The only time that Vincent (Chin) Gigante and John Gotti ever talked business as rival Mafia bosses, Chin made sure to tell Gotti how surprised and saddened he was to learn that the Dapper Don was going to induct his son into the Gambino crime family.
Twenty-two years later, it's clear that while Gigante frowned on bringing his sons into "the life" that he and Gotti had chosen, the legendary Genovese family boss made sure that his sons and his entire extended family would share in the riches of his gangster life long after he was gone.
So, as John (Junior) Gotti tries to sell his life story in an effort to maintain his lifestyle, Gigante's relatives are earning about $2 million a year as gainful employees of companies on the New Jersey waterfront, Gang Land discloses in this special report.
Led by Gigante's son-in-law Joseph Colonna and his nephew Ralph Gigante - they each "earn" $400,000 a year as shop stewards - there are 11 members of the Gigante family currently working for New Jersey waterfront companies at annual salaries that average about $175,000.
In addition, nine other Gigante family members, including four of the late Mafia chieftain's grandsons, his sons Andrew and Salvatore, as well as a brother-in-law, have earned good livings over the years as card carrying members of Local 1804 of the International Longshoremen's Association, according to recent fact-finding hearings conducted by the Waterfront Commission.
The poster boy for the working family legacy of Chin Gigante - and the main witness at a Commission hearing last month - is Ralph Gigante, a 55-year-old Gigante nephew who earned about $400,000 last year. In his testimony before the commission on October 21, Gigante did his best to be honest and forthcoming: He acknowledged that he expects to earn a bit more this year because he recently received a $3-an-hour raise.
For your ordinary worker, this would shake out as an annual boost of $6,240 in gross income.
But for Ralph Gigante, who is anything but your average worker, the $3 hourly raise alone shakes out to be an annual increase of about $34,000.
That's because, with very few exceptions, his company, Port Newark Maintenance and Repair, pays Gigante as if he works 24/7 at the Port Newark Container Terminal. That's 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether he's on the pier, or watching a ballgame on TV, or taking in a movie, or asleep in his bed, he's on the clock. It breaks down this way: Eight hours is figured at "straight time," 13 hours is paid at the usual time-and-a-half overtime rate, and three hours a day is computed at "double time."
Gigante's usual weekly salary comes to a nice round $7,738.50. This is based on an hourly rate of $33, using of course, the aforementioned overtime rates that PNMR has been paying him since he was elected by acclamation for the shop steward's position back in 1995.
Gigante, who has never been arrested, didn't run away from his wiseguy relations under questioning by Waterfront Commission Executive Director Walter Arsenault. During the shop steward's testimony, he identified Chin Gigante, his brother Mario, as well as his late father, also named Ralph, as reputed Genovese mobsters who hung out at the Triangle Social Club, in the same Greenwich Village neighborhood where he grew up.
His own work history began when Gigante began working on the docks in 1980. He testified that in 1995 he decided to run for the position as PNMR shop steward after his cousin Andrew, who would plead guilty to waterfront racketeering along with his Mafia boss father in 2003, gave up the high-paying job.
According to most Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs), the shop steward's role is to make sure that the dues paying union members are treated fairly by their employer. But Gigante described his role as a "liaison" between the workers and their bosses.
"I represent both the company and the men," he said under questioning by Commissioner Ronald Goldstock. "I go in between. They come to me, or my men will come to me" with problems. "If the company doesn't make money, we got to lay people off. So I try to make it where everybody's as happy as possible to get things done."
He has no duties other than his role as shop steward, and justified being on the clock "as long as my guys are working" because he sometimes gets called at night to "talk to the guys" and tell them that "we'd have to get more work done" even though some equipment was down.
He testified that he was unaware that his status as a shop steward with no other duties and his ability to earn "double time while sleeping" were at variance with the CBA that prohibited "preferential treatment" for him.
"Do I go and read the whole collective bargaining agreement word for word, no, I have not read it word for word," Gigante said at one point.
During his 15 years as a shop steward, he has filed one grievance against the company. But he disagreed strongly with the notion that he was a "dream shop steward" who did nothing for his men. "We do have our battles, but we get them settled. And if I can't settle them, it goes to the delegate and the delegate gets it done either one way or the other."
Gerald Krovatin, a Newark attorney who represented Gigante at the session, declined to answer any questions about his client's embarrassing record on grievances and his lack of knowledge about the provisions of Local 1804's CBA with PNMR, telling Gang Land only that Gigante "cooperated fully with the Waterfront Commission."
During his testimony, Gigante identified many family members as Local 1804 members currently working for other Garden State waterfront firms.
"So the port has been pretty good to the extended Gigante family, hasn't it," asked Waterfront Commission counsel Eric Fields.
"Unions are always good for family," said Gigante. "It's not only the waterfront union. It's also the construction union. If you look at the police unions, they have a lot of people that follow in that position too... Firemen do the same thing."