Mafia Seized Union Locals to Reach Apogee of Labor Racketeering

In December 2006, a jury found Anthony “Tony Muscles” Guardino, boss of New York City’s Brooklyn-based Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Local 8, guilty of enterprise corruption crimes.

Labor racketeering made the Mafia; when it was the Italians' turn,
massive money was available in the labor rackets, making Cosa Nostra an institution.

The 2004 indictment that named Guardino was historical; it was only the second time ever that a union itself was charged with racketeering under New York's Organized Crime Control Act of 1986.

While Federal RICO laws typically target larger operations spanning multiple states, state versions typically target regional criminal enterprises. New York's law specifically criminalizes "enterprise corruption," and is described as New York's version of the federal RICO Act. Read more about federal and state RICO laws.

The Local 8 indictment included 54 counts and charged eight with labor racketeering involving $2 million in shakedown payments from roofing contractors. Two of the eight named in the indictment were organized crime figures: a capo and an associate of the Genovese crime family. (Tony Muscles, in the original indictment, wasn't specifically described as a mob associate.)

Local 8 had been previously charged with similar forms of racketeering in a 2000 indictment that resulted in some of the local's officials being removed.

Those indicted in 2004 "had stepped in quickly to fill the void and resume Local 8's racketeering operation," as the press release about the indictment noted.

''This is the second time we have had to clean up this union's mess,'' former Manhattan district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, the third-longest serving DA in United States history, said during a press conference. (He retired in 2009.)

"We intend to ensure that this will be the last.''

Union corruption in New York City’s building trades is rooted in the post-WWI era, when Mafia families infiltrated union locals to climb to the pinnacle of the then-ethnically diverse underworld.

In industry after industry, like dominos falling, Italian Mafiosi emerged as the nation's top labor racketeers.

As Alex Hortis noted in The Mob and the City: The Hidden History of How the Mafia Captured New York:

"Italian gangsters like Paolo Vaccarelli and the Anastasio brothers took over ILA locals as the workforces changed from Irish to Italian. By the 1930s, the Cosa Nostra controlled ILA locals in South Brooklyn, Staten Island, and key Manhattan piers."

In the 1920s, New York's construction industry was extorted mostly by non-Italians. For example, the Lockwood Committee found hidden “tribute” payoffs to building trades czar Robert Brindell, as well as cartels created by building contractors.

As Hortis noted, of the more than 500 defendants eventually prosecuted following the Lockwood Committee's investigation, not a single labor official was of Italian descent. As for the building contractors, only a small group was Italian.

However, that radically changed. In the post-Apalachin era, the late 1950s, "scores of Mafiosi, mob-linked labor officials, and contractors were being prosecuted or investigated for similar rackets."