• U.S.

LABOR: Through Mahogany Doors

3 minute read

With a mob of newsmen, lawyers and top Teamster officials trailing behind, chunky James Riddle Hoffa breezed into the spacious, glass-paneled lobby of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s Washington headquarters and disappeared through a pair of bleached-mahogany doors. Behind him waddled watery-eyed Teamster President Dave Beck. Symbolic it was that Ninth Vice President Hoffa unceremoniously pushed in ahead of his nominal chief. Dave Beck, his power dwindled, is No. 1 Teamster in title only, and he is scheduled to give up even that title to Hoffa when the union’s convention meets in Miami Beach Sept. 30. The real No. 1 is Jimmy Hoffa, and he cockily expects the convention to vote him into Dave Beck’s presidential chair.

Behind the mahogany doors, one morning last week, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s five-member Ethical Practices Committee, chaired by greying Machinists’ President Al Hayes, waited impatiently to hear what the hour-late Teamster chieftains had to say about charges that their union is dominated by “corrupt influences.” Dave and Jimmy said plenty—but told very little. Reading off a wordy prepared statement, Beck said blandly that, after all, the “allegations” against him and Jimmy and other Teamster officials were not “of such magnitude as to support a belief that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, as an entity, is ‘dominated . . . by any corrupt influence.’ ” Later on, Hoffa talked away for a couple of hours about gamy revelations that he hung around with gangsters and took dubious loans from businessmen. Afterwards it was plain from committee members’ hints that Jimmy had put up a feeble defense.

After Beck and Hoffa departed, the Ethical Practices Committeemen huddled to work out the report they will present to the A.F.L.-C.I.O. Executive Council on Sept 24. That report will say that the biggest and most powerful U.S. labor union is indeed riddled with corruption. The Executive Council will probably approve the report and then, just before the Teamster convention in Miami Beach, warn the union to clean house or face expulsion from the united labor movement. To kick out nearly 10% of its members with one boot would be a painfully drastic move for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., but it may come to that if, despite the clean-up-or-else warning, Hoffa gets himself elected president. James Riddle Hoffa would be one new broom that could hardly be expected to sweep clean.

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