Teamsters set to pick new union leader
Leaders of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) are scheduled to designate a new chief executive this week for a union deeply shaken by the effects of recession, deregulation of the trucking industry, shrinking membership, and the taint of corruption.
The new executive officer will succeed Roy L. Williams, who agreed to resign from his post as president in exchange for freedom on bail while he appeals his bribery conspiracy conviction.
His successor may serve only a few weeks. Under IBT rules, the union's executive board may empower the secretary-treasurer, the IBT's No. 2 officer, to serve up to 15 days as interim president while a successor is chosen for the full term that runs into 1986.
Political jockeying already is underway, with several strong candidates emerging for the $225,000-a-year presidency Mr. Williams vacated on April 15. The salary, along with almost unlimited expenses, is a strong lure for IBT regional leaders. So is the clout that comes with being one of the half-dozen most powerful labor leaders in America.
Ray Schoessling, IBT's secretary-treasurer, has been running the union for most of the past year while Williams struggled with a serious illness and stood trial on charges that he conspired to bribe former Sen. Howard W. Cannon (D) of Nevada.
Many within the union expect Mr. Schoessling to be named interim president - if not president of IBT to 1986. However, a number of regional Teamster leaders are reported to be interested in the top job. Those considered possible prospects include Jackie Presser, in the East; Joseph Morgan in the South; and M. E. Anderson on the West Coast.
Schoessling is probably the best known nationally because as secretary-treasurer he is in contact with every IBT local and regional council. On the other hand, he lacks a strong political constituency that the others have.
Roy Williams, who once worked closely with the late Jimmy Hoffa, became interim president when Frank E. Fitzsimmons, Hoffa's successor, died in 1981. Williams was elected president in June of that year, a short time after he was indicted in the federal bribery conspiracy case.
During the past several months, he strongly resisted pressure from the federal government to resign, denying - as he still does - any criminal wrongdoing. Last week, with his health deteriorating, he agreed to quit his office in a deal that allows him freedom on bail while his conviction is appealed.
Williams's attorneys pleaded for freedom on bail because, they said, he is ''convinced that he could not survive incarceration.'' Federal prosecutors initially argued against bail, saying that freedom during the two years or more of appeals procedures could mean ''a continuancy of Roy Williams' corrupt influence in the union.'' Bail was refused.
But US District Judge Prentice H. Marshall reversed that decision after Williams agreed to resign.
The union claims 1.7 million members - a decline of nearly 500,000 over the past several years. Whoever takes over the IBT presidency faces a difficult task of cleaning up its image. Three of four most recent Teamster presidents have been convicted of criminal charges. Scores of lower level leaders have been indicted and convicted, and, following a federal investigation, the union was forced to give up control of its Central States, Southeast, and Southwest pension funds.