Labor Big Takes a Walk

Embattled city union big Brian McLaughlin is out as president of the city's powerful Central Labor Council - at least for the next six months.

McLaughlin, an electrical workers' union official and Queens state assemblyman who has been battling a criminal probe of city contracts, has agreed to take a paid leave of absence from his post as president of the million-member council.

Union spokespersons insisted McLaughlin made the decision himself, but the departure comes just days before the city's September 9th Labor Day parade, an annual event that attracts most of the state's top pols. Among those expected at this year's rally and march are Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer, senator Hillary Clinton, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg -none of whom were looking forward to the possibility of marching alongside the target of an active FBI probe.

City union leaders have been expecting McLaughlin's exit for weeks. The investigation became public in March when FBI and other city and federal agents raided the council's offices, lugging away scores of boxes of documents. The Voice has reported that the probe centers on McLaughlin's actions as head of a unit of his union that supplies workers for street lighting contractors.

Pinch-hitting for McLaughlin during his absence will be state AFL-CIO president Denis Hughes, who will serve as interim leader of the council. Day-to-day affairs for the labor organization will be handled by McLaughlin's popular aide, former hospital workers' organizer and communications union aide Ed ott who has served as public policy director for the council since 1996. Ott, a fiery speech-maker, has long been considered a rising star in the city's labor movement.

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