Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 7 Num. 28

("Quid coniuratio est?")


Former Governor Thompson On Board
(Chicago Tribune, Aug. 29, 1995)
[CN -- This story provides background for the one to follow.]

Nearly 20 years after the government began investigating the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, a deal between the government and union will give the hotel workers a chance to show how clean they are.

Union and government officials expect to sign a consent decree next week in federal court in Newark, N.J., that will allow a federal monitor to oversee union leaders' activities. A three person review board will replace the monitor after 18 months.

"This is anything but a takeover," insisted Robert Rotatori, the Cleveland attorney who handled the union's negotiations with the government, which, he said, have been under way for two years.

In a letter sent Monday to the rank and file, union leaders emphasized that they will remain in power. The deal does not cite wrongdoing by current leaders, they told reporters.

Under the agreement, the monitor will be able to make recommendations on cleaning up the union's ranks to the heads of the 330,000-member organization, Rotatori said.

The review board, which has already been chosen by the union and government, will have the power to oust union leaders, he added.

The board's members will be ex-Gov. James R. Thompson; Kurt Muellenberg, a former head of the Justice Department's organized crime and racketeering division; and Roman Catholic Archbishop James Kelleher of Kansas City.

The union, under Edward T. Hanley, has heavily supported politicians over the years, including Thompson. However, union officials said that the former Illinois governor had received only about $50,000 in contributions from the union.

Herman Benson, head of the Association for Union Democracy, an independent union watchdog group in Brooklyn, N.Y., said the agreement was "long overdue."

The chance of the union ridding itself of mob ties "without government intervention is remote," he added.

Rather than viewing the deal as a burden, Rotatori described it as a "final step" on the union's part to clear years of "allegations and perceptions" about corruption.

To be sure, the union, which has been led since 1973 by Hanley, 68, a one-time bartender from Chicago's West Side who rose up in union ranks as a local leader in Chicago, has been repeatedly cited by federal investigators as one of the nation's more corrupt labor organizations.

A 1984 report by the U.S. Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations raised a number of allegations, among them that organized crime had "substantial influence" over the union and that the union's payroll was padded with friends, relatives and cronies of union leaders and people with mob ties.

Appearing before the committee, Hanley refused to answer all of its questions, pleading the 5th Amendment 86 times. Hanley has steadily denied allegations of mob influence and has never been charged with a crime.

John Gibson, the union's former secretary-treasurer, was found guilty in 1980 of misuse of union funds and served a brief prison term.

He still receives $83,000 a year from the union, which Monday described the sum as retirement pay. Union officials in 1984, however, told Senate investigators that Gibson and other former union leaders receive lifetime salaries as consultants.

A series of articles in the Tribune in 1977 noted that Hanley had hiked his salary to the third highest among the nation's union leaders, $100,000 at the time, and handed union jobs to relatives, alleged mob figures and union leaders with full-time jobs.

Hanley received $341,262 in salary and expenses in 1994 as president of the union and executive director of Local 1 in Chicago, according to records on file with the U.S. Labor Department.

Thomas Hanley, Hanley's son, received $303,182 in salary and expenses in 1994 as the union's director of organizing, secretary-treasurer of its Joint Board in Chicago and president of Local 1, union documents show.

In 1991 the government took over the union's 22,000-member local in Atlantic City, saying mob figures embezzled $20,000 a month from it. The federal control has since been lifted.

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