Federal prosecutors have charged James W. Cahill, president of the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, along with another 10 officials of a New York City and Long Island-based plumbers’ and pipefitters local, with soliciting bribes for tasks that included helping nonunion contractors avoid employing building trades workers. Cahill had been a business agent in that local.

Federal prosecutors charged in U.S.district court in Manhattan that Cahill and his associates at plumbers’ Local 638 received dozens of gifts and favors from employers with a total value of about $100,000 “for which the defendants agreed to betray their unions’ trust by taking actions favorable to non-union employers and exercising corrupt influence on the conduct of labor-management relations in the construction trades.” 

Some of the value exchanged was in the form of unreimbursed loans, free meals and drinks, improvements to personal property and supply of home appliances, prosecutors allege.

In a detailed indictment, prosecutors claim Cahill served as leader of the enterprise. Nine of the other 10 charged were Local 638 business managers in New York City and Long Island,including the local’s financial secretary-treasurer.

An employee who answered the phone at Local 638’s New York City office said it would have “no comment right now.”

A spokesperson for New York City's Building & Construction Trades Council said that “since this case is still pending, we will reserve comment and let the process unfold.” Officials of the state Building & Construction Trades Council could not be reached for comment.

Details of the indictment, based in part on intercepted phone calls and verbatim quotes from meetings between the union and nonunion employers, involved numerous bribes of $1,500 to $3,000 in exchange for advice and protection from Local 638.

Prosecutors allege that in 2018, Cahill received $3,000 from a nonunion employer in exchange for introducing the employer to another of the defendants, who would provide protection and support. In a discussion also that year with another defendant, prosecutors allege Cahill instructed him that in “Nassau [County], you leave [Employer-1] alone.”

In the indictment, prosecutors also charge that Cahill advised an open-shop employer not to become a union contractor because if it did, “you would have 12 [f-ing] guys on your back.”

According to information released by the union in 2017, Cahill was instrumental in numerous project labor agreements that guaranteed major projects in New York would be performed by union employers.

One of the largest pacts committed the New York State Thruway Authority to work with union employers on the recently completed $4-billion Mario M. Cuomo Bridge across the Hudson River, north of New York City.