Some of Hoffa’s top lieutenants are getting tossed for corruption and embezzlement. But Teamster members don’t believe that our union is gaining integrity. What’s wrong with this picture?
Hoffa’s main man in Chicago and the Midwest, John Coli, is under indictment, charged with taking $325,000 in payoffs from one employer. Hoffa’s main man in the West, Rome Aloise, has been suspended from all positions for two years, after he was caught taking employer gifts, signing a sham contract with his investment pal, and rigging a local election. Hoffa’s Executive Assistant, Willie Smith, is waiting on a decision from the Independent Review Officer—we expect him to gone soon.
The investigations are on-going.
They are important, but they will never clean up our union. 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 more of the same from filling their shoes.
Aloise, Smith and Coli will soon be gone. Indeed, Coli has already resigned his posts—but his son took over the “family business:” Local 727. Aloise still intends to call the shots, working through other officials.
Only a change in leadership can tackle the revolving door of corruption, along with a change in our direction and in Teamster culture.
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, and that the union hold a hearing, and the union take action.
The system was set up that way to have the union clean its own house, with Teamster officers and members taking the responsibility to kick out corrupt officials, and keep them out.
The consent order had a good plan—if we had officers committed to making it work. Officers who set up systems such as an Internal Ethical Practices Committee, and who show members and the public that Teamsters can run a clean house.
In practice, the Hoffa administration whitewashes corruption, and the decision passes to the Independent Review Officer (IRO) to remove the bad apples.
HOW THE PLAN GOT DERAILED
The consent order plan—to help our union clean house and keep it clean – has not worked, because the Hoffa administration signed and agreed to the final consent order, but then set out to destroy it.
Instead of taking action when Aloise’s corruption was revealed in great detail in a 122-page report with nearly 500 exhibits, they swung into action to delay and cover-up. Since that report on charges, in February 2016, Aloise has collected some $570,000 in union salaries before finally being suspended by the IRO. The Hoffa adminstration spent over a million hiring 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.
Instead of taking action when John Coli was indicted last July on a charge of taking $325,000 in payoffs from an employer, the Hoffa administration took no action. Not even a press release. “No comment” was the best they could do.
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 for our Teamster power. Hoffa and his cronies don’t care about union power, they care about personal power.
HOW TO DO IT
Teamster power can be built. Our union can grow. We can make our members proud. But we will need a leadership which puts integrity up front, takes action against those who betray members, and puts systems in place to keep our union clean.
We need an Ethical Practices Committee and a credible union mechanism for cleaning house and keeping it clean.
“Rome Aloise should’ve been banned from the Teamsters for life. Instead he got a slap on the wrist. We can’t rely on judges and courts to clean up the union. Members need to take it back themselves.”
Basil Vanderboegh Local 7 (Ret.), Signal Delivery Services
When Hoffa came into power in 1999, he hired former federal prosecutor Ed Stier to deal with corruption. But when Stier proposed an ethical practices program and an internal investigator, that plan was shelved. When Stier investigated corruption in Chicago, he was fired.
We need leadership that will implement that kind of plan, and that will regard officials who embezzle funds or take payoffs as traitors to our union. It’s up to us to make it happen.