THE TEAMSTERS by Steven Brill
Kirkus Star


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Why couldn't the powerful Teamsters have become a force for good? That, and not the question of who killed Jimmy Hoffa, turns out to be the point of Brill's extensively publicized report. On the Hoffa murder, he has the answers but not the convicting evidence; like Lester Velie (Desperate Bargain, 1977), like the FBI, he knows that ""none of this will be proved until""--or unless--""there is a real 'break' in the case."" And his massively detailed follow-through on the Teamster-mob alliance--especially as it operates in Provenzano-controlled New Jersey--provides little grounds for hope. ""They figure because we're Provenzanos we've got to be robbing something,"" says ex-con Tony's stand-in brother Sammy, without a flicker of guilt. By the same token, Brill's expansion on Hoffa's gangland helpmeets (""The Teamsters had gone to the mob for muscle because the other side had done so first""), on the fate of those who've threatened the cozy relationship maintained under Frank Fitzsimmons, and on the generally uncritical attitude of the rank-and-file (who revere the tough Hoffa and despise the self-indulgent Fitzsimmons) makes his lament for what might-have-been seem more than a little naive. But in trying to color the Teamsters black and white, he brings out, significantly, that the once flagrantly corrupt Central States Pension Fund isn't on the verge of bankruptcy, however clouded its future; that ""service"" of the old ward-heeler, social-worker sort is what members most prize (and resent the lack of); that a clean Teamster local--like Ron Carey's in New York--can be 100 percent effective for its members. And that everyone from the top down is plagued by the Teamsters' bad reputation, the likeliest leverage for change if not total reform. Will Cleveland's Jackie Presser, walking a tightrope ""between pleasing the crooks and appeasing the reformers and government investigators,"" succeed Fitzsimmons as president? To Brill's credit, you'll want to stick around and see.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Simon & Schuster