A Teamsters local president who has been endorsed for the national union's presidency said further reforms in the Teamsters will help rank-and-file members combat the union's reputation as a corrupt organization.
Ron Carey, president of the 7,000-member Teamsters Local 804 in New York City, is the first member to say he will take advantage of new election procedures and challenge the union's leadership.He was endorsed Sunday by the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a dissident group within the 1.6 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the nation's largest trade union.
"We have an opportunity to move this union in new directions, and we can't miss our chance to regain control of the leadership that has ignored the needs of members for too long," Mr. Carey told the Teamsters for a Democratic Union on Saturday.
"Our union's negative image has been formed because of 5 percent of union officials who are corrupt," he said.
About 500 members from across the United States and Canada gathered over the weekend at a Pittsburgh hotel for the 14th annual convention of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, or TDU.
In addition to endorsing Mr. Carey's nomination, delegates passed a resolution prohibiting negotiation of two-tier contracts, which provide lower wage scales for some workers doing the same job.
The TDU was formed in 1976 in Detroit to oppose union election policies. Now claiming 10,000 members, the group has been instrumental in winning sweeping reforms in the union, notably the right to majority rule in elections and contract votes.
Also invited to address the convention were Teamsters President William J. McCarthy and Secretary-Treasurer Weldon Mathis, who were expected to run for the union's top office. Neither accepted the invitation or was available to comment on Mr. Carey's remarks.
Mr. Carey, 53, has been a Teamsters member for 34 years as a United Parcel Service delivery driver. He doesn't belong to the TDU, but said he supports its goal of giving members more of a voice.
"I would hope that with what we could achieve in 1991 that TDU won't have to be TDU," he told the crowd, which interrupted his speech several times with standing applause. "I've been TDU all along in terms of my beliefs."
Last year, under pressure from the Justice Department, which is fighting alleged corruption in the Teamsters, the union agreed to allow all union contracts to be decided by majority vote.
Previously, union policy required a two-thirds vote to reject pacts approved by Teamsters leaders. The TDU and others asserted that such elections led to sweetheart deals between union leadership and employers at the expense of the members.
In March, union leaders agreed to allow the rank-and-file to vote directly for the union's president, secretary-treasurer and the 16 vice presidents who make up the Teamsters' general executive board.
Until now, Teamsters leaders were appointed by the board, which in turn was selected by the general president and confirmed by fellow board members.
In a six-month selection process that will begin in October, members will vote for delegates to a June 1991 convention, where candidates who receive 5 percent of the delegates' vote will be on the ballot in an election in the fall of 1991. All union members will be eligible to vote in that election.
Mr. Carey hopes to appear on the ballot and says he is trying to assemble a coalition of reform-minded candidates.