A Chicago labor leader who provided early and pivotal support to Rahm Emanuel in the 2011 mayoral campaign has been indicted for an attempted extortion scheme.
A federal grand jury has accused John T. Coli Sr. of threatening a local business if it didn’t pay him $25,000 in cash quarterly, according to an indictment filed Wednesday.
That business, which was not identified in the indictment, is the Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation. A Cinespace spokesman declined to comment.
Coli, 57, is charged with one count of attempted extortion and five counts of demanding and accepting a prohibited payment as a union official.
He could not immediately be reached for comment.
The attempted extortion allegedly took place between October and April, while Coli served as president of Teamsters Joint Council 25 and secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 727.
Gov. Bruce Rauner tapped Coli in 2015 to join the state’s Labor Advisory Board.
Coli allegedly accepted a $25,000 cash payment on July 7, 2016, two payments totaling $25,000 on Oct. 4, 2016 and Nov. 29, 2016, and $25,000 in cash payments on Dec. 22, 2016, and April 4.
The indictment notes that Teamsters Local Union 727 represented employees of a business affiliated with Cinespace.
Coli previously served as international vice president of the central region of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
On Wednesday, the mayor’s office had no comment on Coli’s indictment — though privately, they argued that Coli has been far closer to Gov. Bruce Rauner in recent years than he has been to Emanuel.
Coli’s support was instrumental in helping the mayor deliver two rounds of cost-saving work-rule changes that altered the economic landscape at McCormick Place. The changes that Emanuel and then-Gov. Pat Quinn brokered with the Teamsters and Carpenters unions allowed the McPier Authority to create an “exhibitors bill of rights” that lets show managers and exhibitors set up their own booths with simple tools.
At the time, Coli said said his members “gave ’til it hurt” after receiving a guarantee that labor savings are passed on to exhibitors and not used to pad profits for show managers.
Coli recently announced his retirement from the union in a memo to his fellow members.
“After more than 46 years of membership and service to my fellow Teamsters, it’s time to begin the next chapter. Above all, that includes spending time with my family, my loving wife of 35 years and my two beautiful grandkids,” Coli wrote in his memo.
“While I’m so looking forward to quiet nights at home and big family dinners, I will spend my days honored and forever grateful to this union, for its bedrock principles of equality and justice, and for the chance I had for nearly five decades to fight as hard as I could for Teamsters everywhere.”
In the same memo, the Teamsters Joint Council 25 announced the selection of its first woman president in the organization’s 106-year history — Becky Strzechowski.