On Labour Day, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau tried to join the annual parade in Hamilton. His path was blocked by a small group of unionists who wanted nothing to do with him. In the video you can hear them chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Justin Trudeau’s got to go.”
After an impasse of about 45 minutes, Trudeau’s security detail whisked him away and took him to Bayfront Park where the parade was to end. He greeted folks there and pressed the flesh as only a politician can until the protesters showed up there and began dogging him again until he gave up and left.
The Hamilton Spectator described the protesters as Marxists and anarchists. Other publications described them as angry unionists. Whichever it was, what was more striking was who Trudeau was marching with as he attempted to join the parade.
He was leading a group in orange t-shirts behind a banner emblazoned with LIUNA! Local 837.
LIUNA is the Laborer’s International Union of North America. And Local 837 is the Hamilton-based local of the organization.
LIUNA represents mostly unskilled workers in construction and building projects. They have about 80,000 members in Canada and approximately 500,000 in the U.S. The largest local is in Toronto, Local 183 which has somewhere between 40,000 and 48,000 members.
They work directly for the union and not for the contractors or sub-contractors on the sites where they work.
They have a long history going back to 1903. But, they also have a checkered history of mob links dating back to Al Capone the infamous Chicago gangster.
In the 60’s, Chicago mob boss Sam “Mo Mo” Giancana exercised such control he would name who the president of the union would be.
In the 90’s after an FBI RICO investigation, they entered into an agreement with the United States government promising to rid themselves of mob links and even put it into their constitution that members were not to have any connections with figures active in organized crime.
In 1993 Angelo Fosca was the president of the union. He was on his deathbed when he was summoned by the Chicago mob and ordered to a LIUNA executive board meeting to orchestrate their choice as president John Serpico. Unfortunately as his gurney was being wheeled through the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel, with union delegates shaking their heads, and before the vote, Fosca shuffled off this mortal coil.
The secretary treasurer Arthur Coia side-stepped the Chicago mob and lined up the votes for himself. Coia would later lead the negotiation to rid the union of mob control to avoid direct control of the federal government.
On July 24, 1996, Ronald Fino, the business manager of Local 210 in Buffalo, NY, testified before the House Crime Subcommittee in Washington. He had been one of the union’s national officials for 8 years at that point. He said, under oath, “During this time, I witnessed the gripping control of the union and its membership by La Cosa Nostra, and the defilement of its workers’ dues and benefit funds.”
The Democrats did everything they could to obstruct the Fino testimony. Then congressman, now Senator Chuck Schumer even mockingly asked, “Mr. Fino do you believe space aliens are linked to the mob?”
Why they did that was obvious to the FBI. Coia had managed to get very close to President Bill Clinton. Coia was a regular White House visitor. He was invited to a State dinner for the Japanese Emperor and even flew with the President on Air Force One. The House Crime Subcommittee documented more than 120 contacts between Coia and the Clinton White House.
Clinton tried to get him named to a prestigious presidential commission. Unfortunately this required an FBI background check. Their response to the White House, “Coia is a criminal associate of the New England Patriarca organized crime family.”
Clinton gave Coia a Calloway “Divine Nine” golf club and Coia responded with a custom made gold plated driver with the Presidential Seal.
During that period LIUNA gave more than $4.8 million to various Democratic entities. Being the Clintons, the union received $50.5 million in federal grants between 1994-1997.
But it doesn’t end there.
Despite promising to rid themselves of anyone with mob contacts, in 2012 the Toronto Local 183 entered into a contract with Construction Labour Force a company linked to reputed Calabrian mob boss Cosimo Commisso. Union contract documents even list Commisso as the contact, albeit his name is misspelled. Commisso’s nephew Giomino Commisso runs the company.
In the 2015 report, the U.S. DOJ Organized Crime and Gang Section listed LIUNA as a mob infiltrated union.
In May of 2017, the FBI and NYPD arrested 19 members of the Lucchese (pronounced Lu-KAY-zee) New York crime family. Links to LIUNA and the diversion of member benefits formed part of the backstory of the indictments.
In 2019, the Ontario government proposed changes to the Labour Relations Act called Restoring Ontario’s Competiveness Act. Jason Ottey, the Director of Government Relations and Communications for Local 183 tried to lobby the government to prevent passage. They were doing very well with the so-called closed bidding process under the former Liberal government that inflated construction costs by as much as 15%.
So, with all of that as background, why would anyone think it was a good idea to let the Prime Minister march behind their banner? This is not to say the men and women who marched are mobbed up. It is to say the spectre of corruption and mob associations run deep in LIUNA and a minimal amount of research by one of the whiz kids in the PMO would have turned up a lot of adverse information.
Appearances are everything in politics. And the Prime Minister being photographed marching behind that banner sends the wrong message.