June 1, 2010: “We ran for office on a platform of making our union work for the members. But now we’ve been run out of office by staff who thought change was just a campaign slogan.
“This fall, members will get to vote for new Local 743 officers. They have the power to stop the power grab.
“The New Leadership Team will be running a reform slate of candidates this fall. We’ll be behind them and the fight for Teamster reform 100%.”
Richard Berg and Gina Alvarez
In May, Hoffa signed off on a power grab that ousts President Richard Berg and Secretary-Treasurer Gina Alvarez from office in Chicago Local 743.
Local 743 members are already meeting to launch a reform campaign in this fall’s local union election.
How This Happened
Three years ago, Local 743 members voted for change. The New Leadership slate won the election and ended decades of corruption in the local.
When he took office, Richard Berg cut his salary by $70,000 and reduced bloated salaries and staff. Local 743 hired professional negotiators, put an end to backroom deals, and led a successful strike at SK Hand Tool.
But some of the officers who ran with the reform ticket complained when the New Leadership slate cut officer salaries and insisted on holding staff accountable.
They defended union reps who missed grievance meetings, forgot arbitration deadlines, and came to meetings unprepared.
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.
“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.
“The New Leadership Team is a team fighting for a union that fights for every member,” said Jean Moore, a member at the UofC Medical Center. “That’s what the members of this local want, and our team will make sure they get it this fall.”