The name conjures up images of corruption and intimidation.
But Jimmy Hoffa Jr., son of the notorious labor leader who mysteriously disappeared, may be the man of choice for the 3,500 Inland Northwest Teamsters who begin casting their ballots today for union president.
Hoffa, a Detroit attorney, and running mate Jon Rabine of the Seattle Teamsters, are campaigning against Teamsters President Ron Carey. Carey is a reformminded New York UPS driver who scored an upset victory in 1991 during the first open vote held by the Teamsters in 88 years.
The winner will lead the 1.4 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters during the next five years.
“The legacy of the Teamsters will be decided by this election,” said Denny Young, business representative for Teamsters Local 582 in Spokane.
Local 582, with about 1,500 members, represents grocery warehouse workers, delivery drivers, clerical and janitorial help at such companies as URM Stores Inc., Darigold and Snyder’s Bakery.
Teamsters Local 690, with about 2,000 members, represents UPS workers, and drivers at several freight lines.
Young and many other Teamsters officers in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene said they favor Hoffa. They plan to use vacation time to campaign for Hoffa during the four-week period that members are allowed to return their mail ballots. Ballots are due no later than Dec. 10.
Just as the last election, this one is being overseen by a court-appointed election officer to combat corruption. The Teamsters agreed to general elections in 1989 to resolve a sweeping government investigation.
Dick Solberg, secretary treasurer of Local 582, said he’s campaigning for Hoffa because Carey nearly exhausted the Teamsters strike fund and has tried to bypass local union officers to deal directly with the rankand-file.
“Why don’t we just burn the money?” said Solberg as he describes Carey’s inefficient practice of sending two-page brochures to Local 582 by overnight UPS express service at a cost of about $10 apiece.
Solberg also fears that Carey may put union pension money at risk by consolidating the $15 billion western U.S. pension fund with other U.S. funds that are not solvent.
“The president should be a good steward of our funds,” Solberg said, “and he shouldn’t spend more than he’s taking in.”
But many Teamsters worry that Hoffa will ruthlessly run the union like his father did. The elder Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975, was sentenced to prison in 1967 for mail fraud and jury tampering. The FBI has presumed that Hoffa was murdered by mobsters.
The Carey campaign says the younger Hoffa “has his own ties to mob-linked corrupt union officials” and wants to stop reforms that Carey has begun.
Carey says that during his term he has seized 65 corrupt unions, ended a pension plan that benefitted only top bosses and cut his own salary to $75,000 per year. U.S. News & World Report last week wrote that Carey cut his salary to $150,000.