Northern Illinois University Press

Reforming the Chicago Teamsters

The Story of Local 705

Robert Bruno

"An important, engrossing, and well-written book.... Bruno's colorful commentary brings to life the high drama of the Teamsters' transformation."—Paul F. Clark, Pennsylvania State University

"A unique and interesting study. No one else has reported such a fascinating case of day-by-day internal union politics."—George Strauss, University of California, Berkeley

How did the Chicago Teamsters Local 705, once notorious for corruption and despotism, become an organization that the Wall Street Journal hailed as "a model of reform"? In this compelling narrative, Bruno tells of the often violent, always contentious struggle to reform one of the nation's most powerful and independent union locals.

During the worst years, Chicago Teamsters operated under thinly veiled threats and settled differences by fistfights. Workers who questioned the powerful leadership faced physical intimidation, verbal abuse, and trumped-up charges that threatened their jobs. With the expulsion of key leaders in the early 1990s, however, a decade-long struggle for control of the union began as Local 705 cast off the old days of coercion and payoffs. Reformers encouraged rank-and-file Teamsters to choose their own leaders, and after two successive open elections, an unprecedented number of Teamsters turned out to vote in a dramatic 2000 election featuring five political slates and a diverse range of issues.

Clear and captivating, Reforming the Chicago Teamsters raises important national issues about the balance of power between large corporations and working-class Americans, the role of workplace democracy in civil society, and the ways unions can both hinder and promote worker interests.

(2003) 213 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-596-2
paper $26.50

Robert Bruno is Associate Professor of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois and author of Steelworker Alley: How Class Works in Youngstown.

Table of Contents

Part One—The Corruption and Redemption of Local 705
1. Teamsters' Power and Politics
2. Fighting Corruption
3. Democratic Governance
4. Democracy Brings Results
Part Two—Union Democracy, Elections, and the Politics of Local 705
5. The Reformers Split
6. The Nomination of Political Parties
7. The Campaign Begins
8. Campaign Platforms and Rank-and-File Votes
9. Campaign Issues
10. The 705 Vote

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-596-2
paper $26.50