September 6, 2007: The National Labor Relations Board ordered the reinstatement of a fired Teamster reform activist.
The board has also ruled that a Local 854 official violently threatened a TDU member and shop steward.
This victory for Teamster reform activists came when the National Labor Relations Board overturned on appeal an earlier ruling by an NLRB administrative law judge.
The case shows that even under the worst of circumstances, TDU members can enforce their legal right to organize for fairness on the job and in the union.
Beating a Campaign of Terror
When school bus drivers and Local 854 members began organizing in 2002 to elect their shop stewards and enforce their contract, Consolidated Bus Transit and Local 854 responded with a wave of retaliation against Teamster reformers.
Drivers were followed. Their tires were slashed and windshields smashed. Drivers were suspended and even fired.
TDU took legal action and won numerous decisions against both Consolidated Bus Transit and Local 854, protecting the rights of working Teamsters to organize on the job and in their union.
On Aug. 31, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of TDU members on two final issues that were in front of the board on appeal.
As a result, driver and TDU leader Juan Carlos Rodriguez won the right to return to his job at Consolidated Bus Transit. Rodriguez had been fired in March 2003 in retaliation for his union reform activity.
The NLRB ordered that Consolidated Bus Transit reinstate Rodriguez and pay him “for any loss of earnings and other benefits he may have suffered as a result of the unlawful action against him, plus interest.”
Rodriguez will return to work with full seniority and tens of thousands of dollars in backpay.
Teamster Official Guilty of Violent Threat
If Juan Carlos Rodriguez was the big winner as the result of the NLRB’s ruling, then Local 854 President Danny Gatto is the big loser.
After shop steward Jona Fleurimont’s windshield was smashed by hammer-wielding thugs, Gatto told Fleurimont, “If I had a beef with you, I wouldn’t break your windshield. I’d break something else.”
The NLRB ruled that Gatto illegally and violently threatened Fleurimont, saying “Gatto’s comment was a thinly-veiled threat of assault. Whatever remained implicit in that comment about the immediate and physical nature of the threat quickly became explicit when Gatto tried to goad Fleurimont into starting a fight.”
Gatto’s persecution of Fleurimont didn’t end there. After Consolidated Bus Transit fired Fleurimont in retaliation for his union activity, Gatto instructed Local 854 legal counsel to oppose a settlement reinstating Fleurimont to work. Gatto failed—and legal action by TDU won Fleurimont his job back with more than $20,000 in backpay.