We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Mobsters, Unions, and Feds

The Mafia and the American Labor Movement

James Jacobs

Publication Year: 2006

Nowhere in the world has organized crime infiltrated the labor movement as effectively as in the United States. Yet the government, the AFL-CIO, and the civil liberties community all but ignored the situation for most of the twentieth century. Since 1975, however, the FBI, Department of Justice, and the federal judiciary have relentlessly battled against labor racketeering, even in some of the nation's most powerful unions.

Mobsters, Unions, and Feds is the first book to document organized crime's exploitation of organized labor and the massive federal cleanup effort. A renowned criminologist who for twenty years has been assessing the government's attack on the Mafia, James B. Jacobs explains how Cosa Nostra families first gained a foothold in the labor movement, then consolidated their power through patronage, fraud, and violence and finally used this power to become part of the political and economic power structure of Twentieth century urban America.

Since FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's death in 1972, federal law enforcement has aggressively investigated and prosecuted labor racketeers, as well as utilized the civil remedies provided for by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute to impose long-term court-supervised remedial trusteeships on mobbed-up unions. There have been some impressive victories, including substantial progress toward liberating the four most racketeer-ridden national unions from the grip of organized crime, but victory cannot yet be claimed.

The only book to investigate how the mob has exploited the American labor movement, Mobsters, Unions, and Feds is the most comprehensive study to date of how labor racketeering evolved and how the government has finally resolved to eradicate it.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (51.5 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (31.5 KB)
pp. ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (82.2 KB)
pp. xi-xxvi

Labor racketeering is an important example of American exceptionalism. No other country has a history of significant organized crime infiltration of its labor movement, and no other country has an organized crime syndicate with a power base in labor unions. The interrelationship, over most of the twentieth century, between organized crime and organized labor has political, social, and economic consequences that ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (50.2 KB)
pp. xxvii-xxx

The origins of this book date back to the mid-1980s when I served as principal draftsman of the New York State Organized Crime Task Force’s (OCTF) investigation and analysis of corruption and racketeering in the New York City construction industry. Our Final Report focused on labor racketeering as the basis of Cosa Nostra’s immense power and influence in the construction industry. Indeed, we identified

List of Acronyms

pdf iconDownload PDF (33.4 KB)
pp. xxxi-xxxii

read more

1. Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF (94.2 KB)
pp. 1-22

The public must not be allowed to believe that organized labor is represented by those few unions in which union delegates have become criminals, or criminals have been made into union delegates. Unless they are purged, labor unions which have been thus taken over by criminals will, just as certainly as night follows day, wreck the cause of ...

read more

2. Organized Crime and Organized Labor

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.5 KB)
pp. 23-39

The meeting [of organized crime bosses in Apalachin, New York, in 1957] gave to millions of Americans their first clear knowledge that we have in this country a criminal syndicate that is obviously tightly organized into a secret brotherhood, which none of its members dare to betray, and which has insinuated itself into business and labor and ...

read more

3. President’s Commission on Organized Crime

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.5 KB)
pp. 40-56

My family [Genovese] made a lot of money from gambling and the numbers rackets. We got money from gambling, but our real power, our real strength, came from the unions. With the unions behind us, we could shut down the city, or the country for that matter, if we needed to get our way. Our brugad [crime family] controlled a number of different unions, some of which I personally dealt with, some of ...

read more

4. Labor Racketeering in New York City

pdf iconDownload PDF (85.6 KB)
pp. 57-75

This chapter, like Chapter 3, deals with the extent of labor racketeering. Here we focus just on New York City since approximately 1980. This is not an expos

read more

5. Organized Labor’s Response to Organized Crime

pdf iconDownload PDF (100.5 KB)
pp. 76-99

Other than the brief flurry of antiracketeering activity in the 1950s, occasioned by the unification of the AFL and CIO and then by the McClellan Committee hearings, the mainstream American labor movement has mostly denied or minimized organized crime’s influence over labor. While the AFL-CIO has steadfastly maintained that it is the government’s ...

read more

6. Labor Racketeering and the Rank and File

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.4 KB)
pp. 100-113

Rank-and-file union members are labor racketeers’ primary victims. In racketeer-ridden unions, workers suffer financially when the terms of their collective bargaining contracts are not enforced, when their pension and welfare funds are defrauded, and when their dues are used to reimburse corrupt officers’ personal expenses. Their personal safety is ...

read more

7. Attacking Labor Racketeering Prior to Civil RICO (1982)

pdf iconDownload PDF (98.2 KB)
pp. 114-137

From the early 1930s until the mid-1970s, Congress was much more active than local, state, and federal law enforcement in calling attention to organized crime generally and to labor racketeering specifically. The Copeland Committee in the 1930s, the Kefauver and McClellan Committee hearings in the 1950s, and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee ...

read more

8. Civil RICO Suits and Trusteeships

pdf iconDownload PDF (101.3 KB)
pp. 138-160

It took a decade for prosecutors to grasp RICO’s potential as a powerful anti–organized crime weapon.* After 1982, the year federal prosecutors filed the IBT New Jersey Local 560 case, the government’s most direct attack on labor racketeering utilized the RICO civil provision (1964a and 1964b) that authorizes the U.S. attorney general or her/his ...

read more

9. The Liberation of IBT Local 560

pdf iconDownload PDF (94.0 KB)
pp. 161-182

... companies,1 ranging from large national trucking firms to small cartage companies with as few as three or four drivers. IBT Local 560 members drove trucks, worked in warehouses, on road construction sites, and in laundries. The Executive Board, which managed the union’s daily affairs, consisted of seven elected officers, including president, vice-president, secretary ...

read more

10. The New York City District Council of Carpenters

pdf iconDownload PDF (91.2 KB)
pp. 183-202

At the time the U.S. attorney’s office brought the 1990 civil RICO suit, the district council negotiated, implemented, and enforced collective bargaining agreements, and handled disputes, grievances, and arbitrations on behalf of twenty-two local Carpenters unions. The collective bargaining agreements require employers to make contributions on behalf of their employees to union pension and ...

read more

11. The Four International Unions

pdf iconDownload PDF (124.8 KB)
pp. 203-237

Soon after the PCOC issued The Edge, rumors began to circulate that the Department of Justice was considering a civil RICO complaint against the IBT’s General Executive Board. To head off such a lawsuit, IBT General President Jackie Presser launched a lobbying and public relations campaign seeking support from politicians and the AFL-CIO.1 Presser ...

read more

12. Evaluating Civil RICO

pdf iconDownload PDF (81.3 KB)
pp. 238-253

Evaluating the success of RICO union trusteeships is essential, but extremely complex. It is incredible that more than twenty years of civil RICO litigation against racketeer-ridden unions has been conducted without any evaluation whatsoever. Not a single conference or workshop has ever been convened. Successes and failures have never been ...

read more

13. Concluding Reflections

pdf iconDownload PDF (60.9 KB)
pp. 254-262

I know from experience that some readers will disagree with my assertion that this is a prolabor book, but I do insist upon it. There is nothing anti-American about exposing the horror of U.S. slavery. There is nothing antifamily about exposing the tragedy of family violence. There is nothing antibusiness or anti–capitalist system in analyzing corporate ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (128.7 KB)
pp. 263-296


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.3 KB)
pp. 297-304


pdf iconDownload PDF (80.3 KB)
pp. 305-319

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (30.8 KB)

E-ISBN-13: 9780814743737
E-ISBN-10: 0814743730
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814742730
Print-ISBN-10: 0814742734

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Mafia -- United States -- History.
  • Racketeering -- United States -- History.
  • Organized crime -- United States -- History.
  • Labor unions -- United States -- History.
  • Organized crime investigation -- United States -- History.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access