A long-simmering corruption scandal that implicates multiple current and former officials in the hierarchy of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) union may boil over early this year.
On December 27, Judge Loretta Preska ordered IBT President Jim Hoffa and his administration to turn over more than 32,000 documents to Independent Investigations Officer (IIO) Joseph diGenova.
The judge explained that Mr. diGenova must be granted access to the documents promptly so that he could fulfill his duty to ferret out corruption among “high-ranking IBT officers.” (See the link below for additional information.)
IBT second-in-command Ken Hall, other Hoffa cronies, and union lawyers have since early last year been deploying an array of tactics to delay an investigation into alleged illegal solicitation of gifts from unionized employers and other alleged corrupt practices by top IBT officials.
In February, the IBT Independent Review Board (IRB) issued a recommendation to the union’s 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. This is a crime designated as “racketeering” under the federal code.
The board also recommended charges be filed against Aloise for using forced dues-financed union resources to punish political opponents and rig elections for union office.
The IRB report specifically charged that, during contract negotiations, 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.
Aloise also allegedly sought and obtained tickets from SWS to the Playboy Superbowl Party of 2013. The tickets, worth $9600, were handed over to Hoffa’s executive assistant, W.C. Smith.
And Aloise allegedly used union and employer resources to finance and orchestrate a coordinated and illegal political attack on rank-and-file members who dared to run for office against an Aloise ally in Stockton, Calif.
Apparently convinced that he had no real choice, Hoffa accepted the IRB recommendation and filed charges against Aloise 11 months ago. But subsequently Hoffa and Hall showed their true colors by nominating Aloise for another five-year term as an IBT vice president even as the latter faced an IRB trial for racketeering, violating members’ rights, and other infractions.
And even after Aloise admitted to the IRB that he was under federal criminal investigation last July, Hoffa and Hall continued to stonewall, successfully delaying Aloise’s IRB trial again and again.
Hall also apparently sought to prevent diGenova from getting the evidence he needed to hold accountable other top Teamster officers who had allegedly been Aloise’s accomplices and/or committed similar violations.
Last fall, diGenova recommended that charges be filed against Hall for obstructing the investigation. The IIO also recommended that charges be filed against Smith.
By “soliciting and receiving at thing of value from an IBT employer,” Smith had “committed an act of racketeering,” explained diGenova.
The corruption and obstruction cases diGenova has presented against Aloise, Smith, Hall, and other Teamster bigwigs like ex-Political Director Nicole Brener-Schmitz are compelling.
The evidence indicates that, when U.S. attorney Preet Bharara asserted in 2014 that “corrupt . . . practices persist at all levels” of the IBT, he might well have singled out the highest level for its avarice and disregard for the rank-and-file.
How can the seemingly endless cycle of IBT corruption be broken?
Logic and experience point to enactment of a national Right to Work law. Such a law would make it far less difficult for ordinary IBT members to fight union corruption by empowering them to resign and withhold all their dues, without being fired as a consequence.