The Double Standard

While Unions Are Scrutinized, MTA Bigs Get Free Ride

That consent decree is just a mini-version of the one that the giant Teamsters union agreed to in 1989 after then rackets buster Rudy Giuliani sued it for corruption. The decree resulted in the ouster of more than 200 members and officials for a range of violations. One of them was MTA board member Feinstein, who resigned in 1993 after being accused by union monitors of embezzling $390,000 in member funds for high-living and taking $100,000 in interest-free loans from the union.

Feinstein's downfall was noisy and public. The charges against him made headlines, as did a week-long public hearing at which investigators introduced evidence of his high-flying, union-paid lifestyle, including expensive Chinese silk hangings and antiques that adorned an East Side apartment kept for him by the union. Once the city's most powerful municipal union leader—as head of Teamsters Local 237, which represents workers at the city Housing Authority and other agencies— Feinstein agreed not to have anything to do with the Teamsters or its membership ever again. He now heads the Consortium for Worker Education, which provides job-training services.

But if Feinstein has been declared an untouchable in Teamster union affairs, he has no such taint as far as state political leaders are concerned. At the time of his resignation, Feinstein was already a member of the MTA board, appointed by then governor Mario Cuomo in 1989 at the urging of former senator Alfonse D'Amato. Governor Pataki reappointed Feinstein in 1998. He now serves as chairman of a key MTA committee overseeing New York City transit matters.

But if it's OK for governors and real estate millionaires to hang out with Feinstein, it is definitely not OK for Teamsters. Anthony Rumore, who heads New York's 150,000-member Teamster Joint Council 16, found that out earlier this year when he was charged by an internal union panel of consorting with Feinstein.

Rumore allowed Feinstein to address a union conference at the Hotel Fountainbleau in Miami Beach this February—even after other Teamsters officials vigorously warned him not to do so. The internal union panel last month held a hearing on the matter, including testimony from Feinstein. The panel ruled that Feinstein is a so-called "prohibited person" under terms of the consent decree that union officials agreed to in 1989. Its ruling on Feinstein and Rumore was handed down on Friday, December 13—the same day that transit labor talks were kicking into high gear at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on East 42nd Street with Feinstein in attendance.

Feinstein left town for the holidays after the transit talks and couldn't be reached. During the talks, however, he took time to sit down with the Post's Steve Dunleavy and give management's spin on the talks. "Yes, I suppose you could say I'm working for management. I often think of the irony of it myself," said Feinstein.

Actually, as Feinstein and Kalikow both know, it is a whole lot safer on that side of the table.

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