The neo-Nazi U.S. Labor Party, in its most alarming political breakthrough to date, has linked up with powerful officials of the 2.3 million member International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
"Corrupt union leaders are working with the Labor Party on every level: in the locals, the joint councils, the conferences, and even occasionally at the top in Washington," said Ken Paff, national organizer of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a rank and file dissident outfit which recently merged with the Professional Drivers Council (PROD), the other major Teamster reform group.
Paff charged that USLP members, most of them not members of the union, have been used to infiltrate meetings of the dissidents, intimidate members via smear campaigns, and "in general carry out the union leadership's dirty work."
A three-week investigation by Our Town found ample proof of Paff's charges, and also of an estimate by Bob Windrem, former research director of PROD, that the USLP had been "an effective weapon" in some instances to stifle rank and file dissent.
In addition, Our Town uncovered a pattern of Teamster support, both open and covert, for its strange ally. Union officials have purchased thousands of copies of USLP pamphlets for distribution to union members, made contributions to the party coffers, invited party members to speak at union rallies, endorsed party members for public office, and provided support for party front groups such as the Michigan Anti-Drug Coalition.
USLP political ideas relating specifically to union problems have apparently made headway among some elements in the Teamster leadership. As the president of one Illinois local reportedly said last March, in introducing a party speaker to a gathering of shop stewards: "They [the USLP] are the best educated people in the country...they have the facts." The "facts" in question, largely a collection of bizarre allegations about an alleged conspiracy of liberal "Wall Street" foundations to channel funds into Teamster dissident groups, have even cropped up in speeches by Teamster international president Frank Fitzsimmons.
Strangest of all, one of Fitzsimmons' top muscle men in the Central Conference, Rolland McMaster (a prominent target of Dan Moldea's recent muckraking book, The Hoffa Wars) became so excited by USLP chairman Lyndon H. LaRouche's rhetoric at a party rally last May, that he endorsed LaRouche on the spot for President of the United States. (Later, embarrassed by tens of thousands of USLP leaflets to the Teamster rank and file heralding McMaster’s act of indiscretion, Fitzsimmons made a public statement disassociating all "officials and employees" of the IBT from the LaRouche campaign.)
According to one Teamster dissident, Fitzsimmons's statement is only the latest example of a "political peekaboo game" the union and the USLP have been playing for more than two years. "You hear about a business agent passing out Labor Party literature--you even have witnesses who saw him do it--but when you ask him, he denies it," the dissident said.
TDU's Ken Paff stated, "It's an old tactic. The union leaders don't want to look bad, so they get outsiders to come in and conduct their smear campaigns for them, calling us communists, drug pushers, homosexuals, you name it, Then, when the people who are being smeared complain, the union leaders simply disclaim any responsibility."
The USLP's relationship with the Teamsters first blossomed in the summer of 1977, shortly after the union began what Teamster vice president and propaganda chief Jackie Presser termed a propaganda "counterattack" against the union leadership's "enemies" in the media and in law enforcement agencies. Presser, whose six overlapping Teamster salaries paid him $192,629 in 1976, explained the new policy to members of his Ohio Conference in the April-May 1977 Ohio Teamster. Presser’s argument sounded remarkably similar to conspiracy theories the USLP had previously advanced to explain the mid-1970's upsurge in rank-and-file protest within the United Mine Workers, the Steel Workers Union, and the Teamsters.
"For years we have ignored our enemies," Presser wrote. "We now find that we must counterattack because it is becoming increasingly clear that these attacks...are part of a cleverly orchestrated campaign....We can only assume that it must be those radical forces who seek to destroy democracy and responsible capitalism. We are beginning to see curious alliances among those who attack the IBT. Alliances between self-proclaimed social reformers and self-confessed socialists and powerful money interests including tax protected foundations. Recall if you will that it was foundations that were revealed as frequent conduits for 'dirty money' from the CIA...."
The USLP hailed Presser's statement in its biweekly newspaper, New Solidarity, and began intensive "mobilizations" to sell this paper and pass out handbills to Teamsters at highway off ramps, truck stops, and city intersections around the nation. The USLP literature focused especially on attempts to smear TDU and PROD. According to the TDU newsletter Convoy, the party's agitators advised truckers to "call up Jackie Presser" and even offered his phone number.
Bob Windrem of PROD described to Our Town this sudden intrusion into Teamster politics. "They were everywhere--bam!--in the summer of 1977. Their propaganda was very, very effective. They mimicked our [PROD's] style of using specific documentation, only their facts were usually wrong. But some guys believed them. We had panic calls from a lot of our supporters wanting to know how to counter them."
The USLP's effectiveness resulted from a carefully written 32-page pamphlet, The Plot to Destroy the Teamsters, in which the party attempted to prove Presser's charges of a conspiracy led by the Eastern establishment. Woven into the pamphlet were stock USLP villains such as the Wall Street banks, the liberal foundations, Nelson Rockefeller, the Institute for Policy Studies. Although "Zionism" was not mentioned (the party had not yet come out in the open with its anti-Semitism), the pamphlet did make references to the "monetarists" and to Rockefeller's "British" allies.
The heart of the pamphlet, however, was its "counterattack" against PROD and TDU, which were beginning to gather strength among the rank and file in many Iocals. The pamphlet pointed out that the two reform groups had received small grants from liberal foundations, puffing this up into "proof" that PROD and TDU were controlled by the employers. In addition, the pamphlet noted that one official of PROD had also worked for Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, who is unpopular among Teamsters for his advocacy of deregulation of the trucking industry. Finally, the pamphlet pointed out that a few leaders of TDU, the more radical of the two reform groups, were members of the International Socialists, a small Marxist group.
"The charges contained just enough truth to make people suspicious of us," said one PROD member. "But it was basically a smear job. They took isolated facts and blew them out of proportion."
This source also cited the "guilt by association" tactic: "When they mentioned one guy had worked for Ralph Nader, they failed to add that PROD had strongly and publicly opposed Nader on the deregulation issue."
If the pamphlet was quick to attack union reformers on bogus points, it was curiously silent on the well-documented conspiracy of union leaders and organized crime figures to siphon hundreds of millions of dollars from the Teamster pension funds into Mafia-controlled ventures. And the Teamster chieftains therefore soon recognized the pamphlet's value as a diversionary counterattack. By late October, New Solidarity was able to boast that 46,000 copies of the one-dollar report had been sold, in large part through "bulk, wholesale purchases" by Teamster locals. The newspaper even printed a map claiming to show about 10,000 of the most recent bulk purchases by 20 locals in 12 states.
New Solidarity is notorious for its exaggerations, but in this case--according to activists in PROD and TDU and also defectors from the USLP--there can be little doubt that union officials did purchase several thousand copies of The Plot to Destroy the Teamsters.
"We got reports from many locals that the business agents, were passing it out," TDU's Paff said.
Paff gave Our Town a copy of a letter on the stationery of Local 126 (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin) urging members to read their enclosed copies of the USLP pamphlet, "because it ha some very interesting information." The letter is dated October 31, 1977 and is signed by Donald F. Wetzel, secretary-treasurer of the local.
TDU leaders also say the pamphlet was sent out by Michael Ellison, secretary treasurer of Local 941 (El Paso, Texas), using union mailing labels, the union postage meter, and the union return address.
According to the October 25, 1977 New Solidarity, three thousand copies of the pamphlet were purchased by Walt Angelo, owner of the United Trucking Schools of Northern California and a close pal of Jim Muniz, the leader of Teamster Local 70 in Oakland. The order included a special insert attacking TDU dissidents who were running against Muniz and Co. in the Local 70 election that fall. Large numbers of the pamphlets were passed out prior to the election, smearing the dissidents as dope pushers, terrorists, FBI agents, etc.
The TDU-backed slate lost the election, but then filed charges of election irregularity with the U.S. Labor Department. One of their arguments was that the distribution of the USLP pamphlet by Angelo constituted employer interference in the election. The Labor Department investigated the charges, which were widely reported in the Bay area press, then initiated a civil suit to overturn the election. In August 1979, the dissidents were vindicated when a federal district court judge ordered a new election.
In September 1977, an article giving a sympathetic summary of the USLP pamphlet appeared on page 3 of Teamster News, the organ of Joint Council 73 in Union City, N.J. The chief of Joint Council 73 is Sammy Provenzano, brother of convicted mobster Tony Provenzano. The article mentioned the National Caucus of Labor Committees (parent organization of the USLP) as the source of the pamphlet, but failed to notify New Jersey Teamsters of the facts regarding the NCLC's violent and often paranoid history.
TDU did not take the USLP attacks lying down. In a letter to Fitzsimmons on November 13, Ken Paff charged that the USLP is a "group of thugs...who are known for anti-labor actions such as breaking up union meetings, attacking union members, trying to stop duly authorized strikes of various unions." The letter reminded Fitzsimmons that the USLP had been denounced officially by both the United Auto Workers and the United Steel Workers. Finally, the TDU leader called on Fitzsimmons to "urge all officials and affiliates that are distributing [USLP] material to stop doing so."
Apparently, Fitzsimmons was getting complaints from inside his bureaucracy as well. (The USLP would later blame Teamster lawyers Dave Previant and Robert Baptiste, as well as the union's liberal-minded second vice-president, Harold Gibbons.) And the Teamster General Executive Board, at its January 1978 meeting, passed a resolution disclaiming any association with the USLP.
TDU and PROD welcomed the resolution but were skeptical of its sincerity. Convoy (April 1978) noted that Fitzsimmons and other top officials "have themselves been repeating the 'Rockefeller conspiracy' fantasy" (a reference, among other incidents, to a Dallas speech by Fitzsimmons the previous October). The TDU paper speculated that the executive board members simply did not want "to get hit with legal action stemming from the lies contained in the [USLP] booklet."
Events soon proved TDU's sarcasm to be fully justified. The Teamster leadership sent to the locals a 22-page attack on the rank and file groups which so closely repeated the charges in The Plot to Destroy the Teamsters that, as Bob Windrem quipped, "You'd think the USLP wrote it." It described PROD and TDU as "media creations" aiming at the destruction of the union, and linked them with labor attorney Joe Rauh, the Stern Fund, the Samuel Rubin Foundation, and other longtime targets of USLP paranoia. A shortened version of this report was passed out to the media at a Fitzsimmons press conference in June. (Our Town questioned Duke Zeller, IBT communications coordinator, about the media version. He described it as a "backgrounder" on the dissident groups and admitted that it included charges of "funding from non-Teamster sources." He said he didn't know who had prepared it.)
In addition, PROD and TDU continued to receive reports that officials of various locals were distributing USLP literature. And the USLP soon printed up a second pamphlet, The Deregulation Hoax: The Conspiracy to Destroy the Trucking Industry and the Teamsters, in which Senator Edward Kennedy is featured as a prominent villain. (TDU alleges that this pamphlet was commissioned by the Southern Conference of Teamsters in Hallandale, Florida.) The deregulation report was mailed out by at least one local to its membership (Local 577, Amarillo, Texas). And TDU's Paff says the leadership of Joint Council 39 in Wisconsin asked the locals in its jurisdiction to contribute toward the purchase of copies. (Reportedly, a contribution was forthcoming from Local 579 in Janesville.)
By October, Joseph Spaniolo, a USLP member in Local 299 (Detroit), was able to brag that "over 200,000 copies" of the two USLP pamphlets had been "purchased and studied by union members around the country." This figure was later revised downwards by New Solidarity to a mere 180,000. (PROD's former staff attorney, Steve Early, believes that even the revised figures are "exaggerated," but that the USLP pamphlets "were all over the place--the entire Southern Conference was using their stuff.")
The USLP also concocted a leaflet, "The Truth About PROD," for distribution in the Midwest during an organizing tour by PROD national director Paul Poulos. The leaflet, which charged the reform group with being an "informers' network" for the FBI as well as a tool of "Wall Street tax-exempt foundations," was passed out on August 20 by Local 147 business agents in front of a PROD meeting hall in Des Moines, Iowa. According to one witness, the BA's were accompanied by a USLP member. The BA's remained outside but the party member entered the hall and attempted unsuccessfully to disrupt Poulos' speech.
The "Truth About PROD" leaflet was also used at a PROD organizing meeting in Rockford, Illinois on September 24, according to New Solidarity. An officer of Local 325 and several followers leafleted outside and then, reportedly, entered the meeting to ask hostile questions.
At no time did non-union USLP cadre directly employ violence against the Teamster dissidents. In its propaganda "counterattack" against PROD, however, New Solidarity slyly encouraged violence via sarcastic news accounts, such as the following ("Teamsters Debate PROD," August 11, 1978): "In Local 26, in Danville, Illinois, a PRODite was annoying workers at a nuclear plant construction site with environmental, and-union slanders. The Teamsters circulated a petition...stating that they didn't want him around because of his 'anti-American, anti-union activities.' The workers' enthusiastic explanations of their just grievances left the PRODite befuddled in the bottom of a garbage pail."
The closest collaboration between Teamster leaders and the USLP occurred in the closing months of the year, during union elections in which rank-and-file slates influenced by TDU and PROD challenged the incumbent hacks in about 20 locals. According to Convoy, in its January 1979 post-election issue: "US Labor Party flyers were used, and in some cases US Labor Party people were brought in from Chicago to write campaign literature or speak at campaign rallies in Harrisburg (though the president later repudiated it), Long Island, Denver, Grand Rapids, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Florida."
According to New Solidarity, the USLP's Chicago-based "expert" on Teamster affairs, one Richard Leebove, was sent around the country, helping local Teamster leaders to set up "truth squads" to confront TDU and PROD.
The bizarre, now-you-see-it-now-you-don't nature of this collaboration was best illustrated by events in Harrisburg, Pa. Prior to the election, PROD had received complaints from the reformers in Local 776 that union business agents had been distributing USLP literature. PROD sent a letter to the president of the local, Arthur Huntsberger, who denied the charge, although admitting USLP material had been left around the union hall. Yet Huntsberger later invited Leebove to make an anti-PROD and anti-TDU presentation at a steward's meeting. The presentation, which included charts and graphs, was less than convincing to several of the stewards, who later asked why Leebove had been invited. According to the PROD Dispatch, Huntsberger again passed the buck, claiming that the USLP speaker had been recommended by a top Teamster official in Chicago. (The Dispatch alleges that this official was Louis F. Peick, an international vice president and a member of the very same General Executive Board which had passed the anti-USLP resolution the previous January.)
The USLP concocted for the next upcoming elections a fill-in-the-blanks version of the "Truth About PROD" (local Teamster officials could simply add the name of the local opposition slate). Printed by each local on its own, these leaflets were used on Long Island, and in Atlanta, Grand Rapids, Orlando and Harrisburg (partial list). According to leaders of the reform groups, the USLP leaflets were definitely more effective than the unsophisticated red-baiting leaflets (not of USLP origin) that were used in Flint, Michigan and in Oklahoma City. One sample of the USLP approach: "Many older Teamsters will remember how Bobby Kennedy created the totally illegal 'Get Hoffa' unit of the Justice Department in the 1960's to hound, harass, and most likely murder Jimmy Hoffa. In the 60's, the FBI had to send in undercover agents to infiltrate the Teamsters. Now they just use PROD!"
After the elections, New Solidarity printed a list of locals in which the incumbents won and in which the leadership "directly or indirectly collaborated with the USLP." The list included Peick's home local, No. 705 in Chicago, as well as all locals except Harrisburg which had used the "Truth About PROD" leaflet. (PROD sources say the list is misleading, since the reformers did much better than expected in at least two of the races.)
New Solidarity also gave a list of locals in which the incumbents lost and in which the latter "refused to collaborate" with the USLP or to "adopt the USLP's method in exposing the PROD-TDU conspiracy." But TDU's Paff says that at least one of the incumbents who lost office did use USLP literature. "When TDU held a pre-election meeting in Oklahoma City," Paff recalls, "the president of Local 886 stood up and started reading from one of the USLP pamphlets. He'd read a passage that sounded convincing and then stop. We had a copy also, though, and we'd pick up where he left off--and read on to some of the really crazy stuff about the Queen of England, so the audience could see where these people are really coming from. I'd say we got the best of that little interchange."
Paff also relayed a story from reformers who won the election in a Florida local: "Shortly after they took over the union office, a bunch of cartons filled with USLP literature was delivered. It had been ordered by the previous officers, but it just arrived too late."
Among the successful USLP interventions, the best documented was the Local 282 election on Long Island, in which incumbent president John Cody--a close associate of the late Carlo Gambino--defeated the reformers by a comfortable margin in spite of widespread media coverage of the reformers' grievances.
New Solidarity gloated over this victory in its Dec. 15 issue, giving a detailed account of the USLP's role:
Throughout the [PROD] attack, the morale and fighting spirit of the Cody leadership and the union stewards remained high. However, as several union leaders pointed out, they lacked the ammunition needed to deal PROD a decisive blow.
The Labor Party provided that ammunition...Richard Leebove and a staff of USLP intelligence experts first briefed the Cody leadership and then the secondary leadership....The Labor Party assisted the Local 282 leadership in developing material to counter the lying press and alert the membership to the dangers of PROD... This process culminated in a mass educational meeting one week before the election, where Leebove presented the evidence on the conspiracy to nearly 500 union members.
(Note: The leaders of the dissident group in Local 282 have confirmed that these meetings actually took place.)
A second New Solidarity article quoted Cody as telling USLP member at a victory party after the election, “You gave us the ammunition to win.” Whether of not the quote is authentic, the Cody leadership did show its gratitude to the USLP by a $500 donation in the form of a "subscription" to the party's New Solidarity International Press Service.
The union dissidents found out about the donation at a membership meeting on March 29, 1979, when the minutes of the previous meeting were read. Shortly after, the dissidents filed a complaint of election irregularity with the U.S. Department of Labor, which sent investigator Patricia McGuire to check it out.
According to McGuire's report, dated May 10, "examination of Local 282's books and records disclosed a payment of $500 on 2/27/79 for a one-year subscription to the New Solidarity International Press Service." In a separate memorandum, the investigator described her conversation with Lucille Kott, officer manager of Local 282. She asked Kott to show her "what kinds of services or materials were provided by the [news] service." Kott replied that "she did not believe that any materials had yet been received by the union."
According to a defector from the USLP who once worked for the press service, "it produces news articles on a daily basis for New Solidarity and other party publications. It's hard to believe that a bona fide subscriber could go for two whole months without receiving a single item." The defector added, however, that "it was common practice to sell phony subscriptions at puffed up prices, both to the news service and to the Executive Intelligence Review [the party's weekly business magazine--ed.]. It was a way of concealing donations given by rightwing businessmen."
In several instances, Teamster officials have also been willing to give the USLP a modest amount of political support. In October 1978, the tri-county screening committee of Joint Council 37 (Portland, Oregon) endorsed a USLP candidate for the State Legislature; and in December several Teamster officials from around the nation signed a telegram of greetings to the founding conference of the party's Michigan Anti-Drug Coalition.
"As leaders of the American labor movement," the telegram said, "we give 100 percent support to your coalition's efforts to clean up the drug trade and pledge our help to rid our nation of this evil disease." The signers of the telegram according to New Solidarity, included the president of Joint Council 65 (Springfield, Illinois) and officers of Local 147 (Des Moines, Iowa), Local 971 (Belleville, Illinois), Local 769 (Miami, Florida), Local 282 (Long Island), and Local 572 (Long Beach, California). Our Town showed this list to a respected longtime analyst of Teamster affairs, who said that "at least two of those locals" have a "definite relationship" with "drug-pushing mobsters."
The most important benefit for the USLP in its Teamster alliance, however, is the access it has gained to the Teamster membership to push its message of hate. Although the party's original toehold with the Teamsters was gained via the 1977 pamphlet, with its focus on "Rockefeller" and "Wall Street" villainy, subsequent pamphlets and New Solidarity articles struck a more sinister note of anti-Semitism. Indeed, the Rothschilds and other Jewish bankers, together with their "Zionist" and "British" agents, came to be blamed for virtually every problem facing the Teamster leadership: the TDU and PROD, trucking deregulation, Justice Department investigations, muckraking journalists, hostile media networks, Cesar Chavez, the revolt of the independent truckers, and the moralistic disapproval of the AFL-CIO.
New Solidarity also attempted to link its anti-Semitism with a general analysis of the trade union movement. The USLP newspaper envisioned a network of "traditionalist American System-oriented" trade union leaders, in the Teamsters, the United Steel Workers, the United Mine Workers, and the buildings trades who would "stand opposed to forces associated with AFL-CIO Treasurer Lane Kirkland...and other Anti-Defamation League-linked circles who want to...go with Teddy Kennedy and his...liberalism" (August 11, 1978). While supporting these traditionalist leaders, however, New Solidarity also criticized their alleged ideological shortcomings. For instance, it complained about Steel Workers president Lloyd McBride that "While [he] understands...the threat represented by the pseudo-leftist Sadlowski [Ed Sadlowski, leader of the USWA reform movement--ed.] and his ilk, he has yet to come to grips with the Social Democratic and Zionist Lobby traitors who enjoy his closest confidence" (September 26).
Meanwhile, to educate the rank and file of the traditionalist unions, New Solidarity announced a USLP petition to "oust Zionists from the Unions" (September 8).
The most virulent of the New Solidarity articles targeting the Teamsters was LaRouche's "Jack Anderson and the Gang That Killed Hoffa," which first appeared in the October 3 edition. Identifying newsman Jack Anderson (a longtime critic of the Teamsters) as the "darling of the Zionist lobby," LaRouche also announced:
I know who murdered Hoffa, and so does every top law enforcement officer in the U.S....We may not know the names of the thugs sent to do the killings, but we know who sent them....The guys who did the hiring are walking around...as the "most respected persons" of the international Zionist community. So far, the law can't--or won't--lay a finger on them.
LaRouche next launched into an explanation of the international Jewish conspiracy:
The rituals of entry into the synagogue do include elements of a conspiratorial 'password' system....This feature (among others) of Judaism was syncretically mangled by the British as the way of seducing Jews into the British intelligence networks organized, chiefly, around the conspiratorial leading circles of B'nai B'rith.
Defectors from the USLP say that LaRouche and other party leaders were perfectly aware that Hoffa was killed by Teamster rivals, not by any Jewish conspiracy.
"LaRouche concocted the assassination myth purely and simply to encourage bigotry in the union," said one defector. "He knows his allegations are untrue. And while he pretends to shed tears for Hoffa, his followers are busy cultivating the very Teamster officials who set Hoffa up for the kill." (This defector cited a meeting in 1978 between USLP national labor coordinator Matt Moriarity and top officers of Provenzano's Joint Council 73, at which the USLP emissary allegedly received a donation in return for a party "intelligence report.")
The LaRouche article on Hoffa's murder was apparently regarded as useful by some Teamster locals. New Solidarity claimed on October 27 that it was being "reproduced and circulated throughout locals, on union hall bulletin boards, and so on to bring the membership to [an] understanding." In November, it was brought out in revised form as a pamphlet, The Gang That Killed Jimmy Hoffa, and Joe Spaniolo in Local 299 issued a USLP leaflet calling on his fellow workers to "support bulk purchases" of it. TDU's Paff recalls that the pamphlet never achieved as large a circulation as the previous two pamphlets, but it "definitely got around."
In a telephone interview on Dec. 12, IBT international vice president Harold Gibbons told Our Town that "the international never cooperated with [the USLP]." He conceded, however, that "some locals did buy copies" of The Plot to Destroy the Teamsters, because "they thought it was very pro-Teamster."
Gibbons said that he had recognized the USLP as "a weird kind of group" from the beginning and had argued against any cooperation. Asked about IBT president Fitzsimmons' speeches in 1977 and 1978 which had included USLP-style charges against dissidents, Gibbons said "He may have used that [the USLP pamphlet] as a source of his rhetoric." Gibbons said that IBT vice president Jackie Presser in Cleveland is "the one who's had the most contact with them" including contact "within the last year."
When Our Town called Presser we encountered the same stonewalling tactics that Teamster leaders use when questioned about their mob connections: "I've never worked with them...I don't know anything about them...I've had no contact with them...I've never dealt with them," said Presser, although admitting "they [the USLP] are active and around." Presser, who serves as the union's director of communications, carefully avoided any negative comments about the USLP, even though the IBT General Executive Board has officially denounced the LaRouche group.
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