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Presidential Hopefuls Rally Behind Teamsters : Simon, Jackson and Haig Back Union in Drive to Head Off Federal Takeover

September 15, 1987|ROBERT L. JACKSON and RONALD J. OSTROW | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — The Teamsters Union is drawing support from presidential candidates of both major parties as it tries to head off a Justice Department lawsuit that would replace the union's entire governing board, it was learned Monday.

Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who are seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., who is campaigning for the Republican nomination, will deliver messages of support today at a national Teamsters rally in Cincinnati protesting the lawsuit, their campaign officials confirmed.

Kemp to Appear

Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N. Y.), another GOP aspirant, is also scheduled to speak, but aides said that they did not know the nature of his remarks. As many as 3,000 local Teamster officers from around the country are expected to participate in the rally.

In a related development, The Times has learned that preparations for filing the unprecedented civil suit have been moved from the U.S. attorney's office in Washington to New York. Authorities said it was felt that Manhattan U.S. Atty. Rudolph W. Giuliani has more experience in battling organized crime and its links to the Teamsters, the nation's largest trade union.

The proposed Justice Department action, which is expected to be filed this winter, will cite the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and would be unparalleled in scope, federal sources have said. Never before has a federal court been asked to place an entire union in trusteeship on grounds that it allegedly is extensively influenced by organized crime.

The 1.7-million-member Teamsters Union has condemned preparations for the lawsuit, calling it unjustified and a violation of the free trade union movement in the United States. The AFL-CIO executive council has adopted a resolution decrying a possible trusteeship, even though the Teamsters long have been separated from the federation.

The Teamsters appear to have found a powerful congressional ally in Simon, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a man widely respected for personal integrity. Paula Nixon, Simon's assistant campaign press secretary, said that Simon will have to remain in Washington today for the start of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork but that he has prepared a videotaped message for the Cincinnati rally.

"A government takeover of an entire union is ill-advised," Simon's message says in part. Nixon said Simon believes that any attempt by the Justice Department to exert control over the Teamsters is "unwarranted."

Jackson Plans Meeting

Jackson plans to meet with black Teamster officers before addressing the rally, according to Frank Watkins, his spokesman. Watkins said Jackson believes "that the union belongs to the employees, and that, if a problem exists in the Teamsters Union--legal or otherwise--that matter should be resolved legally. But the union should remain with the workers."

A spokesman for Haig said that the former top official in the Reagan and Richard M. Nixon administrations will refer to the Justice Department's proposed lawsuit by saying that Republicans believe in free enterprise.

Dan Mariaschin, Haig's communications and research director, said Haig believes that "free men should govern themselves, and that includes free labor unions." Under the government's planned lawsuit, a court-appointed trustee would take control of the union and call new elections for top officers.

"The situation involving free labor unions reforming themselves is the best situation in a free society," Mariaschin said in summing up Haig's message. He said Haig recognizes that the Teamsters have supported Republican candidates for President in recent elections and that labor support is becoming increasingly important for Republican candidates.

John Buckley, a spokesman for Kemp, said the congressman had not been aware that the Teamster rally was called to protest the Justice Department's planned takeover action. He said he did not know what message Kemp will present to the meeting.

In the Justice Department, sources said they believe that shifting the lawsuit's preparation to Giuliani will strengthen their chances. Citing Giuliani's extensive experience in organized crime prosecutions, one source said: "This is a giant undertaking, and we want it filed where we think we can win the case."

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