“We Won’t Go Back!” Battle for Reform Continues in Local 743

January 18, 2010: Teamsters in Chicago Local 743 have been battling to free their 11,000-member local from mob and old guard control for many years.

Now the top Chicago officials are escalating the fight. But members are uniting to say “We Won’t Go Back.”

Local 743 members are saying “We Won’t Go Back” to the old guard ways, after elected president Richard Berg and secretary-treasurer Gina Alvarez were ordered out of office by the leadership of Joint Council 25 on Jan. 11.

On Jan. 13, Berg and Alvarez won a stay of effectiveness issued by General President Hoffa, and will remain in their elected offices. But the bogus charges continue to hang over their heads; the International Union will consider the appeal and rule at a later date.

For decades, Local 743 took care of its officers while members paid the price. That changed in 2007, when the members of Local 743 voted Berg, Alvarez and their New Leadership slate into office.

Joint Council 25 officials want to suspend Berg and Alvarez from membership and remove them from their elected positions in the local on charges that they violated union procedures.

In 2004, Local 743 officials stole the election when it was clear that Berg was going to win. Joint Council 25 ruled the election was clean and upheld the results.

The Department of Labor investigated that election and found it was rigged. Former president Richard Lopez and other officers were convicted and are headed to jail for stealing it.

Some Officers Resist Reform

When he took office, Richard Berg cut his salary by $70,000 and reduced bloated salaries and staff.

Berg hired professional negotiators, put an end to back-room deals, and put more resources into education and representation.

Some officers, like VP Larry Davis, went along with the New Leadership platform when they thought it was just a campaign promise. But once they were in office, they demanded higher salaries and defended union reps who didn’t do their jobs.

While Berg and Alvarez are moving the local forward, they want to go backward to the old ways.

“For years officials treated Local 743 like a piggy bank,” said Melanie Cloghessy, a member of Local 743 at the University of Chicago. “We won’t go back to those dark days of corruption. The New Leadership team will keep fighting for a union that fights for us.

“The officials who are making this power grab are going to learn that we’ll fight back against their double-dealing just like we stood up to the criminal activities of the past.”

Members Won’t Let Joint Council Kill Democracy

The leadership of Joint Council 25 had no problem when mobsters, drug dealers and criminals ran Local 743. They never found fault with two local presidents who then were removed by the IRB for their dealings with the mob. They didn’t have any problem with Bob Walston, headed to jail for running a drug operation out of the union hall and for election fraud. Then they were fine with Richard Lopez, also headed to jail.

Now they want to remove Berg and Alvarez from office on a trumped up charge of making a $20,000 settlement with a fired employee to avoid litigation.

Each time the old guard has moved against reformers, they thought they killed reform. Each time, the reform movement has grown stronger. Local 743 members are determined to keep making history.