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A Sopranos question
July 7, 2009 7:23 AM   Subscribe

I was watching my old Sopranos DVDs last night and a question came up. When Tony's crew show up at a construction site and just sit around in lawn chairs eating donuts...what the the heck are they really doing and why?
posted by punkfloyd to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Getting w2 income with bennies
posted by jeb at 7:24 AM on July 7, 2009


"Featherbedding".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:31 AM on July 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


While they are benefiting from featherbedding, i think they specifically do it to get the W-2 income. Scroll down to the "dummy payrolls" section of this page. Also, remember that one Sopranos with this quote:
Tony Soprano: Is he f**kin' kiddin' me?! I told them I need that W-2 in perpetuity...and 5 percent o' the f**kin' sale price?! He thinks 'cause I'm in this weakened condition, he can take advantage. Well, he can go f**k himself!

Paulie Walnuts: I'm just tellin' you what Phil told me, Ton'.

Tony Soprano: You tell Jason before he sells, he better understand his obligation!
posted by jeb at 7:47 AM on July 7, 2009


On the show, the crime families had the construction contracts for the development of the Palisades (or whatever that area was called). In addition to stealing materials from job sites, the families got a certain number of no-work jobs.

This means that the lackeys from the families who were awarded the no-work jobs could sit around and shoot the breeze (and in some cases, engage in homosexual relations).

I'm not from the Northeast, so I'm not sure how prevalent this is, but I imagine in any unionized job site, the Mob can set these sorts of things up.
posted by reenum at 7:59 AM on July 7, 2009


They call them "no work" jobs. Those guys get paid well for "working" on specific contract jobs, but they don't have to actually do any work. If an inspector shows up to check on immigration status or labor issues, it just looks like they are taking a break.
posted by mattbucher at 8:02 AM on July 7, 2009


I'm not from the Northeast, so I'm not sure how prevalent this is

Practically my whole family is in the involved in the construction business, and I'm from the part of NJ where the Sopranos takes place. Its super prevalent. It used to drive my father crazy. It also seems to be more common with certain trades (e.g. pavers) and less with others (e.g. framers). I don't know why.

I think the diff in real life though, and that's frequently glossed over in the Sopranos, is how there's a wide continuum between Soprano-level outlaw and completely straight arrow. Like I bet a huge number of these people get no-work jobs get them because like their brother-in-law calls them up and says, "hey, I got a line on a job for you..." and they don't actually know the whole chain of corruption and crime that leads the government to award a mafiosi-connected paving contractor to be awarded the contract to pave the access road that no one needs next to the highway. And then someone says, "hey, while you are sitting here, you want to start running the number for us?" which also seems harmless from their seat.
posted by jeb at 8:15 AM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the great answers. Union activity is relatively low here in Texas. I'm sure no corrupt stuff goes on like that when they are building megachurches and football stadiums! **cough, cough**
posted by punkfloyd at 8:25 AM on July 7, 2009


I imagine in any unionized job site, the Mob can set these sorts of things up.

I haven't ever watched The Sopranos, but I'm not sure why a unionized job site specifically would allow this type of graft.
posted by elmer benson at 8:26 AM on July 7, 2009


I haven't ever watched The Sopranos, but I'm not sure why a unionized job site specifically would allow this type of graft.

Say you are the GC, you have a non-union sub, that sub has three guys who are just sitting around all day. You say, "hey sub, I'm not paying you for those three guys." Those guys are gone. Sub's probably gone too. Now say you are GC, you have a union sub, and there are three guys who are just sitting around all day. You say you aren't paying them, foreman of the sub says, "Union rules, you have to have an oiler for that machine on site all day, its in the union contract." Its not that it would be impossible to do in the former case, its just that it would require substantially more coercion.
posted by jeb at 8:35 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, organized crime and organized labor have a long and storied history in this part of the country. I'd bet this is more likely to happen in certain types of union shops then in non-union simply because organized crime already has deep ties into those locals. I'm not trying to drag down every union here or the whole concept of organized labor, just pointing out a well-studied connection.
posted by jeb at 8:39 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's also worth noting that construction is a place where a lot of crap can go on for perfectly innocent reasons. If you're paid by the hour and you find yourself standing around waiting for the lumber yard to deliver the stuff that was supposed to be there at 8:00 this morning, who cares? If you're paid by the job, you're livid.

If you ask me why I'm sitting there doing nothing and I say I'm waiting for something, how are you going to know if it's true or not? If I were looking for some no work jobs for my henchmen there are definite job types to go after.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:59 AM on July 7, 2009


"Union rules, you have to have an oiler for that machine on site all day, its in the union contract."

"...And if you boot them, we all walk."
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:27 PM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why a unionized job site specifically would allow this type of graft.

*spit take*

For years, the Chicago Outfit has earned staggering profits through its influence over-and in some cases control of-labor unions. According to the Chicago Crime Commission's 1997 report used by law enforcement worldwide to identify the power structure and current health of the Outfit labor racketeering continues to provide vast windfalls of money and power, even as the government muscles out the mobsters and attempts to cleanse the system. By putting its associates in powerful positions within labor unions, the Chicago Crime Commission says, the Outfit is able to gain control of pension funds, misappropriate dues, anoint cronies, dole out cushy jobs and benefits, and engage in other nefarious activities that effectively impose a "Mob tax" on U.S. consumers.

The issue was raised dramatically in 1999, when the Laborers' International Union of North America joined the Justice Department in a lawsuit to force a takeover of its own local.

The lawsuit alleged that the Chicago Laborers' District Council-a collection of 21 union locals with 19,000 workers (mostly in construction) and $1.5 billion in assets-had been systematically controlled by the Outfit since the organization's inception. The court instituted a monitoring system of the union, which is still in effect.

posted by dhartung at 11:02 PM on July 7, 2009


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