The Power Brokers Who Pulled the Plug
Three Teamsters were identified as “the key figures” behind the shutdown of organized crime investigations in Chicago, including John Coli, the president of the 100,000-member Joint Council 25.Coli also heads Teamsters Local 727, one of the locals targeted by Stier’s investigators for organized crime influence and corruption, including:
- Allegations of kickbacks and other improper payments in the Local 727 benefit fund;
- Allegations that benefit plan vendors and fund employees were tied to organized crime;
Coli’s family past is riddled with organized crime associations. His father, James E. Coli, headed the local and was as a member of organized crime outfits, according to law enforcement officials. Coli’s brother James L. took over the local, but was barred in connection with an investigation of a business agent who was an organized crime figure.
Hoffa’s shutdown put an end to RISE investigations of organized crime influence in Coli’s local. He is now reportedly under investigation by the FBI.
The other “key figures” named by sources were Billy Hogan, Jr. Hoffa’s one-time running mate, and Carlow Scalf, who at that time served as Hoffa’s Executive Assistant and chief of staff.
Scalf was fired last month after TDU urged Judge Loretta Preska to reject Scalf’s 60-day suspension as an insufficient penalty for embezzling nearly $69,000 from the IBT.
Department of Labor Says Election Was Rigged
The complaint in federal court states Local 743 officials, “denied members the right to vote when Defendant mailed members’ ballots to incorrect addresses, the ballots were marked by individuals other than the designated recipients, and the ballots were returned and counted in the election tally.”
Local 743 members were not surprised by the ruling. “We know this because we have caught them—several times!” said Esmeralda Cuevas of the 743 New Leadership Slate. “Finally the government is doing something about it.”
The Department of Labor suit calls for a new election that the agency would run instead of Local 743 officers. In the impartially-supervised 2001 IBT delegate race in Local 743, the New Leadership Slate won the majority of the spots.
It is time for justice for the 12,000 Teamsters in Local 743: the rightful winners of the election should be installed, and the Walston group removed.
Walston and his executive board actually stopped counting the votes last fall when Richard Berg, leader of the New Leadership Slate, was ahead in the count with just the challenged ballots remaining. Berg, Antonio Caldera, and other New Leadership reformers knew that bogus ballots were being counted, but won the election anyway. So Walston stopped the count, conducted a second election, and made sure the count would go just right that time. After the Hoffa administration took no action to correct the injustice, the New Leadership Slate implored the Labor Department to act.
Will the Teamsters Union "Change to Win"?
The Change to Win Coalition, led by the Service Employees (SEIU) and joined by the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE-HERE, the Laborers, Farm Workers, and Carpenters says its purpose is to make organizing the unorganized in each union's "core industries" a major priority. The theme they are putting forward is that current union members can't win good contracts, preserve jobs, or save health benefits or pensions as long as the labor movement keeps shrinking.
As we go to press, James Hoffa is on the verge of taking the Teamsters out of the AFL-CIO. With almost no discussion beyond Hoffa's own staff, on July 20 the General Executive Board gave Hoffa and Tom Keegel the unilateral power to split from the labor federation.
What does this mean for Teamsters?
In the short term, the big split among top labor leaders could lead to more weakness and division, but possibly to new strategies. It may lead to unions trying to lure members from each other (raiding) instead of organizing new members.
Is there anything positive for working Teamsters in this split at the top?
In the bigger picture, the question is whether Hoffa is prepared to apply the principles that he has signed onto by joining the Change to Win Coalition inside the Teamsters union.
After all, only 1 percent of every Teamster dues dollar has gone to help support the AFL-CIO; just $9 million out of $700 million in annual Teamster dues. Hoffa tried to get about $4 million of that rebated back to the Teamsters.
So the real question is, is the $700 million in dues going to protect the future of Teamster members?
With that in mind, Teamsters should take a look at the Change to Win Coalition program, endorsed by James Hoffa and Tom Keegel, and see if we can apply it to the Teamsters union. Here are the key Change to Win planks:
Organize in core industries to build power
This is a central Change to Win theme. The Teamsters union must take on Overnite, DHL, FedEx, and other major targets in our core industries. Some of this has started, but much more needs to be done in trucking, construction, warehousing and food processing. In a July 13 letter to the General Executive Board, Local 805 President Sandy Pope pointed out that the 2002 dues increase added $65 million to the international union’s annual budget, only a small fraction of which is being used for organizing. If we are to Change to Win in the Teamsters, we need to redirect resources now spent on multiple salaries, golf matches and PR into core industry organizing.
Stop the “race to the bottom”
Change to Win says that “affiliates undercutting bargaining standards should suffer penalties.”
This is a good principle for our union. For an important example, see “Carhaul Deals Endanger Contract” on page 7. Local 120 has just signed substandard contracts in direct violation of the national carhaul contract. We could apply the Change to Win program right now to help save the carhaul contract.
Rebates to affiliates that are putting resources into organizing
“Half of what unions now pay to the AFL-CIO should be rebated to unions that have a strategic plan and commitment to organizing in their core industries,” Change to Win says. This model can be applied to the Teamsters union: Locals spending significant money on organizing in Teamster core industries could get a rebate of half the per capita paid to the International. This would enhance the ability of locals to organize as part of a coordinated program to build Teamster power.
“The AFL-CIO must make diversity at all levels of the labor movement a central strategic objective, with standards and timetables, including ensuring that the diversity of the membership is reflected in elected leadership,” says Change to Win.
Presently there is one African American, one woman, and no Latinos among the 24 voting members of the General Executive Board.
Clearly, we do need to Change to Win in this area.
The Teamster leadership has embraced the Change to Win program. The next step is a thorough discussion about applying these principles inside our own union, and then using them to build a more powerful and democratic Teamsters union.
All quotes and platform planks are from www.changetowin.org under “Restoring the American Dream.”
Click Here to Read a letter from Sandy Pope, the President of New York Local 805 on this issue
After the Hoffa Split: Forging Alliances Based on Plans, Not Personalities
Local 572, Ralphs Grocery
The Hoffa Unity Slate is cracking into two. More and more members are seeing that we won’t stop the decline of Teamster power until we change our union’s leadership at the top. Now, even members of Hoffa’s own team are realizing the same thing.Hoffa, the candidate, promised to restore Teamster power.
But when the Hoffa train left the station, his platform stayed behind. Instead of restoring the power, Hoffa has focused on managing the decline of Teamster power. Under this approach, we’re always on the defensive, always making contract givebacks or accepting benefit cuts, never mounting a fight. As Tom Leedham said in a recent speech, “Hoffa isn’t about power, he’s about the illusion of power.” But after seven years, the PR and press releases aren’t cutting it anymore.There’s a lesson to be learned from the unmasking of the weak corporate lawyer behind the Hoffa celebrity mystique. In choosing our next General Executive Board, we can’t make our decision based on promises or personalities. We need to elect leaders with clear plans for building our union’s strength.
In Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), we’re not about personalities or just getting someone different into power. We are about a new direction for the Teamsters. And we’re not alone. Many Teamsters are looking for a new direction, including local officers who supported Hoffa in the past—and former members of Hoffa’s own slate.
The fake Hoffa “unity” of recent years has muzzled any serious discussion about what we need to do to revitalize our union. That discussion is wide open now. We should be looking for common ground with all Teamsters regardless of who they have supported in the past—provided that we can agree on a common vision and plan for the future.
As we chart our course going into the coming election, we should be flexible about alliances but firm on our principles. Those principles include:
• Opposition to the pension and health cuts that the employers pushed on our benefit plans. We will support a leadership with a record and plan to fight to restore and protect Teamster pensions.
• Accountability of pension fund trustees to Teamster members and retirees. Full disclosure to the members, not closed-door deals with employers.
• Leadership to win strong contracts, by tapping rank and file power and using smart strategies to combat union-busting. In 1997 the Teamsters Union mobilized UPS members in a year-long campaign and we won. In 2002-2003 the Hoffa administration never mobilized the ranks. Hoffa claimed to bargain the “best contracts ever” and lied about the benefit cuts those contracts made inevitable.
• Organizing the nonunion competition in Teamster industries. The IBT should provide financial help to local unions that put in place real organizing programs. And we should build on the successful organizing strategies of the 1990s when Teamster members, hired as organizers, reversed the decline in Teamster membership and started to grow our union again.
• End the financial waste and multiple salaries and political patronage. Put funds into programs that build Teamster power, not perks. And put in place a real plan to root out Teamster corruption.
• Promote Teamster membership involvement, through accountability, democracy and respect for all members. Promote a diverse leadership, and involve members of all races and backgrounds in our union structure.
Those of us in TDU will look at leaders who come forward with an open mind. We’ll evaluate leaders based on their commitment to a clear program to build Teamster power. The leaders who will stand and fight for such a program are the right leaders for the future of the union.
Click here: Tom Leedham Campaign for Teamster Presidency Moves Ahead!
Click here: Members Back Tom Leedham Candidacy
Click here: Hoffa 'Dis-Unity' Slate Splits
Click here: Teamster Candidates Will Debate
2004 $100,000 Club Report Findings:
patronage are at an all-time high.
• Hoffa pays multiple salaries to 148 political allies.
• Multiple salaries are up 722 percent under Hoffa.
• A record 119 officials on the International payroll
make $100,000 or more—80 percent get multiple
The salary gap is widening between the majority
of local union leaders and a layer of
super-compensated officials—most of whom are on Hoffa's payroll.
• Half of all local union principal officers
make less than $86,000
• Just over 10 percent of principal officers make total
salaries of more than $150,000. Just four percent make
$200,000 or more—80 percent are on Hoffa's payroll
Click here: Patronage or Teamster Power
Click here: $100,000 Club 2005 (Acrobat Reader Required)
Click here: Report Reveals Need for Financial Reform
Click here: Officers' Salaries: A Wide Range
Hoffa-Keegel Fail to File Financial Report?
As of April 7, U.S. Department of Labor personnel report that no form has been filed, either in paper form or electronically. A spot check of the Department of Labor website reveals that nine of the other ten largest unions have 2005 forms posted.
A request to the International Union for a statement or explanation got no response.
The failure to file was predicted in advance by Hoffa administration insiders, who claim that Hoffa and Keegel want to delay the negative political impact of the contents of the report. LM-2 reports now contain information on union funds paid to PR firms, consultants, and other business associates, as well as salaries to officials.Will Hoffa and Keegel continue to stall, or will they comply with the law? In the meanwhile, Teamster members may want to ask of Hoffa and Keegel: you wanted the big dues hike for “Teamster power,” can you at least file your financial report on what you do with our money?
Will Hoffa Enforce the Freight Contract?
In January 2006 the Eastern Conference panel heard a second grievance and ruled DHL must pay a penalty of over $2,000 for each day the company fails to pay the original $90,000 ruling. They now owe over $200,000.
Why won’t DHL comply with the contract and pay up? The answer is Brad Slawson.
Last October International Rep. Slawson, the right-hand man to General Secretary Treasurer Tom Keegel, went behind the back of the affected Teamsters to try to cut a deal with DHL and let the company to pay a measly $16,000.
In a January 17, 2006 notarized statement, DHL vice president for Labor Relations, Patricia Ann Burke claims that Slawson approached her with the deal. This was after the Pittsburgh Teamsters had been duly awarded $90,000 for two years of giving away union work.
This is the same Brad Slawson who was put in charge of DHL Teamsters for the International Union by James Hoffa.
Local 249 members continue to press for the acknowledgement of their victorious grievance and the money owed. The Eastern Region Joint Area Committee met on January 18, 2006 and found in favor of the Local 249 grievance calling for penalty pay from October 19, 2005 forward. Local 249 has received strike authorization from Joint Council 40. The request has been sent to the International.
It’s time for Hoffa to do right thing. Send Slawson back to Minnesota, and support the Pittsburgh Teamsters who are asking for nothing but what they are entitled to.
Dues Hike: Where Did the Money Go?
March 16, 2006: It has been nearly four years since a special IBT Convention was held to raise dues from two hours pay to 2.5 hours pay. In that time, an additional $525 million has been raised as a result of the dues hike. Members are asking, where did that money go? Here we present some factual answers, based on financial reports obtained from the union, including the 2005 General Secretary Treasurer report.
Who got most of the dues hike? The dues hike generates about $140 million extra each year. Because a large bite of it goes to the International Union, the dues income of the IBT almost doubled as a result of the increase—from about $80 million to $140 million per year.
Hoffa says he solved the union’s finances. Has he? Actually, the members solved it by paying an extra $60 million per year in dues to the International in the dues hike. Since July 2002, an extra $225 million has flowed into the International treasury. Hoffa’s own dues would be $302 per month if he paid 2.5 times his hourly rate. But he pays $63 per month, so it hard to see how he solved the union’s finances.
How much of my dues goes to the strike fund? 3.3 percent of your dues goes to the strike fund, so about 97 percent goes elsewhere. How did we get that 3.3 percent ? The IBT Constitution specifies that 22 percent of your dues goes to the International, and 15 percent of that (15 percent of 22 percent is 3.3 percent ) goes to the strike fund. For example, if your dues are $50 per month, then $1.65 of your dues goes to the strike fund.
Doesn’t the rest of the dues hike go into organizing?2.2 percent of your dues goes to the International’s organizing program. (That’s 10 percent of the 22 percent). That’s about $14 million per year. $15.9 million was spent in 2005. Most International unions are putting much more into organizing. On $50 dues, that’s $1.10 to organizing.
If the International Union almost doubled its income from our dues, and just these modest amounts go to organizing and the strike fund, where does the rest go? That’s a good question. A good bit goes to pay 148 multiple salaries to officials, almost all of them very large donors to Hoffa’s campaign. Over $8 million went to “communications” last year, most of it PR for Hoffa. Some went to meetings at resorts. An unknown amount went to make oil portraits of Hoffa and Keegel. While only $1.2 million went to help corporate campaigns against employers, $28.6 million went to administration in 2005.
Hoffa says the “government” costs a lot. How much? The Independent Review Board (IRB) cost $2.9 million in 2005, one of the smaller items in the IBT budget, and less than half of one percent of a Teamster dues dollar.
How much does the “Family Plan,” the lucrative pension plan that covers top officials, cost? $9.9 million in 2005, almost as much as the International’s organizing budget.
Who determines these financial priorities? The IBT Convention in June can set some guidelines and should. The International officers elected this fall will largely determine where the International spends money in the future. Will it be organizing and building Teamster power, or more salaries for friends and comforts for officials?
If you have questions on Teamster finances, contact TDU for answers or documentation fo your own research. Your Teamster dues dollar is a great investment; get involved to make it work effectively to build our union.
Members Prove Chicago Local Rigged Election
January 30, 2006: What Happens When Elections Are Not Supervised! Members Prove Chicago Local Rigged Election January 30, 2006. “We knew the election was stolen from us. But I don’t think we expected to get the black and white proof, and see how they did it,” explained Richard Berg, leader of the New Leadership Slate in Chicago Local 743.
Berg referred to documents obtained by his attorney, Tom Geoghegan, from the U.S. Department of Labor showing that hundreds of ballots were diverted to the addresses of employers, stewards and even a Russian bath house that the union president frequents. Those ballots were then voted and counted in the December 2004 local union election.
The phony ballots, which were mailed in bulk to stewards, employers and cronies, kept Robert Walston in office instead of the New Leadership Slate, which would have won the election. The election was already a “do-over” that Walston called after Berg won two months earlier by seven votes (despite the ballot box stuffing!).
The local leadership was named as corrupt in the April 2004 report by former Teamster anti-corruption czar Ed Stier, before he resigned his position in protest. The officers also use Hoffa’s political advisor Richard Leebove as a consultant. The Department of Labor has gone to federal court against the Local 743 leadership to overturn the vote.
New Leadership Slate is also planning their own legal action in addition to the Department of Labor action. And they continue to build their support among the rank and file. The New Leadership Slate plans to run a slate of delegate candidates to represent Local 743 with honest leaders at the IBT Convention. With an independent Election Supervisor in place, they believe they can get a fair election there.
Hoffa Adopts TDU Position on Pension Law
December 5, 2005: For nearly a year, the Hoffa administration has been lobbying for legislation that would allow Teamster benefit plans to cut members’ previously guaranteed pension benefits—and even to cut the pensions of Teamsters who have already retired.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union has fought this legislative attack on our pension security. Now at the 11th hour, James Hoffa has reversed himself and adopted TDU’s position—coming out against the so-called Red Zone Amendment.
Since early 2005, the Hoffa administration has lobbied in favor of the Red Zone Amendment—a proposal that would allow Teamster plans to cut pension benefits that members have already earned.
But in a letter to Congressional Representatives on December 2, Hoffa said, “So-called ‘red zone’ benefit cuts, would result in a reduction of vested benefits and should not be included.” This is exactly what TDU has demanded for the past year, along with many concerned Teamsters and the Pension Rights Center.
TDU members visited Congressional leaders to lobby against the Red Zone Amendment and fight to preserve federal “anti-cutback protections” that make it illegal to cut pension benefits that members have already earned.
Before Hoffa’s flip-flop on December 2, his administration had lobbied in favor of eliminating those protections. In February 2005 the IBT Legislative Director complained that “Trustees are limited by ERISA and can only affect [cut] future accruals.” In May the International again called for members to support repeal of the 1984 anti-cutback law, to give “more tools” to pension trustees to cut benefits from retirees.
“It’s nice to finally have our International Union with us, instead of against us,” said Frank Bryant a TDU member who lobbied Congress against the cuts. “My question for Hoffa would be, ‘What took you so long?’”
The pension bill is heading for the final steps. It remains to be seen if the Red Zone Amendment will be included. Hoffa’s 11th hour conversion to retirement security comes too late to affect the outcome of this legislative fight.
Fortunately, concerned Teamsters and TDU were there all along, working to protect Teamsters’ pension rights.