Dozens of members signed petitions in favor of bylaws reforms that would establish the following new rights for Local 82 members:
• The right to elect shop stewards
• The right to elect rank-and-file representatives to contract negotiating committees
• The right to an informed vote on contracts, including the chance to review all proposed contract changes in writing before any vote
• The right to fair local union elections that are conducted by mail ballot and supervised by an impartial outside agency
• The right to a membership vote to approve proposed officers’ salaries
• The right to approve or veto who the local executive board names as trustee to the union’s benefit funds
“We want to put more decisions in the hands of the members,” said Joe Wright, a commercial mover at Casey & Hayes who helped introduce the reforms. “When people feel like they’re just being dictated to, they stop coming to union meetings. We want members to feel like their voice counts so they get involved and our union gets stronger.”
While the proposed changes would establish sweeping new rights for Local 82 members, these rights are hardly new to the Teamsters Union. Each of these rights is already exercised by Teamsters in other locals that have adopted these practices as part of their bylaws.
Every Teamster local has bylaws which function as the local’s constitution. Locals are also governed by the International Union Constitution which trumps all bylaws.
The right of Local 82 members to approve or veto the union’s trustee to benefit funds is being proposed just as a scandal is coming to light involving the failure of current fund trustees and local union officials to secure proper payment into the funds.
When a Local 82 employer failed to make more than $200,000 in benefit contributions, lack of action by Local 82 officials left it up to the Massachusetts Attorney General to pursue the unpaid funds.
In January the Attorney General won a settlement that forced the trade show employer Will-Work Inc. to pay $260,000 in back benefits and interest. Under the terms of the settlement, the recovered funds will be paid directly to the employees, which will drain negotiated contributions from the Teamster funds.
The amendments were introduced at the January membership meeting. They will be read again at the February meeting and voted on at the March membership meeting.