JAMES P. HOFFA will do his surname and his union a favor by ending what his late father began. James R. Hoffa molded the Teamsters into a powerful force in the 1950s and 1960s, but not without strong mob ties.
The younger Hoffa, who won election to the presidency of the 1.4 million-member Teamsters, is greeted with considerable suspicion as he prepares to assume the helm.
To escape the public's distrust and federal oversight of his union, Mr. Hoffa must prove convincingly that the union has freed itself of all links to organized crime.
Meanwhile, he should drop his premature push to end federal oversight of the Teamsters, which would give some assurance that the union is aboveboard as long as questions persist.
Mr. Hoffa pledges a more militant Teamsters union, which he says must negotiate better contracts for its membership. Indeed, he should fight aggressively for fair contracts for members. But this militancy should not prevent labor-management cooperation whenever possible.
For all its faults, the Teamsters union has a proud legacy that dates to the days when its members drove horse-drawn carriages, helping fuel commerce in America. The Hoffa name will get some redemption if the newly elected president can help make his union as important to the commercial growth that lies ahead while rooting out the vestiges of his father's mistakes.
Pub Date: 12/13/98