WE LEFT a few people off an honor roll yesterday, and we're sorry. The roll is of those public figures who spoke in person or by videotape to the Teamsters convention in Las Vegas and cravenly ignored the salient recent history of that organization.
The issue arose because Labor Secretary Bill Brock broke with the tradition of false praise at such events and let the union have it, addressing its history of corruption directly: "It is impossible for me to ignore that. It is necessary for you to address it." He told the 2,000 delegates, "You've lost . . . public trust." Before Mr. Brock spoke, we noted, Vice President Bush had done the opposite: ducked the issue and spoken sweetened mush.
But Mr. Bush, it turns out, had lots of company, and lest we hurt any feelings, here is a list of others who also spoke as if to a Sunday school:
House Speaker Tip O'Neill: "It gives me great pride to address you from the United States Capitol. The labor movement has been the center of my life since the day I was born."
House Majority Leader Jim Wright, after mentioning the union's aid to victims of last year's Mexican earthquake: "I think that epitomizes what this organization has stood for in its very finest moments throughout all these years. Today you are the forefront fighting for a strong, vibrant revival of America's industrial base."
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole: The Teamsters "have been the voice of the American worker for more than 80 years, and that's quite a record. . . . I applaud the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for its commitment to the American worker and our country. Have a good time."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul Kirk: In 1986 and 1988, "Democratic victories will be won only if we have the support of the people who make up your membership."
Republican Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf: "I'm here to thank you . . . for your support" of Republicans. "As opposed to the other unions, the Teamsters, this union, through a democratic process, a democratic referendum of its rank and file, determined which presidential candidates you would support in 1984. What a great example for others to follow. That is why I'm here today, to salute you."
Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, apropos of Teamster support for the war in Vietnam: "Unabashed patriotism has characterized and dominated all the policies of this union."
The Teamsters may have their good points, but the bad heavily outweighs the good: to use Mr. Brock's phrase, this largest union in the country is "mobbed up." Surely, none of the eminent speakers approves of this. If only, instead of seeming to embrace this organization, they had said so.