It’s no secret that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have a history of corruption. Although you won’t find this information on the Teamsters’ website, according to contemporary news accounts, five of the last eight Teamsters National Presidents have been indicted for a variety of offenses.
This is not all in the past nor is it limited to national leadership. Most recently, a former official of Teamsters Local 337, Michael Townsend, pleaded guilty to charges related to accepting bribes from a company he was supposed to be representing members against. The deal Townsend made is as simple as it is maliciously self-serving: Townsend promised to hold off unionizing efforts against the company if they made a sweet cash transfer to his front company, Sam LaGrasso Produce Co.
According to U.S. attorney Barbara L. McQuade, “This defendant was a union official who was entrusted to help working people organize… He betrayed the Teamsters and workers for his own profit. We are seeking to hold him accountable for his conduct.”
Townsend’s sentencing hearing is not until March, but he faces fines up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison. Unfortunately for employees, in the case of Teamsters officials both local and national, history is likely to continue to repeat itself. Perhaps this is why public opinion on union authority leans dramatically towards empowering the rights of workers rather than keeping the status quo.