A group of reform-minded candidates have captured the top seats in a closely watched Chicago union election, suggesting there is still support for the dissident wing that catapulted Teamsters President Ron Carey into office late last year.
Gerald Zero, secretary-treasurer of Local 705 in Chicago and a Carey supporter, was re-elected to the post with 3,506 votes in a race that pitted him against Dane Passo, a staunch supporter of James P. Hoffa.
Passo received 3,271 of the mail ballots cast.
The close election suggests that Local 705, a powerhouse with 18,000 members, is as divided over its future as the 1.4 million-member national Teamsters union. The election drew attention because it focused on issues that will be raised in the coming rerun election between Hoffa, who ran against Carey last year, and a challenger selected by the union's reform movement.
Last year, Hoffa narrowly lost his bid for president of the Teamsters union in a contest against Carey, who faces possible criminal charges in connection with a campaign financing scandal. Carey resigned from the union's top job last month after being disqualified by a court-appointed Teamsters monitor from participating in next year's rerun.
Passo, chairman of the Hoffa campaign in Chicago, is challenging the results of Saturday's election, and he has asked for a count of 300 to 400 mail ballots.
It was not clear last night whether all of those votes had been tabulated. Passo said he would not give up until a final tally has been made.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Paff, director and founder of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, said the results marked a clear victory for the reform movement.
"In 1996, when this local elected delegates, Zero and all of his delegates lost," said Paff. "Passo and his slate won. So, this vote says that the reform forces have increased in Chicago, and the Hoffa forces have gone."
Richard Leebove, an aide to Hoffa in Detroit, noted the election was so close that Passo could still win if he garners a majority of the 400 uncounted ballots.
Zero and Passo have been enemies for years. At one point, Zero was convicted of assaulting Passo. Zero alleged that he tried to remove Passo from a meeting because he was disruptive. Passo said he was simply passing out Hoffa fliers.
Pub Date: 12/09/97