United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee.

Investigation of improper activities in the labor or management field. Hearings before the Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field (Volume pt. 54) online

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ready for some time to hand down their decision, but didn't want to
influence the court of law before which Smith and Boling were being

Senator Kennedy. When did the court act ?

Mr. WiLLL\MS. The court has not yet acted, as I understand the
situation. Senator, on the motion that is still pending for a judgment
of acquittal, notwithstanding the jury verdict.

It is further my understanding

Senator I^nnedy. The jury verdict found them guilty, but there is
an appeal, and the panel decision is not to make any report, even to
Mr. Hoffa on this matter ?

Mr. Williams. They don't report to Mr. Hoffa. I believe they
report to the general executive board. It is my understanding that
they will report as quickly as the judge acts on the motion pending
before him.

Senator Kennedy. It seems to me that we have a case here where
the international has assumed some jurisdiction, where they appointed
a panel last October 28, where the impression is given that this man,
because of his involvement with the law has been given a leave of


Now we find out that first the panel is withholding making any re-
port at all to the governing authorities of the Teamsters; that the
local union has chosen to circumvent the spirit and the letter of your
commitment to Judge Letts in regard to the international's jurisdic-
tion, and, instead, has assumed, in a sense, a jurisdiction by giving
him a leave of absence with pay in advance.

Mr. Williams. I didn't hear anything about the international giv-
ing anybody a leave of absence with pay in advance.

Senator Kennedy. I said the local.

Mr. Williams. These men stepped out of office and we learn now
that their local had voted them salary for 6 months.

Senator Kjennedy. Isn't it a fact that you assured Judge Letts that
the international was assuming jurisdiction, that you appointed a
committee and the committee had been sitting for 7 or 8 months, and
that it has made no report at all, private or public, to the executive
committee of the Teamsters organization ?

Mr. Williams. I don't think I understand your question.

Senator I^jennedy. Is it a fact that this committee has been ap-
pointed by the general executive board that was appointed in October,
that actions of the kind described here in the minutes, such as the pay
in advance for 6 months at a time when he was involved in very seri-
ous legal difficulties, was made after the international had assumed the
jurisdiction in accordance with an agreement with Judge Letts, that
this committee has been examining the matter now for 7 months and
has not made any kind of a report to the general executive board, and,
in fact, has not assumed jurisdiction ?

Mr. Williams. Senator, I don't think that is one question. It is
several questions.

Senator Kennedy. It is a statement. I would be glad to have you
correct it.

Mr. Williams. It is a statement with many facets. At the time I
told Judge Letts that the international had assumed jurisdiction it
had, and it had assumed it for about 2 weeks prior to the time I made
the statement.

A panel, as I understand it, heard the evidence. Charges were
filed at the reconnnendation of the monitors. I am not sure that the
charges were well drawn, but they were drawn at the request and at
the suggestion of the board of monitors.

Thereafter, that board did not act for reasons which apparently were
sufficient unto itself. Whether they were good or not, I am not pre-
pared to debate with you. They apparently felt that they should not
act on this matter while it was in a court of law, less they would
influence detrimentally to these members the outcome of the court

So they haven't acted, although as I understand it they have long
since completed tlieir hearings.

This may not have been a course of wisdom. It may not have been
one that you would have chosen. Senator. It may not have been
one that I would have chosen. But they did this, and they have not

But I understand, and have been assured, that they are going to act
as soon as the judge in Kjioxville hands down his decision.

36751t— ,59— pt. 54-


But the last facet of your statement is this : This was not a cause
for alarm to anyone for the reason that it was always the understand-
ing of the international that these men were not serving in office. It
turns out here today that they were not, although they were given 6
months advance pay.

Again, this may not have been the way I would have handled it,
and I am sure not the way you would have, but this is what the local
voted. We learned about it for the first time this afternoon from
these minutes, or at least I did and Mr. Hoffa did.

Mr. KJENNEDT. From whom did you receive the information, Mr.
Williams, that they were suspended ?

Mr. Williams. A letter was sent out suspending them. That is
my recollection. I can't dip back 8 months. If you would tell me,
Mr. Kennedy, a day before we come up here, the subjects on which
you propose to interrogate the witness, we could produce the necessary
documents to aid you in your legislative purpose.

Mr. KJENNEDY. What I want to find out is who told you and you
in turn told the court they were suspended.

Mr. Williams. Since you choose to keep secret those subjects about
which you are going to ask the witness, it becomes a little more difficult
for us to give you answers on things that are 8 months old.

But these men, according to my recollection now, and according
to my recollection which was very fresh then, were suspended by
act of the international office.

Mr. Kennedy. How were they suspended ?

Mr. Williams. By letter.

Mr. Kennedy. You sent a letter to them suspending them ?

Mr. Williams. I didn't do anything. I don't have the power to
suspend anyone.

Mr. Kennedy. Who told you ?

Mr. Williams. I don't recall. Probably one of the lawyers work-
ing for the international union either out of my office or out of the
international office.

Mr. Kennedy. Is it permissible under the Teamster constitution for
the international president to write to local officers and tell them they
are suspended ?

Is that all you have to do ?

Mr. Williams. Do you have a copy of the letter that was sent to
them ? I am sure it is among all the documents that have been sub-

Mr. KJENNEDY. Yes, I do.

Senator Ervin. While this interruption

The Chairman. Mr. Williams, while you are not a witness, but a
conversation between committee counsel and the members of the com-
mittee and you, here are the letters, I think, that you referred to.
Examine them and see if those are copies of them.

(The documents were handed to Mr. Williams.)

Mr. Williams. Here are two letters, dated August 28, 1958, both of
which letters were written prior to the time that this discussion took
place before Judge Letts, which was alluded to here this afternoon,
and both of these letters are signed by the president of the union, and
both of them suspend the two addressees, namely Boling and Smith,
from office


Senator Mundt. Mr. Williams, when you said the president of the
union, did you mean Mr. Hoffa ? Who signed them ?

Mr. Williams. If you are going to ask questions, I would like the
opportunity to answer them.

Jbenator Mundt. Who signed the lettere ?

Mr. Williams. Mr. Hott'a signed them.

Senator Mundt. Thank you.

Mr. Williams. The lettere read as follows :

At the request of the board of monitors, and in view of your admission that
you used $20,000 of the union's money in an attempt to bribe a local judge in a
criminal case, I am forthwith suspending you from the office of president until
the determination is made on the charges which will be preferred against you
in the very near future.

A copy of these charges will be mailed to you as soon as they are ready.

Then you asked me about the authority for the president to suspend.

Article 18, section 1, which I suppose was the section relied upon
by the board of monitors

Mr. Kennedy. Find out what that says. What is the authorization
in there?

Mr. Williams. You have a copy.

Mr. Kennedy. WTiere does it say in there that all that is necessary,
all that is incumbent upon the international union, is to send a letter?
Where does it say that that suspends a local officer ?

Mr. Williams. It says so, Mr. Kennedy, in section 1(d).

Senator Kennedy. In other words, Mr. Williams, if I may ask the
question, you believe it is constitutional, according to the Teamsters
Union, when the president of the Teamsters Union finds that an officer
has been charged with a serious offense, that he is empowered to
suspend that officer ?

Is that your judgment ?

Mr. Williams. I will read the section to you. You can make your
own judgment on it.

Upon filing of charges and if the same are of such magnitude and seriousness
as to jeopardize the interest of the local union or the international union then,
in that event, the general president, if the matter is brought to his attention,
may, if he deems it advisable, immediately suspend such member or oflScer from
membership or office in the local union until a decision has been rendered in
the case.

Senator Ivennedy. That seems quite clear. I would like to know
if you agree or if that is your statement, that the president is em-
power to remove, suspend an officer when he feels that the conduct
of the officer is of such magnitude and seriousness as to jeopardize the
interests of the union. Then the president, merely in his action, may
suspend such officer?

Mr. Williams. If there are charges pending and they meet the
requirements of this section, then in his discretion he certainly may

Senator Kennedy. He may make the judgment as to whether they
do meet the requirements ?

Mr. Williams. Somebody has to make the judgment, and the con-
stitution gives it to the president.

Senator Kennedy. In other words, then, Mr. Hoffa, it is possible
for you — we have had a good many witnesses in the last 2 days, many
of whom took the fifth amendment in regard to what they have done


with union funds, with regard to conflicts of interest and so on— if
you felt, to use the language of the constitution, that these charges
are of such magnitude and seriousness as to jeopardize the interest of
the local union or the international union, you could suspend them
all ; is that correct ?

Mr. HoFFA. I think you are overlooking the fact that the question
here of charges does not mean public charges, but it means charges
against an indi^ idual filed from a local union level, not filed from the
Senate conmiittee or from the newspapers.

Senator Ivennedy. In other words, though, if any member of the
local union, members of the local union, or a group of members of
the local union, institute charges against a union oflficer, then you
would have the power to suspend such an officer, if you felt the charges
were of the seriousness and magnitude ?

Mr. HoFFA. I think that first of all it would have to be determined
whether or not they were charges brought in good faith, whether or
not they were substantiated charges, whether or not they were charges,
as such, that should be heard on the local level or on the international
level, and after all those determinations are made the general president
could then decide whether or not this provision prevailed.

Senator Kennedy. In other words, though, you must make the
judgment as to whether all those conditions prevail?

Mr. HoFFA. Based upon that fact, not fiction.

Senator Kennedy. The fact is, Mr, HolTa, you do have the power
to move against all of these officers if you choose to do so from Mr.
Presser on down, who took the fifth amendment here this morning,
taking the fifth amendment on a number of serious questions. You
do have the power if any member of that local or members of that local
instituted charges against him. You would have the power to suspend
him ; isn't that correct ?

Mr. HoFFA. I have the authority and power mider the constitution
to carry out the provisions as prescribed by the convention. But be-
fore exercising that power, it is necessary to take each individual
case, and based upon the merits of that particular case factually
after having the individual being given an opportunity to answer
charges that are filed against him, if it is then determined that it is
necessary to remove him from office, there is authority granted the
general president under the constitution.

Senator Kennedy. How many of the witnesses who come before this
committee in the last 2I/2 years, officers of the Teamsters, who have
taken the fifth amendment or who have admitted certain actions, how
many of them have you suspended ?

Mr. HoFFA. I don't have the figure.

Senator Kennedy. How many, generally ?

Mr. HoFFA. I would say that there have been some instances, and
I believe one would be Feldman of Philadelphia — I can't think of
others at the moment — that had charges brought against him, and
after checking into the information we requested him to take sus-
pension. However, under the constitution, also, there is a recognition
that the individual elected to the presidency of this international union
is to also have enough commonsense to be able to run this interna-
tional union in such a way that the membership derives benefits from
it and the officers derive benefit and protection from the constitution,


and not to be stampeded into discharging people by headlines, edito-
rials, or statements, but rather, by factual information.

One by one I will take these cases up as they come, and as they are
filed with my office. They will have an opportunity of a hearing, an
opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, if there are any, and a right
to be a free American citizen, to answer questions where they will have
an opportunity to go out and get evidence, not be faced with questions
on the spur of the moment with regard to answers where, if they guess,
they go to jail for perjury; if they don't guess, they are called a fool
or evasive, and, on the other hand, find themselves necessarily out of
their own conscience using the fifth amendment because they didn't
have an opportunity to be able to process properly grievances proposed
to them or propounded to them.

Senator Kennedy. In other words, say in the case of Mr. Presser,
you have not instituted yourself any investigatoiy action and you do
not disapprove, necessarily, or want to express an opinion one way or
another with regard to his taking the fifth amendment on the use of
union funds ?

Mr. HoFFA. So you will miderstand my position, I will repeat it
again. I do not propose now or any time, gentlemen, to say that the
invoking of an amendment of the Constitution of the United States
necessarily means that an individual should be suspended from office,
and no later than today I read a statement of Mr. Robert Kennedy
on Godfrey's show, where he, himself, said that he would be the first
one to object to anybody trying to take the fifth amendment out of
the Constitution, and that he believed everybody had a right to invoke
the fifth amendment of the Constitution.

I hope he hasn't changed his mind.

Senator Kennedy. Now, Mr. Hoffa, I would like to say what my
view is on that.

I accept the right of any witness to take the fifth amendment when-
ever he honestly believes that an answer will incriminate him, which
is part of the fifth amendment, but I do believe also that such a man
does not necessarily have the right to be an officer, particularly a
significant officer, such as president of the Teamsters in Ohio, who
takes the fifth amendment on every matter on which he is asked, in-
cluding his use or misuse of union funds.

I would think when numerous Teamster officials come before the
committee and uniformly take the fifth amendment that that should
be a cause of at least you, as the president of the Teamster Union, tak-
ing the trouble to investigate these matters.

You told Senator Ives 2% years ago that you were going to attempt
to nieet your responsibilities to clean up the Teamsters. Now you are
tilling us again that as these matters come before you you will look
into them. The only man you can indicate, you have taken action
against is Mr. Feldman.

Mr. HoFFA. You know that is not true, sir. I liave here a list that
I submitted to you, and I submitted it last time. Senator McClellan,
in response to a statement of Robert Kennedy, who said this was an
incorrect statement, the Senator was kind enough to say to Mr. Ken-
nedy, "If there is something wrong with this statement, you submit
the corrections and let the union change their statement."

Today, Senator, there has been nothing from this office to indicate
that this statement is incorrect, except the fact, sir, that one man on


here, through advice received from the local union, was included in a
category he didn't belong in, and unbeknownst to myself — I think
his name is

Mr. Kennedy. Sam Goldstein.

Mr. HoFFA. Sam Goldstein. Otherwise, to date I have heard no
question from this office concerning the inaccuracy of this statement.

Senator Kennedy. Can I ask you, Mr. Hoff a, what action you have
taken against Mr. Presser or to investigate Mr. Presser ?

Mr. HoFFA. There are no charges at this moment pending against
Mr. Presser. It has been in all of the newspapers and on TV in
Ohio, for every single member of the Ohio union to be acquainted
with the accusations against Mr. Presser.

There has to this date been no action taken against Presser because
we have been involved in many serious aspects of this International
Union, both with the courts, the monitors, this committee, many im-
portant strikes, many important organizing campaigns, many nego-
tiations of contracts which have produced the highest wages in the
history of this country on fringe benefits as well as pension and wel-
fare, to the extent of $150 a month at age 60.

Therefore, I believe that we will, as we get around to these ques-
tions, one by one, when the final chapter is closed of this committee,
where you have all the information and records that are apparently
in your hands, we will then take, one by one, the record and determine
the International Union, as such.

Senator Kennedy. Mr. Hoffa, you came 21^ years ago or stated 2
years ago, that you were involved in proceedings within the union
and you would get around to it. There is no evidence of your get-
ting around to it. There is no evidence, for example, in the case of
Mr. Presser, who came before us this morning, and who occupies one
of the top positions in the coimtry. There is no evidence that you
came along to him.

For example, Mr. Cohen, from Philadelphia, who came before us
and took the fifth amendment on what he did with $300,000 of union

Mr. HoFFA. May I interrupt, Senator, and say that is not correct ?

Senator Kennedy. Will you tell me ?

Mr. HoFFA. Yes. We sent a committee into Philadelphia to investi-
gate the Cohen situation. When we arrived in Philadelphia, we were
faced with a court injunction preventing us from making an investi-
gation preparatory to making formal charges against Cohen. That
case is still pending. We have had counsel in Philadelphia, and have
counsel presently, handling that situation in Philadelphia.

Senator Kennedy. Have you appointed Mr. Cohen to any new po-
sition in the Teamsters since he was before tliis committee and took
the fifth amendment ?

Mr. HoFFA. I don't believe so.

Senator IsIennedy. What about a trustee ?

Mr. HoFFA. He was elected at a convention by the duly assembled

Senator Kennedy. Was that the Miami convention ?

Mr. HoFFA. Yes.

Senator Kennedy. Did he have your support ?

Mr. HoFFA. Yes : indeed he did.


Senator Kennedy. In other words, then, in the case of Mr. Cohen,
you supported him for election as international trustee, after he came
before this committee and took the fifth amendment on what he did
with $300,000 of union funds.

Mr. HoFFA. You know, sir, that is incorrect.

Senator Kennp^dy. Will correct me ?

Mr. HoFFA. Yes. Cohen came before this committee after the con-
vention, when you brought out certain information. It is true that
during the convention, and just prior to the convening of the conven-
tion, I believe he was brought here for a matter of an hour or so, in
front of this committee.

Mr. Kennedy. He took the fifth amendment.

Mr. HoFFA. And he took the fifth amendment.

But I again repeat the delegates had an opportunity to know by
the TV, by telegram from this committee, and by other means of
communication of what had transpired in front of this committee.

Now, insofar as Presser, Senator, if I may, Presser, and I have
read what he said over here, Presser may very readily have an explana-
tion for the questions propounded to him by this committee on certain
issues. Other issues he may not. But while we are under the jurisdic-
tion of this committee, I would assume without knowing exactly what
I am going to say is correct.

I would assume that Presser would take the same position in front
of a panel of preserving his rights under the Constitution, of not an-
swering questions, even though after he feels that there is no waiving
of his jurisdiction of the fifth amendment he may very readily, and
will be required, to come in and be in front of our board and explain
answers to questions propounded by this committee.

Senator Kennedy. Didn't you go to a meeting in Ohio a day or two
after he came and testified, the last time he testified, and give him a
ringing endorsement before a meeting in Ohio ?

Mr. HoFFA. If you will read the record again. Senator, if I may
correct you, you will find that I said there in an interview that Mr.
William Presser would be brought in front of the executive board in
due time to explain his actions in front of this committee.

Senator Kennedy. Now, you corrected me; I am going to correct
you. I have no confidence in your ability, willingness, or determina-
tion to get rid of any of these people. What concerns me in addition
to that is I have in my hand a letter you sent out on May 6, 1959,
widespread through the labor movement, making an attack on the
legislation which came before the U.S. Congress. You made 18 points
against it and asked the labor movement, all of them, to oppose any
bill which had any of these provisions in it.

This is one of the most inaccurate documents I have ever read.

Mr. HoFFA. May I look at it, sir ?

Senator Kennedy. I will be delighted to have you.

Here is a copy of it.

(The document was handed to the witness.)

(The witness conferred with his counsel.)

Senator Kennedy. Now, take statement 1, hot cargo. Tell me
where in that bill reference is made to section 707(a), (b), and (c)
which would require any employee —

who is engaged to operate a common carrier must go through a picket line or
loose his job inasmuch as it will be illegal for the employer or union to enter
into an agreement which would protect such employer.


The last part of that sentence is true. It is illegal for the employer
and union to enter into an agreement. There is nothing in the legis-
lation in this bill that passed the Senate which would require an em-
ployee who is engaged to operate a common carrier to go through a
picket line and lose his job.

Can you show me the language that would do so ?

Mr. HoFFA. Senator, I made the statement in Boston in response
to this particular argimient and I make it here, that if we cannot put
leg-al protection in our contract with employers not to have individuals
driving common carrier tracks be required to go through picket lines,
then we will find ourselves in a position, as we are presently doing,
Avhere the Interstate Commerce Commission made a similar ruling
concerning permits, that

Senator Kennedy. Can you show me a section in the bill which
would prohibit this employee? My understanding of the language is,
Mr. Hoffa, that you are prohibited^ a member of the Teamsters Union
is prohibited, the union is prohibited from making an agreement with
the employer whereby he would refuse to handle goods of another
employer if that employer was engaged in legal difficulties. There
is notiiing in this bill which states or which would f)rohibit an em-
ployee of the union from crossing a picket line. Show me where it

Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Senate. Select CommitteeInvestigation of improper activities in the labor or management field. Hearings before the Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field (Volume pt. 54) → online text (page 17 of 38)