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Working In These Times

Thursday, Jan 27, 2011, 7:16 am

Teamsters Election Supervisor: Hoffa Campaign Offered Jobs to Challengers

BY David Moberg

Teamsters Union General President James Hoffa discusses the opening of national contract negotiations with the United Parcel Service at a press conference on September 19, 2006, in Detroit, Mich.   (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Top officials, including Hoffa himself, offered union jobs to leaders to clear election field, says Supervisor Richard Mark

In November, members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union members will vote for international officers in a direct election overseen under terms of a 1989 federal court consent decree aimed at eliminating corruption in the union.

Apparently, such oversight is still needed.

The appointed supervisor of the election has already found that incumbent President James Hoffa and his campaign are acting in a way that reflects “a culture, or mindset” of misuse of union authority for personal, political ends.

Supervisor Richard Mark offered this assessment as part of his January 20th review of charges that top Hoffa officials, as well as Hoffa himself in one case, had offered union jobs to three Teamster leaders, including two who had been elected on Hoffa’s slate, if they would drop their bids for election to the General Executive Board.

Hoffa and his aides offered Henry Perry an international representative job if he resigned as international union trustee, contributed to Hoffa’s campaign, and endorsed Hoffa’s re-election, Mark concluded, and the campaign “inadvertently” included Perry’s endorsement on its literature even though Perry does not now support Hoffa.

Union vice-president and Hoffa loyalist Rome Aloise also offered a job to trustee Frank Gallegos if he quit, and Hoffa running mate Frank Hall offered a job with a pay increase and a lucrative additional pension to carhaul division director Fred Zuckerman to drop his candidacy, Mark decided.

Luckily for Hoffa and his associates, all three men turned down the offers.  Mark wrote that had they

accepted the proposals made to them…that would have required consideration of whether union funds had been used improperly to influence the election.  But the Rules do not prohibit offered or proposed use of union funds….

f proposals like those described in this ruling had advanced to concrete action, serious consequences would quite likely follow for those involved, whether as a remedial matter under the Rules, under disciplinary provisions of the IBT [International Brotherhood of Teamsters] Constitution (including referral to the IRB [International Review Board, a disciplinary body]), or under applicable law.

Mark also warned that

The conduct revealed in this investigation reflects a culture, or mind-set where elected union officials do not clearly distinguish between their fiduciary responsibilities to the union and their separate political objectives of achieving election. 

This protest began with an investigation of a blast campaign fax to local unions – conduct that showed no recognition that campaigning cannot be conducted through and using the union structure itself. And this is not the only protest in the current cycle arising from the prohibition against campaign use of union resources.

In other complaints, he has found frequent abuses by Hoffa campaign supporters who had sent direct mail and appeals for money to people at union hall addresses and used union staff and resources to campaign.

International union vice-president Fred Gegare, a former Hoffa supporter, and local union president Sandy Pope, a longtime supporter of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, are challenging Hoffa for president.

David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy. He can be reached at davidmoberg@inthesetimes.com.

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