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Daily News - January 3, 2004:

The Fat Cats on the Waterfront

How bosses load up on pay despite their ever-shrinking union.
By DOUGLAS FEIDEN
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

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.

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. Their
once-proud kingdom on the docks keeps getting smaller and smaller.

But they award themselves so many salary lines they keep getting richer and
richer.


Meet the fattest fat cats of the American labor movement, the bosses of the
International Longshoremen's Association.

John Bowers, president since 1987, elected officer since 1956 and dockworker
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
compensation.

It's not.

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% from
$502,957 in 2001.

Not far behind are at least five officials who make more than $400,000, and
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 the
union.

"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 their
70s or 80s, and union rebels have dubbed them "the old men and the sea."

The union's membership has been withering since the 1950s. Automation,
nonunion competition =97 and the forced retirement of prison - have taken
their toll.

At the same time, the feds are mulling a civil racketeering lawsuit to seize
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 steam,
the wages of union honchos skyrocket.

With just 59,000 members, the ILA slathers at least 25 of its top brass with
more than $225,000 - which is what John Sweeney gets as president of the 13
million-member AFL-CIO.

Even Jimmy Hoffa's prodigal Teamsters, who represent 1.3 million members an d
pay 31 officers $200,000 or more, are outpaced by the longshoremen, who
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, who was
identified in 1997 as the "driver and/or bodyguard" of Mafia canary
Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano. Despite his rep, he collects $233,823 on two
ILA payrolls.

No other union in the city or nation consistently pays its senior officers
more, a News analysis of pay patterns at 75 labor organizations found.

Headquartered at 17 Battery Place, the ILA represents longshoremen, who load
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 comment
on ILA pay, unsavory connections or any other topics. They said union
lawyers, citing the threat of a federal racketeering suit, had advised them
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 and
gangsters, and it's simply not true."

He said high pay was justified by top performance: Bowers negotiated a
generous national health care plan to replace local plans that were going
broke, and members have enjoyed wage hikes in almost every year of his
16-year presidency.

A longshoreman with full seniority averages $80,479 a year; overtime can
ratchet it up to $136,000. Members get 16 paid holidays - including St.
Patrick's Day and Good Friday - and up to six weeks vacation. Work on those
days is paid at double time.

"John Bowers has always delivered for his rank-and-file," McNamara said.

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 president.
But he holds a second full-time job on the other side of the Hudson, making
$160,742 as president of 700-member Local 1235 in Newark, which boosts his
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 the
Waterfront," there were 41,333 longshoremen in the Port of New York. By
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 in North
Bergen, N.J., grabbing a $212,678 sweetener that ups his annual take to
$463,796.

Daggett's son Dennis, 28, makes $67,936 as the ILA's safety director. He's
also the $167,023 recording secretary of his father's 1,400-member local,
grossing him $234,959.

As the international's legislative director, John Bowers Jr., 41, makes
$243,317. Mix in another $17,640 as Atlantic Coast legislative director, and
the president's son snags $260,957.

The ILA also boasts triple-dippers, like Ronald Capri, who gets $178,098 as
the No. 2 at 1804-1, $114,117 as a veep of the international and $28,710 as
secretary-treasurer of a district council. Add it all up and Capri, 69,
pockets $320,925.

There are also quadruple- and quintuple-dippers =97 and one fortunate
chieftain who collects six paychecks, one in New York, one in Texas and four
in Florida.

Arthur Coffey, 60, a $124,680 ILA vice president, also made $13,200 from the
South Atlantic District in Galveston, Tex.; $127,658 as president of Local
1922 in Miami; $80,620 and $33,197 respectively as head of two other Miami
locals, and at least $10,000 from the Greater South Florida Maritime Trades
Council.

Grand tally: $389,355.

Coffey, Capri and Cernadas didn't return calls. Neither did the Daggetts nor
the Bowers.

Saccenti knew Sammy Bull as a neighbor on Staten Island and sometimes drove
him and his family, said his lawyer, Gerald McMahon. But he never served as
a bodyguard, never carried a gun and was never convicted of any crime,
McMahon said.

"Only leaders divorced from all accountability to members would spend so
exorbitantly on their own salaries =97 and scheme to hide them on so many
payrolls," said Carl Biers, executive director of the Association for Union
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 of
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 325 ILA
waterfront locals for crime and corruption.

Last January, former NYPD Commissioner Robert McGuire was tapped as a
federal monitor of Local 1588 in Bayonne, N.J., which probers say was long
run by the Genovese mob family. The local's president was indicted for
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 De Maria,
executive director of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, which
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,
including 1814.

In its cleanup bid, the ILA on Dec. 22 hired Michael Armstrong, who probed
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 any
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 at the
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 Island, odds
are you'd know 38 people in organized crime, too. But Louis has been a
victim of extortion himself and always refused to kowtow to these people. "

In 1998, after a hearing, the commission revoked Saccenti's license to work
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 him on
the other.

Nearly six years later, he is making $113,018 as a vice president of the
Atlantic Coast District and $120,805 more as business agent of Local 1 in
Newark, a $233,823 haul.

Asked about Saccenti's continued employment as an ILA officer, De Maria
said, "I can't comment on the affairs of the union, but we find it
distasteful and frustrating."

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