Teamsters Oust Hahs; Await Response from Oversight Board

blet-logoIt may have been inevitable, but Don Hahs’ career as president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) has all but ended.  And it was Teamster General President James P. Hoffa, under the watchful eye of the feds, who performed the act of ending it.  On March 20, Hoffa removed Hahs from office on charges that he’d misspent tens of thousands of dollars in union funds, replacing him with Edward W. Rodzwicz, the BLE’s first vice president.  The Teamsters also fined Hahs nearly $45,000, and imposed a one-year suspension from union membership and contact with members of either the BLET or the Teamsters.  A Teamsters internal panel heard the charges and recommended the sanctions.  The case now will be submitted for approval by the Independent Review Board (IRB), the three-person entity created in the wake of the Teamsters-Justice Department 1989 civil RICO settlement.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, headquartered in Cleveland, is affiliated with the Teamsters’ rail labor conference.  The Teamsters know that to be eventually released from IRB oversight, it must display a willingness to crack down on acts of theft within their union, whether or not related to organized crime.  Don Hahs wasn’t remotely involved with the Mafia, but based on convincing evidence, he’d embezzled around $58,000 from his union to pay for personal expenses, particularly Cleveland Cavaliers basketball games and family travel.  Initially, Hoffa wanted the IRB to rule on the case directly, but the board sent back the case to Hoffa for internal action.  The eventual sanctions were proposed by a union grievance panel and approved by Hoffa.  IRB Administrator John Cronin said that the board will review the Hahs case to decide whether to accept the result.  At that point, Hahs will be free to make good on his promise to appeal.  (Traffic World, 3/31/08).