The Life and Times Of Tony Pro
ROBERT S. GALLAGHER and RONALD SEMPLE
September 12, 1963
Max Ascoli’s “Reporter” magazine
UNION CITY, New Jersey
THERE was little ìn Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano’s past to prepare him for the battle now raging between U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Teamsters President James Riddle Hoffa. In the tough sidewalk world of New York’s Lower East Side, where Provenzano was born forty-six years ago of Sicilian immigrant parents, he had learned that the politician was a friend, not a foe. The friendship of the politician was easily bought by the really Important men in the neighborhood, who know and demonstrated that muscle earned money and respect. Brains, initiative, and raw courage were the ingredients of success along Monroe Street. And these were the lessons young Provenzano took with him in 1934 when he dropped out of P.S. 114 to drive a truck at ton dollars a week.
His relationship with the politicians he dealt with on his ascent to the twelfth vice-presidency of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America was a reflection of his early training and experience. He numbered many politicos among his allies. He could depend upon them for aid and influence, and in turn he supported them generously. He had nothing to fear from politicians until 1959, when he had his first bitter encounter with the tenacious counsel to the Senate’s McClellan Committee, Robert Kennedy. It was a hard lesson for Provenzano, who pleaded the Fifth Amendment forty-four times. The hearings, which culminated in the passage of the Landrum-Griffin Act, touched off the events leading to Provenzano’s indictment and subsequent conviction on June 11 of this year for extorting $17,100 from a local trucking firm. Should his appeal fail, Provenzano will serve seven years in prison and pay a ten-thousand-dollar fine.
Provenzano doesn’t believe he will go to prison. “Thank God for the appellate courts in this country,” he says. But whether or not Provenzano goes to jail, he faces other problems that will test the raw courage, initiative, and brains of one who has risen from humble beginnings to be an international vice-president of the Teamsters, a trustee of the powerful Eastern Conference of the union, president of New Jersey’s Teamsters Joint Council 73, and the absolute ruler of Local 560, the third largest (13,000) Teamsters local.
Provenzano insists he spends hours in meditation. His favorite spot is stop the former bank building purchased by Local 560 for its headquarters. There, on the roof is a massive coop to house Tony Pro’s racing pigeons the feathered symbols, of a less complicated youth on the East Side. The birds help Provenzano forget his various troubles: a pending Federal trial for bribery; a suit by the U.S. Department of Labor challenging Local 560’s election last December; the local’s insurgent. United Ticket, which nearly succeeded in retiring Provenzano in that election and prompted the ballot litigation; the murder of a young shop steward; the unsolved disappearance of the local’s secretary-treasurer; the constant presence of Federal agents; the local’s growing financial troubles; the desertion of his political allies; and, most important, the reaction to all this of his friend and boss, Hoffa, whose sense of loyalty to his friends is eclipsed only by his stronger sense of survival.
Democrat Provenzano seems puzzled by the zeal the Attorney General and his subordinates display in their efforts, which, according to the Department of justice, have led to 199 indictments and eighty-five convictions of Teamsters and their associates since the advent of the New Frontier. But he knows at first hard the tenacity of Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department, whose agents have questioned Provenzano’s friends, neighbors, and, he claims, his children in an exhaustive study of his lite and works. At the local’s headquarters, a records investigation is continued daily by the Labor Department’s Thomas Gilmartin, who spends his evenings explaining the intricacies of the Landrum-Griffin Act at St. Peter’s Institute of Industrial Relations in Jersey City. (The Institute’s student body numbers most of the United Ticket’s leaders.) Also nearby is Internal Revenue Agent Geoffrey Cheasty, whose brother, John Cye Cheasty, was the key witness in the government’s abortive attempt to convict Hoffa of bribery in July, 1957.
Provenzano’s extortion conviction by a Federal jury in Newark genuinely shocked the Local 560 leader, who last year was acquitted of a similar charge in neighboring Hudson County. He still faces a bribery charge of accepting his $27,000 Clifton, New Jersey, home as a gift from another New Jersey trucking executive. The jury’s decision also surprised many veteran courthouse observers who held little affection for Provenzano but thought the government’s case weak. They had predicted that the cherished judicial concept of reasonable doubt would save Provenzano. It did not. Teamster attorneys from the local to the international level used the jury’s decision to reiterate their belief that a prejudicial campaign is being waged from Washington to condition both press and public against the Teamsters, thus ail but eliminating their clients’ right to take advantage of reasonable doubt, even though they have managed to win more cases than they have lost.
The Glockner Myth
Washington, however, was not the dateline on the publicity explosion that occurred May 24, the third day of the trial, when a truck driver was murdered ten miles away in Hoboken. The police of that brawling waterfront city had no trouble identifying the twenty-seven-year-old man found sprawled on a sidewalk with three bullets in his back. A month before, they had questioned Walter Herman Glockner, Jr., about his role in the-stick beating of another citizen. It was the latest entry in a bulky police dossier dating, back to when he helped beat tip an off-duty policeman. At that time Glockner had been AWOL from the Marine Corps, which he had joined after quitting high school. He was then thrown out of the Marines with an undesirable discharge.
It was more difficult to recognize Glockner in the portrait in Life two weeks after his death. “His family called him Sonny; his friends know him as Hans,” the magazine reported. “He graduated from high school in Hoboken, served in the Marines and married his boyhood sweetheart.- This wholesome approach was unspoiled by the mention of his police record, his loansharking activities, or his tainted Military record. Instead Life justified devoting several pages to the murder by blandly announcing that Glockner was “the leader of a reform group” within Local 560 and printing opposing photographs of a weeping graveside widow and a chortling Provenzano, who has instructed his lawyers to start what he terms a “suitcase” against the magazine for eleven million dollars.
Life merely completed the public canonization of Glockner that began immediately after his death, when the afternoon newspapers described him as a “Provenzano foe.” This initial description was magnified edition by edition, broadcast by broadcast, to “bitter foe,” “outspoken foe,” “martyred Teamster,” “key member of the United Ticket,” and the like, until Life ultimately elevated him to ‘ the leader” of the anti-Provenzano f forces. His certification as “a victim A’ the struggle for clean unionism” was provided the day after the murder, when government attorneys handling the Provenzano trial announced that Glockner, who was a shop steward at the truck terminal involved, was to have been questioned the next. week. No one explained why Federal officials had not talked to Glockner during the two years of pre-trial investigation.
No official at the local, state, or Federal level attempted to arrest the growth of the Glockner myth. Some even encouraged it. The normally tight-lipped Hudson County prosecutor, for example, was reluctant to reveal the slain man’s police involvements, plus his “limited loansharking” activities. He insisted that the information had no bearing on the case and asked that it remain unpublished for “the sake of the family.” He also stated, without prompting from the reporters and Life representatives present, that Glockner had been “honorably discharged from the Marines.
The myth of Glockner’s importance to the United Ticket vanishes with the statement of the insurgent leader, George Phillips, who reduces Glockner’s role in the bitter December election to that of an active “sympathizer.” Moreover Phillips, who claims to have been severely beaten twice in the past by Provenzano enthusiasts, holds that the slaying was not a “union killing.” Phillips’s feeling- were never published, even though most reporters assigned to the Glockner case began to suspect within t few days that the role of the slain man in the anti-Provenzano movement had been exaggerated. Some tried unsuccessfully to alert their superiors, who had started linking the coverage of the murder with that of the extortion.
trial. Their apparent unconcern about putting Glockner, the murder, and the trial into perspective added weight to the brotherhood’s charge of mass conditioning. Weeks later Hoffa put it succinctly when he was asked if the press was still giving him trouble. “I never have any trouble with the working press,” he replied. —But these rewrite men and editors who never get out to see what’s happening well, I get hell from them all the way.”
The impact of the Glockner murder on the extortion trial was immediate. The defense asked for a mistrial. The prosecution renewed its request for a sequestered jury, which was granted. Provenzano now argues that the murder led to his conviction. Government sources close to the trial maintain that the murder forced the judge to approve the sequestering motion, thereby removing the jurors from outside “influences.” As for the possibility of the jury’s hearing about the slain Teamster, they point out that the sequestering¬ was under the export supervision of Deputy U.S. Marshal J. M. Jordan of Indiana, who was dispatched by Washington to New Jersey. Jordan had performed similar duty during Hoffa’s recent Nashville trial, which resulted in an indictment against the Teamster boss for jury tampering.
The jury’s decision to convict Provenzano was basically a choice between the word of Provenzano and that of trucking executive Walter Dorn. A nervous, reluctant witness, Dorn testified only after receiving a safe-conduct writ to enter New Jersey without fear of prosecution. He said he had given Provenzano $1,500 in 1952 to buy labor peace at a new trucking terminal and then made monthly payments of $200 for six and a half years to maintain it. He swore he gave the monthly payments to Michael Communale, then an assistant Hudson County prosecutor, a figure in the local Democratic Party, and a friend of Provenzano’s. Since the statute of limitations had run out on whatever happened in 1952, the jury had to decide whether Communale passed the money on to Provenzano. Communale, who was fired as assistant prosecutor after his appearance before the McClellan Committee in 1959, said he did not pass the money on to Provenzano. He claimed that the $200 monthly payment was a retainer for his legal services, which he conceded were limited. Pressed by the prosecution, Communale said that he had once checked “superficially” on whether a proposed trucking tax would be passed by the New Jersey legislature.
Provenzano denied receiving any money from either Communale or Dorn. His appearance as a witness may not have done him much good, although lie would be recognized immediately as an important man back on Monroe Street in the Lower East Side. His flashy silk suits are expensive, his linen immaculate. A diamond sparkles on the little finger of his manicured left hand. His short, squat body still boasts more muscle than fat. But his face, unless graced by a smile, can be a masterpiece of malevolence. His eyes are hooded by drooping lids, and his mouth often contorts into a sneer. During the trial lie had several arguments from the witness stand with his attorney, and spent the recesses regaling the press by giving daily odds on his acquittal. He obviously charmed the reporters more than the jurors. They believed Dorn.
Attorney General Kennedy, of course, had taken a personal interest in the case from the beginning. Dur¬ing the trial he called his attorneys frequently to learn how it was going. What was said then is not known, but Kennedy did telephone his warm congratulations when Provenzano was convicted. His praise was duly reported. However, it would be foolish to exaggerate either the importance of Provenzano to the Teamsters or the significance of his conviction in the Justice Department’s drive against Hoffa. To describe Tony Pro as the Number 2 man in the Teamsters, as United Press International did during the trial, is to seriously overestimate him. And to suggest that Provenzano’s downfall would be a prelude to Hoffa’s is to vastly underestimate Hoffa.
During its deliberations the jury did wonder aloud once about the absence of one Anthony Castellito, whose name appeared several times in Provenzano’s testimony. Both the prosecution and the defense agreed that he was not available. Castellito has not been available since the night t of June 5, 1161, when the popular secretary-treasurer left Local 560 headquarters am drove off in his brown Cadillac into the missing persons files. Few believe that either Castellito or the car will ever turn up again. Castellito, whose police record dates back to Prohibition, had also sought refuge behind the Fifth Amendment b -fore the McClellan Committee in 1959. The United Ticket’s George Phillips hints that Castellito vas numbered high among Provenzano’s intra-union opponents.
Pro and Cons
Even without Cassellito, whose son has become a standard bearer in the United Ticket move Went, Provenzano has formidable troubles within Local 560, which he has headed since 1958 and controlled since the death that August of John J. Conlin, founder and ruler of the local. Several months after Conlin’s death. Provenzano soundly defeated an insurgent election challenge, despite his “coincidental” Federal indictment for extorts in two weeks before the polls opened. The balloting was marked by violence, including shotgun blasts into the house where the insurgents were conducting an election-eve session. Provenzano’s opponents reorganized as the United Ticket .and spent the next three years marshaling their workers and arguments. With a little more than half the membership voting last December, Provenzano was re-elected by a majority of 577, hardly a reassuring vote of confidence for the leader of a Teamster local with one of the best contracts in the nation.
Local 560 truckers earn from S6,000 to $10,000 a year, depending on their particular job, the steadiness of the work, and the amount of overtime. Most average about $7,000 annually in the tractor-trailer and switchers classifications. Sick Teamsters draw $65 a week for a maxi¬mum of twelve months, and the medical and dental plans extend to their immediate families. A driver with twenty years’ service can retire at fifty-seven with a $200 monthly pension. Death benefits start at $5,000. (Mrs. Glockner received a double-indemnity payment of $10,000, since the union ruled that her husband’s death was accidental.) Other fringe benefits include free eyeglasses for members and full college scholarships each year to four children of Local 560 members.
Since individual Teamsters are usually more concerned about salaries, fringe benefits, and job protection than the character of their officers and agents, the growing infra-union opposition to Provenzano indicates more deep-seated problems. Whatever the excellence of its provisions, a labor contract is only as good as its enforcement. About four hundred terminals are covered by Local 560, and some Teamsters claim that their terminals haven’t been visited by a business agent in three years. Provenzano denies this, but it remains a source of rank-and-file friction. Perhaps the explanation of the discontent is to be found in the rather arbitrary way Provenzano manages his huge local, Provenzano’s whim often becomes Local 560 policy. And often his whim leans toward nepotism and the unsavory associations Robert Kennedy had in mind when he spoke of Provenzano’s “Underworld connections.” After his close re¬election last December, Provenzano allowed the local—or at least the several hundred members who attended the meeting—to vote him a pay increase from $19,500 to $14,500. (He draws an additional $18,000 a year from his other Teamster posts.) But apparently a stronger gesture of confidence was needed. Several weeks later he was voted another $50,000 annually, which brought his total remuneration to $112,500, more than Hoffa’s or even that of the Attorney General’s elder brother. Provenzano then hired his brother Nunzio and a Salvatore Brugiglio as business agents at $18,500. Both have been convicted of arranging a “sweetheart” contract for a New York City employer. Another Provenzano brother, Salvatore, is also one of Local 560’s business agents.
Provenzano rejected the $50,000 raise at first and said lie had not made up his mind on the $25,000 one. Now lie says that lie has not rejected either, an indication that his personal legal expenses have been heavy. Moreover, the cost of defending the local against the legal actions brought by the United Ticket and the Federal government under the Landrum-Griffin Act has exceeded $300,000 since 1960 and threatens to spiral more as the pressure increases. With the addition of the lucrative salaries of the local’s officers and numerous agents (which the United Ticket’s opponents state are a greater incentive to the United Ticket leaders than the cause of clean unionism), the local’s fiscal situation is rapidly nearing the point where Provenzano may be forced to increase the $5 monthly dues substantially. Since the Landrum-Griffin Act requires a secret ballot on any revision of dues, this could be a moment of ultimate peril for Provenzano, not only in Local 560 but in his relations with the head of the Teamsters.
The Limits of Friendship
Hoffa has always been a good friend of Provenzano’s. It is said by some—but denied by Provenzano — that the friendship ripened in the days when Hoffa was making his bid to take control of the 1.4-million-member International Brotherhood. He enjoyed the support of both the Mid¬western and Western Conferences but not that of the Eastern, which is the largest. Provenzano, though a relatively unknown business agent at the time had valuable contacts in the Eastern Conference. He reportedly introduced Hoffa to some of its leaders, including one who controlled a ream of “paper locals” in New York City. Paper locals are important in Teamster politics because they vote as unit, without concern for the reactions of their members, if any.
The accuracy if this description of the beginning of the Hoffa-Provenzano friendship is not too important. By 1960, then were close friends. It was then that he ill-fated Board of Monitors, whit] was put in charge of the Teamsters following the 1959 revelations, ordered Hoffa to purge Provenzano and two others from Teamster officialdom. Hoffa replied by promoting Provenzano to an international vice-presidency. But increased opposition to Provenzano over financial problems and charges of mismanagement might strain this friendship.
An episode in Philadelphia this spring cannot be of much comfort to Provenzano. Raymond J. Cohen, an international trustee, was the boss of Philadelphia’s big Teamsters Local 107 until charges of mismanagement resulted in a serious movement to pull the local out of the Teamsters altogether. The rebel Voice of the Teamsters, a group backed by several AFL-CIO unions, proved a formidable threat. Hoffa quickly threw himself into the Philadelphia contest, and it was he, not Cohen, who succeeded in beating down the revolt. Then, while offering amnesty to Teamster rebels who might see the error of their ways, Hoffa cut Cohen’s salary and effected some instant reforms within the local’s administration. At the moment of victory, Cohen received no medal Instead he was virtually cashiered.
The Cohen incident seems to con¬tradict the post-trial predictions that Provenzano’s fall from power would, as the Ne-w York Times put it, “be a major setback” for Hoffa. Indeed. Hoffa might find the Local 560 situation easier to deal with. The United Ticket, which finds its Unity in its Opposition to Provenzano, entertains no such radical ideas as did the Voice group. There is even evidence that some of the insurgents have made informal attempts at a rapprochement with the international. The departure of Tony Provenzano might not make as much difference to the truckers of New Jersey as some of the more enthusiastic editorial writers have optimistically predicted.
Hoffa reported y rejected the insurgents’ offer. But negotiations can always be reopened if the local’s deficit spending, as indicated by financial reports filed with the Labor Department, forces Hoffa into immediate direct action. Many do not believe that Hoffa would risk disapproval of other large locals’ leaders by partitioning Provenzano’s barony. However, such a move might also serve as a warning to others to avoid hazards like those which snared Provenzano. At any rate, the Attorney General would surely be mistaken to overestimate either Hoffa’s loyalty to his old friends or his dependence on them.
On the other hand, many months of legal appeals still separate Provenzano from a Federal prison cell. And he is confident that the local’s attorney, David Friedland, will succeed in turning back the Labor Department’s assault on the December election and simultaneously compel the government to reveal the extent and cost of its investigation of Local 560. Provenzano, whose rapid rise in the Teamster hierarchy paralleled Hoffa’s, denies vehemently that his boss had anything to do with his local election or has any say in its current opposition. This is less than accurate. A local Teamster leader without a friend in the international’s hierarchy is highly vulnerable. He might, say, find himself cut off from the brotherhood’s financial largesse, such as the huge political slush-fund grants that do not have to be accounted for. Or he might
I-find a petition submitted to the international by some of his own members, asking that his local be split up into smaller units. Should this happen, then Local 84, the five-hundred-man unit Provenzano reactivated last year during the United Ticket up¬rising as a possible refuge, could be¬come his Elba.
Hoffa must have the support of a strong, united international if he is to withstand the onslaughts of Robert Kennedy. He will do what is necessary in order to survive, and any¬one from the Lower East Side knows that it is sometimes necessary for a friend to get rough when the organization is threatened. Provenzano understands full well the dangers of becoming expendable.