Carpenters union rocked by bribery scandal could face international takeover

A hearing will be held to determine if supervision should be permanent
By Kathryn Brenzel | June 28, 2019 04:33PM

The leadership shakeup follows the arrest Thursday of Local 926 president Salvatore Tagliaferro (Credit: iStock)

The leadership shakeup follows the arrest Thursday of Local 926 president Salvatore Tagliaferro (Credit: iStock)

The parent organization of a carpenters’ union whose leader is ensnared in an alleged bribery scandal is swooping in to temporarily take over the local chapter.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters, the union’s international chapter based in Washington, D.C., has appointed one of the leaders of its regional subsidiaries to oversee Brooklyn-based Local 926. The leadership shakeup follows the arrest Thursday of Local 926 president Salvatore Tagliaferro, who is accused of conspiring with an official from Local 157, John DeFalco, to accept tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for granting membership into Local 926.

The UBC tapped William Waterkotte, vice president of the Pittsburgh-based Eastern District regional chapter, to supervise Local 926 until a hearing is held to determine whether or not UBC should fully take over the union, according to a letter issued by UBC president Doug McCarron that was made public on Friday.

Waterkotte didn’t return messages seeking comment. An attorney for Tagliaferro, Richard Rosenberg, said his client is a “dedicated union man” and denies all the allegations in the indictment.

In McCarron’s letter, he notes that the UBC needed to take action immediately “for the purpose of correcting corruption or financial malpractice” — one of four reasons that labor organizations impose a trusteeship. A trusteeship would likely mean that the UBC would replace the local’s leadership or potentially merge the local with another.

Back in 1995, the UBC placed the New York City District Council of Carpenters into trusteeship due to corruption issues that persisted after the union reached a deal with the federal government to install court-appointed supervision. The trusteeship lasted through 1999, but the District Council still has a court-appointed monitor. His term expires July 17 but will likely be renewed.

Since 1990, several of the District Council’s locals have merged or disbanded, dropping from a total of 22 chapters to nine. Locals 926 and 157 are two of nine local unions that currently make up the District Council. Local 157 was expanded in 2010 when the District Council decided to disband Local 608, amid racketeering convictions and the firing of five presidents, the New York Daily News reported at the time. McCarron’s letter doesn’t indicate any leadership changes at Local 157 following DeFalco’s arrest.

The District Council also recently experienced its own change in leadership. In February 2018, president Steve McInnis stepped down due to accusations of misconduct, which unrelated lawsuits against the union have alleged are tied to sexual harassment. Earlier this month, his replacement, Graham McHugh, stepped down, citing “mistakes” he made prior to becoming a leader at the District Council.

As the city’s construction unions have grappled with the rise of nonunion competitors, the District Council has been viewed as one of the first unions to work closely with developers to reach compromises on costs. For example, the union inked a deal with Related Companies for work at Hudson Yards long before the Building and Construction Trades Council was able to find common ground with the developer.