ILA's Bowers considered retirement

ILA's Bowers considered retirement

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - John Bowers, re-elected Thursday to a fifth four-year term as president of the International Longshoremen's Association, said he would have retired if he and the union hadn't been threatened with legal action in a federal racketeering case.

"I was going to retire this year, but all of a sudden a fellow comes along and says some inaccurate things about me and my union," said Bowers, 80, who has headed the ILA since 1987 and has been an ILA member for 56 years. "This is my union, this is my life, and I'm going to fight back and win."

Bowers' reference was to George Barone, a former ILA official who testified in a recent racketeering trial that Bowers and the ILA were under mob control. Federal officials, who allege that a payoff to mob officials was made to steer the award of an ILA pharmaceutical-benefits contract, have said they are considering a lawsuit against the ILA under federal antiracketeering statutes.

Bowers said he was angered and disturbed by the allegations and that the union will decisively to root out wrongdoing. He noted that Red Scollo, a former ILA vice president and head of the union's largest Brooklyn local, was removed from his ILA positions after pleading guilty in the case.

James McNamara, an ILA spokesman, said Barone had made "totally false" allegations against Bowers and the ILA and that the witness's veracity was suspect. Barone "has said he's responsible for 16 murders," McNamara said.