Local 743 Race Heats Up

August 23, 2007: By Richard Berg: The 11,000 hospital, custodial, clerical, and manufacturing workers of Teamster Local 743 will get something they haven’t had recently: a fair local election. And Teamster reformers are pushing hard to give Local 743 members a choice in this election. I’m proud to be running for principal officer on the 743 New Leadership Slate.

Weak Representation

Our local has weak contracts and poor representation. The employers smell weakness and they run all over us. But we can turn these problems around:

  • Members at the University of Chicago are fed up with a weak contract. They’re organizing their own contract campaign. When we win we’ll put the power of our union into all of our contract fights.
  • At Provident Hospital, members couldn’t get a BA to return their phone calls even after a member was fired. We’re going to cut bloated salaries so we can hire more union representatives. We’ll make sure BAs return calls, and we’ll fix the local’s automated phone system so members can talk directly to a real person.
  • At the University of Chicago Hospitals and many other places, our local doesn’t have enough stewards. We’ll increase the number of stewards, let members vote them in, and create a new stewards’ training program.

Stepping Up the Campaign

Changing the local’s leadership won’t be easy. The officers are used to getting paid not to work. They got a wake up call in the last election—they may not work hard for the members, but you can bet they’ll work hard to protect their jobs.

The incumbents are stepping up their campaign, and so are we. Members of the New Leadership Slate are taking vacation time to campaign, and we’ve already hit shops all over Chicagoland.

Our slate won the last election, but the officers stole it: The local admitted to mailing hundreds of ballots to the wrong address and instead sent them to their supporters, including management. The Department of Labor stepped in and now there will be a neutral election, with ballots mailed out in September.

At the gates, spirits are positive. Members want change. One nursing home worker told me, “We all voted against them last time, and this time we’ll make it stick.”

This local needs new blood and new ideas from working Teamsters. The incumbent Local 743 executive board had their chance, and they squandered it on their own high salaries while ignoring the members and running the local into the ground. When the members turn out to vote, we’re going to turn this local around.

Richard Berg is a candidate for Local 743 President.

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