Even the Teamsters -- especially the Teamsters! -- have finally been overwhelmed and embraced by the worldwide democracy movement. The union's first clean, free election in its 88 years of entrenched corruption has resulted in a marvelous victory for a reform slate of candidates. Risking violent retribution, they dared to defy the mobsters and embezzlers who held control for so long.
Our congratulations to Ron Carey, the Long Island truck driver who is now president-elect of the largest, richest, most tainted union in the country. "Goodbye to the Mafia, goodbye to concessionary contracts, goodbye to those who lined their pockets at members' expense," he declared with his election assured. He defeated two old guard contenders, one who complained that Mr. Carey "was attempting to work around the leadership and go straight to the membership" (yes, he really said that) and another who was chief aide and flunky to the last five Teamsters presidents. Two of them (Jimmy Hoffa and Roy Williams) went to prison and another (Jackie Presser) died under indictment.
This is important news for the nation and good news for the trade union movement. For decades the Teamsters have been an embarrassment and a lot more to organized labor. Its mob-controlled leadership sold out its members with sweetheart contracts featuring paltry wage increases and huge kickbacks. They used dues revenues for inflated, often multiple, salaries or to buy the subservience of politicians through what was reputed to be the largest PAC in the country. They resorted to arson, bombs and strong-arm tactics -- even murder -- to intimidate would-be dissidents. They were implicated in the drug trade and in the extortionist activities of the Mafia -- so much so that the federal government described the Teamsters as "a corrupt labor organization. . . infiltrated, dominated, exploited and controlled by La Cosa Nostra figures."
What made this situation doubly outrageous was the fact that the union's rank and file are decent, hard-working Americans who did not deserve such treatment. However, such was the power of the Teamsters bosses that it took the concerted effort of the Justice Department and the federal court system to clean out some of its top crooks and supervise the election that brought reformers to office. Mr. Carey, who campaigned for "Teamster Pride and Honesty," now has the duty to continue the cleanup at all levels of the Teamsters hierarchy and to "give back the union to its members" through tough, traditional collective bargaining.