Judge Rejects 2001 Election Rules

U.S. Dist. Judge David N. Edelstein June 16 rejected rules jointly proposed by the Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters and the Dep’t of Justice for use in IBT’s Oct. 2001 election of international officers in Las Vegas. The proposed rules would have allowed IBT to run its own election largely free of DOJ supervision. But in a three-page order, Edelstein turned down the rules, saying that to accept them “would be blasphemous.”

IBT and DOJ “have attempted to allure this Court into believing that their program for a supervised election will ensure a free, open, and democratic election. Nothing could be further from the truth,” wrote Edelstein.

“The submissions are a farrago of ill advice and misguided, inept, controversial, and confused argots. Their program has the potential for bringing grief, strife, controversy, and corruption into the forum,” added Edelstein.

The judge said the election rules used in 1991, 1996, and in the rerun vote in 1998 should apply again next year. “These rules have faithfully enforced the letter and the spirit of the [1989] Consent Decree and are preferable to untested and novel rules that may prove cumbersome and confusing,” he said.

IBT spokesman Bret Caldwell said IBT was “dismayed” by Edelstein’s decision.

U.S. Atty. Mary Jo White’s office tentatively approved the revised rules, subject to final approval by Edelstein. In April, the Dep’t of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards also approved the rules after making some modifications related to campaign contribution limits and the involvement of independent committees in the election process. [BNA 6/20/00]

This was major blow to IBT president James P. Hoffa’s hopes of ending DOJ’s supervision of the corrupt union. Hoffa has insisted that IBT is clean and members no longer need an independent appeals process to rectify campaign violations, such as intimidation of voters or illegal donations.  To bolster his case, he has set up an anti-corruption program called RISE (Respect, Integrity, Strength, Ethics).

Critics say RISE is little more than a PR stunt that will not clean up the union.  “It’s an absolute sham,” says Ashley McNeeley, a Northwest Airlines flight attendant from Honolulu, who is a leader of far-left Teamsters for a Democratic Union which zealously backed Hoffa’s corrupt predecessor Ron Carey.

To head RISE, Hoffa hired ex-federal prosecutor Ed Stier and appointed a 22-member task force to draft a code of conduct for the union.  Of those members, 21 belong to Hoffa’s executive board or are close associates of his slate. Reportedly, just one member, Ron Teninty, is a supporter of Hoffa’s likely opponent next year, Tom Leedham (former Carey backer as well).  Teninty made excellent recommendations for the code of conduct: to ban multiple salaries, to require that stewards be elected and to use mail ballots in local union elections (to decrease intimidation).  All were rejected.

Instead, the vast majority of the draft code of conduct simply repeats provisions that are already part of federal law (e.g., no union embezzlement).  The task force recommended all complaints be heard by appointees of the union president.  They also suggested the code should not set maximum salaries for officials, limit multiple salaries, “contain any restrictions on nepotism” or prohibit “no-show jobs.” No-show jobs, of course, are illegal. For example, in 1986, ex-IBT boss Jackie Presser was indicted for having ghost employees on the payroll.

Note on the multiple salaries issue: Hoffa has reportedly appointed 82 supporters to various titles that draw an extra salary and pension on top of their existing jobs.  Twenty of 22 Hoffa supporters on the executive board take multiple salaries.  Campaigning in 1998, Hoffa promised to cap all union officials’ salaries, including his own, at $150,000.  Today he draws $200,000, and a few dozen other officials make more than $150,000. [In These Times 6/26/00]