Judge Conboy Challenges Hoffa’s Firing of Virtue

August 12, 2007: Election Appeals Master Kenneth Conboy has issued a decision that could result in a victory for Teamster democracy. The decision is a blow against retaliation aimed at Teamsters who run for IBT office. The decision questions the legality of Hoffa’s firing of Dan Virtue and Carlos Ramos last January.

The firings came days after the 2006 IBT Election was certified, an election won by Hoffa’s slate against the reform slate headed by Tom Leedham and Sandy Pope. Virtue ran on an independent slate, along with Joint Council 73 president Don DiLeo, for Eastern vice president. Ramos supported Virtue.

The Election Supervisor investigated the firings, after Virtue and Ramos protested, and found that every reason offered by the Hoffa administration for the firings was bogus. Hoffa’s staff, in particular Executive Assistant Leo Deaner, made up one lie after another to justify the firings. Former Freight Director Phil Young and Freight Director Tyson Johnson testified that Virtue did an “excellent” job as Eastern Region Freight Coordinator. But the Election Supervisor ruled that since the election was over, Hoffa could fire him for any reason he wanted.

On appeal, Conboy sharply disagreed, and endorsed arguments advanced in Virtue’s appeal and by attorney Barbara Harvey, who represents TDU in the case. Judge Conboy has asked the U.S. Attorney to submit an opinion on this matter, and the U.S. Attorney has agreed to do so by Sept. 12. Some time after that a final decision is expected.

Virtue’s appeal made this powerful argument: “To allow this blatant discrimination to stand will no doubt have a chilling effect on democracy within our union. Potential future opposition candidates will have to look no further than how the Election Appeals Master handles this case in order to know whether or not they are truly free to exercise their right to run for office or nominate candidates without fear of systematic retaliation by an incumbent administration.”

That sums up why Teamsters for a Democratic Union will continue to fight for this principle, to protect the rights of all Teamsters.

You can read Judge Conboy’s decision here.

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