Cleaning Lessons for Dirty Bosses

Mob Tapes Yield a How-to Guide on Stiffing Workers

"He runs a fairly large maintenance, cleaning company," McCarthy told his companions. "He does very well with the Hasidics. One of my guys has the union on his whole place. Usually what he does is when they want to throw 32B out, the people who own the buildings farm out the maintenance to him. He brings in his group which already has a union contract and 32B is now on the outside looking in. That’s normally the way it is accomplished."

Moreover, there was a great deal of money to be made by all concerned, McCarthy said. "[The] building owner will get to save a lot of money on his payroll. . . . He’ll do a cost analysis. Normally what [Francis] saves them is between $500,000 to $750,000 a year," he said. McCarthy said that his standard fee for arranging such deals was 10 percent of the contractor’s fee. If everything went according to plan, the Aparos and Durso stood to collect 25 percent of Weider’s savings. "We are doing it with buildings in Manhattan," said McCarthy. "Best way to go."

Francis would also take care of any picketing by the union by filing charges with the NLRB , McCarthy said. "Don’t worry about the vandalism," said the consultant. "Once [Francis] comes in he’ll throw everybody the fuck out. Whatever picketing would be very short term because Michael will get that done with the labor board," he said. McCarthy then turned to Durso and said with obvious pride, "This is an industry, Mike."

Indeed it is. According to the new leaders of Local 32B-J, the playbook described by McCarthy has been used against them in more than a dozen situations in the past couple years, including at 10 buildings where Francis’s company was hired in place of a 32B-J contractor. The union has waged public and clamorous battles in front of several large downtown office buildings, where whistle-blowing, can-shaking crowds of picketers have protested the lower wages offered by new contractors.

"We’ve been fighting him since before I got here," said Mike Fishman, one of the troublesome organizers described by McCarthy who were sent by the international to clean up the local. "Owners save so much money bringing in these non-union contractors that they are willing to fight," said Fishman, who was elected president of the local last year. Actually, the new contractors bring their own friendly unions with them, Fishman said, just as McCarthy had described. "You can always tell when it is one of those sweetheart deals, because the workers don’t even know they’re in a union," said Fishman.

On June 27, 2000, Vincent Aparo and Durso accompanied Michael Francis to a meeting at Weider’s Brooklyn office. Weider also invited his financial backer, Michael Konig, a former nursing-home operator who was banned by state health regulators in Massachusetts and Connecticut, to hear Francis's business pitch.

"You’re gonna negotiate in good faith with the union to an impasse. . . . You’re looking for givebacks," Francis told the group. Any picketing could be legally limited to a single isolated building, he said. "We’re prepared to go into federal court and get a restraining order to avoid picketing," said the contractor. "We’ve done it at other places."

At one point, Francis borrowed a pencil to do some calculations. "You’re gonna save more than 20 percent a year. The exact same number of people and they are quality personnel. . . . There’s no magic to it."

The feds say they closed in before any deal could be cut between the Vanderveer owners and a new, cheaper maintenance contractor. McCarthy later pled guilty to labor conspiracy. Neither Francis nor Konig were ever charged. The building complex went into bankruptcy soon after the indictments and a professional real estate manager was appointed by the court to run the complex.

Francis said he recalled little about the meeting in question when asked about the matter last week. "I remember a meeting in Brooklyn, I don’t remember who was there," he said. "I submitted a proposal and I never heard any more about it." He declined further comment. Konig also said he had no idea he was sitting down with gangsters but was skeptical of the proposal "from the get-g o."

Before they were hauled away in handcuffs, however, the Genovese gangsters eventually did find their way to a pair of corrupt Local 32B-J officials, both of them holdovers from the Bevona era. One of them, former 32B-J business agent Ismet Kukic, later pleaded guilty to labor conspiracy. But even Kukic warned the Genoveses that things had changed at his union.

"Let me explain to you what’s gonna happen," said Kukic. "These are the new people over there, they’re very into hi-tech shit," he said, with a vast war chest to wage pro-union campaigns. "We investigate the owner, we find out who his mother was and father was, who he donates to. . . . We go to where he lives, Scarsdale, screaming all over the neighborhood. . . . These guys have big plans."

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