Reel Chicago Highlights Documentary “Betrayal”
George Bogdanich’s new documentary
explores how the Justice Department’s
greed, corruption, and overreach
resulted in tragedy
George Bogdanich’s 2019 documentary, Betrayal: When the Government Took Over the Teamsters Union, alleges that former Chicago Teamster Bill Hogan and his family are victims of intimidation and fraud committed by the United States government.
Evidence presented in the 56-minute film makes the assertion hard to deny.
Hogan is the former head of Local 714, the original Teamster chapter in Chicago. The son of the man who founded the Local, he ascended through the ranks to become leader of the organization’s national trade show and movie division.
The contributions that he made during that time are still bringing benefits to Illinois.
“We would not have had a film industry here, nor would we have had a successful film industry, without the help of Bill Hogan,” says former Director of the Illinois Film Office Lucy Salenger.
But in 2002 — after getting approval from the International Teamster President James P Hoffa at Harry Carey’s restaurant for a plan to expand Teamster representation in the Las Vegas trade show industry — a government watchdog barred Hogan for life from the union he served. He was also threatened with imprisonment if he ever spoke to another Teamster again — one of scores of Teamsters silenced by gag orders.
“They went after my kids,” says Hogan, who was never accused or convicted of committing a crime. “When that happened, (my wife) had a stroke.”
With an abundance of research and testimony, Bogdanich presents a compelling case that the tragedy resulted from the Justice Department’s misguided effort to rid the Teamsters of illegal influence.
The story is narrated by William Forsythe, actor of The Untouchables, Gotti, Boardwalk Empire, and The Man in the High Castle fame.
According to Bogdanich, the menacing timbre of Forsythe’s voice suited the impending danger of the situation.
“As I got to know more and more about the government takeover and how onerous it was, I realized that this is something that the general public knows very little about,” he says. “The more digging I did, the more troubling it appeared to be. The massive denial of Constitutional rights was too overwhelming to ignore.”
These are just a few of the people who question the government or support Hogan in Betrayal. Others include an author, a CEO, a Chicago Police Officer, and a handful of former Teamster leaders and coworkers.
Bogdanich and Hogan
The Hogan saga began in 1989, when the authority of a Consent Decree initiated by then-US Attorney Rudy Giuliani empowered the feds to establish an independent review board (IRB) that served as a watchdog within the Union.
According to the film, the IRB launched a pattern of corruption, greed, and overreach that drained more than $250 million from the Teamsters’ treasury over the ensuing three decades, and Hogan fought against it and paid dearly.
Several interviews reinforce the narrative.
“They didn’t want to see this gravy train end,” says former head of Local 743 Bob Simpson.
“They were very, very aggressive, and arguably went too far for much too long,” says former Assistant US Attorney General Jack Goldsmith.
“I think that the government had a relationship with certain people in the Union (and) they could control the Teamsters,” says former State Senator Bill Marovitz. “They felt Bill was in the way of that … all he cared about was the welfare of the Union members.”
In all, Bogdanich estimates that nearly thirty people came forward to go on record for the film.
“Once they started talking, they were very passionate,” he recalls. “Some of their lives were really derailed by this, and I think this comes through in some of the interviews.”
One of the most gripping memories comes from Bob Riley, a former Local 714 leader who had known Hogan since the fifth grade.
“I was removed by the IRB for talking to my best friend,” he recalls. “It’s hard to believe that it could happen in America.”
Bogdanich sets the story within a candid framework of Teamsters history. Going back to the Jimmy Hoffa days, he spares few details. From the Union’s undeniable role in building the American middle class to its infamous connection with organized crime, the director gets at the truth behind the legend.
“Like almost everybody else, I had hoped that reform was taking place in the Teamsters Union,” he explains. “We knew about the criminal element going way back.”
Those who appear in the film represent the Teamsters well. Speaking in classic Chicago accents, they articulate like business leaders who represent 1.4 million truckers, airline pilots, health care workers, police officers, bakers, and other professions across the US and Canada.
Hogan, who is nearly brought to tears when he talks about his wife and the friends he is forbidden to contact, is one of the straightest-talking of them all.
“Sure, we’ve had some problems, but the good we’ve done for working people is second to none,” he says. “We don’t have to apologize to anybody.”
Bogdanich is “still determining when and where” to premiere “Betrayal.” Stay tuned to Reel Chicago for further details.