Teamster Review Board: Powerful Hoffa Ally Is a Racketeer

In early 2008, Barack Obama secured the backing of the Teamster political machine after secretly promising Jim Hoffa (left) he would end federal oversight over the Teamster brass if he won the Presidency. Image: Reuters

In January 2015, it was publicly reported that Preet Bharara, the President Obama-appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, had cut a deal with the Teamster union hierarchy that could potentially entrust ethically-challenged Big Labor bosses with the job of policing themselves.

As recently as June 2014, Mr. Bharara publicly admitted that, a quarter-century after Teamster union officials had entered into a consent decree with the federal government to avoid prosecution on an array of felony charges, “corrupt and undemocratic practices persist at all levels of the union . . . .”

Nevertheless, early last year Mr. Bharara saw fit to join with Teamster czar Jim Hoffa  in submitting a request to Judge Loretta Preska that she allow court supervision of Teamster activities to be phased out within five years. In February 2015, Judge Preska gave the deal a green light in a four-page ruling.

Though it was little reported as the deal to allow Teamster kingpins to police themselves was unfolding a year ago, the fact is, Barack Obama and his advisors actually started laying the groundwork for ending federal monitoring of the Teamster brass even before Mr. Obama took office as President in January 2009.

In May 2008, two Wall Street Journal reporters broke the story that Mr. Obama had won the Teamster hierarchy’s endorsement for President three months before by “privately” telling the union “he supported ending the strict federal oversight imposed to root out corruption.”

The evidence of widespread ongoing corruption and lawlessness by Teamster union officials that continues to emerge year after year has plainly not been sufficient to turn Mr. Obama from his plan to reward Jim Hoffa and his cohorts for their political support.

Just two months after Judge Preska rubber-stamped the Hoffa-Bharara deal, for example, John Perry, the former don of Teamsters Local 82 in Boston, was sentenced to 30 months in prison, a $12,500 fine, and one year of supervised release on multiple counts of racketeering and conspiracy.

And only last week, the soon-to-be-phased out Teamsters Independent Review Board (IRB) issued a recommendation to the Teamsters General Executive Board that International Vice President Rome Aloise, a close Hoffa ally, be charged with requesting gifts and personal favors from employers during negotiations (a crime designated as “racketeering” under the federal code), and using forced dues-financed union resources to punish political opponents and rig elections for union office.

(See the link below to obtain a copy of the entire IRB report.)

The IRB report specifically charges that, during contract negotiations, Mr. Aloise tried to use his leverage as a top union boss to obtain jobs for difficult-to-employ relatives from Teamster-controlled companies like UPS, Costco and SWS, the largest liquor distributor in the U.S.

Mr. Aloise also allegedly sought and obtained tickets from SWS to the Playboy SuperBowl Party of 2013. The tickets, worth $9600, were handed over to Mr. Hoffa’s executive assistant, W.C. Smith.

Mr. Aloise also used union and employer resources to finance and orchestrate a coordinated and illegal political attack on rank-and-file members who dare to run for office against an Aloise ally in Stockton, Calif.

Apparently, based on examples like Mr. Perry and Mr. Aloise, federal oversight has failed to get at the root of problem of Teamster corruption.

The genuine way to break the cycle of violence and other lawlessness is passage of the National Right to Work Act (H.R.612 and S.391). This legislation would make it far less difficult for ordinary Teamster members to fight union corruption by empowering them to resign and withhold all their dues, without being fired as a consequence.

But until this bill and other needed reforms are passed and signed, rewarding Jim Hoffa by ending federal oversight of the Teamsters sends the wrong message to honest, forced dues-paying unionized workers and victims of Teamster violence.

By the time another President takes office, of course, reversing the Bharara-Hoffa deal will be very difficult, even assuming the next President desires to continue federal oversight of the Teamsters. This deal is destined to be one of many unfortunate labor-policy legacies of the Obama Administration.