Associated Press

Teamsters Leader William McCarthy Dies at 79

Saturday, November 21, 1998

ARLINGTON, Mass.William J. McCarthy, 79, national general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters during the union's battle with the federal government over racketeering allegations in the late 1980s, died Nov. 19 at a hospital here. The cause of death was not reported.

Mr. McCarthy, the last of the Teamsters leaders chosen without a vote of union members, became president of the union's 7,000-member Local No. 25 in Boston in 1955 and served in that post for 35 years. He was named a vice president of the national Teamsters union in 1969 and president of the national union in 1988.

He was accused of seeking Mafia help in an unsuccessful 1984 bid to be appointed to the second-highest position in the union. The allegation came from the late Jackie Presser, who was Mr. McCarthy's predecessor and an undercover FBI informant. Mr. McCarthy denied the accusations, and the case was dropped.

After he became general president in 1988, Mr. McCarthy agreed to a 1989 settlement between the Teamsters and the government calling for federal oversight of the group's activities. The settlement kept a federal racketeering lawsuit, which asserted that Teamster leaders had made a "devil's pact" with the mob, from going to trial.

Mr. McCarthy said at the time that he was reluctantly agreeing to the settlement but that what the union really deserved was "vindication and exoneration" from the government's corruption claims.

Citing personal reasons, he declined to run in the union's federally supervised 1991 national election, the first rank and-file election in the Teamsters' 90-year history. Some 1.6 million members were eligible to vote.

Previous Teamsters presidents had been elevated to the top job by a small group of union insiders.

The candidate backed by Mr. McCarthy lost the election to reform candidate Ron Carey, who later fell victim to his own scandal and was ousted.

Mr. McCarthy sought reelection as president of Local 25 in 1991, but he, too, lost to a reform candidate.

Survivors include his wife; four children; a brother; and 11 grandchildren.

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