January 11, 2013: In the early 1900s workers in the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts faced terrible working conditions toiling away 60 hours a week for very little pay. They were lodged in substandard and unaffordable housing and faced extreme poverty. These workers were largely immigrants, most of them women, even some children.
For years the conditions continuously worsened. The workers decided they had enough and started to organize their neighborhoods block-by-block, and with the Industrial Workers of the World.
Then on January 11, 1912, a law was passed in Massachusetts that shortened the work week, reducing weekly pay as a result. This meant that dinner wasn't going to be on the table some nights.
For a community already suffering from malnutrition, this was the final straw that sparked the historic "Bread & Roses Strike" 101 years ago today. 25,000 workers went on strike. The strike lasted 9 weeks, cost 2 lives, and over $1 million dollars.
By organizing together the workers were able to win wage increases, overtime pay, and no discrimination for strike activity. The bravery and militancy demonstrated by these women, children and men contributed to the strength of the early labor movement in the U.S., setting the stage for unions today.
We honor their memory by working together to build a stronger and more democratic labor movement, which benefits all working people.
Click here to read more about the Bread & Roses Strike.
September 14, 2012: I really enjoyed the Women's Conference, my first one.
The speaker that stands out mostly for me was the San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, it was very uplifting. I recall when she was sworn in as the first women fire chief in 2004.
I had a hard time picking out my favorite workshops because they were all important. My first work shop was, "It's OK to be OK" which was about overcoming workplace trauma. I went there hopeful to gain some tools for myself and my co-workers. The environment at VWR, where I work, can be scary. People go off on each other daily and many have lost jobs. What I got out of the class "It's OK to be OK" was to keep my co-workers laughing. We are all victims at work and even outside of work. Stay strong and be a survivor, not a victim.
Second workshop was history on Eleanor Roosevelt and the American worker. I loved it. We need to learn about our past. I chatted with the instructor, Brigid O'Farrell. We spoke briefly at the end. I said they need to teach labor history in school because they need to learn the struggle we went through to get where we are at. In the state of California labor history is allowed as a lesson in school, but not pushed. This is something to work on.
I joined other Teamster women for lunch with the Sandy Pope, president of Teamsters Local 805. It was an honor. It was truly a joy having lunch with her and other women, like Claudette Begin from Local 2010. We discussed basics on my workplace and how my co-workers have been without a contract for over two years. If anyone gets a chance, like I did, to hangout with Sandy, don't turn it down! She's really a great person and truly cares about our union and everyone she comes in contact with.
Sandy invited me to come along with her for dinner she was having with some Teamster sisters from Oklahoma. We all went site-seeing, shopping, and just had fun. She attracts good people. I can't wait to hang out again in New Orleans at next year's Women's Conference with all my new Teamsters sisters.
Joan Beighley, VWR
Local 853, San Bruno, Calif.
Click here to contact the TDU Women's Caucus.
September 7, 2012: Through Teamsters Local 804, Mary Ellen King and I were able to attend the 2012 Teamster Women's Conference in San Francisco, Calif.
It was a great experience. You could feel the amount of energy these women generated during the gatherings.
Several of the opening statements touched upon our current political challenges. They reinforced how important it is to get out and speak to our members and educate them about the abundant anti-labor platforms and to prevent these candidates from getting into office.
The "Contract Enforcement Workshop" given by Sally Payne gave insight on how to determine which issues are grievances and how to better handle each scenario. We learned to exhaust other methods of initiating conversations to work towards our desired goals. We trained by holding mock grievances and using sample questions.
My favorite workshop was "Labor History: Women Workers in San Francisco." We explored the heroic women who created one of the strongest labor movements. After which Mary Ellen and I were able to go on sort of a labor movement site-seeing tour.
A great ship called the Balclutha provides a portrait of the various workers associated with the seafaring trades in the late 19th and 20th century. The original union halls where created in the nearby Bay Area. The Bay Area was instrumental in ship-building for the war. Women were the primary laborers in the war effort but were discriminated and removed from their jobs once the war was over, and through employer backing propaganda and were told going back to their domestic roles was the right thing to do.
It was an amazing history class which proves through unity we can have change. There is still a war on workers. I like to learn about where we came from so that we can think about where we’re going, because history repeats itself.
Another great thing about the conference was the change to network with our Teamster Sisters, to discuss our common concerns and applaud our accomplishments. I met so many women, and was invited all over the country, from Puerto Rico to Alaska. I met UPSers, truck drivers, nurses, bus drivers, clerical workers, and women in the field of education. I was also able to meet up with fellow TDU members, and we were able to talk and get to know each other better. I look forward to networking and working with these sisters in the future.
Dorothy Hanlon, UPS
Local 804, New York
Click here to contact the TDU Women's Caucus.
July 6, 2012: Teamster women are growing in numbers and can be a big part of rebuilding Teamster power.
TDU helps women stand up for our rights on the job, share information and get more involved.
Click here to get involved and learn more at the TDU Women Teamsters page.
"Women face the same things that men do on the job and in the union, they just affect us differently.
"The 15% giveback to YRC devastated us and our families, too. Sometimes the company even runs me into my day off making it near impossible to take care of the house and my grandkids.
"YRC executives gave themselves big bonuses with that money. The union should've said no to the 2-year extension, and should instead revisit the books every year.
"I'm a proud Teamster and TDU member. The International should stand up for freight Teamsters. We earned our wages through hard work, and shouldn’t be moving backwards."
Vicky Bowers, YRC Road Driver, Local 135, Indianapolis
Equal Pay for Equal Work
"The job I work is made up of 75% women, and we are getting paid less than the men who do the same work. We are the third largest law enforcement agency, preceded by the NYPD and the Corrections Officers. We deal with the same issues and our job is just as hard.
"A majority of the school safety agents, Teamster brothers and sisters, stepped up and signed on to a lawsuit demanding equal pay. It doesn't just affect women; it affects everyone.
"I am attending my first TDU Convention this year. I'm looking forward to learning how others have overcome issues like this at the workplace, meeting different people and getting more members involved."
Kangela Moore, NYPD Division of School Safety, Local 237, New York
"My local union is headed by a woman, and the members of my local elected me as a delegate to the 2011 Teamster Convention to nominate Sandy Pope.
"In Las Vegas it was like a different world. Many of the other delegates tried to intimidate and silence me. It was very disappointing.
"We need to continue organizing women in our union to have a voice and be part of making an impact."
Laverna Wharam, Inver Grove Heights School
Local 320, Minnesota
Run For Office—TDU Can Help
"TDU provides education and resources members can use to develop as union leaders, whether they're women or men. Being a member of TDU has given me a huge sense of pride because of that.
"I want to see more women in leadership positions of our union.
"There are a lot of Teamster women out there who are qualified to serve in office, works as reps and organizers and can help propel our union forward."
Rosemary Stedronsky, UPS Part-Time, Local 63, Ontario, Calif.
Hire More Women, Strengthen Our Union
"The International union should be doing more to deal with gender discrimination—not just at UPS, but within the Teamsters. We need more women in power and more women on the job.
"I still encounter guys that I work with—my brothers—that think women shouldn't be doing the job. That UPS just hired me and gave me 30 years seniority—that I didn't earn it.
"It's been a bumpy road, but a good one too. I truly enjoy most of the guys I work with, and when it comes time for me to retire I will miss the friendships I've made."
Rozalind Coleman, UPS Feeder Driver, Local 688, St Louis
Women Teamsters: We Aren't So Rare!
"I'm so glad that TDU is showcasing women Teamsters. I suspect most Teamsters, like I, haven't been aware of the diversity of members and the industries represented by the IBT.
"We need our union to start recognizing the needs of women Teamsters, at work when we face problems like discrimination, sexual harassment and employers unwilling to recognize family obligations that still fall mostly on women. Broader issues like reproductive rights, healthcare and childcare are very related to a woman's ability to work—our union should support those rights.
"I joined TDU because TDU raises the bar on how Teamsters can be more effective in our union and in our lives. That's especially valuable today when workers in every workplace are being assailed more than ever before."
Claudette Begin, UCAL School of Public Health, Local 2010, Berkeley, Calif.
March 14, 2012: TDU celebrates the contributions of Teamster women to our union and to labor struggles for social and economic equality.
Building strong unions has paid off for women workers—literally. Women in unions earn higher wages, have better health care coverage, more rights to paid sick leave and vacation, pension plans, and more rights and power on the job.
Women union members make $2 an hour more than nonunion women workers. The difference for women of color is even bigger—with union women making 35% more than nonunion workers. Union women workers are 19% more likely to have employer health insurance and 25% more likely to have a pension.
Throughout history, Teamster women have helped build the union, often against long odds. And Teamster women have helped lead TDU in fighting for a Teamsters Union that fights for all Teamsters.
Local 213 Teamster Diana Kilmury was such a leader, and was elected the first woman International Vice President of the Teamsters Union in 1991.
Twenty years later, Sandy Pope became the first woman Teamster to run for Teamster General President.
In between, thousands of Teamster women have gotten involved with TDU to build a stronger union.
TDU celebrates the contributions of Teamster women to our union and to our movement.
"It's tough being a woman with a truck driving job—not because of the work, but because it's out of the realm of normal roles women have in society. But being a single parent and having to support 2 kids I had to look for other options where I could earn a higher income.
"Women fought hard for the right to have these jobs. Thanks to them I can make a decent salary as a package car driver. I joined TDU to continue changing our union for the better."
Dorothy Hanlon, Local 804
"The TDU Women's network brings together women Teamsters to share information and education, help us stand up for our rights on the job, and empowers us to get involved in rebuilding the union."
Noreen Hollingsworth, Local 237
Co-Chair Teamsters for a Democratic Union
DVD Mother Trucker: The Diana Kilmury Story
Her story was made into an award-winning 1996 movie. Click here to order a copy!
Watch her story and find out how Diana helped build TDU in its early years, spoke up for members on the Teamster Convention floor, helped win the Right to Vote, and changed our union for the better.
Sandy Pope, president of a Teamsters local in New York City and one of the most prominent women in the union, announced on Monday that she would challenge James P. Hoffa for the presidency.
Mr. Hoffa, who has the most famous name in organized labor, has headed the International Brotherhood of Teamsters since 1999. The election will be in October 2011.
Click here to read more at The New York Times.
BNA Daily Labor Report: Report Finds Unions Must Make Changes To Avoid Risk of Losing Young Female Talent
July 26, 2010: Unions must begin to make changes now or today's young activists, and their younger colleagues, will abandon the labor movement and pursue social justice in other organizations with more welcoming cultures and values, according to a report released July 16 by the Berger-Marks Foundation.
While there have been significant gains for women in workplaces and the labor movement, a two-day summit in March 2010 in New Orleans among 30 women activists from at least 20 unions and other advocacy organizations outlined steps unions can take to attract young workers, and support them in key leadership roles, according to the report, Stepping Up, Stepping Back: Women Activists ‘Talk Union’ Across Generations.
The Berger-Marks Foundation helps to organize women into unions by providing financial support and “camaraderie to people and organizations doing that work,” according to its website (www.bergermarks.org).
The foundation's “trustees weren't sure quite what to expect when we brought together 30 women activists—half of them younger than 35, the other half older than 35—to New Orleans last March for an intergenerational conversation about the labor movement,” the foundation said in a statement. “What we got was a deeper understanding of what it is about unions that turns younger women on and what turns them off.”
The report “pulls no punches in its critique of today's unions. Its prescription for change includes practical, yet bold, steps that America's labor movement should undertake in order to ensure it becomes a ‘safe space’ for tomorrow's women workers and activists,” the foundation said.
The report found that the women under age 35 attending the conference want to spend their adult lives supporting organized labor. However, whether that happens will depend on “how quickly unions and allied organizations respond to their needs.” Members of the under-35 group have already thought about making the transition from labor organizations to social justice organizations because the culture for women and younger activists is more accepting, the report said.
The loss of more than 8 million jobs from 2007 to 2010 has meant that many women under age 35 “feel stuck” in positions that they would otherwise abandon, the report said. But it observed that a guaranteed revenue stream of monthly dues from union members gives women who work for various labor organizations more job security than their colleagues who work for other organizations and nonprofits.
Making Unions More Responsive to Young Women
Some of the goals for unions that the women under 35 recommended during the summit included creating “safe spaces” for women and younger activists, the report said. It found that younger union activists “need room to make mistakes and have the freedom to discuss their experiences without being judged by the higher-ups in the union hierarchy.”
The report also pointed out that sexism and sexual harassment still are “too common” throughout the labor movement and must end or unions will not have the chance to recruit and retain a new generation of women activists and leaders. Adopting policies that avoid sexual harassment has not been enough to change an ingrained culture of sexism, the report said. It asserted that union leaders must be willing to call out and punish union members who engage in inappropriate conduct.
Unions should reach out to younger workers by providing opportunities for interaction that does not rely on social networking, the report said. “What matters to younger workers are the issues unions tackle, not whether their leaders have a large following on Twitter.”
Shifting Labor's Agenda
Organized labor's agenda and its traditionally male-dominated culture make adoption of a feminist agenda “all but impossible for unions,” the report said. It suggested that unions partner with women's organizations at the community and national level.
Other recommendations included establishing a mentoring program for younger women. In addition to formal traditional mentoring, the report recommended peer-to-peer mentoring programs.
Younger activists want training in basic union skills, such as managing meetings and handling grievances as well as comprehensive, continuing education on economics, politics, and why unions matter, the report said.
Unions should implement term limits for certain elected offices at labor organizations that do not already have them, the report said. It added that term limits would send a strong signal to younger activists that they could get the chance to reach the top leadership ranks of their unions. Expanding the number of seats on union governing boards would allow more women and persons of color in leadership positions, according to the report.
Younger workers also want to be included in “real decision-making” and have the opportunity to take responsibility for important projects, the report said.
“The young women who met in New Orleans are tough, seasoned labor leaders who can make a real difference for the union movement,” the report said. “They want to be at the main table. They don't deserve to be relegated to the ‘kids' table.’ But, younger activists don't want just a seat. They want to help plan the menu and prepare the meal.”
Lastly, the report recommended that union meetings be structured to allow younger members to network and interact face-to-face with older, more experienced leaders and activists. Younger members should be encouraged to plan and execute social events, not just for their own peer group, but for the entire membership, the report said. “Life for working families is tough enough these days, so union-sponsored events should be fun as well as informational and substantive,” the report concluded.
By Alicia Biggs
April 13, 2010: A female trucker fired for failing a physical ability test on returning from a work-related injury raised a jury issue of sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act because the plaintiff had successfully performed the job in the past, her injury had healed, and the employer did not require injured male employees to take the test, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled April 9 (Merritt v. Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., 4th Cir., No. 09-1498, 4/9/10).
Reversing summary judgment for Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., the court decided plaintiff Deborah Merritt had raised a triable issue that Old Dominion's reliance on the physical ability test (PAT) to fire her in February 2005 was a pretext for intentional sex discrimination.
Although Old Dominion's vice president Brian Stoddard alone made the decision to fire Merritt, the court said other managers' statements that Merritt's pickup and delivery driver job was not women's work, Merritt's history of difficulty in securing the job, and Old Dominion's shifting and inconsistent explanations of its PAT policy would support a reasonable jury in finding Stoddard's decision was based on Merritt's sex.
A federal district court in Virginia had dismissed Merritt's Title VII claim, saying she failed to prove Stoddard “harbored any discriminatory animus” or that Old Dominion's legitimate, nondiscriminatory use of the gender-neutral PAT was a pretext for bias.
Joined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on appeal, however, Merritt contended that Stoddard's selective use of a test intended for job applicants was not neutral and that circumstantial evidence suggested Old Dominion was using her ankle injury (from which Merritt's doctor testified she had fully recovered) as an excuse to fire her based on gender.
Purported Policy Selectively Applied
Writing for the appeals court, Justice J. Harvie Wilkinson III said “the record as a whole supports Merritt's claim that a jury could find that discrimination on the basis of gender was afoot.” Although Merritt might lack a triable sex bias claim if Old Dominion had a uniform policy of requiring all drivers returning from injury leave to pass the PAT, the court said, evidence suggests that was not the case. Rather, the evidence indicates that Stoddard made a purely subjective decision to require Merritt to take the PAT, even though the test was developed for job applicants and it assessed nothing specific to Merritt's injury, the court said.
Moreover, Stoddard exercised his discretion against the backdrop of an Old Dominion corporate culture in which the company could identify only six female pickup and delivery drivers among approximately 3,100 drivers in that position, Merritt had been passed over for the job for nearly two years despite a spotless record as a line haul driver, and managers allegedly told Merritt the job was not for women, the court said.
“While the views of others are no proof of the views of Stoddard, at some point the corporate environment in which he worked places Stoddard's own selective use of the PAT in Merritt's case in a less neutral context,” the court said.
“[W]e do not hold that Merritt's evidence must be believed or that, if believed, must yield an inference that Old Dominion unlawfully discriminated against her,” Wilkinson wrote. “But because Merritt's evidence may well be believed and may well yield such an inference, Old Dominion is not entitled to summary judgment.”
Judges Allyson K. Duncan and Andre M. Davis joined in the decision.
Denied Return From Injury Leave
Old Dominion is a nationwide trucking firm that employs thousands as “line haul” drivers and “pickup and delivery” drivers, the court related. Line haul drivers travel across state lines and often spend nights and weekends away from home, while pickup and delivery drivers work locally and rarely work nights or weekends. The pickup and delivery job requires more lifting and therefore is more physically demanding than line haul driver, the court said.
Merritt worked for Old Dominion for six years as a line haul driver based in Greensboro, N.C., before she sought a travel and pickup delivery driver job so she could spend more time at home. Beginning in 2002, Merritt applied for several open pickup and delivery positions at Old Dominion's Lynchburg, Va., facility, but initially was turned down for jobs that went to less-experienced male drivers, the court said.
Bobby Howard, the Lynchburg terminal manager, allegedly told Merritt that the company “did not really have women drivers” in pickup and delivery jobs and that regional vice president Lemuel Clayton “was afraid [a woman] would get hurt” if given such a job. On another occasion, Howard told Merritt that VP Clayton “didn't think a girl should have that position.” Clayton denied the alleged comments, the court said.
In March 2004, Old Dominion hired Merritt as a pickup and delivery driver, but placed her on a 90-day probationary period, the court said. Merritt alleged no male drivers who transferred were placed on probation, but VP Clayton testified probation was standard procedure that permitted transferring employees to “change their minds” if a new job did not work out.
Through September 2004, Merritt performed her new job successfully, the parties agreed. She had no trouble lifting freight and received no complaints from management, co-workers, or customers, the court related. Despite her positive record, however, Lynchburg terminal operations manager Steve Godsey allegedly told a male driver he did not understand why the company “brought [Merritt] here in the first place” because “this is not a women's place.”
On Sept. 29, 2004, Merritt injured her ankle on the job. She was diagnosed with an ankle sprain and plantar fasciitis and her doctor prescribed light-duty work until Merritt's next appointment on Dec. 27. Prior to that doctor's appointment, however, Brian Stoddard, vice president of safety and personnel, decided Merritt must pass the PAT before she could return to work.
On Dec. 27, Merritt's doctor examined her and concluded her injury was “not a disabling condition” and that nothing prevented Merritt from performing her duties as a pickup and delivery driver.
Based on the PAT administered on Dec. 28, however, Old Dominion determined that Merritt received an overall failing grade and was not physically fit to resume her job, the court said. Although the test revealed no problem with Merritt's ankle, she was unable to place a weighted box on an overhead shelf (the five-foot, one-inch Merritt testified the shelf was placed too high) or walk backward pulling a cable (Merritt testified the test occurred in a crowded hallway in which she bumped into people).
Citing the test results, Stoddard fired Merritt effective Feb. 1, 2005. Merritt sued under Title VII, alleging sex discrimination, but the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia granted summary judgment to Old Dominion. Merritt appealed.
Triable Issue of Pretext
The Fourth Circuit said that while Merritt proceeded under the familiar “burden-shifting framework” of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 5 FEP Cases 965 (1973), “the issue boils down to whether the plaintiff has presented a triable question of intentional discrimination.”
Merritt has done so, the court decided, saying a reasonable jury could find the evidence undermines Old Dominion's contention that it had a regular policy of requiring drivers returning from injury leaves to pass the PAT. Merritt introduced “ample evidence” that Old Dominion's explanation for its decision to fire her “was unworthy of credence,” the court said.
The record indicates Merritt's ankle injury was temporary and had healed at the time of Stoddard's decision to fire her, the court said. The plaintiff's doctor testified there was nothing in Merritt's medical condition to prevent her from resuming her duties as a pickup and delivery driver in December 2004, the court pointed out.
Rather than allow Merritt to return, however, Old Dominion required a “full-blown fitness test” to assess the effects of a minor injury on Merritt's ability to perform a job she had successfully performed for six months prior to her injury, the court said. “In doing so, Old Dominion terminated a good employee who, pre-injury, performed her job ably and without complaint and who, post-injury, was both willing and able to report to this same job for work,” Wilkinson wrote. “These facts, if believed, would allow a trier of fact to think Old Dominion was simply looking for a reason to get rid of Merritt.”
Although Old Dominion contended it had a gender-neutral policy of requiring all injured drivers to pass the PAT, the court said a reasonable jury could find that explanation was a pretext, given the company's inconsistent use of the test, plus evidence that the PAT was not designed to test Merritt's alleged physical shortcoming and that injured male drivers returned without taking the PAT, the court said.
A reasonable jury could also conclude sex discrimination was Stoddard's actual motivation for scheduling the PAT and firing Merritt, given previous managerial statements that pickup and delivery driver was not a job for women and statistics suggesting Old Dominion acted on that belief, the court said.
“While a neutral policy serving Old Dominion's legitimate business interests in public and employee safety could certainly be put in place, a trier of fact could reasonably find that Old Dominion's selective application and ever-changing rationales for the PAT were designed to conceal an intent to reserve the plum pickup and delivery positions for male drivers only,” Wilkinson wrote.
Valerie Ann Chastain in Bedford, Va., represented Merritt on appeal. Roger Craig Wood of McGuire Woods in Charlottesville, Va., represented Old Dominion. Julie L. Gantz of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D.C., represented EEOC as an amicus supporting Merritt.
By Kevin P. McGowan for BNA Daily Labor Report
October 30, 2009: Just days after hundreds of Local 848 members came to the union hall to call for Jim Santangelo to resign, he was driven out of office.
On Oct. 29, Santangelo resigned as the secretary treasurer of Local 848, the president of Southern California Joint Council 42, and International Vice President.
Santangelo’s fate was sealed on Oct. 25, when nearly 500 members attended a meeting called to explain the $500,000 settlement of a sexual harassment suit filed by a former secretary at the joint council.
According to members present at the meeting, the crowd yelled, “You gotta go!” at Santangelo. Business agent coordinator Emilio Arias reportedly told the entire meeting that Santangelo was guilty of a pattern of harassing female employees of Local 848. Joint Council 42 attorney Joe Kaplon was lambasted when he tried, in vain, to defend Santangelo.
Santangelo took $287,946 in union salaries in 2008, the maximum allowed by the Teamster constitution for that year.
Last month TDU broke the story on the big pay-out of union funds and the attempt to cover it up; click here for that report.
Santangelo’s departure did not go smoothly. Reportedly, the Local 848 executive board has installed Eric Tate as the new secretary treasurer in a quick vote. Not all e-board members were present for this critical vote, and the process is being scrutinized.
Santangelo’s departure is overdue. It should serve as a wake-up call that our Teamsters Union needs to live up to its best ideals of respect for women, and of a zero-tolerance policy of sexual harassment and discrimination.
It should also serve as motivation for the members of Local 848 who have lived under Santangelo’s intimidating regime; it’s time for members to get involved and take control of their local.
What do you think? Click here to send your comments to Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
September 17, 2009: A sexual harassment scandal involving an International Vice President has cost our union a half million dollars.
So why is Jim Santangelo still an International Vice President and head of the 100,000-member Joint Council 42 and Local 848 in Los Angeles? That’s the question some Southern California Teamsters are asking.
In August, a sexual harassment lawsuit against Santangelo was settled for $500,000. The lawsuit was filed in January 2009, so the large settlement came very fast, just as depositions under oath were slated, according to court papers.
Did Santangelo have to pay the $500,000? No way. The legal bills and pay-out came from the members’ dues as well as insurance coverage.
“It’s an outrage that the members’ dues have to pay for this. It’s bad enough we pay a three dollar monthly assessment for nothing, and now this,” said Howard Palmer, a Vons driver in Local 848. Santangelo’s total salary was $287,946 in 2008.
Santangelo and his attorney vehemently deny any wrongdoing. But if Santangelo was innocent of these charges, he had every opportunity to fight them.
We asked Jim Santangelo for his side of the story. He told us that “It’s settled and behind me. I’m not supposed to talk about it.” He did offer that the plaintiff “distorted things” but he didn’t feel he could defend himself in a trial, and also noted that the insurance company paid most of the settlement money.
We also spoke with Joint Council 42 attorney Joe Kaplon, who’s been a friend of Santangelo for 35 years. When pressed on the issue of why wouldn’t Santangelo want to fight the charges, he claimed it’s easy for women to win sexual harassment cases in California, so he didn’t want to risk a jury trial. He added that the union’s insurance company was willing to pay most of the $500,000. Kaplon also alluded to Teamster politics; he claims that certain Teamster officials helped the plaintiff with the case.
The plaintiff, a former secretary at Joint Council 42, alleged a long list of despicable acts were committed against her. For example, she alleges that when she asked for a raise, Santangelo would only meet to discuss it at a hotel restaurant, where he stated “What if I said you can make $700 a week more if all you did was pass through those doors and go to a room with me?”
At the September meeting of Joint Council 42, Kaplon reported the settlement as a prudent business decision. Santangelo said little, saying “you all know me.” Many officials then stood to applaud him, without any questions asked. But at least a few are very upset, and have made it known via anonymous leaflets, internet postings and word of mouth.
Practice What We Preach
This sexual harassment scandal raises a larger question for our union. We need to organize women workers into the Teamsters, and to encourage more women to take leadership positions. Presently there are zero voting members of the Teamster General Executive Board who are women.
Our union has good positions on paper on respect for women. It’s time to put those into practice in our own house.
The officials of Joint Council 42 apparently claim they had to approve this settlement, to protect the organization. The best way to protect our organization is to get our union to live up to our own high ideals.
Click here for a copy of the complaint in the case. The settlement agreement is confidential and thus unavailable.