Teamsters Union Power Struggle Continues
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The power struggle in the embattled Teamsters union is continuing with the announcement by the union’s second-highest ranking officer that he is dropping his bid for re-election in this year’s government-supervised elections.
Weldon Mathis, the Teamsters’ secretary-treasurer, months ago joined a slate headed by presidential front-runner R.V. Durham, but this week said he decided to step aside so he could retire.
Durham, in a telephone interview Wednesday, said he has not settled on a new running mate.
Some Teamsters have suggested that Mathis’ withdrawal was a maneuver by the Durham slate to garner more support from union members who are demanding change.
″Mathis is perhaps most symbolic of the old guard. I think they’re cleaning up their slate,″ said Ken Paff, an organizer for Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a dissident group pushing reform candidate Ron Carey of New York.
Durham denied that Mathis’ withdrawal was politically motivated.
″I do not view it as a move that cleans up anything. Weldon was very supportive of the platform we were running on, and the platform calls for reforms,″ Durham said.
One of Durham’s opponents for the union’s top job, William Genoese, said Wednesday that Mathis’ withdrawal ″marks the beginning of the end for Durham.″
″It’s part of the cemetery ticket falling apart,″ said Genoese, who heads the Teamsters’ airline division out of New York.
Mathis announcement, made late Tuesday, said he wanted to spend more time with his family. It noted that he had been a Teamster for nearly 50 years.
″I do not feel that I can make the full-time commitment that this job will require in the years ahead,″ Mathis said.
Last fall, Teamsters President William McCarthy announced that he would retire when his term expires at the end of this year. McCarthy endorsed a slate of Durham for president and Mathis for the No. 2 job.
The new officers will be selected in December in the first direct, secret ballot elections in Teamsters history, which the union agreed to as part of the settlement of a civil racketeering suit brought by the Justice Department three years ago.
Durham is considered the front runner in the race to succeed McCarthy. Besides Genoese and Carey, other candidates include Walter Shea, a former top aide to McCarthy who was fired in November.