Gangsters Inc. is proud to welcome Ronald Fino to its writing staff! Starting today, Fino will write about labor racketeering and organized crime for this website. As the son of a capo in the Buffalo crime family, Fino effectively grew up in the mob. He joined the corrupt Laborers’ Local 210, controlled by Buffalo boss Stefano Magaddino, and after years of experiencing the corruption up close, decided to run for business manager and clean up the union. After an overly successful election, he found that the power did not lie with the union, but powerful members of the Buffalo Mafia.
That realization set in motion Fino’s dangerous decision to become a contract employee for the FBI. For 17 years he reported everything he learned about the Buffalo Mafia back to them. After his cover was corrupted he went to work undercover in Russia, the Middle East, Belarus and was in the middle of international arms negotiations and tried to broker peace in Gambia after a coup ousted their president.
This year he released his book The Triangle Exit in which he tells his incredible life story and gives readers an in-depth look at labor, crime, and corruption at the highest levels of society. You can also check out his website at www.ronaldfino.com.
By Ronald Fino
There are those who think American La Cosa Nostra is dead. Do not, for one minute, believe that, because it is not true! They are alive and quite aptly surviving the government’s successes against them in the 1980s and 1990s.
They are very capable and have learned how to avoid prying eyes. Today’s mobster is armed with the finest attorneys and public relations firms. They avoid the FBI and other law enforcement agencies and continue to conduct business with labor unions, channel political contributions and create support for the wayward politician who in return abet their quest for the all mighty dollar. Illegal dumping of hazardous waste, the garbage industry, demolition, corporate bust-outs, illicit telemarketing, labor racketeering, and off shore money laundering remain key LCN operations.
The first and foremost rule of the Mafia is the perpetuation of the family. The labor union is the perfect vehicle for achieving this.
The controlled union official makes sure that La Cosa Nostra members, relatives, and associates are rewarded with plush jobs in the union hall itself by creating field representative positions, clerical, and secretarial appointments, even janitorial situations for the recipients.
It is important that you understand that traditional La Cosa Nostra controlled union locals and district councils have been subjected to years of mob dominance and the years of failure on the part of justice to correct the problem have galvanized the good non-mobbed up members against cooperating.
The membership of a union has had to go along with hiring practices. Knowledge of his or her benefits may be lacking and having to watch mobbed up employees who are more interested in collecting last nights bookmaking receipts than staying on the job and looking after the workers needs and safety receive the best jobs and stewards.
To speak or take any action against these practices would leave the outspoken worker without a job and incapable of finding one anywhere else. If he decides to speak up even more he could even end up at the bottom of a river.
Many investigators find the lack of cooperation and ability to generate information about violations quite difficult and lacking success. Federal Investigators, who have been indoctrinated into the utilization of Title 18 violations, will be limited and success may be placed out of reach. Title 29 (Federal Labor law) and State Labor laws are necessary, as well as Title 42 and its environmental laws and rules to achieve in the cleansing.
It is also essential that the investigators have a working knowledge of the local Collective Bargaining Agreement and utilize its violations as an instrument of achieving success against organized crime.
Many violations are taking place in front of the investigators’ eyes. It’s all about knowing what to look for. How can you remedy a problem if you do not know what the symptoms are?
“LA COSA NOSTRA”, ITALIAN-AMERICAN ORGANIZED CRIME
Even though the first recognized Italian-American organized criminal activity was the Black Hand Society of New Orleans, organized in the late 1800's, it was New York City that hosted the fledging arcane movement. Ellis Island and other U.S. ports of entry were considered the portals to freedom, an escape from oppression for many of our ancestors.
Italian immigrants were no different. One major problem arose that was perplexing, the ability to communicate with other nationalities. Anglo-Saxon immigrants spoke fluent English and were better equipped to find and procure employment.
Also, the Italian-Americans, fearing the Irish-American police, were forced to rely on each other for safety. They eventually developed La Cosa Nostra to combat and protect their community from Anglo-American interference.
La Cosa Nostra, modeled after the Italian Mafia, became a force to be reckoned with. Its beginnings were due in part to the resistance of many Italians against the French who were in control of many of the peninsula’s Italian City States. Limited success for the Italian-American movement turned altruism into apathy.
The very people it was supposed to protect became its victim. The shoemaker or the corner grocer were forced to pay homage and the hard earned wages were turned over to the shadowy figure that would pop in the place of business from time to time.
By the 1920s, with prohibition a reality and the realization that organization and discipline would be necessary to prevent the numerous gangsters from making forays onto already claimed territory and killing each other off, modern day La Cosa Nostra was born and with it what has become probably the most powerful and ever present secret society to menace the United States.
Based largely on the structure of the Roman Legion, the at first Sicilian-American sons, organized New York City, then spread north to Boston, south to Philadelphia and west to Chicago. Hijacking trucks, peddling home brew or smuggled alcohol from Canada and Britain spreading fear and terror in its wake. These were the talons of corruption of the American mob.
Ironically, at the same time, the American Mafia was spreading its wings, so was another group: Organized Labor. This group, armed with the teachings of Mother Jones, Samuel Gompers and Eugene Debbs, preached and rallied the wanting toilers and workers of United States. Better wages and work conditions were the cries heard in the sweatshops and employment lines of America.
La Cosa Nostra made its services available to the business leaders that beckoned the mobsters to become strike breakers and head busters. Acting on their behalf, the mob dished out punishment and fear throughout the rank and file of the wanting strikers.
Many legitimate businesses were required to maintain a life long association and contribute company assets to the mob as the price for strike-breaking. By 1935, with the creation of the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act), labor finally had the vehicle that was needed to make a significant impact on America.
Little by little La Cosa Nostra started realizing the importance of the labor movement and by the end of World War II, it realized that its future lay with the now peaking contrivance of American workers.
The rise of union problems also increased with the blossoming memberships. To assist in stopping other unions from raiding territory and potential insurrectionists from making waves and winning support with the rank and file.
The Union Leader turned to his past enemies in organized crime for help. Little did the union official know, the price for help would be the Mafia’s lifelong control of the local union. The eventual replacement of his position and direct control to a mob associate or relative would be the next step in the takeover process.
By the late 1940's, it became so paramount to the mob that advisers such as John Dio Guardi of the New York City Lucchese family, would visit other La Cosa Nostra bastions around the country to explain how a takeover can be accomplished. Realizing that by controlling the Teamsters, Longshoreman and the Laborers, (who were then known as the International Hod Carriers and Common Laborers) many other unions would automatically come indirectly under organized crime’s influence.
Mafia leaders were also subject to insurrection and the control of union activity would prove to be most helpful in maintaining authority over La Cosa Nostra members.
Unions and the employers provided the Don and his Capos with plush jobs for the family soldiers. Millions of dollars of membership dues and benefit fund contributions were siphoned off for personal gain, and the ability to manipulate Collective Bargaining Agreements so that favored employers were not bound by the same regulations as the other signatory companies.
Political influence, the ability to elect the vote and financial asset wanting politician to office became commonplace. Influencing legislation at all levels of government and, in many areas, even deciding who will be placed in Federal Judgeships and United States Attorneys.
This unseen government within a government was and is so powerful; the American public still remains skeptical on how much of their life is controlled by organized crime and the financial burden that it puts on society because of its existence.
Even armed with the revelations of Joe Valachi (left) and other turncoats and RICO statues, the extraction of mob influence over labor remains quite difficult. Evolution and change has also changed La Cosa Nostra.
Knowing that direct exposure on influence peddling and criminal activity will lead to a life of incarceration and place its membership in a position of capture and possible cooperation with investigative authorities, Mafia members have burrowed themselves into communicating and exercising control through well paid attorneys and legal business representatives, fully cognizant of the difficulty in implementing investigations and prying into everyday businessmen and legal council.
Then compare the list with their standing in the out-of-work list located in the union hall or its seniority list. You will also find relatives of La Cosa Nostra members and union officials on some of the projects who were brought into the union and placed to work over long time workers who are unemployed. Union employers operating as alter egos or allowed to engage the services of non-union employees.
This is quite common especially in the demolition industry. The union company is allowed to utilize non-union workers to aid in keeping the cost of the project down. Very often they work on a different shift and illegally remove asbestos and other toxins when no one is looking and discard the waste in dumpsters. This practice is prevalent in New York City. These workers are referred to as the sneaker brigade.
As a result of conviction or by agreement many local and district council unions have been placed under trusteeship by either the International Union or Federal and State authorities.
The final goal of reestablishing union democracy and stopping the misuse is fraught with danger.
In too many instances, the appointed trustee is not aware of the daily problems encountered by a local union and the need to enforce the existing collective bargaining agreement.
Most government trustees are ex-judges or law enforcement officials who have never worked in the construction industry and are incapable of handling daily problems.
Other trades or non-union forces take advantage of the imposed trusteeship and either raid or enjoy this time period.
Under international union imposed trusteeships, the individual named as the trustee, is not aware of local conditions and the different agreements, and special conditions that may appear in the collective bargaining agreement.
Many of these international trustees are also officers in another local or for the international union as an international representative with other work responsibilities. Many of these trustees call for new elections before the Mafia and its control of the local union has been eradicated.
Too many times this happens! The relatives and cronies of the removed or incarcerated officials become the new officials of the union. The biggest mistake made by the trustee is to underestimate the vast control that La Cosa Nostra has over the captive local.
Through the years, the mob has made the union and the jobs gained by collective bargaining available for its friends, relatives, and associates. These people may even constitute a majority and control the elective process or control the other members. It becomes even more important to identify these people.
The appointed trustee must appoint an untainted member of the local union to assist in this endeavor. This achievement may prove to be quite difficult but is absolutely necessary.
Fear or lack of understanding of due process is widespread and not easily overcome and the union membership is overly suspicious of the trustee and his goals. To overcome this distrust, the election process should be delayed until creative and untainted members realize that they have the ability to seek office and meet the needs of the union and its membership.
Every person acting as a trustee should become well versed with the different collective bargaining agreements and the local unions craft jurisdiction. Always keep in mind that even though the bad union officials have been removed, the Mafia is ever present and still involved.
You might also be interested in the following stories:
Copyright © www.gangstersinc.nl