In TIME This Week:
The Ruin Of A Reformer
Teamsters boss Ron Carey is barred from running for re-election. Former allies say he betrayed the cause
By John Greenwald
(TIME, December 1) -- When Ron Carey won the race for Teamsters president in 1991, he rode to power behind dissidents who had risked their jobs, and their lives, to fight mob control of their locals. But even before a federal overseer barred him from running again--the court had already nullified his re-election in August--Carey the reformer had become Carey the co-opted tyrant. Disaffected Teamsters dissidents have told TIME that Carey not only spurned his allies but also surrounded himself with a cadre of 1960s-era campus radicals with little taste for democracy.
Indeed, Carey's alienation of former supporters seriously eroded his popularity, thus making the contest for union president close and the need for last-minute funds pressing. Those funds, say authorities, were illegally channeled to Carey. "He was a leader with all the power in the world to clean up the union," says Ted Katsaros, a reformer who suffered beatings at the hands of mobsters in one of New York's most corrupt Teamsters locals. "Instead, we never saw him again." Adds Gene Giacumbo, who was elected a vice president on Carey's reform slate in 1991 but who later lost faith: "His election was supposed to bring democracy to the Teamsters, but no one who was elected with him was allowed a voice in the union."
In barring Carey from running again, federal monitor Kenneth Conboy said the Teamsters boss was a party to illegal schemes to funnel nearly $900,000 of union funds to the 1996 campaign in which he narrowly defeated challenger James P. Hoffa. The explosive ruling followed guilty pleas last September by three Carey aides, including Michael Ansara, a co-founder of the radical Students for a Democratic Society at Harvard in the 1960s, who admitted to helping shift $95,000 of union dues into Carey's coffers. Carey denies knowing about the illegal acts and vows to fight the disqualification ruling.
Conboy's sweeping report also tarred Democratic fund raisers and prominent labor leaders in money-laundering schemes on behalf of the Teamsters leader. Among the union officials named were Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, and Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, one of the fastest growing U.S. unions. Conboy cited evidence that Trumka, once the reform leader of the United Mine Workers, and McEntee helped get cash to Carey. The two leaders and Carey are reportedly targets of a federal grand jury in New York City that is investigating the Teamsters election. Both Trumka and McEntee have denied any wrongdoing.
All this might seem to give Hoffa a walkover in the new election, for which no date has been scheduled. But no sooner had Conboy disqualified Carey than another court-appointed overseer disclosed plans to investigate charges that Hoffa's campaign improperly raised $1.8 million during last year's election. The monitor asked for a 45-day delay in the election. The Hoffa camp denies the report's finding.
Teamsters dissidents, who have no love for either man, say Carey was his own undoing. While he did oust some corrupt officials and sold off union jets and limousines after his 1991 election, insiders say he also readily cut deals with Old-Guard Teamsters leaders. In one such move, Carey withheld his support from a Washington local that was battling corrupt officials--whereupon the 3,500-member group quit the union. "Carey turned on his friends and made deals with the devil," says Arthur Fox, former attorney for a group of dissident Teamsters drivers. "Then when he needed support from those who got him elected, they were gone."
In fact, Carey pollsters found last year that many rank-and-file members felt no better off under Carey than under mob-linked Teamsters bosses. Out of friends and desperate for cash, Carey turned to AFL-CIO leaders, who owed him a favor for his support of the 1995 election of AFL-CIO president John Sweeney.
Since Carey's union learned of his ouster, the race to take his place in the upcoming election has seemed headed for turmoil. Top contenders include George Cashman, who heads a large Boston local, and Ken Hall, a chief negotiator in the UPS strike last summer. Front runner Tom Leedham, who heads the Teamsters' warehouse division, has the backing of the influential Teamsters for a Democratic Union. But Hoffa charged last week that contributors like Gail Zappa--wife of rock singer Frank Zappa--had made contributions to the reform group that were arranged by the Democratic National Committee. That brought reports that the FBI was investigating. If it takes a Mr. Clean to run the Teamsters, the union may never get a new president.
--Reported by Edward Barnes/New York
The Nasty Race to Lead the Teamsters
James P. Hoffa
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