Associated Press

Teamsters Agree to Monitored Vote

By Kevin Galvin
Associated Press Writer

Monday, August 31, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Teamsters' executive council inched closer to a deal with the government Monday, saying it would pay $2 million toward a federally supervised union election.

The decision represented a reversal by the board, which had twice rejected any contribution toward supervision after a federal appeals court said the government was bound to pay under the terms of a 1989 consent decree.

Direct election of union officers has been the cornerstone of efforts to fight corruption in the 1.4 million-member union, and federal supervision is considered essential to safeguard the process.

But combined with the Justice Department's offer to pay about $4 million, the board's decision still left the court-appointed election officer about $2 million short of the $8.6 million he estimated he would need to monitor the vote.

Federal officials were evaluating whether the vote could be adequately supervised with only $6 million.

Ron Carey, who was elected as a reformer in 1991, saw his narrow 1996 re-election over James P. Hoffa set aside after investigators uncovered an illegal scheme that used more than $800,000 to benefit his campaign.

The decision to overturn the 1996 vote, which was underwritten with $17.5 million in federal funds, came more than a year ago. Carey has been expelled from the union.

But the new vote has been delayed by haggling over the bill by Congress, the Justice Department and the union.

Despite a 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the government had to fund the election if it wished to supervise it, congressional Republicans reluctantly authorized Justice to spend just more than $4 million.

The union's executive board stuck by the appeals court ruling, but U.S. District Judge David Edelstein in New York said Aug. 20 that he could not order the government to pay the full cost. The board said it would appeal that ruling, but voted 15-6 on Monday to offer the $2 million to avoid any further delays.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who originally worked to block any federal funding for the rerun, chided the Teamsters board for failing to cover all the remaining costs of the rerun.

``They ripped off the American taxpayer for $18 million bucks,'' said Hoekstra, R-Mich. ``We stepped up to the plate for $4 million more and they rubbed our faces in it.''

The six board members voting against the measure were aligned with Hoffa's principal challenger, Tom Leedham. They held that an expedited appeal should be sought before any union money was promised for the election.

Leedham campaign spokesman Steve Trossman accused Hoffa's supporters on the board -- who have been urging the union's hierarchy to contribute toward the rerun -- of leading it to cave in to government pressure.

``If we had listened to Hoffa ... Teamsters would have spent $8.6 million for this election,'' Trossman said. ``That gives you an idea what kind of bargainer he could be down the road.''

As the board met, about 100 Hoffa supporters, who believe the delays have weakened the union, marched and chanted ``Let Us Vote'' in front of union headquarters, hoping to pressure board members to change their position.

Hoffa's campaign released a statement calling the board's decision ``a long overdue but welcome event,'' and asserting that $6 million ``should be adequate'' to conduct the election.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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