Union for Sale

DC 37, the city's powerful consortium of municipal unions, is rocked by corruption investigations—and challenges from rank-and-file reformers

Of Taylor's May '95 sweep, Rosenthal asks, "What are the statistical chances of all 26 of Taylor's candidates winning by a landslide in an open race with 60 candidates where only one, Taylor, was known by the membership? On April 14th, I had a campaign fundraiser in the Bronx and 130 members paid $35 apiece to support my campaign. After the count in the DC 37 mailroom, I wound up with 66 votes." Taylor, who managed to get only 33 votes in a carefully supervised election this June, left word with DC 37's personnel department that he didn't want to be contacted by the press.

After Taylor was forced from office this summer, he left a packet of bills from the Gee Whiz restaurant in the top drawer of the desk where incoming president Rosenthal found it. The Gee Whiz is located at 295 Greenwich Street in Tribeca, just down the street from Robert De Niro's Tribeca Grill. But the prices are a lot easier to swallow: You can get a huge, tasty Greek salad at the Gee Whiz for $6.95.

Those prices make the bills Local 983 ran up for catering services at the Gee Whiz all the more strange. Those bills reached as much as $91,888 for a Christmas party for only about 100 members. Odder still, says Schwartz, who has examined bills from the Gee Whiz, that restaurant may not have gotten any of the money for the catering. (The proprietor of Gee Whiz was unavailable for comment.) "The checks don't run through Gee Whiz's account," he observed. "Gee Whiz doesn't appear as an endorser on the back of the check. Sometimes you get as endorser 'Plymouth Beef' and other meat industry names--weird endorsements." (Drohan Poultry in Woodside, Queens--one of the endorsers--refused comment. A spokesperson for 14th Street's Plymouth Beef, another endorser, said, "I don't know what you're talking about.")

By the time Rosenthal got into office, a union that had $500,000 in dues coming in every year had only $6000 left in its coffers. Rosenthal charges that as much as $700,000 is missing from Local 983's treasury.

And investigators from the D.A.'s office are trying to determine the provenance of a $450,000 retainer to Rector Street attorney Adam Klein. The new leadership at 983 charges that Klein did very little--maybe only 100 hours work--for the $450,000. "Most labor lawyers don't get $150 an hour," observes Schwartz, who did a wage survey of Klein's work. "The highest-paid labor lawyer I've ever heard of gets paid $350. Klein's getting nearly $1300 an hour."

Klein acknowledges that he has been subpoenaed by the grand jury and is also under investigation by the Office of Labor Relations. He insists, however, that he's done nothing wrong. On the contrary, he says, "What I did was worth three or four times what I got paid." He adds, "I've spoken to Stanley Hill, and he said, 'Keep doing what you're doing.'"

Hill does support Klein. His name is on the contract that authorizes the $450,000 retainer. "Adam is doing the best he could under the circumstances," Hill told the Voice. "He's been doing a very creditable job. He was approved by the membership because of his background and reputation."

But Rosenthal asserts that Klein's hiring was illegal. "It violated the 983 constitution that says all contracts over $1000 have to be approved first by the executive board and then by the whole membership. Klein's contract was approved only by a chapter meeting of the high-pressure plant tenders." Says Rosenthal, "I challenge any DC 37 officer to show me where the executive board approved Klein's contract."

DC 37 rarely hires outside lawyers. How did Klein come into the DC 37 picture? Actually, under very dramatic circumstances. Klein's entry was prepared by over 100 men armed with baseball bats who appeared one day at DC 37's headquarters at 125 Barclay Street.

"It was late in '95," recalls a Local 983 executive board member, who is also a member of the high-pressure plant operators union--formerly Local 1795--which is now being investigated by the D.A.'s office for mob control and job selling. "We hadn't got a raise in eight years. There was no movement on our contract. There'd be meetings set up and Stanley Hill wouldn't show. We'd go up to the headquarters and there'd be no one there. They'd leave us sitting. People were in dire straits. Cars were being repossessed. Christmas was coming."

"It wasn't a decision that was made prior," insists the power-plant operator. "We just got disgusted. We had ball bats in the trunks of our cars. People decided to go over to Barclay Street. 'Where's Stanley? Where's Taylor?' we're asking. We busted in the door, overturned chairs. 'We're looking for Stanley,' we told everyone. He was probably in there somewhere hiding in his office. We were told, though, that he wouldn't meet with us. So we shut down the elevators in the building. Security ran away. Then the cops showed up. They said, 'We don't want no problems. Make sure you're out of here in five minutes.' We hung around for a while. But we didn't turn the elevators back on. Finally we left."

DC 37 spokesperson Janet Dewart-Bell denies the incident ever happened. And she notes that one of the elevator banks on the main floor gets turned off automatically after 6 p.m. It's probably this routine operation that explains the story, she says.

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