By Shu Shin Luh and John Carpenter
January 9, 2000
He was a charismatic and notoriously
generous man who lived a lavish lifestyle in three homes, collecting
a six-figure salary at the same time he collected dues from some
of the lowest-paid union workers in Chicago.
Edward T. Hanley, 67, died
Friday night near his vacation home in Land O' Lakes, Wis., when
his truck collided head-on with another truck on a county highway
about 8:30 p.m. Mr. Hanley suffered head and chest trauma and
was pronounced dead at the scene, said Vilas County chief deputy
coroner Mike Gough. The cause of the accident was under investigation.
Mr. Hanley was forced to step
down in 1998 after more than 25 years as head of the 244,000-member
Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union.
During his tenure, he was a confidante to political leaders across
the spectrum, from Mayor Daley to former Gov. James R. Thompson
to the Rev. Jesse Jackson to former U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski.
"He had millions of friends,
from governors to mayors. He knew them all," said Jack Lavin,
a friend of Mr. Hanley's for more than 50 years.
Lavin said Mr. Hanley enjoyed
helping people more than anything else. "That would be his
legacy," he said. "In spite of tainted newspaper clippings,
his legacy will not be destroyed. People who knew him are above
all of that. They knew what a great man he was."
The allegations against Mr.
Hanley "were never proved to be true," Lavin said.
Yet the charges of corruption
in his iron-fisted management of the union forced Mr. Hanley to
step down in 1998, though he kept his six-figure salary.
A federal report released that
year revealed an undemocratic union where funds were lavished
on Mr. Hanley and his family to support a luxurious lifestyle.
The union allegedly maintained a fleet of leased cars, many of
them Cadillacs, at more than $500,000 a year. They were used by
top union bosses and their family members, as well as "consultants"
and officials with no apparent duties, the federal report said.
The union also owned a $2.5
million jet that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year
to maintain, according to the report.
Even charitable donations were
called into question, notably $450,000 given to a charity in Ireland,
and money spent to fly 34 people to a ceremony to dedicate the
Edward T. Hanley Basketball Arena outside Dublin.
Despite the litany of alleged
financial abuses, Mr. Hanley in 1998 was granted immunity from
prosecution by top Justice Department officials in return for
agreeing to step down.
During a 1984 congressional
hearing on alleged organized crime ties to his union, Mr. Hanley
declined to answer even the most routine questions, invoking his
Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He denied the
allegations in a 1992 interview with the Sun-Times, calling them
Martin Preib, a doorman at
the Hyatt Hotel on Printers Row, was an outspoken activist against
Mr. Hanley. "The sorry legacy and the state Ed Hanley has
left not only our local but our whole union in is not a legacy
I would wish on anyone," Preib said.
A native of the West Side,
Mr. Hanley attended Loyola University before being called to active
duty in the Air Force. He served in Korea before being discharged
in 1955. He started in the union as a bartender.
"His rise from humble
beginnings on Chicago's West Side to leadership in the union representing
the hotel and restaurant workers of the nation is the stuff of
legend," Ald. Ed Burke (14th) said.
Burke singled out Mr. Hanley's
charitable efforts on behalf of the Archdiocese of Chicago and
Maryville Academy in Des Plaines. Mr. Hanley was Maryville's man
of the year in 1991.
Mr. Hanley lived in north suburban
Wadsworth, though he also had homes in Land O' Lakes and in Palm
He is survived by his wife,
Kathryn, sons Edward Jr. and Thomas, and four grandchildren. Services
have not been announced.
Contributing: Robert C.
Edward T. Hanley's first union
job was as a Chicago bartender in 1955.
Nearly a half century later,
the controversial union boss leaves a legacy that loyalists and
reformers agree changed the labor movement--for better or worse.
"He brought a youth element
into the AFL-CIO at a time when it was dominated by stodgy old
men. He gave labor a new look at the time," said Jim Strong,
longtime Chicago labor writer.
"No doubt he had some
faults, too, but he will long be remembered by those involved
in the labor movement and politics."
Supporters remember Mr. Hanley
playing a key role in bringing the Teamsters and auto workers
back under the AFL-CIO, as well as attracting power brokers to
An adviser to Mayor Daley once
compared Hanley to retired Chicago Symphony Orchestra conductor
Georg Solti for orchestrating a $2 billion casino-theme park deal
in 1992 (that eventually fell through).
He commanded virtually unanimous
support from union delegates, who re-elected him president of
the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union
five times, until he was forced out in 1998.
But union reformers describe
Mr. Hanley as a labor dictator who neglected the members.
"In a day of his life,
he's never listened to a rank-and-file member," said Jon
Palewicz, a union activist and a bellman and banquet waiter for
hotels in San Francisco.
"There were people around
the country making $7.50 or $8 an hour with no pension to speak
of. And here he was with unlimited expenses for himself and his
family. It was just . . . I don't know what goes beyond excess."
Martin Preib, a doorman here
and a union activist against Hanley, likened him to former Teamsters
leader Jimmy Hoffa.
With one exception, he said:
"The treatment of workers by [Hanley] was far worse than
the way Teamsters were treated under Jimmy Hoffa."
Contributing: John Carpenter