Seven years ago, on March 24, actor Jim Belushi and other Friends of Bill Hogan hosted a fundraiser on behalf of the former Teamsters official to help him pay legal fees to defend his right to free speech.
Hogan, who ran Local 714 for 30 years and headed Joint Council 25 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, had been expelled from the Teamsters in 2002 in what was considered a vendetta against his criticism of the government’s control of the union.
How Hogan and other national Teamster members were treated by the International Review Board (IRB), a government-imposed internal watchdog organization, is explored in “A Battle for Free Speech,” a feature-length doc by producer/director George Bogdanich, a former political and labor reporter.
The IRB had taken control of the entire Teamsters organization in 1989, despite warnings from 264 members of Congress that was it was clearly a violation of their Constitutional rights, Bogdanich points out.
Hogan’s criticism of the government’s control of 1.4 union members led first to a trusteeship of his local in 1996. Then Hogan was expelled from the union for life on trumped up charges.
His phone records were subpoenaed and four of his longtime union friends were expelled, their careers ruined, simply for talking to Hogan, who was then charged with criminal contempt for speaking to these friends and faced a possible six-month jail sentence.
After meeting Hogan in 2014 through a mutual friend, a Chicago political strategist and hearing his story, “I helped put together the Free Speech for Bill Hogan Committee to tell the story to a wider audience through a documentary,” says Bogdanich.
“The point is, the Teamsters had been denied their Constitutional right to free speech. The IRB which was supposed to have been active for only two or three years will finally dissolve in 2020.”
Working with co-producer Zak Piper, producer of the Roger Ebert doc, “Life Itself” and cameraman Mark Parraquin, also from Valparaiso, Bogdanich has filmed some 30 interviews.
“As we shot throughout the country, we were astonished by how many good people had lost their union status for criticism or baseless charges by the Review Board that were used to control unions and often suppress their rights,” he says.
Belushi will narrate the film, targeted for a summer release. Bogdanich is working with Chicago Filmmakers as its tax deductible fiscal sponsor to raise $35,000 to complete postproduction. Checks may be sent via Chicago Filmmakers and PayPal.
Bogdanich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.