Teamster-Financed Study Claims Fed. Oversight No Longer Necessary

In an internal report costing more than $2 million, the law firm of Stier, Anderson & Malone claims that the Teamsters union is no longer dominated by organized crime racketeers, and that “the time is ripe” to end the federal govt’s supervision of the union.

The Intl. Bhd. of Teamsters has functioned under the supervision of the U.S. Dist. Ct. for the Sou. Dist. of NY since 1989. The IBT hierarchy agreed to settle a complaint by fed. prosecutors that racketeers affiliated with the Cosa Nostra organized crime enterprise completely controlled the union. Under the consent decree, the Independent Review Board (IRB) was formed with broad powers of investigation over the Intl. and its affiliates, even to override internal decisions by the union hierarchy. The IRB continues its work under the supervision of U.S. Dist. Judge Loretta A. Preska (S.D.NY, G.H.W. Bush).

The report, commissioned by the Teamsters and released Oct. 3, argues that the govt. monitoring “allowed the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to change course,” and that under IBT president James P. Hoffa’s leadership, “the union has institutionalized its commitment to cultural reform through union-defined and enforced standards of conduct.” The report’s authors concede, ‘[w]hat constitutes reform, however, can be a contentious subject…As a political tactic, those out of power often describe themselves…as ‘reformers’ regardless of whether any changes that would occur through their ascension to power could properly be termed ‘reforms.'” A recent case involving of Hoffa’s closest allies illustrates that dilemma.

On May 30, the IRB barred William Hogan, Jr., Chicago’s most powerful Teamster, from the union for life due to a plot to drive down wages and benefits for Las Vegas IBT Local 631 to help a Chicago-based firm in which his brother had a stake. Also banned for life was Dane Passo, a Chicago Teamster who became Hoffa’s right-hand-man at IBT headquarters in Washington.

The IRB ruled that Hogan and Passo colluded with United Serv. Companies to have the firm’s nonunion employees perform work at Las Vegas trade shows and conventions at less than half the hourly wage of Local 631 members, thus allowing other contractors to pay the same wages even to union workers. Hogan’s brother, Michael, was United’s vice-president. Reportedly, Hogan and Passo engineered Hoffa’s firing of Local 631 officials who opposed the deal. Only when IRB began investigating did Hoffa stop Hogan and Passo’s campaign. Hoffa responded to warnings about Passo’s links to organized crime by one of the report’s authors, Edwin Stier, by raising Passo’s salary and keeping Passo as his “special representative” to the besieged Las Vegas Local.

“With the Independent Review Board still forced to take action against corruption in the Teamsters union, it is highly premature to end federal supervision of the union,” said David Kendrick, Director of NLPC’s Organized Labor Accountability Project. [The Teamsters: Perception & Reality. Stier, Anderson & Malone, LLC: The New Republic, 4/8/02]