Turning the Teamsters

Article excerpt


Ron Carey's sensational victory over a hulking establishment in the Teamsters union is predictably being hailed as a David and Goliath story. Power approves such stories, which, by their rarity, affirm as natural a state of affairs mostly impervious to upstart challenges. But Carey is not a lone conqueror. His achievement capped fifteen years of agitation by thousands of rank-and-file unionists who risked their comfort and sometimes their lives for the right to control their union.

Change would not have come so swiftly without government intervention, but neither would Carey now be president without Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the insurgent caucus that insisted the government authorize direct election of the union's leaders instead of a plan for federal trusteeship. As a movement the T.D.U. has labored to define the content of union democracy - informing workers about shrouded contract negotiations, exposing corruption, securing worker rights, creating a vehicle for ideas and ultimately forming the organizational spine of Carey's campaign. …