"We found that a close relationship existed betwen Jimmy Hoffa and employers.
We found that he was more than willing to do favors for them. Big favours...
And we found that employers were anxious to do favors for him. Big favours..."
KENNEDYS & SALINGER VS HOFFA
"The vast millions of dollars assigned to the various treasuries and funds
of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters,
as vested property of the rank-and-file dues-paying members,
are under the complete and absolute control of Mr. Hoffa,
and are available to himself and his friends and cronies.
He has to account to no one else. And he accounts to no one else."
THE ENEMY WITHIN, by Robert F. Kennedy, Chapters 6 & 7, page 96 - 141:
Chapter 6, The Money:
"When our plane touched down at the Willow Run airport near Detroit, Pierre Salinger, brief case in hand, the inevitable cigar in his mouth, and an almost visible halo of excitement encircling his head, was waiting for us in the sweltering summer sun. It was July 28, 1958 - just a week before Jimmy Hoffa was due to appear before our Committee for his second series of hearings.
Salinger was a dark, extremely alert and intelligent young man who could grasp the importance of a document better than almost anyone on the staff. So his urgent telephone call about a document he had got hold of in a particularly sticky investigation had brought Carmine Bellino and me rushing from Washington.
What he had was a signed, sworn affidavit that in 1949 Hoffa had demanded and received cash pay-offs from Detroit laundry owners in return for a sweetheart contract. The payments, it said, had been arranged through the labor consultant from Jack (Bab) Bushkin and Joe Holtzman, two of Hoffa's most helpful pals in Detroit.
Our Committee had already shown that Hoffa made 'business' deals with employers; we had shown that he kept huge sums of cash on hand. But he consistently had denied to us that the cash was pay-offs from employers.
This affidavit was important evidence to the contrary. Salinger had received it from William Miller, a former Detroit laundry owner, only a few hours before our arrival. For three consecutive years, Miller said, he and all the other laundry owners in the city had contributed to a purse raised for Mr. Hoffa by the Detroit Institute of Laundering. The cash was collected by two officials of the Institute, John Charles Meissner and Howard Balkwill, who saw to it that Mr. Hoffa got the money.
Meissner had been executive secretary-treasurer of the management group. He was now retired. Balkwill was still the chief executive officer. Meissner and Balkwill, then, were the first men in Detroit we wanted to see to get corroboration of Miller's statement.
As Pierre Salinger drove through the traffic toward Meissner's suburban home, he filled us in on the background of the 1949 dispute between the laundering management group and the Teamsters Union - the dispute that had led to the sweetheart contract and the pay-off.
Laundry drivers of Teamsters Local 285 had still been working a six-day week that year - and, as testimony showed, they were tired of it. In February, their local union head, Isaac Litwak, sat down with Laundry Institute officials headed by Meissner and Balkwill, determined to get a five-day work week for his union members. Across the table from Litwak, the laundry representatives put their heads together, counted costs, and decided they could not possibly afford a five-day week. Negotiations ran on for weeks, then months. In May, Litwak, impatient, threatened a strike.
Management negotiators again put their heads together. While they could not afford a five-day week, neither could they afford a strike. And as strike talk continued, they became alarmed. Obviously, they concluded, they couldn't deal with Litwak. He had even thrown one of their lists of proposals in the wastebasket. They decided they had to go to some higher Teamster authority. According to his own affidavit, William Miller suggested getting in touch with Jimmy Hoffa to see if something could be 'worked out'.
Balkwill and Meissner agreed to try. After several days, Miller's affidavit continued, they reported that they had been successful. They could obtain a contract for a continued six-day week - in return for a cash fund to pay off Jimmy Hoffa. Were the owners all agreeable? According to Miller, they were.
When we arrived at the home of John Charles Meissner, in a quiet Detroit residential section, it was humid and hot and clouds were blotting out the sun. A thunderstorm was brewing. Meissner was puttering in his garden. He was a tanned, healthy-looking man of medium build. As we walked across his lawn to where he was kneeling, he had a friendly though inquisitive look on his face.
We introduced ourselves. We showed him our credentials and sat down - Salinger and Bellino on a wooden bench, I on an overturned pail. We told him outright, without softening the blow, why we had come: about the pay-off in 1949 to Jimmy Hoffa. I told him we wanted his co-operation; that we needed his help. He was shocked. 'Never heard of such a thing,' he said, and vehemently continued to deny that the laundry owners had paid a 'shakedown' to anyone during the 1949 negotiations. We evidently didn't understand, he said, that we were talking about reputable businessmen, people with a standing in the community.
Mr. Meissner has an honest way about him. Without blinking, he looked me straight in the eye. And he lied. Mr. Meissner lied then and continued to lie for several days thereafter.
Carmine Bellino now set out to try to track down Howard Balkwill while Pierre Salinger and I continued our discussion with Mr. Meissner. We went with him into his house and I asked if we might use his telephone to call William Miller. When Miller answered, I asked him to refresh Mr. Meissner's memory. He agreed. I handed the phone to the former secretary of the Institute.
Salinger and I stood nearby while they talked. Mr. Miller, apparently, was making his position clear, telling Mr. Meissner what he had sworn to in the affidavit.
We heard Meissner say: 'Bill, I just don't know what you are talking about.' He put down the receiver.
We then served a subpoena on him, ordering him to come to Washington. He became angry. And so did his wife, who had heard the telephone conversation and our discussions with her husband. She ordered Salinger and me from her house. We left, and went off to see how Carmine was making out in his interview with William Balkwill.
Mr. Balkwill is still president of the Institute and has taken over Mr. Meissner's old job of executive secretary as well. His office is a dilapidated frame building on Detroit's Grand Avenue.
We found Carmine there, waiting for us on the front porch. Balkwill's secretary was in, but he was out. The screen door was locked. We showed the secretary our credentials and asked if we might come inside and wait.
'I don't believe you are who you say your are,' she told us through the screen. 'You can't come in until Mr. Balkwill comes.' She remained seated at her desk and the screen door remained latched.
So the three of us sat down on the porch steps of the old building to wait for Mr. Balkwill.
Thunder had been rumbling for some time; now rain started to fall, and soon a heavy, windswept downpour drenched the porch - and us. Still the secretary remained seated and her door remained locked. Finally, Howard Balkwill arrived; his secretary unlatched the door, and dripping from every seam Carmine, Pierre and I trailed in after him.
Balkwill is a large, robust man and looks a little like an auctioneer at a country fair or, perhaps, the man who forty years before was the big tackle on his high school football team. And, like his retired colleague, he righteously denied that there had been any pay-off to Hoffa or anyone else. We had been badly misinformed, he said. The conversation was unpleasant. I was impatient and irritated. Balkwill and Meissner - these two 'upright' businessmen in one day were hard to take.
We served Balkwill with a subpoena to produce his records. He turned them over to us there in his office. For thirty minutes Carmine Bellino examined the books of the Laundering Institute while Salinger and I went through the correspondence. Bellino came up with a number of thousand-dollar checks made out to cash. There was nothing to show where this money went, or to whom it had been paid. We immediately assumed that this was the money that had been paid to Hoffa - but as it developed (and as Balkwill and Meissner later testified), it was actually bribe money to John Paris, a close friend of Hoffa and head of the Laundry Workers local in Detroit, who has since died.
After leaving Balkwill's office, I assigned every staff member in the Detroit area to track down the other members of the Detroit Laundering Institute, interview them, and see if they would admit paying into the fund William Miller said had been collected. Bellino and I left Detroit convinced that Miller had told the truth in his affidavit. While he had not actually seen Balkwill and Meissner pay over the money, they had told him where it went. Within forty-eight hours, the reports from Detroit were in. I read them with a certain grim satisfaction: Our men had found several other laundry owners who admitted that they had contributed to the Balkwill-Meissner fund.
When Meissner and Balkwill arrived in Washington to appear before our Committee some five days later, there was a marked change in their attitude - and in their stories. They had learned by this time that we had made a survey of other members of the Institute. There had been a fund and it was a cash fund, they both admitted. The story they now told the Committee was this:
When Isaac Litwak started talking strike, they got in touch with a Detroit laundry owner, Moe Dalitz, who also is a Las Vegas and Havana gambling figure. Moe Dalitz was supposed to have 'connections,' and indeed he did have. He arranged a few days later for Mr. Meissner and Mr. Balkwill to sit down to lunch with Jimmy Hoffa's labor consultant friends, Joseph Holtzman and Jack Bushkin. At Carl's Chop House, just a stone's throw from Hoffa's Detroit Teamster headquarters, they discussed how they might get around Isaac Litwak. After a bit, Holtzman left the restaurant to see if it was possible to go over Litwak's head. When he returned, he told them he could get them the contract they wanted - for a price.
Twenty-five thousand dollars, all in cash, said Mr. Holtzman.
Balkwill told the Committee: 'We nearly fainted. It is a lot of money, we couldn't pay it.'
And while they couldn't pay it, neither could they afford to go back to the bargaining table with Isaac Litwak - described as a man 'who wouldn't take a cigar'.
So Meissner and Balkwill began 'negotiating' with Holtzman and found him far more 'reasonable' than Isaac Litwak. They 'negotiated' the fix price down to $17,500, agreeing to pay the money for Mr. Holtzman's 'expenses' in three installments: $7,500 in 1949; $5,000 in 1950; and $5,000 in 1951. To raise the money, they assessed each laundry owner so much per truck: $45 in 1949 and $22.50 in 1950-51.
What did they get for their money?
Back went the officials of the Institute to the bargaining sessions with Isaac Litwak. Litwak, apparently confident that the laundry owners would soon capitulate, stood by his guns on the five-day week. Balkwill, Meissner and company stalled and watched the door and waited.
Late in the last session the door opened and in came Jimmy Hoffa.
Mr. Hoffa told the group there would be no strike. He wanted the contract signed on the owner's terms and signed immediately or he would step in himself. Mr. Litwak was stunned and angry - Meissner described him as 'furious' - but he had no choice. He surrendered. The contract was signed without a five-day-week provision.
What happened to the cash payment?
Mr. Balkwill 'assumed,' so he testified that Mr. Hoffa received part or all of it. Mr. Meissner said 'assumed' was the wrong word. He said he 'conjectured' that Mr. Hoffa got some of the money. Both denied having told Mr. Miller that they knew for a fact that Hoffa received the money, but Balkwill admitted that Holtzman said that he had to take care of 'some people'...
We learned that coming into Washington Meissner and Balkwill had traveled on the same plane as Hoffa. He warned them to remember that it was Holtzman to whom they had given the money. They remembered.
This is of added significance because when we first asked Hoffa about this matter, before any of the laundry owners had testified, he stated that he knew nothing at all about these negotiations or payments. He denied that he took any pay-off money from the laundrymen or from Joe Holtzman or Jack Bushkin. We knew, and he admited, that he had borrowed $5,000 from Holtzman and $5,000 from Bushkin - without note, interest or security. But that $10,000 in cash was a 'loan', not a pay-off, he said.
Holtzman was dead at the time of our hearings. Bushkin took the Fifth Amendment.
Two other laundry owners confirmed Miller's story. One of them, Vincent Watkins, had been on the negotiating committee. He remembered the decision to approach someone 'higher up' in the Teamsters and later hearing that 'it was going to cost some money'.
The other man, Conrad Lantz, recalled having heard that the fund was to go to Joe Holtzman, who, he testified, had direct communication with Mr. Hoffa.
Though Hoffa denied that he ever took bribes from employers, we found that he frequently had on hand enormous amounts of cash - far more than his income as a Teamster official could account for. His own simple explanation was that he 'accumulated it'. Carmine Bellino found the attempt to trace where it all came from and where it went a frustrating experience, since Hoffa deals only in cash: he maintains no bank accounts; he has written only one personal check in his life that we are aware of (that was to Edward Bennett Williams); his records are apparently non-existent; and his memory, when it comes to where he gets his money or where it goes, is terrible.
One explanation of how he 'accumulated' it, which put a severe strain on my imagination, was his account of the way he regularly comes by some $5,000 or $10,000 each year. It is not bribe money from employers, he swears, but race track winnings.
Mr. Hoffa admitted to the Committee that he knew absolutely nothing about betting on horses. But he claimed his business partner and fellow Teamster official, Bert Brennan, knew a great deal. So each year Mr. Hoffa gives Mr. Brennan half of whatever money Mr. Brennan wagers. In return, Mr. Brennan gives Mr. Hoffa half of whatever he wins. This has been going on for ten years.
'There is race tracks in Detroit,' Hoffa told the Committee, 'and my . . . business associated in Detroit has some horses and he places some bets and we are fortunate to win some money.'
They had phenomenal good fortune.
From 1948 through 1957 they divided a total of more than $150,000 in race track winnings.
Hoffa claimed his share of the money was put down each year on his income tax as 'collections' received, and later as 'wagerings.'
Another time he said: 'Mr. Owen B. Brennan keeps the records and I don't do the betting and I don't keep the records.'
Whereupon the Committee called Owen B. Brennan and questioned him. Mr. Brennan, as was his way, 'respectfully declined to answer. . . .'
Herbert L. Grosberg, the accountant for the Teamsters and for Mr. Hoffa, figures up his income tax each year, Hoffa said. He doens't bother with keeping any records of where the money comes from. He throws away the pieces of paper on which he figures the return, keeping only the copy of the income tax report itself. Grosberg was questioned, but he shed little light.
Mr. Grosberg admitted that he disposed of Mr. Hoffa's net worth statement in the face of an Internal Revenue probe. He destroyed it because George Fitzgerald, the Teamsters' and Hoffa's attorney, told him to do so, he said.
How could Mr. Hoffa remember, over a period of a year without the benefit of any records, how much money he had won gambling - and remember it down to the exact dollar and cent? Mr. Grosberg's testimony indicated that Mr. Hoffa had a fantastic memory.
On every question involving his race track winnings, Bert Brennan took the Fifth Amendment. Since Mr. Brennan would not say where or when or how he actually acquired the money, we put this question squarely to Jimmy Hoffa:
MR. KENNEDY: 'Let me ask you this: Did any of that money come directly or indirecty from any employer?'
MR. HOFFA: 'It came from Brennan to myself. It came from racing gambling - from racing earnings.'
MR. KENNEDY: 'Well, that could have been indirectly from an employer. I am asking you the question whether it came directly or indirectly from an employer?'
MR. HOFFA: 'Well, I am in return saying that Mr. Brennan handled that end on wagering and at the end of the year Mr. Brennan told me this was the net results of our wagering. This is what I declared on my income tax.'
After the day in August, 1957, when Hoffa first embroidered into the record his colorful story, 'Success at the Races,' Bert Brennan must surely have become the most sought-after man in the history of the American track. But what his infallible 'system' was Mr. Brennan, alas, would not tell.
Some two years after Hoffa first came up with his race track yarn, my brother told him: 'I have never been completely convinced, Mr. Hoffa, to be frank with you, that Mr. Brennan did win this money at the race track.'
Mr. Hoffa said, 'Why don't you ask him?'
SENATOR KENNEDY: 'I did and he took the Fifth Amendment.'
When my brother cast serious doubts on his 'wagering' story, Mr. Hoffa snapped: 'Disprove what I said.'
In 1954, trying to account for all the cash he had available, Hoffa had told the Hoffman Committee that he borrowed considerable sums frm the union's business agents who worked under him. Like his 'wagering' story, this tale seemed to me more of an alibi than an explanation. Consequently, a few weeks before he was to come to Washington to testify for the first time, I sent Carmine Bellino and Pierre Salinger to Detroit to look into his union records and to ask him about these loans.
They made an appointment and found him seated at his desk on a raised platform, surrounded by his Detroit lieutenants. First off there was a discussion of the circumstances under which Carmine and Pierre would be allowed to examine the books. Hoffa told them they would have to look at them in a room in union headquarters and that his accountant and one of his lawyers must be present at all times.
Bellino was willing to examine the books in the building, but he wanted nobody looking over his shoulder.
'We don't work that way,' he told Hoffa plainly.
Furious at being crossed in front of his men, Hoffa flew into a tantrum. He jumped up and started shouting: 'Go to hell! Take the records to Washington! The hell with you!'
His angry blast lasted for several minutes. When things calmed down, Bellino asked Hoffa's lawyer, George Fitzgerald, to telephone me and work out a method of procedure. Fitzgerald called and we settled on what we thought was a fair arrangement. Bellino, later in the day, told Hoffa of our agreement. Hoffa again took off like a rocket but this time at his own lawyer, Fitzgerald. Bellino said he could hear him screaming at Fitzgerald in the hall outside the office, cursing him in the foulest possible language and finally threatening to fire him. It was so bad that Bellino, becoming embarassed for Fitzgerald, broke in and told Hoffa that he would give way on certain points.
Eventually Carmine and Pierre were allowed to get on with their job. They reported back that Hoffa said he had repaid all the loans but did not know when he had paid them. And on that point the records were unilluminating.
Hoffa never would grant any of us another interview, but whenever an investigator was studying records in the Teamster headquarters he was always around. And one day, much later, in 1959, Carmine Bellino had an even worse run-in with him. He and Walt Sheridan had been examining some records in the Teamsters building in Washington, and at Hoffa's request stopped in at his office on their way out. By this time Bellino's work had turned up major corruption in Hoffa's administration of union affairs, and Hoffa had made it clear that Bellino bothered him.
During their talk they had an argument about a telephone call that Bellino had made to Hoffa's hotel; Hoffa accused Bellino of doing spy work for the AFL-CIO, and called him a liar when he denied it. Bellino retorted, 'No - that's what you are.'
Hoffa jumped up from behind his desk, his fist clenched and ready to lash out when Sheridan stepped between them. At that moment Harold Gibbons entered the room and with a jerk of his thumb motioned them toward the door. Bellino and Sheridan are certain he must have been listening outside or on a monitoring device.
So from the beginning until the end, our experiences with Hoffa were unpleasant. Whether we were talking to him about his business interests or the sources of his mysterious cash, his attitude was sullen and belligerent and his answers contradictory...
We found that a close relationship existed betwen Jimmy Hoffa and employers. We found that he was more than willing to do favors for them. Big favors, such as settling strikes against the wishes of his men. And we found that employers were anxious to do favors for him. Big favors, such as setting him up in business so that he could reap big profits. He helped them. They helped him. And they always insisted that the exchange of favors was a conicidence. ...
The vast millions of dollars assigned to the various treasuries and funds of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, as vested property of the rank-and-file dues-paying members, are under the complete and absolute control of Mr. Hoffa, and are available to himself and his friends and cronies. He has to account to no one else. And he accounts to no one else....
Chapter 7, The Captive Unions:
The travesty that Hoffa makes of democratic procedure within the Teamster's Union is perfectly exemplified by his own election as International president at the Miami convention in October 1957.
This convention was rigged from start to finish.
From an examination of the Teamsters' own records, our investigators were able to prove that under the terms of the union's constitution, more than half of the delegates - 56.2 percent - had been selected illegally; about the legality of an additional 39 per cent there was serious doubt. In short, we could establish that ony 4.8 percent of the delegates who elected Jimmy Hoffa had any clearly legal right to be at the convention and to vote...
Throughout 1957 and 1958, as our Committee spread on the record the sordid story of Hoffa's corruption, I began to hear more and more frequently: 'If Hoffa really is as bad as the evidence indicates, why don't the rank and file rise up ad toss him out?'
I knew the reason. They couldn't. For months the staff had been hearing stories of men who had tried, but because of the money, goons and those lawyers that Hoffa owns, had been unsuccessful. We felt that this was a point that the Committee should establish unmistakably. I also hoped that public exposure of what the Hoffa type of democracy means might help the men who were fighting it. So in 1958 we sent investigators to Pontiac, Michigan, to Peru, Illinois, to Joplin, Missouri, and elsewhere, to get the fullest possible stories.
I might add here that the courage of the men who fought Hoffa filled me with an overwhelming feeling of admiration and yet sadness. Admiration that they had such courage, and sadness that as I sat in the giant caucus room of the United States Senate and listened to their stories, there was nothing that we could do to help them in the immediate future. They would give their testimony and then return to the battle not really any better off than when they came.
What help we could be to them would be a long-range proposition. I knew that and they knew it, too. And yet they came ahead - and they fought. These are tough men....
Threats, abuses, bribes, trumped-up charges - Jim Luken and his followers have faced them all and have not yet been beaten in their fight against Jimmy Hoffa and William Presser. Luken stands alone as a Teamsters leader who stood up to be counted against Hoffa, and survived. It has not been easy. He expects more trouble. But he believes that labor union democracy is worth fighting for. And he intends to continue the fight.
This, then, is the story of democracy in the Teamsters Union - or, rather, the story of the complete absence of democracy in the Teamsters Union where Hoffa exercises control. Can anyone familiar with it still ask why the decent, honest, hard-working rank-and-file teamsters don't rise up and throw out Jimmy Hoffa and his gang? The answer is simple:
They have tried in dozens of towns and cities across the country - and they can't.[end quoting from The Enemy Within, by RFK]
RFK'S HISTORY WITH HOFFA
SALINGER TRUE KENNEDY FRIEND (Salinger, JFK Press Secretary, dies). Reuters, Oct 17, 2004
Chapter 12, Organized Crime (from The Enemy Within, by Robert F Kennedy)
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