The New York Times

Teamsters Group Backs Reform Candidate


April 6, 1998

Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a group of Teamsters that long supported Ron Carey, the union's president, announce Wednesday that it was backing Ken Hall, head of the union's small-package division, in the upcoming election for the union's presidency.

With this move, the forces that backed Carey have largely coalesced around Hall, a 41-year-old West Virginian, who asserts that he will be the reform candidate against James Hoffa, son of the former president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Many Carey supporters are turning to Hall after Carey, who is on leave from the presidency, was barred from running for re-election when a federal monitor found that he had conspired to siphon union money into his re-election campaign in 1996.

Hall, who once worked as an oil field repairman, gained prominence last August when he and Carey were the union's chief negotiators when 185,000 Teamsters went on strike against the United Parcel Service. Hall is widely viewed as a skilled negotiator, with a mind for details, but without Carey's flair. His supporters say they hope he will develop more political panache as he campaigns.

Hall's backers say he has several built-in advantages to challenge Hoffa: Hall is well-known in the 220,000-member small-package division, which includes UPS, and a higher percentage of that division's members vote than is the case in other Teamster divisions.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which has long led the anti-corruption fight in the Teamsters, threw its support behind Hall after several top Carey aides endorsed Hall. Many of them are believed to have had Carey's permission.

Several leaders of Teamsters for a Democratic Union had supported Tom Leedham, director of the union's warehouse division.

But Ken Paff, national coordinator of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, said it was time to rally behind one candidate. "Our No. 1 preference was to get the team to unite with a reform leader and to move ahead," Paff said.

The group says it has 10,000 members in a union that has 1.4 million members.

Hoffa's campaign manager, Thomas Pazzi, noted that not all Carey supporters had rallied behind Hall. Pazzi said three prominent former Carey supporters who head big locals in California, Pennsylvania and Texas had endorsed Hoffa.

Pazzi faulted Hall as being closely linked to Carey and said, "No honest Teamster should want to reward this unholy alliance's effort to keep itself in power after being completely discredited."

Pazzi said Hoffa remained the odds-on favorite to win.

Michael Cherkasky, the court-appointed monitor who is supervising the election, is expected to issue a decision next week after investigating charges brought by the Carey camp that Hoffa committed campaign-finance violations. Carey supporters have said Hoffa should be disqualified, but Hoffa has denied any improper campaign fund-raising.

Cherkasky has proposed an election timetable in which nominating ballots would go out on May 1 and new slates must be formed by May 29. Under his plan, balloting would begin on July 27 and counting would start on Aug. 25. His plan is not yet official because the federal judge who oversees the Teamsters has not approved it.

Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company

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