Jim Harper could have been Ron Carey?
When former Teamsters president Ron Carey passed away earlier this month, reading the obituaries I was struck by the differing trajectories of two men whose beginnings closely resembled each other. UPS driver Carey rose to the position of Shop Steward in his Queens, N.Y., local in 1956 looking to improve member services (a decade later he’d become secretary of that local). That same year, Jim Harper (pictured with his wife, Mary, in 1953, the year he hired on with the company he would drive for as a Teamsters member) of Minneapolis began his course toward events that, a little more than two years later, would put him in the crosshairs of then-general president Jimmy Hoffa. Harper’s story was chronicled in his son Steven Harper’s 2007 book Crossing Hoffa: A Teamster’s Story, which I blogged about here. In 1958, with Jim Harper at their lead, the so-called Rank and File Group of the Minneapolis local led an insurgent campaign to root out corruption in their union local, offering a slate of candidates against Hoffa’s preferred leadership there. That Hoffa took an interest in Harper the book ties to the ongoing McClellan committee’s investigations into corruption within the union and various incidents leading back to improper use of Teamster dues in the Minneapolis area. Harper ultimately is forced out of the union via various methods of intimidation. The story is put forward in great detail in the book and, to a much lesser extent, in a story I wrote about it here.