Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ron Carey, RIP

It's been a crazy news week. There's so much I want to talk about. But in the limited time I have right now, I want to mention the death of former Teamsters president Ron Carey.

Carey was the reformer who threatened to bring the Teamsters into the progressive movement during the 1990s. The head of the union from 1992 to 1998, Carey was a sharp contrast to the staid, corrupt Hoffa years, Carey centered organizing and supporting progressive causes in his program to reform America's most corrupt union. During my labor organizing days of the late 90s, I knew a Teamster who was a big Carey supporter. If this was the kind of person who a revived Teamsters was going to push forward, Carey was a great man.

Sadly, Carey was done in by corruption charges of his own. These were somewhat hazy charges, but people in power loathed Carey because of his reforms, including the Hoffa wing of the union. He was kicked out of office, and out of the union for that matter, not for doing anything wrong or being corrupt, but for not detecting a campaign finance scheme. His replacement--Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., a figurehead hoisted by the old corrupt elements of the Teamsters, who remains in power today.

Meanwhile, unions become less relevant to American political life every day.