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Agreement Reached to Reduce Federal Oversight of Teamsters Union

January 15, 2015

By Evan Lockridge

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The United States Attorney’s Office and the Teamsters have entered into a settlement agreement that would greatly reduce federal oversight of the union.

It is up to a federal court as to whether to approve the deal following a consent decree that has been in place since March 1989, after the government’s filed of a landmark civil lawsuit against the union designed to rid it of the influence of organized crime and put in place a more democratic electoral system for choosing union leaders.

A court hearing on the agreement is set for February 11.

“The proposed settlement agreement seeks to strike the appropriate balance, recognizing the significant progress that has been made in ridding the International Brotherhood of Teamsters of the influence of organized crime and corruption, while providing an avenue for the union to demonstrate its ability to preserve these gains through its own independent disciplinary and electoral systems,” said Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “We recognize that, although substantially diminished, the threat posed to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters by organized crime and other corrupting influences persists, and the proposed agreement provides for a continuing monitoring role for the government.”

Bharara emphasized reaching this juncture is a great tribute to the success of the consent decree in forging meaningful and positive change within the Teamsters and for its 1.4 million members.

The 1989 consent decree permanently prohibited all Teamsters members, officers, employees, and associates from committing acts of racketeering activity or knowingly associating with various organized crime groups or persons otherwise banned from participating in union affairs. It also provided for “one-member, one-vote” direct elections of Teamster officers, subject to independent oversight and established a court-appointed, three-member independent review board to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing.

“After decades of hard work and millions of dollars spent, we can finally say that corrupt elements have been driven from the Teamsters and that the government oversight can come to an end,” said Teamsters President James Hoffa. ““By agreeing to end the lawsuit, the government acknowledges that there has been significant success in eliminating corruption from within the Teamsters. Our agreement establishes a new procedure for independent investigation and oversight of internal disciplinary matters and guarantees democracy in the future.”

Before the consent decree that the lawsuit that resulted in it, the Teamsters had been under the microscope by the federal government since the late 1950’s with various investigations continuing well into the 1980’s, according to Politico.com. Under the consent decree, hundreds of union members with alleged ties to organized crime were expelled from the union.

The new agreement seeks to ensure progress made under the consent decree’s disciplinary and electoral reform provisions will be preserved while reducing the government’s oversight role over time, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The proposed agreement retains prohibiting Teamsters members, officers, employees and associates from engaging in racketeering or knowingly associating with organized crime groups or persons otherwise banned from union affairs. The union also has agreed to permanently retain the “one-Teamster, one vote” direct elections of its officers and to the appointment of an independent election supervisor to oversee those elections.

Also, it calls for phasing out the independent review board during a five-year transition period, and the union establishing its own independent disciplinary enforcement authority through the appointment of disciplinary officers approved by the government.

Following this transition period, the government may apply to the court to do away with these changes, if they are approved, if it finds the Teamsters electoral or disciplinary systems are functioning ineffectively or that there exists systemic corruption or organized crime influence in the union.

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