March 2, 2009: A proposed merger of California Local 896 that would have threatened that local’s proud history of winning strong contracts is now on hold.
The news comes just as the Committee to Save Local 896 was preparing their next action. Members spoke up to save their local and made it happen.
For months, Local 896 officials were deep in talks with Local 848 head Jim Santangelo about merging the two locals.
But now the merger has been abruptly put on hold. At the February union meeting, Local Secretary-Treasurer Rene Medrano reversed himself and announced that all merger talks with Local 848 were over—and no merger was in the works.
Local 896 is based in Los Angeles and represents 3,000 brewery and soft-drink workers across California.
When the merger was proposed in December, Medrano brought Santangelo to the L.A. Anheuser-Busch brewery to sell the deal. Santangelo was back at the January Local 896 meeting—and faced tough questions from Local 896 members.
At the Local 896 meeting on Feb. 22., Medrano didn’t mention the merger even once in his half hour long report.
Medrano only admitted that the merger had fallen through after a member asked him point-blank about it. He appeared to have no intention of discussing the merger until he was asked.
Medrano explained that if the merger went through, employees of the local would go into an inferior health and welfare plan—a pretty weak excuse.
Meanwhile, at the Local 848 meeting on the same day, Santangelo refused to admit defeat and said that he still hoped the merger would go through.
Power of Information
As soon as they heard the rumor of a possible merger, Local 896 Teamsters sprang into action and formed the Committee to Save Local 896.
Members at Coke and Pepsi had bargained side-by-side with Santangelo before—and saw him negotiate inferior contracts in their industry.
The committee produced educational bulletins that explained to members what they could expect in a local headed by Santangelo.
They let members hear from Local 848 members. They circulated information from the Independent Review Board and Election Officer that showed Santangelo made an illegal loan to himself and intimidated members who disagreed with him.
The Local 896 members made it clear that they were going to have a voice in this merger—and they are going to stay prepared to spring into action if any future discussions take place.
The Local 896 members who worked so hard to keep their local proud and independent are a good example of what members can do when they get informed and get organized.