Time for Teamsters reform

THE indictment of Teamsters president Jackie Presser on payroll padding charges adds one more stain to that union's troubled history. It can only hamper the Teamsters' efforts to recruit members in fields other than the union's traditional avenues -- trucking, warehouse work, and airlines.

The indictment of Mr. Presser -- and several other union officials and an FBI agent -- comes against the backdrop of this week's national Teamsters Union convention in Las Vegas, Nev. Despite the coming court test, Presser is expected to win reelection easily to a new term. Three of his immediate predecessors -- Roy L. Williams, James Hoffa, and Dave Beck -- were all convicted of crimes and forced to leave office because of improprieties.

However the Presser case comes out -- and Presser claims that he will be vindicated -- it is clear that the selection process for the 1.5 million-member union is out of kilter with current democratic standards for such organizations. The union's officers are in effect elected indirectly, by its international board, although ratified by convention delegates.

The US Department of Labor should seriously examine that selection method, which some brave dissidents within the union are seeking to have changed to provide for direct election of officers by the union membership.

The Teamsters Union's membership continues to decline. Further, its longtime political link to the Republican Party could be endangered, as legal questions are raised in court about Mr. Presser. If the union genuinely wants to serve its membership, then it should promptly welcome, rather than further hinder, reform of its election process.

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