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By Charles Walker

Ron Carey is free! On October 12, a New York federal jury acquitted former Teamsters president Ron Carey of all criminal charges stemming from his testimony before a grand jury. Federal prosecutors couldn't convince twelve jurors that Carey was guilty of multiple counts of perjury. However, the press reported that the jury did conclude that one prosecution witness lied, perjuring herself. The innocent verdict was not a rush to judgment. The jurors spent two days poring over Careyıs grand jury testimony and the federal indictment.

The verdict undermines not only the credibility of the federal prosecutors but also the credibility of the federal monitors who today would have the Teamster ranks accept them as a high-minded, impartial judge and jury.The prosecution's purported evidence hardly differed from that relied on by thegovernment appointed 'monitors' to justify their severe penalty that bannedCarey from the Teamsters for life.

The ouster of Ron Carey cut short a rising new enthusiasm for trade unions by unionized and unorganized workers alike. In the days immediately following the Teamsters historic victorious strike against United ParcelService, the nationıs largest trucking corporation, unions all over the countrywere reporting calls from workers eager to be organized. Some analysts saw the UPS strike as laborıs long delayed answer to President Reaganıs smashing of theair controllers' strike and union. Workers were talking union; the Teamsters, it was said, had put the movement back in the labor movement.

Ironically, the heady verdict comes just days after Okalahoma became the 22nd state to adopt anti-worker, falsely named right-to-work legislation, and the autoworkers union lost a major unionizing drive by a humiliating, lopsided vote at the Nissan auto plant in Smyrna,Tennessee. In contrast, Ron Carey showed that U.S. workers would back a union leadership that's not afraid to fight and knows how to win. The U.S. labor officialdom at the highest levels never learned that lesson and meekly allowed the government to oust Carey, spinelessly refusing to pick up his banner ofunion militancy.

Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, a President Clinton appointee, hauled Carey before a grand jury last January. She claimed that Carey knew about a professional campaign consultants' scheme to funnel union dues money toCareyıs 1996 reelection campaign. There's no doubt that there was such a plot,hatched in part by Careyıs chief accuser, Jere Nash, Carey's reelection campaign manager.. Four years ago Nash pled guilty to his part in the rip-off and falsely said that Carey knew about the scam, in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.. In fact, Nash has yet to besentenced. It's not clear if Nash still faces 20 years in prison and a $2million fine. Investigators discovered overwhelming evidence that Nash used the kickback dodge to line his own pockets with contrived fees and commissions.

The prosecutors could never find a scintilla of evidence that Carey took part in the crime. But when Carey told a grand jury that the con job had been done behind his back by trusted aides and he had no idea what was going on -- as the prosecution knew he would the prosecutors secured aperjury indictment. A wrongful conviction could have meant that Carey, 64, would spend his remaining years imprisoned. No wonder that Careyıs three tearful daughters embraced their father as the jury left the jurors box.

The popular view of rank-and-file Teamsters and indeed of many workers is that the governmentıs agents who have 'monitored' the union since March 1989 framed up Carey. They think that Carey paid a price because of his leadership of the unprecedented national strike against United Parcel Service,the largest trucking corporation in the nation. The ranks' view is bolstered bythe fact that the 'monitor' who removed Carey from the ballot is an expensive Manhattan corporation lawyer wealthy enough to maintain offices around the country.

The 'monitors' who ousted Carey from the Teamsters for life, much like the prosecutors, never said that Carey was in on the shady deal. Instead they claimed that Carey should have known what was going on. What they never explained was how Carey could have known what was going on, since it wasgoing on behind Carey's back. Nash pled guilty to conspiracy. The conspiracyincluded keeping Carey in the dark. Carey's lawyer said that holding Careyresponsible was like holding a bank president responsible for a bank tellerısembezzlement.

One of Careyıs aides who was convicted and was sentenced tothree years in a penitentiary was called as prosecution witness. Clearly he had plenty of incentive to trade his testimony against Carey for a shorter sentence,since he is a parent with children at home. He testified that Carey didnıt knowwhat the schemers were up to, that Carey was 'out of the loop.'

From the courthouse steps Carey implied that the acquittal might be the beginning of anew chapter as a Teamsters leader, reported the next day's Los AngelesTimes. ³It obviously opens lots of doors and possibilities, which Iıll belooking into.² The Associated Press also quoted Carey,³ It's been in my blood for 40 years, he said. I need to really think about that. Obviously I wouldwant to sit back and shake off what has been a tragic part of my life,ı²

Comments from rank and file Teamsters on the Internet indicate that some in the ranks havenot forgotten him, and look forward to his union membership beingrestored. ³Carey should be reinstalled aspresident of the teamsters because he was elected by the members of this union;² ³I agree with others who think that RonCarey should be reinstated in OUR Union!² ³His militancy and active leadership wascausing a real resurgence in our movement! That resurgence has hit a wall sinceCarey's removal and Jr.ıs {Hoffaıs] presidency;² ³We need that active and militantTeamsters Union back. We need active and militant leaders who will tell the membership that itıs OK to be active and militant again!! We need Carey back;²³After our election there should be a campaign among all Teamsters, no matterwho was supported in our election, to reinstate Ron Carey into the Teamsters Union. Simple justice demands it!²

But Teamsters president James P. Hoffa is not likely to lead a mobilization of the members to demand that the government allow Ron Carey to rejoin the union he served forfour decades. ³Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell said the acquittal would not changethe unionıs attitude toward Carey. ŒHeıs banned from the union and thatıs not changing,ı² he told the Los Angeles Times. Further, Caldwell said that,³Ron Careyıs not off the hook yet.² He meant that Hoffa intended to continue topursue a civil racketeering suit against Carey for $3 million. That case was thrown out of court just two weeks ago, but Hoffa says he will appeal.

Apparently, the case is frivolous on its face, but Hoffa has tried to use it to convince union voters that Carey robbed the union blind. Despite Careyıs ouster from the union, Hoffa has continued to campaign against Carey. Since 1997, Hoffa has labored to convince the Teamster ranks that Carey is guilty of the charges that the jury rejected. Its been said that at the recent Teamsters Convention, someone might have thought at times that Carey was in the presidential race, not Tom Leedham, Hoffaıs only rival on the ballot. Some Teamsters have suggested that a write-in campaign be waged for Carey, only to be told that the election rules do not permit write-invotes and that any writing on a ballot would cause that ballot to be thrown out.

At times duringthe past four years, Ron Carey has seemed to many to be a forgotten Teamster.Thatıs ironic because he campaigned for the ³Forgotten Teamster² and wasrecognized as a champion of the part-time worker, the marginalized canneryworker, the seldom noticed, lowly paid hospital orderly. But Carey was alwayson the minds of some socialists grouped in Socialist Action, the Socialist Workers Organization, or around the Labor Standard magazine. They did their best to make sure thatCareyıs fight was not an isolated fight. In public forums and in their press these socialists attempted to rally union militants to Careyıs defense. Stretchingtheir resources to the limit, socialists published thousands of copies ofCareyıs futile defense at the monitorsı hearing that ousted him from the union.Clearly, the socialists could not reach the unionıs 1.5 million members. But it was everything they could do to get Careyıs side of the story out to the ranks.

The socialistsı deeds should have served as a model for Careyıs allies in the Teamsters reform movement. Instead the central leadersof the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) said that Careyıs case should not be likened to the tragic Sacco-Vanzetti case of 1920-27 (not that anyone did) that received support from workers all around the world. The TDU leaders said that the unionıs members were primarily interested in their contracts andgrievances and not with what was going on with Carey. TDU quickly moved on to find a candidate to replace Carey, and ignored the fact that the government had deprived the members of their democratic right to independently select theirleaders.

Clearly, thegovernment had greatly exceeded its stated intention to make sure that electionresults were on the up-and-up. Even if itıs conceded that the rules allowed thecourt-appointed election officers the right to order re-run elections tocorrect fraud and make sure that the election results accurately reflected thewill of the majority, it can not be conceded that the election officer had theundemocratic right to tell the members that they could not vote for anyproperly nominated member-in-good standing. To this day, TDU has not said that the election authorities over stepped their authority granted by the notorious Consent Degree and thereby acted against the best interests of the rank-and file.

In a prepared statement issued on the day of Careyıs acquittal, TDU broke its near-silence onthe Carey trial, stating that, ³This is a good day for Teamsters and the labor movement.² But in the next sentence the statement blamed the victim, Carey, for his and the ranksı plight. ³What ever mistakes Carey made, including allowing unsavory consultants into his campaign ­ consultants who betrayed Carey andreform ­ his legacy is one of reform,power and hope for Teamsters.² TDUıs praise for Carey has got to be cold comfort for those Teamsters in and out of TDU who from the first urged that the TDUleadership conduct a fight to defend the members democratic right to elect Carey, if thatıs what the ranks wanted. The TDU press release listed the many positive changes that happenedduring Careyıs six years, called on Hoffa ³to stop blaming Ron Carey for their weak contracts, their failed organizing program and their own string of broken promises² and called on the ranks to elect Tom Leedham in this monthıs election.

Unlike the TDUleaders, the jury didnıt blame Carey for anything. One juror said, ³I actually believed he was a good guy trying to carry out good things for the Teamsters,²noted the Associated Press. To which we say, ³Amen!²

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