The FBI has compiled extensive electronic evidence of organized crime's ongoing grip on management and labor in certain industries, but the government has yet to come up with an effective strategy to deal with it, the President's Commission on Organized Crime reported yesterday.
"This situation does not stem simply from too few laws or unavailable remedies," the commission said. "It arises from a lack of political will . . . a failure of many leaders in government, business and labor unions . . . to acknowledge the dimensions of the problem."
Eugene H. Methvin, one of the commission's 18 members, in a separate report praised the Federal Bureau of Investigation but harshly criticized the Justice Department for failing to use the legal tools at its disposal and accused prosecutors of a narrow " 'body count' fixation."
"Nearly 3 million workers, their families and dependents depend for their livelihoods, job safety, pension and welfare funds upon international unions controlled by gangsters whose power relies upon secrecy enforced by terror and murder. This is a screaming national scandal," Methvin protested.
The commission reported its findings in a 406-page study that cited court-ordered electronic surveillance to illustrate its points.
Portions of the report were released in January but most of it was withheld until yesterday pending completion of the New York racketeeering trial of reputed members of the Gambino family, led by Paul (Big Paul) Castellano Sr., 70, until his murder last Dec. 16. That trial ended Wednesday with the conviction of six reputed mobsters on charges of running a murderous car-theft ring.
Castellano, in a May 31, 1983, conversation about the International Longshoremen's Association (AFL-CIO) cited in the report, said of the ILA: "It's our union."
The commission said Mafia families coexist profitably at the ILA's local level, with the Gambino family controlling the ILA international and the Brooklyn waterfront, while the Genovese family is in charge of the New Jersey docks.
It said conversations in the offices of a Genovese crime family member with an ILA vice president from New Jersey in 1981 and 1982 illustrated La Cosa Nostra's concern about appearances:
LCN member: "You gotta stop your drinking, pal . . . . You got a good position here. I don't want you to act . . . like a little baby in front of your men . . . . Your men see you . . . drinking . . . . You are sombody now . . . . I don't want you to embarrass us!"
ILA vice president: "I did embarrass myself. I know."
LCN member: " . . . Us!"
Commission deputy counsel Stephen M. Ryan said he was convinced that "the problem of corruption in the business-labor field is worse than it was after World War II. In certain industries, the corruption has been institutionalized."
The report reiterated the recent findings of the FBI that the Teamsters union, the ILA, the Laborers International, and the Hotel and Restaurant Employes International Union are "substantially influenced and/or controlled by organized crime." The commission also found an alarming amount of mob influence and labor racketeering in small independent unions, especially those with members in low-skill, minimum-wage industries.
Labor racketeering is nothing new for the mob, the report pointed out, but by now, it has gone far beyond union corruption to control segments of entire industries, such as construction, wholesale and retail meat processing, trucking, garbage carting and waterfront trade, the report said.
The commission described the Teamsters as "the most controlled union," with 38 big-city locals and other bodies in addition to the international union under the Mafia's influence.
Former Teamsters president Roy L. Williams told the commission in a deposition last year that "every big [Teamster] local union . . . had some connection with organized crime." The union's current president, Jackie Presser, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights when deposed by the commission last August.
Among the questions Presser declined to answer were repeated inquiries concerning a modest investment in a Cleveland theater that reportedly made him a millionaire. Commission investigators suggested there may have been a link beween Presser's December 1974 investment of a "nominal sum" in Cleveland's Front Row Theater and his becoming a trustee of the union's Central States Pension Fund two months later.
The commission called the circumstances involving Presser's theater investment and the subsequent purchase of his interest in it by the old Chicago jukebox company, the J.P. Seeburg Co., "highly suspect" and said the matter had been referred to the Justice Department for "possible criminal follow-up."
To deal with the problems of organized crime in American labor, the commission urged the Justice Department to make more effective use of existing racketeering and asset forfeiture laws. In addition, the commission made recommendations including industry-by-industry task forces to fight organized crime and legislation to clarify the responsibility of the Labor Department in that area.