1 of 6 - BSEIU / SEIU union corruption: Mafia Labor Racketeer George Scalise

Mafia  Labor  Racketeer  George Scalise      -   Some Background:

George  (Poker FaceScalise       (1896  -  1989)

Labor union racketeer;  professional fixer;  well connected & charming.

George Scalise was born in Calabria, the toe of Italy, & migrated to New York with his family when he was two years old.  He grew up in Brooklyn, where mobster Frankie Yale was the local boss, & Al Capone was part of the street gangs.      At the age of 17, Scalise was convicted of forcing girls into prostitution & spent about 4 years in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, a tough prison that turned out hardened criminals.  Al Capone became a bouncer at Frankie Yale’s Harvard Inn.  The young George Scalise became a strong-arm man for Yale, who was perfecting the arts of extortion & racketeering, with the help of Anthony Carfano.

In his article about George Scalise, Professor David Witwer connects Scalise to the Genovese Crime Family thru Anthony Carfano alias Little Augie Pisano.

In the early 1930’s, Scalise got connected with mobsters Augie Pisano, Joey Amberg & others in New York City and was actively muscling into various labor unions in New York including garage workers, butchers,  laundry,  & distillery workers (see the book Vicious Circles pp. 4, 80 & others  &  Scalise’s FBI Top Hoodlum file# 63-459-12  Aug 1957 p.2)).

In 1934, Scalise was installed as the Mafia deputy to the Building Service Employees International Union, its Eastern Representative in New York City, enabling him to take complete control of Bronx BSEIU Local 32E, in 1936.    When Lucky Luciano & Meyer Lansky merged the Italian & Jewish gangs on the Lower East Side & then set up the National Crime Syndicate in the early 1930’s, Augie Pisano was certainly involved & also George Scalise.  This connection would explain Scalise’s later use of Sam Firpo Abrams  &  Izzy Schwartz in BSEIU Local 32E in the late 1930’s. It also explains where Local 32E officials Michael Tafuri  & George Cammarata came from as well.  (see Hubert Albertz – 32E Papers)

Local 32E became George Scalise’s “home” BSEIU local, owned & operated on behalf of Augie Pisano & the mob by Scalise & his soldiers, including Mike Tafuri (who remained an untouchable influence in 32E thru thick & thin, into the 1960’s).  This culminated in Scalise being made the BSEIU International President in 1937 by Augie Pisano & the Capone gang  (N Y Times 4 May 1937). Sidney Korshak,  fabled labor lawyer for the mob, helped with the “legal” details of the mob takeover of the BSEIU  (see Supermob by Gus Russo – 2006   pp. 56-57-58).  The stealing & extortion then began in earnest.   The result was that in 1940 New York DA Thomas Dewey went after George Scalise & convicted him of racketeering & stealing of BSEIU union funds.

So Scalise ended up back in prison.  From 1941 to about 1948, he was in Sing-Sing & Clinton prisons & after that he went back to Atlanta Federal Pen for income tax evasion until about 1950.                      But, he remained a racketeer at heart, & when he was released he started hanging out at the Waldorf-Astoria Bar with big boss Frank Costello & the notorious bookie, Harry Gross (see Scalise’s FBI Top Hoodlum file #63-459-8 Sept-Oct 1956 p.1).

Before he went to prison in 1941,  Scalise had installed the hard fisted Tommy Lewis as president of Local 32E.   Lewis was ruthless & "scandalously crooked" (see Murray Kempton's article Old Pro in Comeback  NY Post March 24  1954 p.50).   In August 1953, Lewis was gunned down Mafia style, revealing a fantastic network of corruption and racketeering in 32E, including large welfare fund thefts.  Joseph Pizzo was Scalise’s front man in Local 32E’s  welfare fund racket.  Tommy Lewis was being shaken down by Scalise & five hours before he was killed Lewis had given Pizzo a certified check for $50,000.                 At this point, George Scalise was considered one of the FBI’s Top New York Hoodlums (see Scalise’s FBI Top Hoodlum file #63-459-1  Dec 1953).

Pisano & Scalise were the “masterminds” of such welfare fund thievery.  Because Scalise did his 10 years in prison without talking & implicating others, Pisano kindly rewarded Scalise by giving him a cut of the millions stolen from union welfare funds (see FBI's Top Hoodlum file #63-459-14  Sept 1957 pp. 16 & 17). 

In 1955,  Pisano & Scalise were indicted for this looting of union welfare funds.  Louis Saperstein, an insurance broker, reluctantly  told the grand jury about it.  Saperstein got shot in the head before he could testify in court, but amazingly, he survived  & the trial went ahead.  Scalise took the rap, pleaded guilty & spent another year in jail, this time Rikers Island prison (see Scalise’s  FBI  Top Hoodlum file # 63-HQ-459-12  June  1957 p.*).

In 1958, when George Scalise got out of jail, he was over 60 years old, and an elder statesman of the mob.  He got in touch with Nathan Voloshen, a Washington influence peddler, & they found out that they could make profitable use of each other’s connections.  So, with Voloshen’s help, Scalise became a fixer for the mob.  By 1969, their clients were involved in questionable stock transactions & an outfit called Imperial Investment Corporation.  The Securities & Exchange Commission began investigating the situation, so the question arose for Scalise of how to squelch the investigation.  The details get kind of complicated (see the book Washington Payoff) but Scalise’s involvement as a fixer for the mob got revealed. 

Meanwhile,  Louis Saperstein was ready to testify against the brutal mob boss Angelo DeCarlo.  But before he could do that, Saperstein suddenly died of what turned out to be arsenic poisoning.  Saperstein’s partner did become a prosecution witness & the end result was that in 1970 mob boss DeCarlo got convicted of extortion & was sentenced to 12 years in jail.  So, DeCarlo, looking for help, apparently went to Scalise, who went to Murray Chotiner, a sleazy political operator, & thus in December 1972, President Nixon commuted Angelo DeCarlo’s sentence & released him from prison (see the book Breaking of a President:  Book 3 – Organized Crime Behind Nixon,  p. 284 ff).

 George Scalise had reached the top of his profession as a fixer for the mob.


Good  sources about George Scalise’s career are found in:

Professor David Witwer’s article: The Scandal of George Scalise: Labor racketeering in the 1930s  in the Journal of Social History   Summer 2003

 in: Vicious Circles:  The Mafia in the Marketplace (thru unions in New York City) by Jonathan Kwitny   1979.

and also in The Washington Payoff  by  Robert Winter – Berger    1972   as well as in Organized Crime & Nixon, researched by Art Kufkin which is Book 3 of  The Breaking of the President  1975, compiled by Marvin Miller.

FBI Files on George Scalise:  #92-HQ-2825 details his criminal activities up to about the 1960’s &  #63-HQ-439, his Top N Y Hoodlum file gives his general background. These files are available thru a Freedom of Information Act request.

A collection of newspaper clippings of the Court Trials of George Scalise 1940 - 1941 is located at YALE University in the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room of the Lillian Goldman Law Library and is available for scholarly research via E-mail. 


Joseph Coffey, a top investigator at the New York State Organized Crime Task Force said:

“The Genovese gang more or less invented labor racketeering.”

(TIME magazine Special Report on Organized Crime  June 24  2001)


Local 32E was a classic labor racketeering enterprise engaged in all kinds of extortion & plundering of members’ wages & benefits.

A short timeline of the Augie Pisano - George Scalise —BSEIU  Local 32E history:

(HAP = Hubert Albertz Papers, see page 5)
1936: Scalise charters Bronx Local 32E - BSEIU as his home local (NY Times 6, 8 & 16 March & NY Post 2 Sept 1953)
1939: Scalise installs Izzy Schwartz to “clean up” 32E after Sam Abrams is convicted of extortion (NY Post 6 Aug 1940 p4)
1939: Scalise also installs Michael Tafuri in Local 32E as his Business Representative.
(HAP= Hubert Albertz Papers)  Tafuri remained in that position into the 1960’s.
1940: Tommy Lewis installed as president of 32E (See Bambrick’s Building Service Story 1948)
1940: George Cammaratta of 32E testifies in defense of Scalise on trial for looting thousands in BSEIU union funds (NY Times 10 Sept p.20)
1940:   DA Thomas Dewey convicts Scalise of larceny & racketeering in BSEIU  (NY Times 8, 9 Oct )                                                                                                                                             1941 —50: Scalise in NY State Prisons for larceny & racketeering in BSEIU (NY Times 8,9 Oct 1940)   & Atlanta Federal Pen for tax evasion
1953: Lewis, president of 32E, slain gangland style revealing Mafia control (NY Times 29 Aug & Sept)                                                                                                                     
                                               and a fantastic network of corruption and racketeering in 32E (NY Times Nov & Dec)
            prompting NY Governor Dewey to urge revocation of 32E’s charter (NY Times 23 Sept)
1954: Murray Kempton article on Scalise: Old Pro in Comeback  (N.Y. Post 24 March p.50)
            Kempton notes the connection between Pisano, Scalise, Pizzo, & Lewis of 32E & calls Joseph Pizzo the “front-man for Scalise” in welfare fund thefts
1955: Indictment of Pisano & Scalise as masterminds of union welfare fund rackets (NY Times 15,16 Feb)
1957: Scalise pleads guilty to conspiracy & bribery in union welfare fund rackets & sent to prison for a year  (NY Times 9 April & 9 May)
1957: Frank Scalise, identified by the N Y Times as a reputed brother of George,  is murdered & linked to Luciano & Frank Costello, and called a leader in underworld (NY Times 18 June)
1958:  Joseph Pizzo “front-man for Scalise” is interrogated by the staff of McClellan’s Senate Select 
     Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor & Management Field   (File 18-71-812,  17 March 1958)
1959: Pisano murdered Mafia style in Queens (NY Times 26 & 27 Sept)
1960: Pisano & Vincent Rao linked to Yonkers Raceway construction fraud (NY Times 25 May)
           (Most of the raceway workers were under Local 32E)
1960: David Sullivan elected president of BSEIU, unopposed (NY Times 6 May)
1963: FBI begins investigation of Local 32E    (Union Democracy in Action
 #12, May 1964)
1964: Federal court indictments of three 32E officials: Ricciardi, Meyer, & Unger for selling-out the local’s  members by accepting payoffs from landlords (NY Times 6 Feb p15)
1964: Bronx builder, Henry Ahlers, refuses to tell of his dealings with 32E president Henry Chartier, in racketeering  inquiry of 32E, despite granting of immunity for the first time in a labor-rackets probe (NY Times 22 July p.36)
1965: Ahlers loses in his appeal to U.S. Supreme Court & must now answer questions or be jailed for contempt  (NY Times 19 Jan p 50)
1965: Unger, Secretary-Treasurer of 32E convicted of getting loans from landlords in Taft-Hartley violations   (NY Daily News 25 March p39)
1965: Murray Kempton article detailing Local 32E’s - 30 year history of corruption (N Y World-Telegram 30 March p15)
1965: 32E’s Ricciardi guilty of accepting payoffs to reduce members wages, but he & Unger still get renominated for  office in 32E.(NY Times 9 April p1)
1965: NY Post Editorial on scandal in 32E entitled Reward for Racketeering? (13 April p28)
1965: Indictment of DiSalvo & Henry Chartier, president of 32E, for shady-money deals (NY Herald Tribune 4 May p.5)
1965: NY Post Editorial on “sordid affairs of Local 32E” entitled Challenge to a Union  (4 May p28)
1965: Trusteeship established in 32E by BSEIU (NY Herald Tribune, City Edition 5 May p1)
1965: Wall Street Journal Article “Eye on Union Funds” mentions Bronx Local of BSEIU (32E)  (20 July)
1965: NY Post Editorial entitled Local 32E — An Empty Gesture? asking if corruption will be cleaned up & Albertz reinstated (19 Aug p26)
1966: DiSalvo of 32E convicted of taking loans from landlords in violation of Taft-Hartley law (NY Herald Tribune 19 April p.15)
1966: Conviction of president Henry Chartier of 32E for loans from landlords in violation of Taft-Hartley law (NY Daily News 1 June p20)
1966: Conviction of Fred Meyer of 32E for accepting payoffs for “sweetheart” contracts reducing workers wages   (NY Times 18 June p27)
1966: US Attorney Morgenthau summarizes these cases & 32E’s 30 year history of corruption & racketeering   (NY Times 7 August 1966 p60)
1966: In spite of conviction, Henry Chartier continues as 32E president   (NY Times 11 Sept p78)
1968: Murray Kempton’s commentary article on Henry Chartier’s continuance as 32E’s president:  He Never  Went Away (NY Post  7 March)                                    (The Chartier father & son dynasty in 32E lasted until December 2000, almost 50 years) (see R. Fitch Solidarity for Sale  p298)
1984: Ray McDonough tries to become president of 32E but father & son Chartier stop him                                                                                                                  about June 1989? :   Chartier's son Robert becomes president of 32E

 1994:  In November,at least three 32E officials, Paciello, Roman, & Brogan, are convicted of accepting payoffs                                                                                                                                                             

2001:  Local 32E is absorbed into the larger Local 32BJ

Reuther Library’s BSEIU Historical Collection has more biographical material on George Scalise as well as hundreds of pages of transcripts of an investigation of 32E after Scalise’s conviction in 1940.
Also see Kheel Center Collection #5265 BSEIU 1939 to 41 Investigation of Scalise & 32E & other locals



These research notes are offered as a small contribution to those labor historians, researchers & students who might undertake to do a partial or full-fledged history of the BSEIU in New York City. That would be a worthwhile project since top labor figures like John Sweeney, Tom Donahue, & David Sullivan all came out of the BSEIU in NYC.

The Local 32E story is one of many. From 1957 to ‘59, about 112,000 union members wrote to Senator McClellan’s Rackets Committee with complaints. Subsequent passage of the Landrum — Griffin - Labor Management Reporting & Disclosure Act in 1959 (LMRDA) encouraged them to keep on fighting union corruption.
Hubert Albertz was one of them.   It turns out that he & the 57 other janitors who joined him in fighting the goons in 32E in the late 1940’s & 1950’s were forerunners of the reform movements that swept the labor movement after the LMRDA became law. That’s why their story is worth telling & should not be forgotten.  In 2007, prosecutor Robert M. Morgenthau wrote that Hubert Albertz was “extremely helpful in digging out corruption …in Local 32E.”

My qualification is direct involvement & familiarity with this history thru my father, Hubert Albertz, & his papers which are archived at the Kheel Center & also at CUNY-Rosenthal Library (see page 5). Subsequent continued interest and research into the history of the Building Service Employees International Union in New York City, has been inspired as well by recent books of Herman Benson, John Cort, Robert Fitch, and the foundation laid by Professor David Witwer, all as cited. Further details of the Hubert Albertz — Local 32E story still remain to be explored in the files of the BSEIU,  Dept of Labor, Dept of Justice, & Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, as well as Herman Benson's Union Democracy Papers. This has been an ongoing project resulting in this version, which replaces previous versions.

Please send me a copy of your paper or article based on this information.  Thank you.

 George Albertz     P.O.Box 903       Rifton   NY 12471



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