A New Beginning for Union Members


After decades of hard work, the Teamsters Union and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York reached an agreement in January to settle a 1988 lawsuit brought by the government against the union. Chief Judge Loretta Preska approved the agreement on February 17, 2015.

“Today is a new day for our great union,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “When I took office in 1999, I pledged that we would run a clean union, that corrupt elements would never have a place in the Teamsters Union. I also promised that we would ensure that every rank-and-file Teamster have a direct voice in electing the union’s International officers. After 15 years, we have accomplished these goals.”

In 1989, the Teamsters union settled the lawsuit by agreeing to a consent decree.

The purpose of the consent decree was to remove corrupt influences from the Teamsters by establishing direct elections of union officers and establishing an independent disciplinary process for rooting out corrupt elements in the union.

Enshrining Democracy

At the 2001 International Convention, Hoffa successfully led the effort to enshrine the principles of one-member-one-vote into the union’s constitution through the “Democracy Package.” This agreement codifies those constitutional changes.

By agreeing to end the lawsuit, the government acknowledges that there has been significant success in eliminating corruption from within the Teamsters.

The agreement establishes a new procedure for independent investigation and oversight of internal disciplinary matters and guarantees democracy in the future.


The union has argued that it has gone through a striking transformation since the consent decree started in 1989.

“After a quarter-century of government oversight, the union’s rank-and-file members and duly elected officers should be allowed to reclaim control over their union’s affairs,” lawyers for the Teamsters wrote in court filings.

The suit was originally brought by then-U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who agrees that government oversight has gone on long enough.

“Think about all the administrations this went through: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama,” Giuliani said to the New York Times, adding, “I think the Department of Justice accomplished everything you could possibly accomplish.”


The Teamsters Union will remain vigilant in protecting rank-and-file members and the union from anyone who would try to corrupt it or harm members. But the union’s mission is far from complete.

“Working men and women everywhere are working harder than ever before and their paychecks don’t seem to go far enough. We must reach out to our brothers and sisters who have no voice on the job and help them get their piece of the American dream,” Hoffa said. “So let’s do what we do best—let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. Let’s do it together, and tell people how proud we are to be members of the greatest union in the world—the Teamsters Union!”