James P. Hoffa was sworn in May 1 as General President of the Teamsters union. He takes the reins of a union in poor financial shape, which he blamed on predecessor Ron Carey.
Hoffa outlined four priorities in his inaugural speech in Washington, DC. "There are four items that must be at the top of the priority list," he said. "First, we must continue to heal the deep divisions within our great union. Second, we are going to establish and maintain fiscal viability within the Teamsters. Third, we are going to establish new procedures to ensure the Teamsters remain free of corruption. And finally, we are going to focus on organizing and the growth of the Teamsters."
Since his election in December, Hoffa said, he has uncovered significant mismanagement of members' dues by Carey. Federal officials barred Carey from holding Teamsters office in 1997, finding that he had participated in a scheme to funnel dues money into his re-election campaign. The federal election overseer ordered a new election, which Hoffa won in December with 55% of the votes cast.
An investigation by a House subcommittee on oversight and investigations came to similar conclusions about the financial mismanagement of the union. "We found a profound lack of accountability by past Teamsters leaders," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the Republican chairman of the committee. He recommended that the union create better financial controls so its leaders are held accountable to rank-and-file members.
Between 1991 and 1998, Teamsters' net assets dropped from $154 million to $3.2 million. The union also spent nearly $6 million in dues income during the same period.