WASHINGTON — Ron Carey was sworn in Saturday as president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, culminating one of the biggest reform efforts in the history of the American labor movement.
Standing on the steps of the union's marble headquarters building on Capitol Hill, Carey told more than 1,000 cheering supporters: "I pledge to you today that I will use the full power of this office to rid this union of mob influence and win this battle once and for all."
Carey staged a stunning victory in December's government-supervised elections, not only winning the union presidency but also sweeping into office with him every member of his reform slate.
The election was ordered as part of a consent decree the union signed two years ago to settle a massive civil racketeering suit brought against the Teamsters by the Justice Department.
The election was the first in the union's 90-year history in which members could directly elect national officers. Like most other unions, the Teamsters' rank and file in the past would elect delegates to the union convention, who in turn would vote for national officers.
As his first official act in office, Carey said he was reducing his annual salary as Teamsters president to $175,000 from $225,000.
And last Monday morning, Carey said, "the Teamster limousine, the condominium in Puerto Rico, the luxury jets, they're all going on the market."
Carey, 55, who spent most of his union career as the president of a Teamsters local in New York, extended an olive branch to his election opponents.
"In building the 'New Teamsters,' I need the help of everyone in this union," Carey said.
"Regardless of who you supported in this election, I am reaching out my hand to ask for your support and to ask you to join me in building a better union."
Carey called on all factions of the 1.6-million-member union to put the often bitter election campaign behind them.
"I think he's going to make things work. I think there's going to be a difference, a change," said Bob Romano, a 27-year member of a Philadelphia local.
"Clean 'em out," yelled Gary Foreman, one of a small group from St. Louis who sported red-handled brooms. "The brooms mean we're making a clean sweep of the Teamsters, new people all the way through," said Foreman, who will mark his 33rd anniversary with the union in July.
At the end of the hourlong inaugural ceremonies, Carey declared an open house at the Teamsters' headquarters, where for years the rank-and-file union members were kept away.