Hoffa junior ready to follow father as Teamsters' boss to follow father as Teamsters' boss

Not long ago, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters was supposed to have been purged of its corrupt and infamous past. But in only 10 days' time, to widespread apprehension within the United States labour movement, a man named Hoffa could be back at the helm of the country's most famous and, many would say, still most powerful trade union.

For almost a month now, postal balloting has been under way in a government- supervised election of a new leader for the 1.4 million-strong Teamsters. And with just three days to go before the voting closes, the incumbent president, Ron Carey, the man most credited with cleaning up the union - is in peril of losing his job.

Mr Carey's opponent is James P Hoffa Jr, son of the former Teamster president, Jimmy Hoffa, who vanished outside a suburban Detroit restaurant in July 1975, presumed kidnapped and murdered by the Mafia. By deftly exploiting his father's name and the deep resentment among the union old guard of Mr Carey's high-handed methods, Hoffa Junior has given himself more than an outside chance of victory.

Results will be declared next weekend. But the Carey forces, once confident of winning, can now bank on only two of five Teamster regions. The biggest, covering the industrial Midwest, is considered solid Hoffa territory while the remaining two, in the West and the South, are toss-ups.

James Hoffa, a Detroit labour lawyer, insists he has no links with organised crime - "Let's Clear the Air," proclaims his campaign poster, "The Mob Killed My Father ... There will be no place for the Mob or its Agents, THEY WILL BE RUN OUT OF THIS UNION." Unabashedly, however, he vows to bring back the old decentralised structure of the Teamsters' glory days under his father, when local officials wielded immense power and could paralyse truck deliveries for a targeted company, coast-to-coast.

Since then the labour universe has been turned on its head. Deregulation, new information technology and the virtual demise of the closed shop have vastly weakened unions. Their membership has plunged, sapping their ability to stand up to a new breed of national and multinational companies able to call on non-union labour at will.

The Teamsters themselves have, moreover, changed, with less than a third of the membership accounted for by truckers and freight workers. All these problems Mr Carey has sought to tackle, but at a price. A generation of local bosses has not forgiven him for wresting authority back to the centre, and for closing down more than 60 locals, or branches, suspected of links with organised crime. Neither have Mr Carey's decisions to trim perks for senior officials and raise dues done anything for his popularity.

But despite a vigorous effort by his foes to tar him with the brush of corruption, Mr Carey has undoubtedly cleansed the Teamsters' reputation. All this, leaders of several unions now fear, could be jeopardised by a Hoffa victory, at the very moment a revitalised AFL-CIO, the central labour organisation, is beginning to improve its image and attract new membership. Some even advocate expulsion of the Teamsters from the AFL- CIO should Mr Hoffa win.

Much will depend on turnout, already certain to eclipse the 424,000, or 28 per cent, who voted when Mr Carey was elected in 1991. Normally a higher turnout would favour the incumbent. This time the magnetism of the Hoffa name makes any such calculation impossible.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect