Yesterday, federal authorities charged New York carpenters union leader Michael J. Forde, seven other union officials, a contractor, and contractor’s representative with 29 counts of corruption, including racketeering, fraud, bribery, and perjury. According to the charges, bribes were paid out to union leaders to allow contractors around the city to pay cash to workers at below union-rate wages and therefore avoid paying benefits.
The New York District Council of Carpenters and Joiners of America has been here before. In 1990, the union had been infiltrated by organized crime and the federal government came in, cleaned out union leadership, and established monitoring. Yet, here we are again.
Union leader Forde was hailed as a reformer in 2000, after his predecessor was indicted on corruption charges, but his tenure has been plagued by no fewer than two bribery charges-—one ending in an overturned conviction and the other in acquittal. This apparently didn’t set off any alarms for court-appointed and union-paid monitor, William Callahan, who was almost removed in 2007 for a lack of evidence he was actually doing his job—but a federal judge refused to remove him. Fast forward two years.
Yesterday’s slew of charges is the activity the court-appointed corruption monitor is in place to prevent. Clearly the current system of corruption monitoring isn’t working.