The Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) is a construction industry labor union and a member the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). LIUNA is has provided extensive campaign support and lobbying efforts on issues such as Obamacare, immigration, and infrastructure spending.
LIUNA has a membership of over 500,000 workers in the construction industry, and is widely considered to be one of the more powerful labor unions in the United States.
LIUNA (originally the International Carriers and Building Laborers’ Union) was formed in 1903 as a labor union following calls by the president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) to unite construction workers and laborers from local unions across the United States.
LIUNA is composed of over 400 local unions that serve over 500,000 members. They also have 44 district councils and 9 regional offices with one Canadian sub-regional office and the international headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Each union must adhere to LIUNA’s constitution, which can be amended at the International Union General Convention that occurs every five years. During this convention, the executive board is also elected.
Political Support and Contributions
In 2015, LIUNA criticized President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, a departure from the official stance of the AFL-CIO and many of the federation’s other member labor unions. LIUNA president Terry O’Sullivan claimed that with his decision, President Obama had “thrown the members of LIUNA and other hardworking, blue-collar workers under the bus.”
In November 2015, LIUNA announced its support of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. During the 2015-2016 election cycle, LIUNA-affiliated political action committees financially supported Democratic Party candidates such as Clinton and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California).The group also donated $1 million to the left-wing Super PAC Priorities USA Action.
In 2018, the LIUNA Chicago District Council PAC gave $250,000 to the reelection campaign of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D).
Since 1990, LIUNA political committees have contributed $103,661,923 to federal candidates, with the substantial majority of contributions to partisan entities going to Democrats.
In recent history, LIUNA has heavily lobbied Congress to increase infrastructure spending. In 2010, LIUNA launched a media campaign to encourage increased infrastructure spending through the use of billboards near areas with potential for job creation.
In 2014, LIUNA joined the Rally for Roads in offering support for the Highway Trust Fund. It also launched a media campaign to lobby Congress to pass a long-term, full-investment highway bill.
In late 2017, Terry O’Sullivan and Sean McGarvey, the president of North America’s Building Trade Unions, called on President Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to create an infrastructure program that would increase jobs. LIUNA also worked with a lobbying group through the Transportation Construction Coalition to increase pressure on Congress.
Opposition to “Right to Work” Legislation
LIUNA opposes “right to work” legislation which would allow employees of unionized companies who dissent from union activities not to pay the union.
LIUNA advocates for a relatively liberal immigration policy but opposes guest worker programs. The union has endorsed a path to citizenship for currently illegal immigrants.
LIUNA has argued that the current structure of Obamacare is insufficiently favorable to labor unions because of the cost burden it places on multi-employer insurance plans used by construction unions.
Arthur Coia, the former president of LIUNA, was subject to a three-year investigation by the Department of Justice on charges that he “associated with crime figures and acquiesced in their running parts of the union.” Another defendant in this case was Armand Sabitoni, the current general secretary-treasurer of LIUNA. LIUNA eventually agreed to a settlement in 1994 which required extensive changes within the union but allowed Coia to retain his position as general president. However, speculation surrounding the settlement suggested potential Clinton administration involvement due to Coia’s personal ties with the Clinton family.
Coia would later plead guilty to charges stemming from Coia failing to pay state and local taxes on three Ferrari cars, including an F40 model supercar. Coia misrepresented the cities in which he registered the vehicles, fraudulently indicated lower vehicle values, and used an illegal titling scheme to defraud the state of Rhode Island.
Terry O’Sullivan has served as the general president of LIUNA since 2000. During his time as general president, O’Sullivan has increased the political power of LIUNA through an increased focus on voter registration, member activism, and fundraising.
O’Sullivan also serves as a member of the governing board of presidents of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. He is also a member of the board of directors for Ullico Inc., an insurance and financial services firm associated with the labor union movement. Additionally, O’Sullivan serves on the board of directors for America’s Agenda: Health Care for All and as a member of the management committee of Americans for Transportation Mobility.
Prior to his election as general president, O’Sullivan served as LIUNA’s vice president, Mid-Atlantic regional manager, and assistant to the general president. He joined LIUNA in 1974.
O’Sullivan is an open supporter of Sinn Fein, the controversial left-wing Irish republican political party with historical ties to the now-demilitarized terrorist group Provisional Irish Republican Army. In addition to shepherding LIUNA funds to U.S.-based Sinn Fein front organizations, O’Sullivan serves as both the executive vice president of D.C. Friends of Ireland and the president of New York Friends of Ireland.
O’Sullivan received total disbursements of $772,105 in salary and expenses from LIUNA in 2017.
Armand Sabitoni has served as the general secretary treasurer for LIUNA since 2001. Sabitoni chairs the national Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA), the national Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust Fund (LECET), the LIUNA Health and Welfare Fund, and the Serve Contract Education of Training Trust Fund (SCETT).
Sabitoni also serves as the New England regional manager for LIUNA, after replacing Arthur Coia in 1993. In 1994, Sabitoni was “a defendant in the U.S. [Department] of Justice’s draft racketeering complaint against LIUNA.”
Sabitoni received total disbursements of $628,116 in salary and expenses from LIUNA in 2017.
The LIUNA general executive board includes the following members:
- Armand Sabitoni—general secretary-treasurer
- Raymond Pocino—vice president
- Vicent Masino—vice president
- Dennis Martire—vice president
- Joseph Macinelli—vice president
- Oscar De La Torrie—vice president
- Rocco Davis—vice president
- John Penn—vice president
- Ralph Cole—vice president
- Robert Abbott—vice president
- Samuel Slaten—vice president
- Robert Richardson—vice president
- Lisa Martin—assistant director of strategic communications
- Terry Healy—vice president
- Sergio Rascon—vice president
- Paul Hogrogian—vice president
- Edward Smith—former vice president
- Joseph Uehlein—former member
In addition to dues from its members, the Euguene M. Clary Foundation donated $19,000 to LIUNA between 2010 and 2014.
LIUNA made grants to the following organizations in 2017:
- Philip Randolph Institute: $25,000
- Alliance to Fight the Forty
- America’s Agenda: Health Care for All
- Ballot Initiative Strategy Center Foundation
- Citizens Trade Campaign
- Congressional Black Caucus Foundation: $20,000
- Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the US Senate: $100,000
- Farm Labor Organizing Commitee : $10,000
- National Day Laborer Organizing Network: $10,000
- NILC Immigrant Justice Fund: $15,000
- North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU): $15,000
- Peggy Browning Fund: $15,000
- The Association of Union Constructors: $10,000
- The Rhode Island Building Construction Trades Co: $50,000
- Women’s Congressional Policy Institute