The ballots for Teamsters general president were mailed out on October 6. After the November 13 deadline for returning ballots, it will be all down to the waiting. Not too many people think Tom Leedham, now on his third try, will defeat incumbent James P. Hoffa, having received 40 percent of the total vote in a three-way race in 1998 and only 35 percent in 2001. But Leedham, 55, thinks this time around Hoffa’s track record will induce a great many among the union’s 1.4 million members to switch sides. In the meantime, Richard W. Mark, the union’s federally-appointed election supervisor, doesn’t think too much of certain people surrounding Hoffa. On October 3, Mark, acting on a complaint by Leedham, ruled that Stephen Mack, Hoffa’s director of industrial trades, had laundered $14,000 of member dues into his boss’s campaign coffers. It’s little coincidence, say Leedham’s people, that Mack’s brother, Chuck Mack, is a Hoffa running mate. Nor is it a coincidence that this August, supervisor Mark found Steve Mack’s brother-in-law, Rome Aloise, guilty of laundering $15,720 in dues money into Hoffa’s campaign. Nobody ever said a Teamsters election campaign was boring.
Under a 1989 civil RICO consent decree with the Justice Department, Teamster rank-and-file members directly elect their officers. Had the union not signed the agreement, its leadership almost certainly would have faced prosecution for a long litany of crimes committed in conjunction with the mob. The Justice Department subsequently set up a three-person entity, the Independent Review Board (IRB), run out of the office of U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, to investigate and punish acts of corruption. Hoffa, president since 1999, from the start has made little secret of his distaste for continued IRB control, arguing that its mission long has been complete. But his opponents, like Leedham and a dissenting group, Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), insist Hoffa has continued the union’s regime of corruption – putting a guy like Steve Mack in charge of a division is merely an example of that. Federal election supervisor Richard Mark identified Hoffa’s International TITAN (Teamsters Information Terminal Accounting Network) representative, Ron Horner, who also happens to be Chuck Mack’s campaign manager, as Steve Mack’s bagman.
Richard Mark has referred the Steve Mack and Rome Aloise cases to the Independent Review Board for further investigation. Leedham believes they owed their union jobs to political cronyism, not an ability to deliver strong contracts or pensions. “Mack and Aloise should be immediately removed from the International Union payroll,” Leedham said. “Instead, Hoffa is rewarding these dues thieves and money-launderers with multiples salaries.” Those salaries weren’t insubstantial. The Mack brothers and Aloise received a combined $600,000-plus in union salaries last year, a figure not including multiple pensions, which may well run into the millions. All told, the number of multiple salary positions within the union has increased from 16 to 160 during Hoffa’s tenure, an increase that now costs the Teamsters around $8 million a year. “We’ve been spending more money now on officers. This has become the lifestyle of the rich and famous,” said Leedham. He added that Hoffa pushed through the largest dues increase in Teamster history after initially promising that he wouldn’t.
Hoffa, 65, in his quest for a third term as IBT General President, has heard Leedham’s charges before. “He’s basically desperate,” Hoffa said of Leedham. “He has very little backing in the union, so he has nothing to lose. He does this every time.” He also has a few choice words for his opponent’s supposedly clean record. Leedham, Hoffa charges, has accepted campaign funds from a partner in a California law firm that represents management in labor disputes. What’s more, Leedham has embezzled funds from IBT members to bankroll his campaign. By the close of November, rank and file will make known whose arguments they prefer. One hopes they will mail back their ballots – the last time around, in 2001, only 23 percent of eligible members actually voted. (www.tdu.org, 10/5/06; Washington Times, 10/16/06).