The Teamsters Union and the Justice Department announced Wednesday they have reached an agreement to end the government’s 25-year anti-corruption oversight of the 1.4-million member union.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, joined with the Teamsters in asking a federal judge to terminate the consent order that had been in place since March 1989.
Teamsters president Jim Hoffa called it “a historic day” for the union. He said the union could “finally say that corrupt elements have been driven from the Teamsters” and that government oversight could come to an end.
Bharara said in a statement from New York City that the proposed agreement recognizes “the significant progress that has been made in ridding the International Brotherhood of Teamsters of the influence of organized crime and corruption.”
A 1988 federal lawsuit against the union charged corruption and mob influence within the union nationally and at local levels, including Teamsters Local 41 in Kansas City.
Local 41 officials were not available late Wednesday.
Roy Lee Williams, who served terms as president of Local 41 and as president of the international union, had testified in court that he was controlled by Kansas City crime boss Nick Civella. He said that Civella ordered him to run for the international union presidency in 1981 and that his election would be assured.
In 1987, John D. Couts Jr., then president of Local 41, had said a government takeover of the union was the only way to end the mob’s influence.
Federal charges included a nationwide pattern of violence involving union activities or members. These included the 1978 murder of Michael Spero, who was a business agent at Local 41.
The statement Wednesday from Bharara said the proposed settlement helps provide “an avenue for the union to demonstrate its ability to preserve gains through its own independent disciplinary and electoral systems.”
The proposed settlement was presented to U.S. District Chief Judge Loretta A. Preska.
“We anticipate that she will approve the agreement,” Hoffa, president of the union since 1999, said in a statement. “We will begin the transition to end government oversight.”
The court case brought against the Teamsters by the government was settled by a consent decree in which the labor union agreed to the federal oversight.
The 1989 consent decree established direct elections of international officers of the union and established an independent disciplinary process for rooting out corrupt elements.
Hoffa is the son of former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, who has been missing since 1975. He had disappeared in suburban Detroit; although presumed dead, his remains have never been found.
“When I took office in 1989, I pledged that we would run a clean union, that organized crime would never have a place in the Teamsters Union,” the younger Hoffa said Wednesday.
The Star’s Mark Davis contributed to this report.