Cleared Teamsters' Head Continues Union's Reform

THE allegations kept cropping up in the press: International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) President Ron Carey had past links to organized crime.

This week, those allegations were put to rest.

After an extensive investigation, the Independent Review Board (IRB), an agency set up by the Justice Department to watch over the Teamsters, stated that ``at this time we have found that the evidence uncovered in this investigation does not support our recommending charges against Carey.''

In a Monitor interview, Mr. Carey admits to relief about the report. ``It certainly had an effect on my family, so the answer is yes, I'm relieved,'' he says.

The IRB report, issued Monday, clears the way for Carey to continue his program of trying to clean up the 1.4 million-member union, the nation's largest. On the same day the IRB cleared Carey, the Teamsters filed corruption charges against the officers of three locals in the New York region.

Since he took office in February 1992, Carey has been waging an internal war against what he terms the ``Old Guard'' teamsters who looted the union. On June 9, Carey got the Teamsters General Executive Board to revoke the charters of the union's four Area Conferences.

Since Carey has been active in shutting down funding for the old Teamster leadership, it is not surprising that the IRB found that many of the allegations against him ``came from, or were stimulated by, Carey's political opposition within the IBT.''

One of Carey's opponents, George Geller, a lawyer for Teamsters Local 348 in Michigan, called the IRB report ``a disgraceful coverup'' in an interview.

Mr. Geller called on Sen. Sam Nunn's permanent subcommittee on investigations, which has held hearings on organized crime, to hold hearings on this issue. He wants the committee to allow a Mafia informant, Alfonso D'Arco, to testify about any relationship Carey may have with the mob. In 1991, Mr. D'Arco, a Luchese family member, told the FBI that Carey was involved with Joe Trerotola, a Teamsters official with organized crime ties.

However, the IRB concluded that there was no basis for recommending a charge against Carey for mob involvement. Despite this statement, Carey says he expects continued attacks from his opposition. ``This is the way to try to distract me,'' he says.

Ken Paff, an organizer with the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a national reform movement, hails the IRB's conclusions. ``We hope this will end the media attention these `Old Guard' officials are getting for these bogus charges,'' he says.

With the IRB investigation over, Carey is trying to find ways to finance the Teamsters' strike fund, which has run out of money. ``We've stopped paying benefits,'' he says. This spring, the Teamster membership turned down an increase in dues that would have raised $50 million. To fund a two-week truckers' strike this spring, the union borrowed $15 million from other international unions. It is now in the process of repaying those loans.

The union is also short-funded in its affiliate pension plan, which requires $16 million a year. Carey says unless it finds a way to replenish this fund, the Teamsters will have to consider freezing benefits to current employees or terminating the plan.

Carey says he hopes to have a plan to resolve the funding problems in motion by Labor Day.

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