Dissident members, investigators challenge Teamsters' boss

Although dissidents in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) have planned a nationwide campaign to oust president Jackie Presser, the union's leaders are much more concerned about continuing government investigations that could involve him.

A mini-convention of the dissident group, Teamsters for Democratic Union (TDU), which met last weekend in Romulus, Mich., voted to work for a direct election of IBT officers in 1985, saying ''one-member, one-vote'' balloting should replace ''undemocratic'' convention elections.

According to Douglas Allan of Los Angeles, co-chairman of the TDU, the designation of convention delegates is largely controlled now by ''a ruling clique'' of international and regional officers, with the IBT rank and file having little voice in elections.

The dissident TDU has existed for years, but has never mustered enough support to become an influence within the Teamsters. The recent convention attracted 400 delegates at most. Nearly that many Presser supporters paraded outside the convention hotel, waving American flags and chanting, ''Jackie is the best.''

On taking office in April, this year, Mr. Presser promised ''strong efforts'' to clean up the scandal-ridden Teamsters.

Although his name had frequently been mentioned in federal probes, he had never been indicted for any crime. He said he was determined to clear the IBT of charges of corruption and links to crime.

Now Presser is reported to be under sharp government scrutiny once more.

Earlier this month, an uncle, Allen Friedman, was found guilty in federal court on charges of embezzling $165,000 in salary money from 1978 through 1981 from a Teamsters local in Cleveland. According to trial testimony, money came to him although he did no work to earn it.

Investigators testified that Mr. Friedman was allowed to stay on the payroll as a ''ghost'' employee as a reward for merging an independent local he ran with IBT's Local 507.

Friedman says the deal made him a union consultant, not a ghost.

''I worked for Local 507. I was no ghost,'' he says. Angry because Presser did not testify ''that I worked,'' he now says, ''If anyone was a ghost, it was Jackie Presser. He did not do anything for Local 507 (while secretary-treasurer) except spend his time figuring out how he could become general president of the Teamsters.''

Pressers' possible involvement results from testimony that as secretary-treasurer of the Cleveland local, he personally reviewed all salary payments and checks. One investigator said he ''had to know what was going on.''

Local 507's president, Harold Friedman, no relation to Allen Friedman, also is under federal scrutiny in connection with the payments.

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