December 12, 2008: Ron Carey, a former UPS driver and Teamster president who set the standard for union leaders for courage and honesty and transformed the leadership of our union died yesterday at age 72.
Carey passed away at New York City Queens Hospital.
Carey toppled mob rule in the Teamsters, became the International Union’s first democratically elected General President and used his influence to change the leadership and direction of the AFL-CIO. In 1997, he led a 15-day strike against United Parcel Service—winning the labor movement’s biggest victory in a generation.
Carey resigned from office in November 1997 to fight allegations that he was involved in an improper scheme to use union funds to finance his reelection campaign. Carey was vindicated of this charge by a jury in federal court in 2001 which found that Carey had no knowledge of, or role in, the scheme.
“Ron Carey was the nation’s most charismatic and successful labor leader as the Twentieth Century was coming to an end. He will be remembered as a major figure in American labor history on the basis of just two of his accomplishments: In 1991—running as a reformer with the backing of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, he was elected general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. In 1997, he led the successful 15-day strike against the giant United Parcel Service, the biggest victory organized labor had experienced in at least three decades,” said Ken Crowe, the author of Collision: How the Rank and File Took Back the Teamsters and The Vindication of Ron Carey. As a labor journalist at Newsday, Crowe covered Carey for more than 20 years from 1976, when he was president of Queens-based Teamsters Local 804.
Ronald Robert Carey was born on March 22, 1936 in New York City. He became a Marine shortly after high school and served from 1953 to 1955 and joined the Teamsters Union in 1956. Carey worked as a package car driver for United Parcel Service, a company that would become his lifelong adversary.
Carey first challenged mob rule and corrupt leadership in the Teamsters when in 1967 at the age of 32 he ran for president of Local 804 in New York and won an upset victory against an incumbent who had been dipping his hand into the union treasury. UPS management tried to blackmail Carey into withdrawing from the campaign—but their effort backfired when he taped the threats and played them for members to hear.
For more than two decades, Carey ran a local renowned within the Teamsters for leading strikes and winning record pension improvements—during an era when the national Teamsters Union was dominated by organized crime figures.
When in 1989 members of Teamsters for a Democratic Union finally won a 15-year fight for the right of rank-and-file members to vote on the top officers of the national union, Carey ignored death threats and led a successful reform slate against two old guard candidates steeped in corrupt traditions established under Jimmy Hoffa.
Carey Transforms the Teamsters
Carey took office as the first Teamster General President elected by the membership in 1992 and never forgot his roots as a second-generation UPS driver from Queens. He sold the union’s private jets and limos, cut his own salary by 33% percent, eliminated almost all the multiple salaries paid to union officials, and removed dozens of leaders of local unions where corruption had taken root.
Shifting the union’s resources to campaigns to win gains for working people, Carey led an unprecedented one-day walkout at UPS in 1994 when the company attempted to unilaterally increase package weight limits from 70 to 150 pounds without adequate steps to protect drivers’ health and safety. Old guard local leaders, by then united behind Hoffa’s son, urged members not to support the walkout—just as they attempted to undermine nearly every reform and initiative that Carey undertook while president.
Carey used his influence as head of North America’s most powerful union to transform the direction of the entire labor movement. In 1995, he was the most important supporter of a move to revitalize the tired AFL-CIO. Carey cast the decisive vote in electing John Sweeney and the New Voice Slate in the first-ever contested election for the labor federation’s top leadership.
In 1996, Carey won reelection against James P. Hoffa, the son of Jimmy Hoffa.
In August, 1997, Carey led a two-week national strike by 200,000 workers at UPS that captured the hearts of American workers tired of corporate greed, the growing wealth gap, and the shift to part-time, temporary, or contracted out “throwaway” jobs with low wages and few benefits. Labor’s biggest victory in a generation resulted in historic gains including a commitment by UPS to create 10,000 full-time jobs with full benefits by combining 20,000 low-wage part-time jobs, won major pension improvements, and defeated company demands to take control of workers pensions.
Charges and Vindication
On August 22, 1997, days after the strike victory, federal overseers moved to overturn Carey’s 1996 reelection, charging that an elaborate secret scheme had used union funds to enrich a few outside political consultants who controlled Carey’s campaign. Carey denied that he had known or approved of any such scheme.
Within a month, the consultants, led by campaign manager Jere Nash, plead guilty to embezzling union funds and other charges. Nash potentially faced years in prison, unless he could implicate Ron Carey in return for no prison time.
Federal overseers then removed Carey not only from office and from running in the election rerun but from any participation in the union for the rest of his life, based on Nash’s claim that the illegal scheme that put thousands of dollars in his own pocket was approved by Carey in a 15-second phone call for which there was no corroborating evidence to show it ever took place.
On Oct. 12, 2001, Carey’s claim that he did not know or approve of the scheme was upheld by a jury in federal court in New York, yet federal overseers never lifted the ban on his participation in his union.
Carey was removed and Hoffa became president in 1999. Since that time, the compensation of top Teamster officials has skyrocketed, while hundreds of thousands of members have been hit with pension and healthcare cuts. Former Federal Prosecutor Ed Stier, who was hired by Hoffa help root out Teamster corruption, resigned in 2004, accusing Hoffa of allowing organized crime and corruption back into the Teamsters. The battle to bring rank-and-file power to the Teamsters, Carey’s life-long goal, goes forward at the grassroots level.
“Ron Carey knew that it was time to change the way unions operated, to create strategies that could beat corporate greed by empowering rank-and-file workers and involving their families in the labor movement,” said Tim Sylvester, a UPS Teamster and member of New York Local 804. “Ron was a threat to corporate America and to old guard Teamster officials who feared him because he threatened their personal bottom line and made them look impotent in comparison.”
Ron Carey is survived by his wife of fifty years, Barbara Carey; their five children, Daniel Carey, Ronald Carey, Sandra Perrone, Pamela Casabarro, and Barbara Marchese; and 13 grandchildren.
Click here to read remembrances of Ron Carey by Teamsters who knew and worked with him.
Click here to watch the video UPS: America's Victory.
Click here to watch Ron Carey on the 2008 UPS Contract.
Click here to read The Vindication of Ron Carey by Ken Crowe, a labor journalist who covered Ron Carey for 20 years as a reporter for Newsday.
You can give the gift of Teamster and TDU pride this holiday season with new TDU hoodies and jackets.
The zip-up hoodies feature a large TDU logo on the back and the Teamster horseheads on the front.
The hoodies are $35, plus $3 for shipping.
The jackets are satin-finished, with either a quilted lining, or a lighter flannel lining. They feature a large TDU logo on the back and the Teamster horseheads on the front.
We’ve lowered the price for the quilted jackets: $95, plus $5 for shipping. The flannel-lined jacket is $85, plus $5 for shipping.
Stay warm and show off your TDU colors this season in these heavy-weight, union-made and printed items. Order your hoodies and jackets today to get them in time for the holidays.
Click here to order a TDU hoodie.
Click here to order a quilted TDU jacket.
Click here to order a flannel-lined TDU jacket.
Click here to browse the TDU store.
This Thanksgiving we're thankful for dedicated Teamsters who stand up for working families in these tough times.
Runaway corporate greed has created the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. And working people are paying the price. Our benefit funds are facing record losses due to the Wall Street meltdown. Teamster employers, who got record concessions even before the economic crisis, are coming back for more.
Thankfully, tough times don't last. Tough people do.
TDU wishes you and your family a peaceful holiday in these turbulent times. On this Thanksgiving, let's be thankful for what we have—and let's resolve to stick together to keep it.
Teamsters will gather from across our union Oct. 24 – 26 for the TDU annual convention—and you still have time to make your plans to be there.
The complete schedule is now available for the convention.
Get a sneak peek at workshops and make your plans for which classes to attend. Click here to download the full schedule.
TDU’s 33rd Annual Rank & File Convention will take place at the Cleveland Airport Sheraton, Oct. 24 – 26.
I’ll Be There
“As a shop steward, it’s my job to be knowledgeable and prepared to defend my fellow Teamsters. That’s why I’ll be attending my first TDU Convention this year.
“I want to participate in the workshops on advanced grievance handling and to share strategies with UPS stewards from across the country.”
Landy Butler, Local 804 Shop Steward
UPS, New York City
Will you be there? Click here to register or call TDU at (313) 842-2600.
Teamsters from across our union are making plans to come to the TDU Convention from October 24-26 at the Cleveland Airport Sheraton.
“Opposition to the givebacks in the proposed contract has given many Teamsters the chance to share ideas on how we’re going to get a decent contract. It’s that kind of discussion and organizing that’s so important to making our union strong.
“The TDU Convention comes at a great time for us to come together. I plan on being in Cleveland and hope you do too.”
Chuck Brooks, Cassens
Local 449, Buffalo, N.Y.
Click here to learn more and register for the convention.
September 4, 2008: The Service Employees International Union announced it will seek the advice of Teamsters for a Democratic Union as it forms a commission on ethics and democracy within the union.
The move follows a series of problems involving SEIU officials—including corruption scandals involving high-ranking officers, as well as a move by the International Union to put a very large local headed by dissident officers into trusteeship.
The SEIU announced the formation of the commission on ethics and democracy, and that it will seek input from Teamsters for a Democratic Union and the Association for Union Democracy, in reports in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal.
Click here to read "Union Seeks Stronger Ethics Rules Amid Scandals" in the New York Times.
Click here to read "SEIU president says he will seek aid from labor reform groups" in the Los Angeles Times.
August 15, 2008: Barbara Ehrenreich isn’t afraid to point out the growing gap between the rich and the poor in America, and she’ll be talking about it at this year’s TDU Convention.
Barbara worked minimum wage jobs as a waitress and at Wal-Mart to expose corporate greed in her best-selling book Nickel and Dimed.
Click on the video below to watch a PBS interview with Barbara about the shrinking middle class—and what we can do about it.
Click here to register for the TDU Convention.
Do you want to know more about what you can do to enforce your contract, protect your rights, and get members involved?
Grounded in real-life experience and taught by Teamster leaders and experts, the workshops at the TDU Convention can help you get results.
“The workshops at the TDU Conventions are some of the best resources for members who want to know what employers have in store for our union and what we can do to win strong contracts and protect our rights.”
— Larry Davis, Gina Alvarez, and Richard Berg
Local 743 Officers, Chicago
Workshops at the Convention
A series of three workshops on writing and investigating grievances, how to choose your battles, and proving your case to panels and arbitrators.
TDU Success Stories
Hear from members who are running successful contract campaigns, winning local union office, and uniting members to reverse pension and benefit cuts—and how they’re doing it.
Winning Strong Contracts
Members who have won stronger contracts share tactics that unite members at work and at the bargaining table.
Teamster Power in the Global Economy
Find out how Teamster industries are changing and what those changes mean for organizing and union power.
Dealing with Management Safety Programs
Turn the tables on management safety quizzes and programs that blame the worker for accidents and injuries.
Secrets of an Effective Organizer
Learn from veteran union leaders how to get members involved and turn apathy into action where you work.
And many more. Plus special meetings for UPS, freight, rail, DHL, UPS Freight, movers, ready-mix, African American, Latino and women Teamsters.
Make Your Plans Today Now is the time to make your plans. Call (313) 842-2600 or click here to register for the TDU Convention or get more information.
May 14, 2008: How can we overcome apathy, unite members, and help solve problems on the job?
That was the subject of a TDU workshop on May 4 in Minnesota.
The workshop brought together members from Locals 120, 320 and 638 to learn and share strategies for putting teeth into the grievance procedure.
“Solving a problem is about more than just filing a grievance,” said Dave Kremer, a member from Local 320 at the University of Minnesota. "Involving the members in solving workplace problems empowers the members and builds the union."
A big part of solving workplace problems is asking questions and listening to other members. Labor educator Joe Fahey shared some strategic questions to ask members:
- Who cares about the issue? Does the issue affect just one person, a specific department, or everyone in the union? Is the problem just in one facility, or company-wide? The more support you have, the better.
- Who is causing the problem? Is just one supervisor the problem? Or is higher-up management to blame?
- What is our goal? What needs to happen to fix the problem or improve the situation—and how important is this issue to management?
- What can workers do together to show their unity to management? Start small, and do something that you know everyone will participate in—like getting everyone in where you work to wear their Teamster shirt on the same day. Starting too big may leave most members behind and make you look weak.
- How will success make your union stronger?
“We looked at three cases and we brainstormed what we would do in each situation,” Kremer said. “Then we heard how the situation played out in real life. Solutions can be won when we include the membership, ask the right questions, and consider all the possibilities.”
In one case study, management told Teamsters in a cannery that they could only use the restroom on their break, or before their shift. The next morning, all the workers lined up to use the single bathroom, just minutes before their shift started. An hour later, management shelved the rule.
Interested in setting up an educational workshop in your local? Teamsters for a Democratic Union helps members set up workshops like these across the country.
The TDU Convention is the Teamster education event of the year. The convention will feature a range of workshops led by Teamster leaders and labor experts. Click here to find out more about the TDU Convention.
May 12, 2008: This week, the IRS will start sending out economic stimulus checks. You'll be getting one in the weeks to come.
You can no doubt use the extra money in your wallet. We're asking you to consider sharing some of it for another, important kind of stimulus.
In TDU, we are working to stimulate Teamster Power. We’re asking for your support today to keep our movement strong.
We’re organizing every day to return our union to the members—and return the fighting spirit to the Teamsters.
We’re mobilizing to defeat contract givebacks and benefit cuts that are taking money from members’ wallets faster than any Bush rebate will put it back in.
Building a movement to return this union to the members isn’t easy or cheap—but it’s worth it.
Right now we’re in the middle of a fund drive. In recent weeks, our members have pitched in nearly $10,000. Can you help?
If you can, put some of that IRS check to work with TDU. We promise you that we will not waste a penny.
Click here to make a donation to TDU.
Not a member of TDU? Click here to join today.