News - January 3, 2004:
The Fat Cats on the Waterfront
How bosses load up on pay despite their ever-shrinking union.
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Marlon Brando starred in classic 1954 union movie 'On the
Waterfront,' there were 41,333 longshoremen in New York.
Today, there are only 3,000.
When Marlon Brando starred in classic 1954 union movie 'On the Waterfront,
there were 41,333 longshoremen in New York. Today, there are only 3,000.
Their jobs are on the waterfront - and their pay is off the charts.
once-proud kingdom on the docks keeps getting smaller and smaller.
But they award themselves so many salary lines they keep getting richer
Meet the fattest fat cats of the American labor movement, the bosses
International Longshoremen's Association.
John Bowers, president since 1987, elected officer since 1956 and
in New York Harbor since the 1940s, collects $390,825 a year on the
international's payroll, and many members think that's his total
The 79-year-old Bowers pulls down $160,296 more as head of the union's
Atlantic Coast District. Grand tally: $551,121. His pay leaped 10%
$502,957 in 2001.
Not far behind are at least five officials who make more than $400,000,
a dozen who top $300,000, according to a Daily News review of U.S.
Department of Labor filings for 2002, the most recently available year.
"Too many of our leaders are driven by the salary and not by
the needs of
our rank-and-file," said Ken Riley, the co-chairman of the dissident
Longshore Workers Coalition, which promotes democratic reform within
"Their time has come and gone," added Riley. "But the
old guard still
operates the ILA like they did in the '60s, when our ports were booming."
The average age of the 30 top officers is 67, at least eight are in
70s or 80s, and union rebels have dubbed them "the old men and
The union's membership has been withering since the 1950s. Automation,
nonunion competition =97 and the forced retirement of prison - have
At the same time, the feds are mulling a civil racketeering lawsuit
control of the union. Probers are eying mob ties, pension fraud and
embezzlement at several locals.
But even as dues-paying rolls decline and an insurgent movement gains
the wages of union honchos skyrocket.
With just 59,000 members, the ILA slathers at least 25 of its top
more than $225,000 - which is what John Sweeney gets as president of
Even Jimmy Hoffa's prodigal Teamsters, who represent 1.3 million members
pay 31 officers $200,000 or more, are outpaced by the longshoremen,
reward 35 or so officers at the $200,000 level or above.
Among union czars raking in the big bucks is Louis Saccenti Jr., 62,
identified in 1997 as the "driver and/or bodyguard" of Mafia
Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano. Despite his rep, he collects $233,823
No other union in the city or nation consistently pays its senior
more, a News analysis of pay patterns at 75 labor organizations found.
Headquartered at 17 Battery Place, the ILA represents longshoremen,
and unload ships, and checkers, who "check" the cargo coming
on and off
vessels, at ports from Maine to Texas.
Through a spokesman, Bowers and his five top lieutenants refused to
on ILA pay, unsavory connections or any other topics. They said union
lawyers, citing the threat of a federal racketeering suit, had advised
to stay mum.
"The waterfront can be a very tough neighborhood," said
Jim McNamara, the
spokesman. "But we get tainted with the brush that we're all mobsters
gangsters, and it's simply not true."
He said high pay was justified by top performance: Bowers negotiated
generous national health care plan to replace local plans that were
broke, and members have enjoyed wage hikes in almost every year of
A longshoreman with full seniority averages $80,479 a year; overtime
ratchet it up to $136,000. Members get 16 paid holidays - including
Patrick's Day and Good Friday - and up to six weeks vacation. Work
days is paid at double time.
"John Bowers has always delivered for his rank-and-file," McNamara
But Team Bowers has prospered, too. The secret of its success:
Double-dipping, or cashing in from both the parent union in lower Manhattan
and a local or district office based elsewhere.
Albert Cernadas, 68, is paid $317,545 as the ILA's executive vice
But he holds a second full-time job on the other side of the Hudson,
$160,742 as president of 700-member Local 1235 in Newark, which boosts
haul to $478,287.
As the ILA's assistant general organizer, Harold Daggett, 57, earns
$251,118, and his post is deemed critical to a union hemorrhaging members.
How big a loss? In 1954, the year Marlon Brando starred in "On
Waterfront," there were 41,333 longshoremen in the Port of New
1990, the rolls had shriveled to 6,329. Today, there are barely 3,000
workers on the wharves.
Yet Daggett still finds time to serve as president of Local 1804-1
Bergen, N.J., grabbing a $212,678 sweetener that ups his annual take
Daggett's son Dennis, 28, makes $67,936 as the ILA's safety director.
also the $167,023 recording secretary of his father's 1,400-member
grossing him $234,959.
As the international's legislative director, John Bowers Jr., 41,
$243,317. Mix in another $17,640 as Atlantic Coast legislative director,
the president's son snags $260,957.
The ILA also boasts triple-dippers, like Ronald Capri, who gets $178,098
the No. 2 at 1804-1, $114,117 as a veep of the international and $28,710
secretary-treasurer of a district council. Add it all up and Capri,
There are also quadruple- and quintuple-dippers =97 and one fortunate
chieftain who collects six paychecks, one in New York, one in Texas
Arthur Coffey, 60, a $124,680 ILA vice president, also made $13,200
South Atlantic District in Galveston, Tex.; $127,658 as president of
1922 in Miami; $80,620 and $33,197 respectively as head of two other
locals, and at least $10,000 from the Greater South Florida Maritime
Grand tally: $389,355.
Coffey, Capri and Cernadas didn't return calls. Neither did the Daggetts
Saccenti knew Sammy Bull as a neighbor on Staten Island and sometimes
him and his family, said his lawyer, Gerald McMahon. But he never served
a bodyguard, never carried a gun and was never convicted of any crime,
"Only leaders divorced from all accountability to members would
exorbitantly on their own salaries =97 and scheme to hide them on so
payrolls," said Carl Biers, executive director of the Association
Democracy, a Brooklyn-based labor watchdog group.
Grass-roots reformers led by Riley, president of Local 1422 in Charleston,
S.C., and Ronald (Kimoko) Harris, business agent of a Wilmington, Del.,
local, have attacked the New York-based bosses as aging autocrats.
The ILA's executive suite, they say, doesn't reflect the racial mix
members, and the Bowers regime perpetuates its power by nixing secret
ballots and one-person, one-vote elections.
As internal discord mounts, prosecutors are examining some of the
waterfront locals for crime and corruption.
Last January, former NYPD Commissioner Robert McGuire was tapped as
federal monitor of Local 1588 in Bayonne, N.J., which probers say was
run by the Genovese mob family. The local's president was indicted
shaking down members for cash and other kickbacks, and two ex-presidents
pleaded guilty to paying tribute to the mob with union funds.
"It's the classic case of economic terrorism," said Thomas
executive director of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor,
battles corruption and licenses dockworkers.
De Maria says Local 1814 in Brooklyn, alleged for years to be a Gambino
family subsidiary, was also penetrated by extortionists.
Its president, Frank (Red) Scollo, who made $221,665 on two ILA payrolls,
pleaded guilty in a 2002 racketeering case in which Peter Gotti was
convicted of exacting payoffs and shakedowns from waterfront interests,
In its cleanup bid, the ILA on Dec. 22 hired Michael Armstrong, who
police corruption in the '70s as counsel to the Knapp Commission, to
investigate criminality and organized crime ties. It set up a toll-free
number =97 (800) 367-9011 =97 for members to contact him anonymously.
It also is drafting a tough ethics code barring longshoremen from
association with organized crime figures.
But asked whether the new guidelines would impact Saccenti, the ex-driver
for Gravano, McNamara, who makes $185,973 on two ILA payrolls, replied, "The
code of ethics is not going to be retroactive."
Between 1981 and 1996, Saccenti met with 38 Gambino family members
Ravenite, the Bergin Hunt Fish Club and other mob hangouts, the Waterfront
Commission said in 1997.
Said McMahon, his lawyer, "If you grew up in Brooklyn or Staten
are you'd know 38 people in organized crime, too. But Louis has been
victim of extortion himself and always refused to kowtow to these people. "
In 1998, after a hearing, the commission revoked Saccenti's license
on the docks and urged the ILA to dump him from his two union posts.
Instead, it gave him a one-year suspension from one payroll, but kept
Nearly six years later, he is making $113,018 as a vice president
Atlantic Coast District and $120,805 more as business agent of Local
Newark, a $233,823 haul.
Asked about Saccenti's continued employment as an ILA officer, De
said, "I can't comment on the affairs of the union, but we find
distasteful and frustrating."
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