By Kevin Galvin Associated Press Writer
October 6, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A House panel investigating the
Teamsters examined on Tuesday what the Clinton
administration did to help the union resolve a bitter strike in
The question is at the center of a Justice
Department inquiry into whether an independent counsel should
probe former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes' role.
But while the Education and the Workforce
subcommittee showed that the union pressured several agencies
to take action against Diamond Walnut Growers Inc., there was
no new evidence that Ickes did more than ask former U.S. Trade
Representative Mickey Kantor to call the company. Witnesses denied
any link between the action and union campaign donations.
Kantor told the committee his call to Diamond
Walnut's former chief, William Cuff, wasn't motivated by fund
raising, and that the administration never acted to punish the
company on behalf of the Teamsters.
``No one ever tried to persuade me to do
anything nnegative to Diamond Walnut, and we didn't,'' Kantor
Justice is weighing whether to request an
independent counsel to probe testimony Ickes gave to a Senate
panel that examined Diamond Walnut earlier.
The Teamsters had worked since 1993 to pressure
Diamond Walnut to settle with more than 500 mostly minority and
female workers who had granted contract concessions in the 1980s
to help the company compete but were denied wage increases in
negotiations in 1991, when profits were up.
In 1995, Ickes met with Teamsters leaders
about the standoff. An administration memo prepared for Ickes
noted that the Teamsters had given $2.4 million for Democrats
in 1992. It also suggested that if Democrats wanted to continue
to receive Teamsters support, they should consider helping the
union on key issues, such as the strike.
People who participated in the meetings have
denied that campaign contributions were discussed.
While Ickes has acknowleged asking Kantor
to make the call, and that such a call would at least implicitly
carry a message of pressure to the company, Justice investigators
are considerng whether he perjured himself when he told Senate
negotiators under oath that he wasn't aware of any steps the administration
had taken to help settle the strike.
``I'm not aware of him doing anything, except
for this phone call,'' Jennifer O'Connor, a former Ickes aide,
told the subcommittee Tuesday. ``He didn't seem to be particularly
focused on the issue or concerned about the call.''
Memos produced at the hearing show that the
Labor Department targeted Diamond Walnut under the short-lived
striker-replacement law, and that the Teamsters urged Agriculture
Department officials to cut the company from its school lunch
program and end subsidies that helped it market products abroad.
But Ron Carver, a Teamsters official who
played a key role in pushing the administration to pressure the
company, said the union was bitterly disappointed by the lack
of support it received.
The workers have been replaced and the strike
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press