My family [Genovese] made a lot of money from gambling and the numbers rackets. We got money from gambling, but our real power, our real strength, came from the unions [emphasis added]. With the unions behind us, we could shut down the city, or the country for that matter, if we needed to get our way. Our brugad [crime family] controlled a number of different unions, some of which I personally dealt with, some of which I knew about from other amico nostra. In some cases, we got money from our dealings with the unions, in some cases we got favors such as jobs for friends and relatives — but most importantly, in all cases, we got power over every businessman in New York. With the unions behind us, we could make or break the construction industry, the garment business, the docks, to name but a few.
That is mobster Vincent Cafaro, cited in James B. Jacobs’s excellent Mobsters, Unions, and Feds: The Mafia and the American Labor Movement. This book, which is avowedly left-wing and pro-union, chronicles the grisly and underrecorded history of mob influence over unions. Today the mob’s presence in the Teamsters, the Laborers, the Hotel and Restaurant workers and the Longshoreman’s union has largely dissipated, but keep in mind why. Our government has spent the last twenty years busting these unions, using arrests, RICO, and federal monitoring and control. That should not be forgotten the next time you hear talk of new legal privileges for unions.