President Obama Releases Teamsters from Nearly 30 Years of Strict Government Oversight

“This is a historic day for our Teamsters,” Teamster President James Hoffa said. “After decades of hard work and millions of dollars spent, we can finally say that corrupt elements have been driven from the Teamsters and that the government oversight can come to an end.” Oddly, many of those corrupt elements were likely led by his dad, Jimmy Hoffa.

Alleging organized-crime influence, the U.S. government in 1988 brought a civil suit against the Teamsters accusing union leadership of depriving union members of their rights through a “campaign of fear” that allegedly included a number of shootings, bombings, beatings, extortion, and theft. The government crackdown generated headlines for then-U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who went on to become New York City’s mayor.

In 1989, just hours before trial was set to begin, the Teamsters union reached a settlement with the government and entered into a consent decree where the Union agreed to broad reforms and long-term oversight by a court-appointed review board. Barack Obama, while campaigning for president and receiving record-setting campaign contributions from organized labor in 2008, said he favored ending the consent decree. Just months before the oversight officially ended, federal prosecutors urged its continuation: “Corrupt and undemocratic practices persist at levels of the Union, and the objectives of the Decree have not yet been achieved.” The prosecutors’ pleas fell on deaf ears, and the Teamsters are now freed from government oversight. Only time will tell whether the Teamsters have truly reformed.

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at