May 22, 2009: Hoffa’s Trade Show Director John Perry is in court on charges of assaulting a Teamster member for filing a grievance.
Will Hoffa take a stand against violence and for seniority rights in the Trade Show industry?
As an IBT Division Director, John Perry is supposed to coordinate our International Union’s efforts to defend Teamster members’ rights in the Trade Show industry.
Instead, Perry faces criminal charges for assaulting a Teamster who filed a grievance to enforce members’ seniority rights. The assault is part of a wider pattern of violent intimidation in Boston Local 82.
Critics charge that Perry has made a devil’s pact with a group of thugs with violent criminal records who provide Perry with muscle to control Local 82 and intimidate Teamster members in exchange for lucrative jobs at Boston trade shows.
At the center of the controversy is Joseph “JoJo” Burhoe, whose extensive rap sheet includes a conviction for armed bank robbery. Court documents reveal that Burhoe has served as an informant to the FBI since his release from prison.
Perry brought Burhoe into the local after a rank-and-file insurgency in the local union passed bylaws changes that transferred power from Perry to the union’s membership and nearly toppled Perry in a local union election.
Burhoe is once again a criminal defendant, this time on charges that he assaulted Local 82 member Eddie Flaherty—a rank-and-file critic of John Perry’s. The violent beating left Flaherty unconscious and hospitalized. Flaherty has left the Trade Show industry in fear of his personal safety.
Perry continues to appoint Burhoe as the contact person that Local 82 members must call to get work at trade show exhibitions.
The seniority rights of long-time Local 82 Teamster members get in the way of Perry’s scheme to get access to Trade Show jobs for thugs and their cronies. Perry’s solution has been to gut members’ seniority rights.
Local 82’s contracts have strong language that requires employers to give preferential hiring to workers who have experience in the Trade Show industry prior to 2003. The language is legal and the traditional mechanism used by unions to help make sure that senior employees don’t get passed over for work.
For years, Perry has refused to enforce the seniority provisions in the contract—called the “2003 language.” Now, Perry is trying to bargain away the seniority language altogether. But Local 82 members are fighting back.
Members Stand Up For Seniority
Members at Freeman Decorating Company voted to reject contracts negotiated by Perry that eliminated the 2003 seniority language.
Following that vote, Perry took no chances on the contract vote at Greyhound Exposition Services (GES), another major Trade Show employer. Perry stationed JoJo Burhoe, Jimmy “The Bull” Deamicis and a police officer outside the door of the union hall. Only members approved by Burhoe or Deamicis were allowed to enter the hall to vote on their contract. With the vote stacked, the GES contract passed—minus the 2003 seniority language.
But Local 82 members aren’t giving up. On May 20, Trade Show Teamsters voted to reject the proposed contract at Champion Exposition Services because the 2003 seniority language has been removed.
Perry Faces Assault Charges
Meanwhile, Perry faces charges that he assaulted Local 82 member Jimmy Lee in retaliation for filing a grievance on a violation of the 2003 seniority language.
According to the complaint against Perry, he assaulted Lee the day after a seniority grievance was turned in.
Perry has been arraigned for assault and has a pretrial hearing scheduled for June 11. Public documents reveal that Boston police have rescinded the licenses to carry firearms from Perry and Local 82 President Pat Geary and confiscated their guns.
Hoffa Needs To Act
The Independent Review Board (IRB), the panel set up to investigate Teamster corruption, is interviewing members. Their investigation is long overdue. The assault against Flaherty took place more than a year and a half ago. Lee charged Perry with assault more than six months ago.
If the Hoffa administration is serious about acting against corruption and protecting Teamster contracts, they will not wait on the IRB to take action.
It is hard for our International Union to credibly make the case that the government is no longer needed in our union when our union takes no action to investigate charges of violent intimidation of Teamster members by a top Hoffa appointee.
Perry is on Hoffa’s payroll to the tune of $59,955 last year as the IBT Trade Show Director. He bagged a total of $186,963 in Teamster salaries last year.
By failing to act, the Hoffa administration is helping anti-union forces who would love to take advantage of the scandal to undermine Teamster organizing drives or use the allegations of violence in Local 82 to weaken Teamster members’ rights in the Boston Trade Show industry. Our union cannot allow that to happen.
The Hoffa administration needs to take action to preserve seniority language in our trade show contracts and decisively put an end to cronyism, violence and intimidation in Boston Local 82.