Court-appointed corruption officers are moving against top Hoffa allies. But, by themselves, the investigators can never end corruption in our union. Here’s why.
The Independent Review Officer (IRO) of the IBT has been busy: Judge Barbara S. Jones just held a hearing on John Coli, Hoffa’s main man in the Central Region; she just kicked Rome Aloise out with a two-year suspension from all positions; and she is also weighing whether to kick out Hoffa’s Executive Assistant, Willie Smith, which the Independent Investigations Officer (IIO) has called for.
As important as those actions are, they will never clean up our union. Because the IIO and the IRO, the two court-appointed officers charged with taking on corruption, can only deal with the symptoms.
They can kick out officials caught taking employer payoffs or embezzling union funds, but they cannot prevent other corrupt officials from taking their place. Aloise, Smith and Coli will soon be gone. Indeed, Coli has already resigned his posts—but his son took over the “family business” of Local 727.
Only a change in leadership can root out corruption, a new leadership that brings a totally new attitude toward eliminating corruption.
How the Consent Order is Supposed to Work
A lot of Teamsters don’t realize it, but the Independent Investigations Officer (IIO) does not actually bring charges against corrupt officials. Instead, he recommends that the Hoffa leadership bring charges, that the union hold a hearing, and that the union take action.
The system was deliberately set up this way to have our union clean its own house. Teamster officers are supposed to take responsibility to kick out a corrupt, arrogant official like Rome Aloise, who calls himself “the most powerful man in the Teamsters” and feels so untouchable that he thinks he can take employer gifts, sign sham contracts, rig elections, and then lie his way out of it.
The consent order would be a good plan if we had officers committed to making it work: officers who set up systems like an Ethical Practices Committee, and who show members and the public that Teamsters can run a clean union.
How Hoffa Perpetuates Corruption
The consent order has not achieved its objectives because the Hoffa administration has set out to destroy it.
Instead of taking action when Aloise’s corruption was revealed in great detail in a 122-page report, Hoffa helped stonewall the charges and cover up the corruption.
Since the original corruption report was released 22 months ago, Aloise has collected some $570,000 in union salaries. The Hoffa administration spent over a $1,000,000 on outside corporate attorneys to delay justice and frustrate the process.
Instead of telling Teamster members that Aloise betrayed the members trust, they say it is unfortunate he got caught, and then set up a “defense fund” to raise yet more money for him.
The same goes for other corrupt officials. John Coli was indicted five months ago on a charge of taking $325,000 in payoffs from an employer. The Hoffa administration still has taken no action. They have not even issued a press release.
A top Teamster official is caught taking hundreds of thousands in payoffs from an employer and all Hoffa can do is issue “No Comment” and look the other way while Coli’s son takes over.
New Leadership Can Stop Corruption
No institution can maintain a reputation of integrity when its only methods of dealing with corruption are lies, cover-ups and delays.
A union has a special obligation to integrity, because our union depends on the confidence, trust, and pride of our members as the basis for Teamster power. But Hoffa, Aloise and Coli don’t care about union power, they only care about personal power.
Teamster power can be rebuilt. Our union can grow. We can make our members proud. We can drive corruption out of our union and keep it clean. But we need new leadership that puts integrity first, has zero tolerance for corruption, and takes action against those who betray the members.