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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 9 Jan 98 09:00:40 CST
From: rich%pencil@YaleVM.CIS.Yale.Edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: U.S. Government Hands Off Teamsters
Article: 25157

/** headlines: 131.0 **/
** Topic: U.S. Government Hands Off Teamsters **
** Written 12:01 PM Jan 8, 1998 by labornet in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 10:10 PM Jan 5, 1998 by theorganizer@igc.org in labr.teamster */
/* ---------- "The Organizer articles (Hands Off T" ---------- */

U.S. Government Hands off Teamsters

By Scott Cooper, in The Organizer
5 January 1998

The U.S. government has opened a full-scale assault on organized labor, beginning with the Teamsters union and now headed for the AFL-CIO.

On Nov. 17, a court-appointed monitor, retired judge Kenneth Conboy, disqualified Teamsters President Ron Carey from a rerun election that had been ordered after the government uncovered a fundraising scheme involving the Democratic Party and Citizens Action, a lobbying group. The disqualification left James P. Hoffa on the ballot. Carey had won reelection over Hoffa Jr. last year by a slim margin of victory.

This decision strips the Teamster rank-and-file of their right to choose the union candidates of their choice. If allowed to stand, moreover, Conboy's decision would pave the way for the so-called Independent Review Board -- a government board that sits over the Teamsters union -- to strip Carey of his union membership. It would also serve as a precedent for the government to intervene directly in to the finances and internal affairs of the AFL-CIO itself.

This latest assault is a direct response to the victorious Teamsters strike against United Parcel Service -- a strike led by Ron Carey and actively supported by the AFL-CIO leadership. No doubt the AFL-CIO's role in helping defeat fast-track trading authority is also a factor pushing the government to embark upon this witchhunt of the labor movement.

The Teamsters' situation

The New York Times (Nov. 18) underscored the impact of the government decision to rule Carey off the ballot: "Conboy's decision sent shock waves through the union movement because Carey, a former United Parcel Service driver from New York City, has long been considered one of labor's leading crusaders against corruption. He was first elected to lead the Teamsters in 1991 on a platform of rooting out mob influence, and as president, he has repeatedly slashed lavish perks and ousted officials close to the Mafia."

Shock waves, indeed! That is the very point of these attacks on the union movement. The government hopes to deal a deadly blow to the independence of unions, and send a clear message to leaders that they had better get back on board with "business unionism as usual" -- or else face being put under direct government control.

"Conboy also found that several other labor leaders, including Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer, and Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, had improperly raised money for Carey," the Times continued. "By citing these leaders and by disqualifying Carey, the decision is a stinging setback to a group of liberal labor leaders wh o are close to Sweeney and behind the labor movement's efforts to revive itself."

The stakes were upped on November 24, when the government took nearly complete control over the Teamsters' finances and internal affairs. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York appointed Marvin M. Levy a so-called "Independent Financial Auditor" for the union. Levy hails from KPMG Peat Marwick, an accounting and consulting firm. Before that, he was as a senior analyst for the FBI. Levy will have full authority over all Teamsters financial transactions other than "routine expenditures" (such as salaries). This auditor also is now responsible for all contracts other than collective-bargaining agreements, and will approve Teamsters activities--including hiring and even organizing campaigns. He joins William Webster, former CIA and FBI director, who heads the government's "Independent Review Board."

Ron Carey approved this step before announcing, on November 25, that he would be taking a "temporary, unpaid leave of absence, effective immediately."

Why the bosses are furious

Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) held a national convention in late November. The Carey situation was at the center of the discussions. TDU, founded by rank-and-filers in Cleveland in 1976, was the major force for reform during the Teamsters union's darkest undemocratic days. TDU involved rank-and-filers in a national network, one that was well established by the time Carey got his chance to run for the union's presidency.

The New York Times, covering the gathering, reported: "Many Teamsters here argued with utmost sincerity that Carey was being railroaded ... to punish him for trouncing corporate America in the UPS strike. They said it was no coincidence that just four days after Carey won an impressive contract with UPS, his victory over Hoffa was overturned, and just days after the Teamsters and other unions defeated President Clinton's [fast-track] trade bill, Carey was disqualified." (Nov. 24)

We couldn't agree more. It is no coincidence. Ron Carey has played a key role in major battles against the employer class. There's lots of evidence of "illegalities" in Hoffa's own fundraising, but he hasn't been disqualified.

It can be stated unequivocally: the government's moves against Carey are because of his leadership of militant union activities, not because of alleged "corruption" in the Teamsters union.

Just take a look back at the bosses' response to the UPS victory. We reported extensively on this in The Organizer (Sept. 1997). It's worth repeating one reaction, in a New York Times op-ed piece--titled "Worker Backlash"--by Stephen S. Roach, chief economist and director of global economics for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter:

"[G]one are the days of a docile American labor force that once acquiesced to slash-and-burn corporate restructuring."

The massive public support for the UPS strikers is testimony to the change that has begun.

Remember the night of the UPS settlement? Carey spoke to reporters and declared it a victory for all working people in this country. Further, he declared his support for a new economic agenda that puts human needs before profits. And when it came time to battle Clinton in the Congress over fast track, Carey put the Teamsters at the center of the struggle. The union's website was loaded with resour ces for activists to put to use -- only one small part of the Teamsters' commitment to ensuring the bill didn't pass.

Anyone who suggests Carey isn't being punished for the stands he has taken, and for the battles he has waged, is living in a dream world. Keep in mind, the Independent Review Board, after an extensive investigation in 1995, had cleared Carey of every charge of Mafia connections, every charge of corruption.

Now the bosses are bound and determined to break the fighting spirit of Teamsters rank-and-filers, using Carey as their bludgeon. They're even trying to bankrupt the union by forcing a rerun election that is expected to deplete the union's treasury by an estimated $7.4 million, money better used for organizing and strike funds. Similarly, the ruling class is intent on punishing the AFL-CIO, which aided the Teamsters strike against UPS with major financial backing and also waged the battle against fast track.

Government intervention through the Consent Decree

Direct government intervention in the Teamsters union began with the 1989 Consent Decree, which resulted from the Justice Department's effort to apply anti-racketeering statutes to the labor movement.

This intervention was used by the reform movement to win control of the union, curtail much of the mob involvement in the Teamsters, and introduce a far greater degree of rank-and-file democracy.

But the government's goal was not to introduce democracy. Rather, it wanted stability and traditional "business unionism" in the Teamsters to preempt a growing rank-and-file revolt, largely led by Teamsters for a Democratic Union. TDU then fought for free elections as part of its own agreement to the Consent Decree.

The government took a gamble. The intervention would obviously lead to a new leadership, but the government was banking on that leadership embracing the same business unionism the bosses have come to expect from the U.S. labor movement. But, as the UPS strike demonstrated, Carey wasn't about to play by these rules.

Today, the Consent Decree has become a weapon against the Teamsters and the entire union movement. It is the means by which the government is forcing this undemocratic rerun of the election, and it is the means by which the government is denying Teamsters rank-and-filers the right to vote for the candidate of their choice. Further, government intervention has disoriented the reformers themselves. Witness the fact that Carey okayed the appointment of Levy, and that Carey supporters are calling on the government to investigate Hoffa, demanding that he too be disqualified from running for the Teamsters' top office. That gives the government the right to decide who the union's candidates for office should be.

And when the Teamsters executive board, comprised primarily of Carey supporters and reformers, was asked by the government's Independent Review Board to file internal charges against Carey, the board referred it back to the IRB rather than take a stand in defense of union democracy.

This reliance on the government has got to stop. Teamsters need to stand up to the government, not look for ways to get "off the hot seat," as the Cleveland Plain Dealer described the executive board's decision (Dec. 4). As that paper continued, the decision "also puts the matter in the hands of a trio of overseers known for stiff penalties, raising the possibility that a man widely credited for major union reforms could be expelled from the Teamsters."

An internal affair

In the aftermath of the government's decision to rule Carey off the ballot, a heated debate has broken out among Carey supporters over Carey's alleged role in the fundraising affair. Articles in Labor Notes, The Nation and In These Times -- all of which at first backed Carey -- have accepted the government's premise that Carey is guilty of illegal fundraising. They all claim Carey is at least partially responsible for this situation.

According to arguments made in these publications, Carey -- who was fighting an extraordinarily difficult election battle against Hoffa Jr. and the "Old Guard" -- made a fatal error in his campaign by deciding to cast his lot with outside consultants linked to pro-Democratic Party lobbying groups. Hoffa Jr. had promised to spend "what it takes" to get elected. And he spent a fortune--some $4 million. Carey, seeking to match Hoffa's fundraising abilities (undoubtedly aided by the bosses themselves, and especially by operatives for the Republican Party) dollar for dollar, failed to put his faith in the union's rank-and-file members for financial and political support, relying instead on these outside consultants.

These publications claim that Carey's choice flowed from more than just the need for campaign money in the abstract. He had another objective: to break his reliance on TDU. From the beginning of last year's campaign, he apparently snubbed several leading TDUers in favor of others for his national slate -- some with stronger ties to the Old Guard than rank-and-filers could stomach. This is one explanation for the closeness of the race.

Carey, however, denies authorizing the use of $735,000 of the union's own money to help fund his campaign against Hoffa Jr. He and his attorneys have prepared a 133-page rebuttal of the government's decision in which they refute all charges of "illegal fundraising, knowledge or approval thereof."

Carey also points out that the entire government case against him rests primarily upon the uncorroborated testimony of a tainted witness, Jere Nash, who lined his own pockets with Carey campaign contributions, faces 10 years in prison, and is now seeking a trade for leniency from the government.

It is also necessary to emphasize that Carey was denied his due-process rights to a hearing, a trial, and an opportunity to confront his accusers.

But the main point is that the issue of Carey's alleged wrongdoing in campaign fundraising is for the rank-and-file of the Teamsters union to discuss and decide -- and no one else.

The ranks of the Teamsters showed their ability to take matters into their own hands when they took on and defeated UPS in one of the most resounding union victories in decades. They have the capacity to resolve whatever problems may exist in their own union. For this, the union has its own internal structures, oversight committees, and ultimately elections.

The U.S. government and the twin parties of Big Business have no business meddling in the internal affairs of the Teamsters union. It is not their purview. They don't belong inside the union. They have no right to keep Carey off the ballot. This decision is as undemocratic as they come and must be combated by all union members and labor supporters.

How to fight back

What is most important in this situation is the continued independence of the unions themselves, and their ability to fight on behalf of workers. This is a class issue. It's up to rank-and-file Teamsters to decide who will lead the union, and it's imperative that the union do its own housecleaning -- including of Hoffa Jr. and his mob-related supporters--and get out of the business of reliance on the government. To do otherwise is to legitimize the role of the government in the union, and ultimately of the bosses the government serves. It means giving up the union's independence, and subverting its purpose.

With the heightened attacks on the labor movement, a strong, unified response is called for -- one led by the AFL-CIO (which thus far has remained dangerously silent on the matter) and seeking to involve every working person in this country, whether or not in a union. After all, these attacks are aimed at the ability of working people to defend their interests through their own independent organizations. The stakes are very high.

The AFL-CIO leadership, the Teamsters union, TDU, and others need to lead a vigorous campaign to defend the Teamsters and to demand the government immediately halt these attempts to subvert the independence of the labor movement. And just as in the UPS strike, the unions should appeal for public support--which, if the situation is explained clearly, will be forthcoming. Working people will respond to defend other workers from the bosses' pernicious "anti-corruption" deceit.

There's another force that ought to be at the center of this fightback: the Labor Party. Both Democrats and Republicans are fueling the fires of this capitalist onslaught against the unions. Could there be a better opportunity for the Labor Party to expose the dead end of continued support to these parties of the bosses? Isn't it time to go on a massive campaign to demonstrate why labor needs its own independent political voice, and show what that voice would mean by waging a vigorous battle to defend the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO?

Negotiations for a national freight agreement, as well as for the Teamsters at beer giant Anheuser Busch, are on the horizon. This fightback against the bosses' attack on the union needs to start--and win--before these negotiations are tilted in favor of the employers.

It's time to get the government out of the Teamsters union -- and out of every other union in the country. It's time to put the bosses on notice that working people will defend their right to independent organizations that protect their interests. Let's get started.

Reform Slate Wins in Chicago

On Dec. 6, Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago chose the entire slate of 11 pro-Carey reform candidates in an election widely viewed as an indicator of the presidential election rerun to come in 1998. The local has some 18,000 members. Local 705's was a hotly contested election. Gerald Zero, a Carey ally running for secretary-treasurer. polled 3506 votes to Dan Passo's 3271. Passo is a supporter of James Hoffa Jr. "Democracy is clearly taking root with Teamsters throughout the country," Zero said in victory (San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 8). The outcome in Chicago illustrates Ron Carey's statement that the reform movement is "bigger than one man." There have also been recent reform-slate victories in Teamsters locals in Washington, D.C., Rock Island, Ill., Minneapolis, and Forest Hills, Texas.--S.C.

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