December 22, 2009: At the beginning of 2009, the head of Local 896 tried to merge his 3,000 members into Local 848—a local with a history of bargaining substandard contracts for SoCal beverage Teamsters.
Local 896 members got organized, spoke up and stopped the merger.
Local 896 is based in Los Angeles and represents 3,000 brewery and soft-drink workers across California.
In 2008, Local 896 principal officer Rene Medrano and Local 848 head Jim Santangelo began talks to merge their two unions.
Local 896 members at Coke and Pepsi had bargained side-by-side with Santangelo before. They had seen first-hand that he negotiated inferior contracts in their industry—often undercutting their own agreements.
Members formed the Committee to Save Local 896.
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.
In January, when Santangelo showed up at a Local 896 meeting to sell the deal, members peppered him with tough questions.
When it was clear members wouldn’t accept the deal, Medrano tried to back away from it quietly. In February, members had to ask him point-blank if the deal was still on—and he admitted that the merger was off.
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.
This story is the second in a series on TDU.org. Click here to read about other Teamsters Who Made a Difference in 2009.
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