Top City Labor Leader Agrees to Stay Clear of Teamsters

One of the city's most powerful union leaders has agreed to a divorce settlement with his own union in a deal to settle charges that he gave preferential treatment to an employer.

Gary La Barbera, the current president of the city's Building and Construction Trades Council and a top supporter of Mayor Bloomberg's push to overturn term limits, has agreed not to seek to rejoin the Teamsters union where he was once the city's top local official.

The deal follows a complaint filed in June by a special investigator for Teamsters Local 282, the powerful 3,000-member union that represents drivers who haul construction materials at building sites. Investigator Robert Machado had sought La Barbera's ouster from the Teamsters for having allegedly allowed an employer to skip payments to the union's benefit funds. The complaint was reported in June by the New York Times.

The complaint said that La Barbera had purposely looked the other way after being warned by members and others that a contractor, Joseph Sullo, was secretly running a rogue nonunion shop alongside a separate company that had a signed contract with Local 282. La Barbera denied it but Sullo pled guilty in 2005 to federal charges of defrauding Teamster benefit funds.

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Bruce Maffeo, La Barbera's attorney, said that the settlement "contains neither admission nor denial of the charges which we believe were completely unfounded."

Under the agreement, La Barbera agreed not to seek to be readmitted as a member, or to seek election for office at Local 282, the union he led for more than a decade.

Maffeo said La Barbera's status as president of the building trades council remains unchanged.

La Barbera, who started out as a rank and file forklift operator at a Long Island warehouse, was named head of Local 282 after its previous mob-dominated leadership by a combination of court orders and corruption arrests.

La Barbera became a rising star in the city labor movement, first as head of Teamsters Joint Council 16, and then as head of the city's Central Labor Council. He got that post after a separate corruption probe led to the resignation of former council president and Queens assemblyman Brian McLaughlin who is now serving a ten-year term in federal prison.

The former Teamsters big was a vocal supporter of Mayor Bloomberg's successful push to overturn term limits last fall when he testified and helped engineer his endorsement by the Teamsters union this year.


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