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Can Teamsters obey the law?

November 20, 2006 10:08 AM

How well has the Teamsters organization mixed with the law?

If one looks at the history of the Teamsters or its leaders, the answer isn't good.

As the Detroit News has written about the day Teamster figure James Hoffa disappeared in 1975:

"Paroled from federal prison three years earlier, the former Teamster president had recently announced plans to try to wrestle back control of the union he had built with his bare knuckles from his protégé -- now adversary -- Frank Fitzsimmons. Anthony Giacalone, a reputed captain of organized crime in Detroit, was supposed to meet Hoffa that day. . . . Days after his disappearance in 1975, both family and police believed the former union official, once among the most powerful men in the country, was dead, probably murdered. Police believed the Mafia killed him."

Quite a legacy. Now a union with this history wants to represent reporters and copy editors at the News-Press. Its most recent tactic involved trying to mar a fundraising event meant to benefit two local charities.

Of course, this pales in comparison to the legacy of law-breaking or reported law-breaking by the Teamsters or its past leaders.

The late Mr. Hoffa -- his son now runs the union -- is only the tip of the iceberg. And if the Teamsters gain a foothold at the daily newspaper, other local employers can expect the International Brotherhood of Teamsters bosses to come knocking.

Some background from the Center for Union Facts is worth noting again.

The Justice Department in 1989 "brought a racketeering case against the union, saying that it was a 'wholly owned subsidiary of organized crime.' Since 1992, the Teamsters have been overseen by an Independent Review Board (IRB) that is charged with making sure the union stays clean. It is not entirely clear that this IRB has succeeded," the center says.

Of the last eight Teamsters presidents, four have been indicted according to the FBI, the center reports. Can its bosses follow the law? Its presidents have been convicted of embezzlement, jury tampering and defrauding the union's pension fund, among other infractions.

"A 2002 article in the generally pro-union New Republic magazine noted that the IBT is 'still plagued by corruption; ex-felons and people with reputed mob associations lurk around the edges of key Teamster locals seeking influence over the union.' . . . Indeed, corruption within the Teamsters may actually have increased in recent years.

Can the Teamsters obey the law?

If the Teamsters gain a foothold at the daily newspaper, other local employers can expect the International Brotherhood of Teamsters bosses to come knocking.

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