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From local president to leading the IBT (Ron Carey and the Teamsters reviewed by ‘Teamsters for a Democratic Union’)

Ron Carey and the Teamsters: How a UPS Driver Became the Greatest Union Reformer of the 20th Century by Putting Members First
By Ken Reiman
$25 / 320 pages / 978-1-68590-058-8

Reviewed by Ken Paff for Teamsters for a Democratic Union

Unlike most books about labor leaders, Ron Carey and the Teamsters was not written by a historian or journalist, but by a long-time Teamster in Ron Carey’s own Local 804. UPS driver Ken Reiman gives the book the perspective of a rank and file member who got involved in the TDU movement and became an active supporter of Carey.

Reiman’s insights into the workplace culture and organizational politics of New York Local 804 before, during, and after Carey’s presidency provide a rank-and-file perspective on the challenges of institutional change in organized labor over the past fifty years.

In March 1989, the Justice Department settled the big racketeering suit with the Teamster leadership, and Teamster members won the right to elect their top leaders by one-member-one-vote. TDU successfully argued that the way to break mafia influence was with rank and file democracy. Within a matter of months, TDU decided to support Carey for the Teamster presidency.

As Reiman describes in detail, the election of Ron Carey and the actions he took during his six years in office provided proof of concept: the union was transformed.

Reiman retired from UPS and worked on this book for a decade. He pored over court transcripts, media references, and dozens of interviews in detail. I know from personal experience how often he contacted TDU to get old files or to double-check information.

Reiman details the facts and players in the story of Carey’s incredible victory and key elements of his Teamster presidency.

Importantly, he also details the tragedy of Carey’s downfall, and the mistakes and shortcuts that brought outside consultants too close to the leadership.

As a bonus, Ron Carey and the Teamsters includes an afterward by Steve Early and Rand Wilson, two labor organizers and leaders who have been allied with TDU for decades. They add historical perspective, and place Carey’s leadership in the history of insurgency that has brought us to the “movement moment” of today’s Teamsters and the labor movement.

Their conclusion: The new book brings “Ron’s story to a new generation of labor activists faced with the unfinished task of revitalizing and reforming the U.S. labor movement. Reiman’s book will help ensure that Carey’s singular role will be remembered – and rightly honored – long after his critics and detractors have been forgotten.”



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