Peter Flaherty, Pres. of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), accused Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) of “making a mistake” in agreeing to speak at an “International Labor Breakfast” at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund Annual Conference in Chicago on June 29. The other two speakers at the breakfast are associated with unions having long histories of corruption. They were John Wilhelm, Pres. of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE), and John Coli, Pres. of Teamsters Joint Council 25 in Chicago.
Wilhelm is the successor of disgraced HERE boss Ed Hanley, who died in 2000. Hanley “retired” in 1998 in order to avoid civil charges by HERE’s court-appointed monitor Kurt Muellenberg, who sought to drive mob influence from the union. Hanley allegedly ran “ghost Local 77” in Rhinelander, Wisc., near his and other union bosses’ vacation homes so that the union would pay the vacation costs. In an appearance on NBC’s Dateline on Dec. 15, 1999, Wilhelm was asked, “Is Ed Hanley corrupt?” He replied, “Not in my view. I believe President Hanley saved the union.”
In 1999, Jesse Jackson’s mistress, Karin Stanford, was put on the HERE payroll. She received a salary of $35,000 and health care benefits, but reportedly performed little or no work for the union.
John Coli was at the center of a recent controversy over corruption in the Chicago Teamsters that resulted in the abrupt April 29 resignation of Edwin Stier, who oversaw the Teamsters national anti-corruption program. Also resigning were most of his staff and 10 members of an advisory board of former prosecutors and investigators. Stier, a frmr. fed. prosecutor himself, accused Teamsters Pres. James Hoffa of seeking to undercut his efforts to investigate questionable dealings with union pension and benefit funds, and the placement of low-paid non union wrkrs. by mob-run firms in jobs once held by Teamsters.
In May 2002, Coli’s predecessor William Hogan was forced out, and barred from the union for life, for engineering a similar scheme to replace union members with non union members to the benefit of a company in which his brother had a stake. In May, Coli issued a statement accusing Stier of “overzealous investigative tactics.” According to disclosure forms on file at the U.S. Labor Dept., Coli’s total compensation in 2002 was $329,487, even more than Hoffa’s. Coli was a “triple dipper,” receiving pay as pres. of Joint Council 25, a trustee of Joint Council 25, and Secy.-Treasurer of Local 727. In 2000, Coli said a Teamsters local was driven by “extreme circumstances” when it picketed a funeral home and followed a grieving family to St. Barnabas Church on Chicago’s South Side.
Flaherty stated, “Kerry is making a mistake in appearing on the same stage with these controversial union bosses. It could interpreted as a signal that union corruption will be ignored by a Kerry Justice Department. Wilhelm and Coli do not represent working people. Most union members are disgusted by all the high living and corruption. For Kerry to come to Chicago to pay fealty to corrupt unions and Jesse Jackson at the same time does little to change the image that his campaign is in the grips of special interest groups.”