New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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Social Research, Vol. 80, No. 4, Winter 2013


Labor racketeering has attracted a good deal of attention from law enforcement agencies, legislators, and journalists, but surprisingly little attention from corruption scholars. While the origin of the term “labor racketeering” is obscure, it has come to be associated with a type of corruption perpetrated by union officials under the direction of, or in conjunction with, organized crime (Cohen 2003, 575–76, 587–91; Jacobs 2006, 11–12). Organized crime bosses exploit unions and union members through alliances with corrupted or intimidated union officials (Jacobs 2006, 234). In return, union officials provide mobsters access to the union treasury, pension and welfare funds, no-show jobs with the union, and support in establishing and enforcing employer cartels (Jacobs 2006, 14, 65, 80). Some organized crime members have held formal union office (Jacobs 2006, 20, 50, 203–04). In addition, of course, corrupt union officials, whether or not connected to organized crime figures, engage in “ordinary” organizational corruption, such as misappropriation of funds. The most distinctive form of corruption by union officials is taking employers’ bribes to ignore violations of the collective bargaining contract, or even to allow employer to operate nonunion shops (Jacobs 2006, 102).

The paper is published in Social Research (, Vol. 80, No. 4, Winter 2013.

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