January 10, 2009: Local 848 Secretary-Treasurer Jim Santangelo is pushing to absorb Local 896, the California brewery and soft drink local.
But Local 896 members are fighting to keep their local proud and independent.
Local 896 Secretary-Treasurer Rene Medrano supports the merger, and he says the local will be stronger as a part of Local 848.
But members are skeptical. In 2003 and 2005, the two locals bargained together for contracts with Pepsi and Coke. In both contracts, Local 848 settled short for a weaker contract than Local 896 won.
“Local 896 has a long history of winning good contracts,” said Bill Booth, a retired member of Local 896.
“Why should we merge with a local that doesn’t have the same tradition of winning strong contracts in the brewing and bottling industries?” Booth is the former chief brewing steward at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Los Angeles.
Supporters of the merger say that without the merger, Local 896 will go broke. But that isn’t true.
Local 896 has assets of $4.7 million. Local 848 has twice as many members, but only $5.2 million in assets.
Last year, Santangelo was the seventh highest-paid Teamster official—with three salaries and a total compensation of $309,437.
The highest paid official of Local 896, on the other hand, made total compensation of just $103,626 in 2008.
Local 848 principal officer Jim Santangelo has a history of using intimidation to get his way in Teamster politics.
During the 2006 campaign for Teamster general president, Santangelo told one member who didn’t support him: “You don’t even know what I am going to do to you. I am going to f*** you up.” The Teamster Election Supervisor found that Santangelo used threats of violence to silence his opponents (2006 ESD 392, Dec. 20, 2006).
“I know Jim Santangelo is willing to lie and threaten to get his way—I’ve experienced it firsthand myself,” said Howard Palmer, a Local 848 driver at Vons. “Local 896 members should get to know the real Jim Santangelo before they give up their local.”
Concerned members have formed the Committee to Save Local 896 to work together to stop the merger.
Members have distributed leaflets debunking myths about the merger and calling for a secret ballot election if the merger goes to a vote.
The Teamster Constitution guarantees members the right to vote on a merger. It’s up to the local to say how that vote will be run.
“I want the best possible outcome for the members,” said Booth.
“This merger is a bad idea. But if it does go to a vote, we need to make sure that it’s a totally secret ballot so that there’s no intimidation and members have confidence in the outcome.”
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