THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT and the FBI say they are broadening their efforts against corrupt leadership and the criminal influence of mobsters in labor unions. The aim is to replace corrupt union officials with court-appointed trustees, as was done earlier this year with a Teamsters local in New Jersey.
This intensified effort to root out criminal control will take place ''over the next few years," according to a published account. Four unions are to be the prime targets, one the International Longshoremen's Association.We rejoice at the conviction and imprisonment of corrupt and mob-dominated people - in unions, business or politics. Nor are we unaware that the President's Commission on Organized Crime, in its report earlier this year, devoted a full chapter to the ILA.
The commission charged that two Brooklyn locals "remain firmly under the control of the Gambino and Genovese (Mafia) families" and that "the Gambino family controls the international union." This, despite Uniroc, the big federal sweep which resulted in the conviction a few years ago of Anthony Scotto and other ILA officers.
Even so, we are disturbed by the Justice Department disclosure. "The next few years" suggests much too leisurely a pace. If, as the president's
commission declared, the New York-New Jersey waterfront is under the "almost unfettered control" of organized crime - which has spread to other ports - the public is entitled to action now. This, whether the ILA is involved or not.
Such sweeping assertions leave the port of New York under a serious cloud. They can hardly be said to encourage overseas trade. The ILA itself is entitled to know what criminal influences, if any, are at work within its organization - not years ago but now.
Much more than the reputation of the ILA is involved. Carriers, shippers, and ports all have a stake in such pronouncements. The Justice Department should heed that fact before it indulges in such vague and sweeping accusations.