Thursday, January 15, 2009


In 1998, Ron Carey was exiled from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters of which he was an exalted leader, first as a local union president and then as president of the international union. In ancient times, among the worst penalties imposed upon a Roman citizen was exile. Sadly, the Teamsters Independent Review Board visited the same form of suffering on Carey--ruling he could not associate with his lifetime Teamster friends or participate in any way in the union--after finding him guilty in a scheme to use the union treasury to help finance his campaign for reelection the presidency of the Teamsters.
Because the FBI could not find any real evidence to pin him directly to the funding scheme and because he repeatedly insisted in sworn testimony before federal grand juries and the Independent Review Board that he was innocent, Carey was charged with perjury.
AND THEN three years later in the fall of 2001, Carey was cleared of the perjury charge at a trial in the New York U.S. District Court.
The testimony of a single witness, who claimed that Carey okayed the rip off of the funds during a 15-second-long phone conversation, was the basis of both the Independent Review Board decision and the criminal charges.
Fortunately for Carey, he went into the trial with two of the nation’s foremost white-collar criminal defense lawyers, Reid Weingarten and Mark Hulkower of the Washington, DC firm of Steptoe & Johnson representing him. In addition, Bob Hauptman, Carey’s former Special Assistant for Management and Budget, served as the defense team’s researcher and analyst of the documents used in evidence.
The defense team proved that the crucial 15-second phone conversation never happened. Weingarten in his summation said without challenge from the federal prosecutors that their witness had been proven to be “a completely dishonest, untrustworthy, little thief.” My detailed account of the trial, The Exoneration of Ron Carey, can be accessed at the Teamsters for a Democratic Union website.
Right after Carey—still in exile--died at age 72 in December 2008,a member of his home local, Queens-based Teamsters Local 804, asked me for my thoughts on how this great union leader could be honored. After mulling the possibilities, including a statue in Union Square in Manhattan or a scholarship, I have reached the conclusion that perhaps the best way to keep the memory of Carey’s reputation and achievements alive might be to create an annual Carey Teamster Award to be given to a Teamster official or member whose activities best reflect what he tried to do for union members in his lifetime of service. The organization best suited to confer the award—whether it be a simple piece of paper or a medallion—would be Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which has been struggling for more than three decades to make the Teamsters into a better union.
One side effect of an annual Carey Teamster Award could be to provide a stage for which a potential reform candidate for international president of the union.

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