The Strange Hogan Family/Teamsters Saga Continues

Kari Lydersen

Bill Hogan with his friend actor Jim Belushi.

CHICAGO — Bill Hogan was once a close ally of notorious Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, running for the leadership slate with Hoffa in 1996. Working In These Times contributor Steve Franklin once described Hogan as the tough-talking, gregarious member of a powerful union family.”

Now Hogan is enlisting high-profile friends, including actor Jim Belushi and former Playboy CEO Christie Hefner, to blame Hoffa for cooperating with the feds in what he calls an un-American” violation of his free speech rights. Union rules have barred Teamsters — including Hogan’s son and best friend— from speaking with Hogan since his 2002 expulsion under allegations he worked to depress wages and benefits for Las Vegas Teamsters to help out his brother’s contracting company. 

On Thursday at the Hyatt downtown, supporters including Hefner, former Chicago Bear Richard Dent, state legislators and restauranteurs all spoke in Hogan’s favor. Hogan faces contempt of court charges, which could carry six months in jail, for continuing to speak with Teamsters, including son Bobby Hogan and long-time friend Robert Riley (both members of Teamsters Local 714).

The Hogans charge Hoffa has aided the federal Independent Review Board in using the pretense of purging Mob elements to carry out a vendetta against the Hogan family.” (The Hogan camp makes its case at the website Teamster Injustice. Read a Chicago Sun-Times piece about Thursday’s event here, and Steve Franklin’s 2002 account of the saga here.)

The Teamster Injustice website sums up Bill Hogan’s expulsion thus:

Bill Hogan, then President of Joint Council 25, had been expelled as the result of IRB action in 2002 because he intended to negotiate a substandard” labor agreement for temporary trade show workers in Las Vegas, a charge which many in the union viewed as baseless because no contract for temporary workers was ever signed and negotiations with management were in an early stage.

In 2005, Riley was suspended from the union for breaking the prohibition on talking to an expelled member (Hogan), then son Bobby Hogan was suspended for six months and faced life expulsion for failing to discipline Riley for his infraction. A letter from Bobby Hogan to Hoffa regarding his six-month suspension says:

The IRB was installed 19 years ago to remove mob influence from the Union under controversial use of the Civil RICO statute. It was intended as a short term measure and indeed mob influence was broken within the first few years as confirmed by a 1999 government study, a Harvard study and a 2005 internal union audit conducted by Ed McDonald former head of a Justice Dept organized crime task force.

To justify its continuing existence and the obscene salaries paid to its investigators, (according to Labor Dept records, chief IRB investigator Charles Carberry made $1.1 million in salary over a two and half year period) the IRB needs to keep the pot boiling, taking political sides and trumping up charges against targets in the union.

Bobby Hogan says he speaks for members who have been silent and who fear to speak publicly against the loss of internal democracy and free speech.

He boldly predicts the ongoing persecution of his family by Hoffa and the IRB will cause more union members to also find their voice, and undertake the effort to take back their union and return it to its rightful purpose as a democratic institution that protects and advances the interests of its membership.”

Meanwhile Teamsters for a Democratic Union, who have also fought Hoffa and the Teamster establishment, have long been laying out their own path to union democracy. And from what I understand that path does not involve Hogan.

TDU has plenty to focus on at the moment, given that among other things, one of their key constituencies, UPS employees, are facing a holiday shipping season with profits down and management squeezing workers for extra productivity (explained here.)

Citing their own battle with Hoffa, TDU’s website says:

Teamsters from every industry and local are signing up at DumpHof​fa​.org and planning a wave of local organizing meetings at the start of the new year. The economy is supposed to begin to recover in 2010. That’s good news. But if we want to recover from the concessions that have rocked our union, it is up to us.

Kari Lydersen is a Chicago-based journalist, author and assistant professor at Northwestern University, where she leads the investigative specialization at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Her books include Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99%.

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