May 14, 2010: Hoffa has signed off on a power grab that ousts reformers Richard Berg and Gina Alvarez from office in Teamsters Local 743. But members continue to fight for their local.
Local 743 members are already meeting to launch a reform campaign in this fall’s local union election.
“We’re going to use our voice and our vote to make sure Local 743 is a union that puts members first,” said Jean Moore, a member at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
For years, Local 743 officials treated the local like a piggy-bank. Several former Local 743 officials were convicted of stealing a union vote to block the election of the 743 New Leadership Slate.
In 2007, the 11,000 members of Local 743 voted the New Leadership Slate into office in on a reform platform. Berg cut his salary by $70,000, reduced bloated salaries and staff, hired professional negotiators, and held union staff to high standards of representation.
Unhappy at the salary cuts and demands for accountability of union staff, some Local 743 officers teamed up with Berg’s opponents in the Teamster hierarchy, and made a power grab.
The disgruntled officers filed internal union charges. Hoffa approved Berg’s removal on a charge that he had improperly settled a discharged employee’s dispute with the union about his discharge. Hoffa admitted that Alvarez had nothing to do with the settlement, but affirmed her removal because she endorsed the settlement check, as secretary-treasurer.
The real issue is union politics. Now that Hoffa has upheld the charges, Berg and Alvarez are suspended from membership and ineligible to run for re-election in Local 743 this fall.
In his decision, Hoffa admitted that neither Berg nor Alvarez acted for any personal benefit. He did not cite a single specific violation of the Constitution or Bylaws.
“When the New Leadership Team cut officer salaries and insisted on holding our union staff accountable, this new crew that is making the power grab complained,” said Maxine Norris, a member at Blue Cross Blue Shield. “They’re in it for themselves—not the members. That’s not what we voted for.”
“We Won’t Go Back”
“The old officials ran the union to benefit themselves—not the members,” said James Cook, a member at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “We’re not going to go back to those days. We’ve made change before and we’ll do it again.”
Local 743 members are preparing now to launch a campaign to keep their union in the hands of the members and elect a reform team this fall when there will be another Local 743 election.
“True unionism means service to the members. These ideas don’t just go away. The New Leadership Team is here today and will be here tomorrow to get the job done,” said Melanie Cloghessy, a member at the University of Chicago.