member ILGWU merged with the 90,000-member Amalgamated
Clothing and Textile Workers–Norma Rae’s union–to form UNITE.

23-25, the largest local in UNITE, could be called the mother of
presidents. UNITE president Jay Mazur became head of the ILGWU in 1986
because of his stewardship of 23-25. Mazur, who speaks no Cantonese,
organized downtown Chinese workers by winning over their uptown Seventh
Avenue bosses. Mazur won a flood of agreements with manufacturers
(sometimes reportedly by offering manufacturers better contracts than
other ILGWU locals had offered). Then the contractors signed up with the
union in order to get work from the manufacturers. Sometimes contractors
even paid workers’ union initiation fees. Workers got a health plan,
which is now much watered-down because of income restrictions and high
employee co-payments, which nonunion contractors did not offer.

These fees, together with workers’ dues of $18 a month–almost equal to
what a $40,000-a-year NEA teacher pays in dues–all add up. Last year,
Local 23-25’s total income topped $10 million. Four million came from
dues, and UNITE’s share of the local’s take was $2 million. UNITE knows
how to accumulate capital. The union began 1996 with $226 million in
assets. It owns Manhattan office buildings that house commercial tenants
like rag queen Donna Karan. UNITE even owns a bank the
Amalgamated–that its accountants value at $57 million.

Still, income from 23-25 members is critical: the rest of the union is
shrinking, and shrinking fast. The ILGWU went from 450,000 members at
its peak to 100,000 by 1995. Yet membership in 23-25 has stayed the same
for nearly 20 years.

What’s worse, Local 23-25 is currently under investigation by the
Racketeering Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. An official in
the department refused to speculate about whether indictments would come
down, saying he couldn’t predict the outcome of the investigation. But
federal investigators say the inquiry into racketeering activities grows
directly out of the bribery conviction of Local 23-25 official Eddie Ko,
a $40,000-a-year business agent. On September 10, 1996, Ko pleaded
guilty in U.S. district court to taking nearly $5400 in bribes from
employers over a two-year period. Ko is still awaiting sentencing.

And the ongoing investigation into possible widespread corruption in
Local 23-25 recalls a similar inquiry into UNITE’s Local 10–Dubinsky’s
old local–that began four years ago and resulted in jail time for its
top officials. In 1993, federal investigators set up a sting operation
called ‘’Brain Cutting'’ using a garment-shop front on East 34th Street.
Almost immediately, Israel Mechlowicz, the local’s manager, and Seymour
Resnick, the local’s assistant manager, dropped by to solicit bribes. In
exchange for cash, the union officials promised to look the other way
while the ‘’bosses'’ stole workers’ benefits and 

‘’double-breasted'’–used nonunion labor while under union contract. A
backroom video camera caught them on tape taking bribes from federal
agents.

‘’An isolated incident and a temporary setback,'’ announced Jay Mazur in
1994, after Resnick and Mechlowicz were sentenced. But it turned out the
corruption wasn’t isolated at all. In December 1994, another set of
Local 10 officials was caught taking bribes from manufacturers.
Contractors for Anne Klein bribed Local 10 business agents to let them
use nonunion labor and ignore payments to union health funds. Sometimes
all it took was $200.

And just this summer, top officials in UNITE were deeply shaken by the
revelations coming out of Daily News reporter Ying Chan’s investigation
into the death of 11-year-old Quin-Rong Wu. For weeks, police searched
for the missing girl, who’d only recently arrived in America. She was
discovered murdered on May 28, her body thrown into the East River.

Though tabloid accounts had painted a picture of Wu as a happy Chinatown
school kid, Chan discovered the girl had actually spent her last days
working in a union garment factory, NBC Connections, at 54 Canal Street.
‘’She was so small,'’ a coworker recalled, ‘’she had to rest her chin on
the machine.'’

Her mother claimed that Wu had just played on the sewing machines, but
coworkers reported that tiny Quin-Rong Wu worked at machine number 67 in
a factory belonging to Johnny Lam, Chinatown’s most prominent garment
contractor. Lam, who owns 14 factories, is the former head of the
Sportswear Apparel Association, which maintains a model collective
bargaining agreement with UNITE locals 10 and 23-25. The contract
provides a 35-hour week and wages as high as $10 an hour. Had the union
enforced the contract, Quin-Rong’s mother, You Qin Wu, would have taken
home substantially more than the $100 a week she was earning under the
supervision of Johnny Lam’s sister JoAnn.

Child labor is no aberration in Chinatown’s union shops. Quin-Rong’s
family had to pay $700 a month for rent. Her father earned only $350 a
week working in a noodle factory. Earning less than $2 an hour, You Qin
Wu had to work long days. The family couldn’t afford child care. So
Quin-Rong came to the factory and wound up working alongside her
mother.

Sweatshops in Chinatown are as well known as whorehouses in Amsterdam’s
red-light district. And nearly as visible. ‘’Everybody in China- town
knows,'’ says Peter Kwong, chair of the Asian-American Studies program
at Hunter College and author of a new book on Chinese immigrants,
Forbidden Workers. ‘’It’s not as if the sweatshops were underground. You
can stand outside and see the lights burning all along Canal Street till
midnight. The whole economy of Chinatown is organized around the
sweatshop schedule. Fast-food shops stay open so they can sell to the
women who come off work at 9 p.m.'’ About 250 of Chinatown’s more than
500 garment factories have contracts with Local 23-25, according to
Louis Vanegas, who participated in the Department of Labor sweatshop
study.

Could Local 23-25 be unaware that children are working in its factories?
Each shop is supposed to have a business agent who’s paid to service the
members’ concerns and make sure the contract is enforced. You could
argue the kids are small and escape notice. But how could the union be
unaware that its members are being forced to violate the contract by
working 12 hours a day?

The union does know that its members are being systematically defrauded
by contractors who pay only a fraction of what they owe into employee
benefit funds–the largest single number of cases in the Southern
District consists of union suits seeking payment from contractors for
unpaid benefit contributions. Besides, Local 23-25’s assistant manager
May Chen says UNITE can’t be blamed for failing to enforce its contracts
with sweatshop owners. Chen, the first Chinese American woman in the
overwhelmingly Chinese local to serve as an officer, takes issue with
the the October 16 Labor Department study that portrays violations in
union shops as more widespread than in nonunion shops. In the
department’s 94-shop survey, 15 of the 20 union shops were in violation
of labor standards. Among nonunion shops the percentage was 59 per cent.
The report shows neither union nor nonunion contractors have much to be
proud of: only 37 per cent of all shops surveyed complied with federal
minimum wage and overtime laws.

‘’UNITE is very concerned with the results of the study,'’ Chen says.
Still, she disputes the Labor Department’s data. ‘’It’s our impression
that the department’s method of determining which shop was union and
which was nonunion was flawed. They just asked the owners in passing,
‘Are you a union shop?”’ So, Chen argues, nonunion owners lied–they
claimed to have unions–to make a good impression on the Labor
Department, and the department didn’t double-check.

And Chen denies that corruption is endemic in Local 23-25. ‘’Eddie Ko
was fired as soon as he was indicted,'’ she points out. Since Ko was
fired, Chen says, the local has gotten rid of five of its 14 business
agents. Four were offered early retirement. None have been replaced.

Sweatshop conditions persist in union shops, says Chen, because of
market forces and the unusual closeness that exists between Chinese
contractors and their employees. ‘’I think the union is making a
good-faith effort,'’ she says. ‘’In the garment industry we’re operating
in an environment of extreme competition. The bosses and the workers
share the same ethnicity. They’re very close-knit. The odds are stacked
against us.'’

A recent Photo in the Chinese press shows a smiling May Chen, with Edgar
Romney, cutting Christmas cake with Johnny Lam, the sportswear mogul. It
suggests what 446 Broadway sweatshop workers I interviewed actually
feel: that it’s the union that has close-knit ties with the boss–not
them.

In the world of 446 Broadway, Mr. Lin (not his real name), a 35-year-old
leather-jacketed garment worker, is something of a labor aristocrat.
‘’Most people make less than me,'’ he observed. Lin earned nearly $350 a
week putting in 12-hour days six and sometimes seven days a week. But by
October, Lin and the rest of the 446 workers weren’t getting anything.
Why didn’t he complain to the union? ‘’Once I did complain in this other
shop. We hadn’t been paid for 13 weeks. I called the business agent.
Later that week, the boss came up to me. ‘I can’t afford to keep you,’
he said. He paid me what he owed me. But I got fired.'’ Other workers
express similar fears and complaints about the union.

‘’It seems as if the union dragged on the case to give an opportunity to
the boss,'’ observes Mrs. Chin, another 446 Broadway worker and a
60-year-old grandmother, who’s been working in garment factories ‘’ever
since I got off the plane'’ in 1990. Mrs. Chin (also not her real name),
was one of nearly two dozen workers who slept on the street in front of
446 Broadway in a round-the-clock vigil to prevent Lai Fong Yuen from
moving her machines and clothes out of the factory in November.

‘’The union bosses only showed up after we appeared on Good Morning New
York,'’ says Mrs. Chin. At 10 a.m., while the movers were carrying out
the machines, May Chen arrived. ‘’She told us to go into the pen,'’ the
area the police had marked off for protesters far down the street, says
Mrs. Chin. ‘’May Chen says there’s nothing for us to do. If we try to
stop the machines from leaving, the police will arrest us. The union
doesn’t want arrests.'’ Then, Mrs. Chin says, May Chen ‘’tells us to
shout for the TV cameras ‘Boycott Sweatshops!’ I don’t even know what
this means. And she never told us.'’ According to Chen, she was only
concerned about the workers’ welfare.

What’s wrong with UNITE’s season-of-conscience campaign is not that it
exists, but that it exists in an organizing vacuum. Like May Chen’s
effort to get the workers to chant ‘’Boycott Sweatshops!'’ while their
boss moved the collateral for their back pay out the door under police
protection, it’s a distraction from the main task.

Remember Mrs. Jellyby in Dickens’s Bleak House? She winds up neglecting
her own children. One falls down a shaft because she is so preoccupied
with the welfare of children in far-off Boriobagoola-gha. It turns out
that Mrs. Jellyby’s husband has a project for teaching the children of
Boriobagoola-gha how to manufacture piano legs for export.

UNITE’s aging white leadership substitutes media campaigns aimed at
upper-middle-class consumers for the indispensable effort of connecting
with Asian and Latino immigrant members and potential members. Some of
these immigrant workers have joined UNITE’s workers’ centers in Brooklyn
and Manhattan, but trapped in its fatal tradition of organizing the
bosses, the union rarely organizes elections for new members. But the
Dubinsky days are over. The bosses aren’t signing up anymore. They
taunt, in their own full-page ads in the L.A. Times, ‘’UNITE has not
conducted a single election to unionize in more than 30 years in
Southern California.'’ That’s why it’s consumer-boycott time. But
consumer consciousness won’t make sweatshops go away. Only union
consciousness will. It wasn’t just the 1909 Uprising of the 20,000 in
Manhattan–in Chicago, where the Amalgamated was founded in 1910, and in
cities across the country, it was mass strikes that built unions.

This season, UNITE ought to examine its own conscience. Is it a union,
or is the union just a loss leader for its banking, real estate, and
securities operations? Peter Kwong recalls that it was an uprising of
Jewish immigrant women, dismissed as passive, clannish, and trapped by a
foreign language, that created the union and the moral capital off of
which its present leaders now live. Says Kwong, ‘’By not giving Chinese
women a real chance to participate in the life of the union, today’s
leaders are denying their own history.'’ Six-figure UNITE leaders ought
to ask themselves, ‘’Are Mrs. Cheng and the women who blocked the boss’s
trucks at 446 Broadway so different from our own grandmothers?'’