Indicted Teamsters union boss leaves with "big heart"

CHICAGO -- A week from Friday legendary Teamsters Joint Council president John T. Coli, Sr. will face arraignment in federal court in an alleged shakedown scheme, the I-Team has learned.

Three weeks from today he will be retired from what he calls the "greatest union in the world" where he has been a fixture for 46 years.

Coli is now set to appear before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer at 11am on Friday, July 21. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday with threatening a Chicago business with a strike by workers unless he was paid $100,000 per year. Coli is charged with one count of extortion and five counts of demanding and accepting a prohibited payment as a union official. He does not have an attorney listed in federal court records.

At about the same time as the indictment was handed up, Coli told members he would retire on July 31. Without mentioning the charges he said that "it's time to begin the next chapter." If federal prosecutors have their way, the chapter could run 45 years and be in a federal penitentiary.

Coli told his followers that the Teamsters have "bedrock principles of equality and justice." Authorities alleged that he abused his position with the labor union for personal gain.

In the resignation Coli said that he looks forward to "quiet nights at home and big family dinners." He leaves behind numerous family members among the Teamsters leadership and a legacy of political connections and influence. He was in the first wave of labor leaders to back Rahm Emanuel for Chicago mayor. Mayor Emanuel has not commented on the indictment.

A year ago Coli was appointed to the Illinois Labor Advisory Board by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The 11-page federal grand jury indictment alleges that extortion occurred when Coli was president of Teamsters Joint Council 25 in Rosemont, which represents more than 100,000 bus drivers, parking industry workers, and trade show employees in the Chicago area and northwest Indiana.

His son, John Coli Jr., is president of the Teamsters Local 727.
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