John “Jackie” Bulger has the distinction of being both a former court probation officer and an ex-con. He’d been convicted of perjury in the face of the FBI’s hunt for his infamous older brother, James “Whitey” Bulger. He’s the kind of guy, in other words, who could use an image makeover and a new job. And perhaps no organization is in a better position to provide both than Local 82 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Boston. Local boss John Perry sometime last year hired Jackie Bulger to do construction work at the convention center going up in South Boston. “Southie,” still heavily ethnic Irish, is Bulger territory – and now the focal point of a power struggle within the local. Perry supporters have expressed their position by circulating a rather menacing flier.
Whitey Bulger, born in 1929, isn’t your usual criminal on the lam. He’s been on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list since August 1999, having taken flight five years earlier. For years Bulger, with Steve “the Rifleman” Flemmi by his side, was Boston’s most feared crime lord. His Winter Hill Gang ruled the Boston area, especially Southie, with an iron fist, shaking down legitimate and illegitimate businesses, running gambling and drug operations, and intimidating or murdering those who got in their way. The gang also had collaborated with Teamsters Local 25, also Boston-based, until federal prosecutors earlier this decade put that union’s bosses away. Nobody knew until late in the game that Bulger had gotten inside help. FBI Special Agent John Connolly, originally assigned to monitor the gang, became a renegade, feeding Bulger information about rivals, especially within the Patriarca crime family. Bulger in turn gave information to the feds, enabling them to arrest and put away the Patriarcas. Reportedly tipped off by Connolly that an indictment was imminent, Bulger and his longtime mistress, Teresa Stanley, fled the country in 1994 (Bulger would replace her with another woman, Catherine Greig, after Stanley had headed home). The character Frank Costello in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning 2006 film, The Departed, played by Jack Nicholson, was based heavily on Bulger.
Jackie Bulger, a retired Massachusetts court clerk magistrate had a bred-to-the-bone loyalty to his brother, and paid a price. He was convicted in 2003 of committing perjury to two grand juries about his alleged contact with Whitey. Out of prison and stripped of his state pension, Jackie needed a job. John Perry offered him one. An anti-Perry faction within Local 82 got wind of the hiring, and moved into action. An unidentified member of that faction went to the Boston Herald last year, revealing Perry’s hiring decision.
Predictably, Perry loyalists launched a counterattack. They printed and distributed copies of a flier praising Bulger for “kindness and compassion,” noting that he had helped “hundreds of families” while serving as a probation officer. The flier also denounced “snitches” within the union. Perry didn’t return calls from the Herald. A Local 82 phone receptionist said he didn’t know who distributed the flier, which also featured a drawing of a rat, a Herald logo and, most ominously, the last names of three union opponents of Perry. None of the three were the source for the Herald’s original story, which appeared last June, but someone could get hurt anyway. (Boston Herald, 2/22/07).