News & Politics

Top City Labor Leader Agrees to Stay Clear of Teamsters

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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.

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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