Unopposed, Palladino Wins Reelection As Laborers Local 91 Business Manager

by Mike Hudson

Six years ago, Dick Palladino ran to become business manager of Laborers Local 91 here based on a single premise – to clean up the once troubled union, and rid it of the last vestiges of the corrupt element that once controlled it for as long as most people could remember.

Since the early 1960s, the Laborers had been controlled by Michael “Butch” Quarcini with the assistance of a gang of toughs known within the union as the “Goon Squad.”

On construction sites, contractors who wouldn’t play ball often became the victims of assault, arson and theft. Millions of dollars worth of construction equipment was destroyed, and many well known contractors in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio simply refused to work in Niagara Falls out of fear.

Non union workers, Local 91 members who dared openly criticize the Quarcini regime and even newspapermen were routinely attacked and beaten by the thugs. Only rarely were those responsible ever charged with a crime.

That all changed in May, 2002, when the U.S. Attorney’s office in Buffalo – with the full cooperation of this newspaper — indicted Quarcini and 13 of his top henchman on multiple counts of racketeering, extortion, conspiracy and destruction of property. Although most of those charged ended up taking plea agreements, the cases dragged on for several years.

Quarcini himself died of stomach cancer before he could go to trial. At least one of those convicted remains in prison today.

An interim slate of officers led by Rob Connelly stepped into the vacuum created by the indictments, but Palladino, who had been a Local 91 member for more than 30 years, saw that the union was beginning to backslide.

A take charge kind of guy who didn’t want to see Local 91 disbanded by the government or forced to operate under a federal overseer, Palladino ran against Connelly for the business manager’s position, winning handily in 2010.

Palladino sought to strengthen ties with the Laborers International Union of North America, as well as local, state and federal officials he felt could help Local 91 realize its full potential.

Whatever he’s been doing has been working.

“We had our best year ever last year,” Palladino told the Reporter this week, shortly after running unopposed for yet another term as business manager. “Our training program has been recognized by the International as one of the best on the East Coast, and we made the move from our former headquarters on Seneca Avenue to a fantastic $1.5 million facility at the Witmer Industrial Park.”

The Witmer Road headquarters, home of the former Great Lakes Custom Brokerage, boasts more than 25,000 square feet and gives the various training programs the local sponsors plenty of room.

“There was just a lot we couldn’t do on Seneca Avenue,” Palladino said. 

Although he ran unopposed, it had been rumored that Frank Mantell, a city firefighter and Local 91 member, would run against him. Mantell decided to run against union President Bill Grace instead, and was soundly defeated. And a ruling received from the Internationndal on Wednesday confirmed what Palladino had suspected in the first place – That a full time city firefighter could not serve as an officer in the Laborers Union in the first place.

In the end, Palladino said, the things he’s been able to accomplish all boil down to one thing, personal relationships.

“I just enjoy the heck out of it,” he said. “Whether it’s a contractor, a representative of the government or a newspaper reporter, it’s been my experience that if you treat them right, they’ll generally do the same for you.”

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