As the saying goes, it’s a tale as old as time, and yes, we are talking about union corruption.
Notorious Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared nearly 48 years ago, although no amount of time stops his name from surfacing on the subject of union corruption. The formerly all-powerful labor leader’s ghostly shadow still looms large over U.S. organized labor, and memories of Hoffa do not reflect a benevolent memory of union affairs. Rather, he still looms as a specter of heavy-handed tactics and absolute corruption.
Following the end of Hoffa Sr.’s Teamsters tenure, the international union underwent a transformation similar to what should be currently happening with the United Workers. In 2023, International Teamsters President Sean O’Brien now approaches his one-year anniversary of ending the Hoffa era finished up by Jimmy’s son, James P. Hoffa. O’Brien embarked upon a self-described “militant” path to union leadership, and that label has proven accurate through his current roster of threatened strikes at sizable employers.
Sure, O’Brien hasn’t yet been accused of any variety of mob-type corruption similar to Jimmy Hoffa, but they do have plenty in common. Both proved willing to bring industries to their knees, and in fact, John F. Kennedy saw Hoffa Sr. as a menace, who attempted to push the American transportation system to a jarring halt. Likewise, O’Brien delights in crippling companies with strikes meant to force contract negotiations for his union.
Nearly five decades later, the Teamsters claim to have overcome the Jimmy Hoffa variety of corruption. As of 1989, the union agreed to abandon all mob ties, and the union successfully settled into direct elections of its officials. The latter practice is proving difficult for the United Auto Workers to handle, as we’ll discuss in a moment.
That is to say: corruption is a hard habit to kick, and the UAW is outright rejecting the straight and narrow. Not that this tactic is exclusive to the Teamsters or the UAW.
Take the SEIU, for example. A local is making headlines this month for hitting the financial skids in a mysterious way and laying off 10% of staffers. Their union, the Chicago News Guild, accused the SEIU of mismanaging at least $2 million and mysteriously failing to collect dues from members. The union staffers feel jilted after leading boots-on-the-ground organizing campaigns throughout the pandemic.
Onto the UAW, though, which is still attempting to dig out from underneath their own corruption scandal. Simultaneously, they have attempted to boost membership by taking aggressive aim at higher education and targeting EV battery factories. The once mighty union also seemingly will not behave. As such, current President Ray Curry seems bound and determined to do anything to stay in power, and that includes the absolute corruption of their election process, which is essentially a sham election.
This leadership election was meant to be the first time that the UAW directly elected its leaders, but that hasn’t worked out as directed by the feds. Let’s catch up on this mess:
- Ray Curry is doing everything possible to maintain power. That includes an allegedly rampant display of voter suppression by union bureaucracy. This accusation finds support in the numbers: less than 10% of eligible-to-vote UAW members actually voted in the first round of the presidential election, which led to a popular candidate, Will Lehmen, being immediately knocked out of the running.
- Lehmen has refused to take this development quietly. The rank-and-file member and tiered Mack Trucks worker filed an official protest against the union and accused federal watchdog Neil Barofsky of looking the other way during Curry’s quest to push through run-off proceedings against opponent Shawn Fain. The first election round remains uncertified, and that seems like a fair status, given that both of the “leading” candidates headed to the run-off after gathering less than 5% approval from eligible UAW voters.
- Among the many alleged voter suppression tactics popping up in conversation, members say that ballots were intentionally sent out to wrong addresses, and that workers were misinformed about ballot due dates. Lehmen has also accused the union of scuttling his ballot and refusing to count it.
- Other UAW members are talking: One worker is quoted as saying, “I see the corruption. They care about themselves but that’s it.” Another worker saw the plain-as-day ridiculousness of the matter: “How can you have an election where 90 percent of the membership didn’t vote?”
- Barofsky appears to be doing very little about this alleged voter suppression or Lehman’s protest. The watchdog did, however, reprimand a local UAW official for penning a letter to direct his 100+ members to vote for Curry.
- However, Ford workers are still raising the alarm about this “travesty of democracy” while declaring that they never received ballots at all. In videos posted by Lehman to Twitter, members went public with their claims with one worker calling this election “shameful and disrespectful.” A “disgusted” team leader even pointed out that none of his 15 subordinates received a ballot for the fall election, but ballots miraculously arrived at their homes for the runoff.
Funny how that works. The UAW runoff voting deadline is Feb. 28. Counting will begin on March 1. Stay tuned for more controversy while the UAW continues to build their mega-strike fund in an attempt to stay afloat while staying corrupt.