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Our Opinion: Teamsters, ethics & big spending

December 12, 2006 10:11 AM

As we've previously noted, the News-Press is standing firm against allowing outside union organizers to influence news coverage or interject bias into reporting.

The Teamsters organization wants to represent certain reporters and copy editors at this newspaper, and we'll take it seriously when readers say they believe they detect pro-union bias in stories. The Center for Union Facts notes that the U.S. Justice Department in 1989 "brought a racketeering case against the union, saying that it was a 'wholly owned subsidiary of organized crime.'

Sometimes outside actions by union bosses hurt a newspaper's credibility.

A Teamsters local chapter in New York representing journalists recently gave money to politicians on Long Island. The newspaper Newsday reported the union that "represents Newsday reporters made campaign contributions to high-ranking Suffolk politicians and political fund-raising committees on at least six occasions this year -- a move that editors and staff now fear could call into question how the paper covers the news."

Readers know the influence that unions in general have on local elections. Union dues can go to support candidates, even if individual union members don't want their money to go to these campaigns.

But where else does money taken from the paychecks of union members end up?

In the case of the Teamsters, does the money pay for a top-heavy bureaucracy and well-paid union bosses?

A reform-minded group, calling itself Teamsters for a Democratic Union, maintains a lengthy list of union bosses who are in the "$150,000 club" and "$100,000 club" in terms of salaries paid for by union dues. The group says Teamsters president James Hoffa Jr. in the past had campaigned on a vow to "cut and cap" salaries, but the promises have gone unfulfilled.

A BusinessWeek story from earlier this decade noted that while Mr. Hoffa's predecessor, Ron Carey, "all but ended the practice of letting local and regional Teamster officials take two and three salaries at a time, double-dipping has returned under Hoffa. A 1999 annual report to the Labor Dept. showed that 23 officers on the headquarters payroll were also being paid by other Teamster units. Six international officials had such arrangements under Carey in 1996."

The magazine added that Mr. Hoffa "also takes heat for holding executive board meetings at such posh resorts as Bally's Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas."

How much of the money extracted from local paychecks may go to support lavish spending by outside union brass, based in Los Angeles or Washington, D.C.? To what degree are the rank-and-file workers being taken for a ride?

Readers know the influence that unions in general have on local elections. Union dues can go to support candidates, even if individual union members don't want their money to go to these campaigns.



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