Hoffa and Cheney's Role at Overnite

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at yale.edu
Tue Aug 1 08:27:30 PDT 2000

Interesting article that highlights Cheney's role on the board of Overnite's parent company, Union Pacific, and Hoffa's close connections to the GOP ticket. Hoffa held a big fete for various GOP congressman who are moderately pro-labor. For those who have not heard, it also includes info about the reports of Overnite hiring folks to damage their own terminals and blame the Teamsters.

-- Nathan Newman ===========================

Hoffa Tipped Off GOP On Cheney-Related Firm By JEANNE CUMMINGS and DAN MACHALABA Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

PHILADELPHIA -- The day before Dick Cheney was named as Republican Gov. George W. Bush's running mate, the Teamsters tipped off a top campaign official about damaging accusations that could soon surface against Overnite Transportation Co. and its parent company, Union Pacific Corp., on whose board Mr. Cheney sits.

A union representative warned Mr. Bush's political director, Tony Feather, of new information that Overnite executives paid workers to damage property and then falsely blame the union, campaign and union officials said. In addition, the campaign was told that the union was considering filing a lawsuit against Overnite, Union Pacific, and its directors -- including Mr. Cheney, the officials added.

Ultimately, campaign officials decided not to pass the information along to Mr. Cheney, who was formally announced as Gov. Bush's running mate last Tuesday, said Ari Fleischer, a campaign spokesman. "It was a nice courtesy call, but we were not concerned about it," he added.

But the Teamsters' decision to confide in the campaign of the Republican Party's presidential nominee is significant because it demonstrates how aggressively union President James P. Hoffa is trying to work his political neutrality to his union's best advantage. Last night, he headlined a GOP reception where he said: "We're not going to be a union devoted to just one party. We want friends in both parties." In an interview prior to the gathering, Mr. Hoffa said, "Our presence here is to continue our bipartisan approach to politics."

Mr. Hoffa's high-profile appearance here is an embarrassment to Democratic Vice President Al Gore, who has visited Teamsters on Overnite picket lines and still hopes to solidify the labor movement behind his campaign for president. Mr. Gore's presidential campaign spokesman, Chris Lehane, said the Overnight case demonstrates that "Al Gore sides with working people while the Bush-Cheney ticket represents the powerful."

Resolving the Overnite strike is one of Mr. Hoffa's most important internal priorities, since a victory would likely assure his own re-election next year as Teamsters head. Mr. Hoffa said that he wanted Union Pacific to conduct an investigation of its trucking subsidiary, but he wasn't aware of the telephone call.

The strike against Overnite began late last year after the union accused the trucking firm of failing to negotiate in good faith. Since then, there have been dozens of reports of vandalism and shootings at Overnite employees, which company officials blamed on the union. Teamsters' officials denied the charges.

A day after the union's phone call to the Bush campaign, union investigators produced an affidavit from a former Overnite driver who said he was paid to vandalize property and then to swear the union did it.

Carl von Bernuth, Union Pacific's senior vice president and general counsel, said that he and Bruce Baird, a partner at Covington & Burling, will investigate the charges. He said the review "has nothing to do with Mr. Cheney's candidacy. Whenever allegations are made about illegal conduct by employees, Union Pacific takes it seriously."

The Teamsters Monday released information compiled from police reports that several bomb threats made to Overnite terminals had been traced to people connected with Overnite. Ira Rosenfeld, an Overnite spokesman, said the company will look into the allegations.

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list