Irving M. (Blackie) Horowitz was born in Brooklyn around 1906.
He was a very sharp and intelligent young man who gravitated to the labor movement early on in his underworld career. But he was also astute enough to understand the importance of making friends in high places, both in the underworld and the upperworld.
This understanding of how things worked led him to forge lifelong ties to both the most powerful mafia network in New York, the Vito Genovese crime family, and to strengthen his connections and alliances with important Brooklyn political clubs and, by extension, powerful local politicians.
By the early 1950s, Irving Horowitz, or “Blackie” as he liked his underworld friends to call him, had become one of the most influential labor union leaders in all of Brooklyn and, for that matter, in all of New York City.
Continue reading to learn more about Brooklyn’s unknown labor racketeer – Irving “Blackie” Horowitz.
The Power of Blackie Horowitz
Irving Horowitz’s power stemmed from his appointment to the position of “International President” for a labor union known as the International Production, Service, and Sales Employees Union (Independent) (IPSSEU.)
The International Union was actually comprised of five smaller union locals which were listed as Locals #422, 222, 517, 719, and 815. These five locals all operated out of a single suite of offices located at 100 Livingston Street in Brooklyn.
Each of these locals was a powerful union entity in its own right.
But collectively, at the height of their membership expansion, they held a near stranglehold over 400 small plants and factories in various industries in New York and New Jersey.
They gained this control through bargaining contracts signed between these businesses and the union.
After workers and employees of those companies signed union cards, it allowed the IPSSEU to represent them in labor negotiations with their employers.
Collectively, by 1965, these five unions were said to collect more than $500,000 in union dues each year from about 12,000 workers in New York City’s five boroughs, Long Island, and Northern New Jersey.
By the early 1970s, the ISSSEU had grown to represent over 20,000 dues-paying members strong.
So, it made the union a powerhouse within the labor movement and had become a huge moneymaker for the Mafia.
The Mafia’s Huge Moneymaker
Investigators connected with the Office of the Federal Department of Labor Racketeering reported that key among its union leadership were well-known hoodlums and top Cosa Nostra figures.
- Horowitz – Named as being active in gambling and shylocking operations as well as various labor racket schemes.
- Frank (Frankie Stutz) Tortorici – The brother of notorious Genovese soldier Joseph (Joe Stutz) Tortorici. Frankie Stutz served as the union’s secretary-treasurer.
- Robert Rao – The son of another top mafioso named Joseph (Tough Joey) Rao. Tough Joey was said to once control East Harlem for the Genovese family. Robert Rao served as administrator of their welfare fund which, by 1967, had over $5,000,000 in its union treasury
- Frank (Frankie Beef) Fiorello – An ex-convict who served prison time for robbery twice. He served in the capacity of union secretary and “assistant to the president.”
These men had a real good thing going for themselves. By law, all salaries and other compensation such as benefits paid to union officials had to be registered with the Labor Department.
In 1965, the following salaries were being paid annually:
- Horowitz – received a total of $51,990
- Frank Tortorici – $25,100 in salary
- Robert Rao – $18,200 in salary
- Frank Fiorello – $12,555
Other key union officials all received in the vicinity of $17,000 to $18,000 annually. These were all considered huge salaries for that 1960s time period.
A Brooklyn Community Leader
Despite his suspected underworld connections and murky ties to known mafiosi, for many years, Irving Horowitz was regarded by Brooklyn’s business and political community as a very respected member of the community.
Through the years, Horowitz served as a recognized Brooklyn community leader and a key member of several Democratic Political Clubs that held sway with local politicians vying for votes.
By the mid-1950s, Horowitz was said to have virtually “taken over” the Democratic Party machine active in the 2nd A.D. around the Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach sections of Kings County.
This also served to give Blackie an inside track with influential politicians in both the Democratic and Republican Parties and made him a very popular guy around town.
And, for years, it seemed that his power and influence only grew daily. That’s not to say that Horowitz’s shadier union activities were going unnoticed.
The Shadier Side
In November of 1965, 17 workers at Asher Brothers, Inc., a small Long Island candy factory based in New Hyde Park, successfully rid themselves of Local #222 after they made a formal complaint to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Citing corruption and collusion between the union and the company in what they described as “favoring” company management as opposed to looking out for their interests as dues-paying union members, they demanded the NLRB look into the matter.
After a much-publicized and contested investigation into the labor contract signed between Local 222 and the company, federal investigators agreed that, in fact, the contract amounted to nothing more than a “sweetheart contract.”
This “sweetheart contract” provided little in the way of benefits to the workers thus allowing the Asher Brothers Inc. to pay very little toward their employees’ pension and welfare fund.
It was highly suspected that bribe payments were being made under the table to top union officials to allow this to happen.
Blackie in the Spotlight
By the late 1960s, and early 1970s, our boy “Blackie” was coming under increased scrutiny and pressure from the feds.
The U.S. Senate Labor Racketeering Committee that had been empaneled to investigate labor union impropriety had been focusing on Horowitz’s union among many others and the heat of law enforcement was on him.
Investigators had already been probing his corrupt control over the International Production Workers Union for several years already.
Then in February 1973, the other shoe dropped.
Irving Horowitz was among a gaggle of labor union officials, labor racketeers, and known hoodlums to get indicted in a wide-ranging 165-count indictment for labor racketeering.
Also charged in the case were several important political figures.
The feds indicted a total of 30 defendants in the massive labor rackets and official public-corruption scandal. It included a former judge and the chief clerk for the Brooklyn Criminal Court as well as 28 top union officials and mob figures.
They were charged with embezzling $50,000 to $100,000 in union funds that were siphoned from union trust fund coffers and spent on lavish union conventions and luxury trips.
Among those charged by the Federal Grand Jury in Brooklyn’s Eastern District and the related criminal counts they faced included retired Acting NYS Supreme Court Justice David L. Malbin (7 criminal counts), and the chief clerk of the Criminal Term of Brooklyn Supreme Court, Joseph E. Parisi (9 counts).
The investigation took over one year to complete and was a collaborative effort of the FBI, Strike Force Investigators, and IRS Agents.
Padding the Trips
At the time of the indictments, Special U.S. Attorney James Druker of the Organized Crime Strike Force in Brooklyn said officials of the International Production, Service and Sales Employees Union conspired to “pad” convention expenses, provide junkets for the judge and the court clerk, and falsified statements in required expenditure reports filed with the Department of Labor.
Malbin was specifically charged with attending the union’s 1968 convention held in Miami Beach with Joe Parisi and their wives.
The party of about 18 conventioneers and their wives reportedly ran up nightclub tabs of $1,800 for each of five evenings on the town with the money coming from the union’s pension and welfare funds, Druker said.
Parisi was charged with taking all-expense-paid “junket” trips to conventions held in Miami to the Concord Hotel in Upstate New York and to Hawaii between 1968 and 1970.
He was specifically charged with “aiding and abetting” and criminal conspiracy.
At the time of his indictment, Parisi was serving as the Republican District Leader in the Bensonhurst and Borough Park sections of Kings County. In addition, Parisi also once served a term in the State Senate in 1944.
The “President” Indicted
Named in 32-counts of the same indictment was our boy Irving (Blackie) Horowitz who at the time of his arrest was the $75,000 a year president and titular head of the International Union.
The union, with 20,000 “dues-paying” members at that point in time. was headquartered at 100 Livingston Street in Brooklyn.
Its members represented workers in nearly 400 “shops” as businesses under union-contract are generally referred to in the union trade, mostly among metal-packing companies.
Among dozens of others indicted in the case were a mixture of Italian and Jewish mobsters, mobbed-up lawyers, corrupt union leaders, and crooked businessmen.
- Frank (Frankie Beef) Fiorello
- Robert (Bobby) Rao
- Rao’s brother Charles
- Howard Silverman
- Lawyer Ronald Staci, who was the son of old-time Genovese soldier Joseph (Joe Stretch) Stracci
- Benjamin Ladmer
- Warren Salvaggi
- Robert Wise
- Arthur Wise
- James Matienzo
- Jack Grey
- Candido Rodriguez
- Donald Warren
- Sergio Diaz Jr.
- Philip Goldstein
- Irwin Garten
- Albert (Al) Goldman
- Saul Postman
- Marvin Goldman
- Joseph (Joe D) DeSimone
- Anthony Raneri
- Michael Magro
- Charles Haydon
- Newton Grant
- Harry Perlman
- Herbert Glick
- Michael La Salle
After the mid-1970s, no more was ever publicly heard from Horowitz. And there was no available final disposition of this 1973 federal racketeering case.
By that time, Blackie was already pushing close to seventy-years old anyway.
Blackie’s extremely common first name of Irving and last name of Horowitz made it almost virtually impossible to track down his later movements or any final dispositions proof positive.
If he was convicted of the charges against him, then I imagine he was removed from his union post and possibly served some jail time.
If he was acquitted in the case, then he probably went into retirement, relinquishing his union post anyway. It was time.
Maybe he decided to move down to Miami Beach and take it easy as so many others of his fellow hoodlum brethren had done.
Either way, the wily and shrewd Irving (Blackie) Horowitz will go down in the annals of organized labor – and organized crime – as one of the savvier of their bunch!
Until next time…”The Other Guy”