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Labor Racketeering: The Mafia and the Unions (From Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, P 229-282, 2003, Michael Tonry, ed., -- See NCJ- 202743)

NCJ Number
James B. Jacobs; Ellen Peters
Date Published
54 pages
This article discusses labor corruption and racketeering.
Labor corruption is the misuse of union office and authority for unlawful personal gain. Labor racketeering is labor corruption committed by, in alliance with, or under the auspices of organized crime groups. The types of crimes include extortion of employers by threatening unlawful strikes, work stoppages, picketing, and workplace sabotage; and soliciting and receiving bribes from employers in exchange for allowing the employer to ignore the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Labor racketeering has been a crime problem and a social problem since the beginning of the 20th century. There was no concerted political or law enforcement commitment to attacking the problem until the late 1970's and well into the 1980's. Labor racketeering could be studied as a form of organizational crime. It could also be approached from the standpoint of the criminal offenses that it spawns: extortion, embezzlement, fraud, violence, hijacking, restraint of trade, and denial of intangible rights of union members. Yet another option is to approach labor racketeering from the standpoint of the offender, either as a subcategory of white-collar crime or as a subcategory of organized crime. The thesis of this article is that the 20th century history of American organized crime could not be properly written without considering the influence, power, and wealth that the Cosa Nostra crime families derived from their association with international and local unions. The Italian-American organized crime families obtained their foothold in the unions in the 1920's and 1930's when management and labor both called on gangsters for protection and as a counterforce to communist and socialist elements. The Federal Government has attacked Cosa Nostra by powerfully attacking its base in labor unions. The civil Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) has been the greatest tool of the Government’s onslaught. Research is needed to document and analyze the strategies used to purge corrupt elements from the unions and to rebuild the unions’ democratic structures and processes. 1 table, 28 footnotes, 80 references