- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

At the just-completed AFL-CIO annual convention in Las Vegas, nearly 1,000 union officials and activists set dozens of ambitious and often controversial goals for the giant federation of unions. But rank-and-file workers may not be pleased with what was decided on their behalf.
Take the AFL-CIO's announcement that it will attempt to win amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, despite recent polls finding union households opposing amnesty by nearly a two-to-one margin. Or consider the new guideline that pols seeking campaign support must help to strong-arm employers to unionize even when workers themselves object to unionization.
Less widely noticed, however, was Resolution 45, wherein the AFL-CIO convention called for elimination of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) union's Independent Review Board (IRB) established by a federal court in 1992. The president's commission on organized crime had found that the union was corruption-ridden and mobbed-up.
With President James P. Hoffa now holding the reins of the IBT, "No legitimate reason remains to justify continued government intervention in that organization," the AFL-CIO announced last week.
The AFL-CIO decree conveniently overlooks the fact that Mr. Hoffa himself now faces, along with other IBT officers, a trial on civil charges of "racketeering activity" under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
A federal court recently found that 55 shootings and assaults with bricks and other heavy objects aimed at drivers during the still-ongoing IBT strike against Overnite Transportation constitute predicate acts "related to attempted murder."
One of the non-striking drivers for the Richmond-based trucking company who have been viciously attacked is 20-year-employee William Wonder, of Evansville, Ind. Mr. Wonder took a near-fatal bullet to the abdomen while driving through Memphis on Dec. 1, 1999.
Within hours of the shooting, Mr. Hoffa issued a statement claiming that it should convince Overnite to accede to all the IBT hierarchy's strike demands. "The fact of the matter is, Overnite bears a heavy responsibility here … Overnite can end this strike at a moment's notice with a binding agreement," said Mr. Hoffa.
While denying any Teamster responsibility for the cowardly shooting, Jim Hoffa eagerly exploited it as a "bargaining tool" for obtaining his strike demands. Chief among these demands was forcing all of Overnite's blue-collar employees to accept IBT bosses as their "exclusive" bargaining agents and, wherever possible, to pay union dues to the IBT as a condition of employment.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hoffa seems just as eager to accept help from crooked union officials as from union thugs.
In July, the IRB removed from office Hoffa patron Michael Bane, chief of Local 614 in Pontiac, Mich., for giving "intentionally misleading" sworn testimony about his Mafia ties. Mr. Bane, who was convicted of embezzlement in the 1970s, was, according to the IRB, caught on FBI wiretaps conversing with Detroit mobsters whom he had sworn under oath not to know.
An IRB report released this summer charges a second close Hoffa associate, William Hogan Jr., head of the Chicago Teamster Joint Council, with accepting a kickback from an employer while agreeing to divert Teamster work in the Las Vegas convention industry to a nonunion firm.
Given the many allegations of wrongdoing in Mr. Hoffa's IBT, of which there is only a small sampling here, AFL-CIO bosses' claim that "the goals of the consent degree have now been secured" is laughable.
Unfortunately, Congress has served as Teamster bosses' partners in crime by granting them the legal power to get rank-and-file employees fired from their jobs if quit the union in protest.
Congress and President Bush can now take a big step toward ending the cycle of union corruption by working together to pass the National Right to Work Act (H.R.1109/S.873), which would abolish federally imposed forced union dues.
As Wake Forest University scholar Sylvester Petro put it more than 40 years ago, "It is … absurd to expect good clean unionism in conditions of extensive compulsory unionism." But until the Right to Work bill is passed and signed, Congress and Mr. Bush should not ignore the public record of ongoing IBT violence and corruption when considering Resolution 45 on the AFL-CIO's Christmas wish list.

Reed Larson is president of the Virginia-based National Right to Work Committee.


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