Teamster members are voting for change.
Yesterday, the 4,000 members of Dayton Local 957 voted overwhelmingly to replace their long time officers with the New Leadership Slate.
Last week, the 8,000 members of Harrisburg Local 776 overwhelmingly rejected their incumbent officers in favor of a new team of leaders and business agents.
Dan Webb, who won the secretary treasurer office in Local 957 yesterday, summed it up: “I feel humbled and blessed. The membership of Local 957 have sent a clear message. They will not be taken for granted and will not accept non-responsive leadership."
“I’m proud to be a part of a great team who plan to deliver to the members exactly what they want – a leadership that looks out for the members’ interests first and always,” said Webb, a 25-year Teamster at ABF.
We wish new officers in these and other locals the best. They have their work cut out for them. And they remind us of an important lesson: members who organize for change can make it happen.
Pat Flynn, the former head of Chicago Local 710 who was charged with embezzling union funds via gift credit cards for members, has cut a deal with the IRB: pay the union back $58,000 and an eight-year ban from holding any Teamster position or salary.
The Independent Review Board (IRB) charged Flynn on June 19. In August, he signed a deal and repaid the union $24,780.99. This sum was much less than $58,000 because Flynn was owed his “commissions” for July! Flynn’s total salary (including “commissions”) last year from the local was $482,958.
The settlement agreement will in all likelihood end Flynn’s career. But the future of Local 710 is in the hands of the members.
Members Need to Stand Together
August 29, 2014: Teamsters at the Twin River Casino took a gamble that solidarity could beat corporate greed at Twin River Casino. Now they’ve beaten the house.
The money never stops flowing at Twin River Casino, the largest gambling and entertainment venue in Rhode Island.
But the winnings always stopped when it came to Local 251 members who work as parking valets at the Casino. Until now.
With their old local union leadership cozy with management, the odds were stacked against them. Teamster parking valets took concessionary contracts that created three tiers of employees.
The lowest tier of workers made just $2.89 an hour (plus tips). If they wanted family healthcare they had to pay for the coverage themselves.
This summer, Local 251 members at the Casino bet that solidarity could pay off—and they won a new contract with higher wages, work rule improvements and affordable healthcare for members and their families.
How They Did it
Local 251 members elected new union leadership this year and embraced a new approach to contract negotiations. For the first time, rank-and-file members sat on the negotiating committee.
When Twin River Casino management refused to budge, members Voted No to reject the Casino’s concessionary contract offer.
Then workers took their case to the public. They leafleted the Casino and talked to customers. They launched a social media campaign under the theme “Poverty Wages are a losing bet” that targeted fans of the Casino’s own Facebook page.
Local 251 joined forces with the Working Families Party to launch an online petition telling “Twin River Casino should pay its parking valets a fair wage and provide affordable healthcare coverage for their families."
The Working Families Party (WFP) is a grassroots political party of unions and community groups, including some Teamster locals. They teamed up with Teamsters Local 804 in another winning campaign to save the jobs of 250 Teamsters fired by UPS in New York City.
More than 5,000 public supporters signed the Twin River Casino petition in less than 24 hours. The day after the petition was launched, management sat down with the Local 251 bargaining committee and the Casino folded.
The new contract raises wages and delivers affordable family healthcare coverage to workers and their families.
In addition the new contract improves members’ rights and protections on the job, including stronger job security, the right to honor primary picket lines, a better grievance procedure, fairer disciplinary policies, and improvements in union access, job bidding, seniority, and more.
When Twin River management walked into the first bargaining meeting they said, “We like things the way they are.” Members called their bluff. The Casino had nothing. Thanks to rank-and-file unity and organized public support, members had a full house!
August 21, 2014: The Independent Review Board (IRB) has moved to bring charges against all the officers of Chicago Local 710. According to the report of charges dated August 15, all members of the Executive Board violated their fiduciary duty when they repeatedly approved the purchase of excess visa gift cards under the control of Local Secretary Treasurer Pat Flynn.
Flynn was charged in July, and on July 30 the local was put into trusteeship following a recommendation by the IRB. Those actions are detailed here.
The new charges hit Local 710 president Mike Sweeney and fellow officers Gerald Pauli, Charles DeCola, Larry Alexander, Anthony Lamy, and Kevin Wagoner. They were already removed from office when the trusteeship was imposed. Now they face a hearing and possible expulsion or suspension from Teamster membership.
The report states that between 2008 and September 2013, the officers breached their fiduciary duty and failed to protect the members’ assets. For example, in November 2011 they approved the purchase of 1000 visa gift cards to be given to meeting attendees, but only 600 members were present, and the remaining 400 cards were under Flynn’s personal control.
Hoffa appointed International vice president John Coli as Trustee of Local 710. Coli has no experience in representing the UPS, freight, trucking, and grocery Teamsters who make up the 13,000 member local. He has political operative Brian Rainville running the local. Rainville was paid $178,080 in 2013 by the International and Chicago Joint Council 25. Some 7000 UPS Teamsters in Local 710 rejected a concessionary contract last February by 73% No vote, and have heard nothing since about negotiating an improved contract.
IDENTIFYING WITH STRUGGLING MEMBERS: Jakwan Rivers is challenging Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd in the union's October election. Speaking during a July 23 campaign event, he said that the union’s leadership was unresponsive to the members’ needs and that raises expected for members would not meet the cost of living. ‘You struggle every day,’ he said. ‘You work in, and for, a city that you can hardly afford to live in.’
During a July 23 meeting held by a dissident slate fighting to oust Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, as many as 125 people filled the room and crowded the doorway of the Jackie Gleason Room of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Brooklyn as presidential candidate Jakwan Rivers kicked off his campaign.
He is challenging Mr. Floyd in an October election, contending the labor leader has run a union that is unresponsive to members’ needs while he and other board members receive six-figure salaries but many rank-and-file members suffer economically.
‘Not Getting Leadership’
“The circumstances that we’re working under and the conditions that we’re working under have brought you here today,” he said. “You look for guidance and the leadership from your union and get nothing.”
The local is currently working to secure a contract with the de Blasio administration. If it matches the pattern sustained by District Council 37, announced last month, workers would get a $1,000 ratification bonus, a 1.5-percent raise this year as well as subsequent raises of 2.5 percent in 2015 and 3 percent the following year, plus three retroactive 1-percent raises. Mr. Rivers said that would not be enough to pay for increasing rents, but predicted the local would use a new pact as a political tool.
“They’re going to lie, they’re going to drag it on, because this is what they do,” he said. “Desperate times call for desperate measures and they know we’re hungry, so they’re going to dangle money.”
Mr. Floyd, speaking to this newspaper after the meeting, said that most of Mr. Rivers’s contentions were untrue, noting executives hadn’t gotten pay raises in four years and salaries have been publicized in the union’s newspaper since 1993.
‘Raises Tied to Members’
“We get increases as the members get increases,” he said. “And that’s a policy.”
He also said that Mr. Rivers hasn’t seen the contract, and shouldn’t complain about any hypothetical bargain.
“I understand that people always want more and the union would always like to get more for its members,” he said. “However, we’re negotiating a contract for Local 237. Mr. Rivers has no idea what that contract is because it hasn’t been revealed yet.”
The meeting was originally scheduled at Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’s office, but was moved after Local 237 protested the venue because it looked like an official endorsement from Mr. Adams. Mr. Rivers said that his slate, All Members For Change, wouldn’t change the neighborhood and instead “brought it to a better place.”
With more than 20,000 members, the local covers Housing Authority and Health and Hospitals Corporation employees as well as School Safety Agents and peace officers. It also includes non-city workers in Long Island and at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.
Mr. Rivers and his running mate, Eunice Rodriguez, have challenged the leadership going back a decade. Ms. Rodriguez ran for president against the late Carl Haynes in 2005 and Mr. Floyd—who was appointed after Mr. Haynes stepped down in 2007—in 2009. Mr. Rivers, originally aligned with Mr. Haynes, switched allegiances to run for vice president with Ms. Rodriguez five years ago.
“...when he went into that union and became a business agent, he saw the same thing up there,” Ms. Rodriguez said of Mr. Rivers’s time working for the union. “He saw the complacency, the do-nothingness, he saw all of that. And he decided, ‘I’m out of here.’’’
Mr. Floyd contended that he personally fired Mr. Rivers in 2009 because he had an agenda counter to the local’s.
The 2009 fight, as in this cycle, focused on allegations that the union’s leadership failed to properly advocate for the members. It turned uglier in its final weeks as a flyer appeared falsely accusing Mr. Floyd of sexual harassment. Mr. Floyd ultimately took 3,647 votes to Ms. Rodriguez’s 3,325. The incumbent vice president, Richard Hendershot, narrowly defeated Mr. Rivers by 282 votes.
“I was going to retire this year, but when I saw the plight of my members, you kept drawing me back in,” she told her supporters.
Mr. Rivers took questions from the audience, which included a mix of supporters and members curious about the slate. Some said they were angered that the local’s business agents, who enforce contracts and grievances, often speak first to managers before reaching out to the union members. Mr. Rivers said if elected he wouldn’t tolerate agents who did that.
Ms. Rodriguez said the union should let members borrow from an annuity fund in emergencies.
“It’s not like it’s going to be a free-for-all, but if you have a problem, you should be able to come to your union and take care of it,” she said.
In an interview, Martin Lockwood, a slate ally and Exterminator at the Housing Authority, said the leadership is more concerned with “going through the motions” and expressed similar complaints with the business agents.
‘In Bed With Boss’
“We don’t want a union that’s in bed with management,” he said.
Jocelyn Walton, a School Safety Agent in the 108th Precinct in Queens, was annoyed members hadn’t seen raises in years—a problem shared by all city workers during Michael Bloomberg’s third term as Mayor—and was dissatisfied with a lack of resolution for a lawsuit regarding SSAs. The union sued on behalf of 5,000 SSAs in a gender-equity lawsuit. SSAs, 70 percent of whom are women, make $7,000 less than comparable peace officers.
“I know that they’ve been at it for quite some time and nothing’s really coming from it,” she said. “So, it seems like it’s just been in deliberation forever. And no one’s making any moves.”
Mr. Rivers pointed out the lawsuit hadn’t been settled, but when pressed about it by a member, he said he wasn’t briefed on the details and declined to criticize the pace.
“The way I feel about it, if you get it, you get it and you run and move on,” adding he supported elevating blue-collar workers and peace officers to uniformed status, making them eligible for better equipment, injury pay and other benefits.
Mr. Floyd pointed to the SSA lawsuit, filed a year after the last election, as proof that the leadership was working for its members outside of the campaign cycle, and said it was “relatively quick compared to most lawsuits.”
“The fact that we’re at the point where we are now, is nothing short of hard work,” he said. “And the fact that the city recognizes that we have a valid point is hard work.”
A Rivers spokesman said the slate is planning borough-wide meetings in The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island and hoped its challenge would spur encourage reforms within the union.
UPDATE, August 6, 2014: Local 584 is being forcibly merged into another New York Teamster local to prevent members from voting in new leadership this fall. Support Local 584 members who are demanding their constitutional right to vote on the merger.
Local 584 members have been gearing up to defeat their incompetent union officials in a local union election this fall.
But today, without any consultation with the members, they began receiving notices inviting all “former members of Local 584” to a membership meeting this Sunday. The notice was issued on Local 553 letterhead.
Local 553 is led by Demos Demopoulos, a Hoffa ally who is also Secretary-Treasurer of New York City Joint Council 16.
This is not the first time that Demopoulos has merged a local union to stop members from voting in reform leaders. He pulled a similar stunt last year to stop reformers from mounting an election challenge in Local 854, where members had voted against Hoffa in the last International Union election.
Local 553 has been losing money and members for years. Before absorbing dues and members from Locals 854 and 550 last year, between 2001 to 2013, Local 553 lost more than $366,659 and almost 500 members.
Under the Teamster Constitution, members are guaranteed a vote on any proposed merger, except “if a Local Union is not capable of performing its representational functions, due to its financial conditions or where an emergency situation exists.”
Hoffa and the Joint Council are exploiting that loophole to try to force through the Local 584 merger. But Demos’ real concern is to grab more dues for Local 553 officials and to prevent reformers from turning around another local union in New York City.
It’s true that Local 584 officials have done a miserable job of defending members against firings and cutbacks in the dairy industry. But the Local still had over $200,000, as had been reported at membership meetings for months.
The real “emergency” for Hoffa and Demos is that Local 584 Members First, a reform group aligned with TDU, had won the support of the majority of stewards and was poised to win the Local 584 election this fall.
Local 584 members are demanding that Hoffa respect their constitutional right to vote on any local union merger.
July 25, 2014: Less than 90 days from their election, Hoffa is threatening to trustee and merge a New York City local to try to stop members from voting incompetent officials out of office.
The International Union is threatening to merge or trustee New York Local 584, to try to prevent an election that a reform team, Local 584 Members First, is poised to win.
Local 584 represents “milk men”— drivers and production workers who deliver milk to supermarkets, corner stores and public schools—as well as other food and beverage Teamsters.
For years, being a dairy Teamster has been a route to the middle class with members making $25 to $30 an hour with union pensions. Now, the largest employer in the industry is trying to make that a thing of the past.
Elmhurst Dairy has gobbled up competitors, kicked long-timer Teamsters to the curb and replaced them with low-wage workers who start at under $10 an hour with no pension.
Two hundred fifty good dairy Teamster jobs have been destroyed.
Local 584 members turned to the International Union for help—including blowing the whistle on side deals and financial improprieties by Local 584 officials. But the local is run by Hoffa loyalists and the IBT turned a deaf ear.
So Local 584 members started to organize. They opposed the layoffs of senior members and the destruction of good middle class jobs. This summer they formed Local 584 Members First and formed a reform team to run for local union office this fall.
Support for Members First has grown quickly. Dairy Teamsters united with other food and beverage Teamsters in the local at Tropicana, Norris Foods, and Staten Island College. The majority of the local’s shop stewards have gotten behind the movement. So has Willie Whelan, the retired long-time leader of the local.
Now the International Union has stepped in—not to help members defend their jobs but to try to stop members from taking back their union.
Hoffa has appointed a personal representative to be his point man on this operation. Thom Conelius, an International Rep on Hoffa’s payroll, is no stranger to the dirty work of fighting union reformers. Last year, he teamed up with another Hoffa International Rep Kevin Currie to try to defeat reform leader Sandy Pope in the Local 805 election. They failed.
In Local 584, Hoffa and company don’t want to risk another election. Officials have talked openly about preventing “another TDU local in New York City” by merging Local 584 out of existence.
It’s been done before. Another New York City local with a growing reform movement, Local 854, was secretly merged into Local 553 before its local election last year.
Local 854 members voted against Hoffa in the last International Union election and the Joint Council leaders feared a TDU slate in the local union race. So they pushed through a quickie merger during the summer when many of the local’s membership of school bus workers are out of work.
Hoffa and Joint Council 16’s message is clear: “destroy Local 584 in order to save it.”
Local 584 members are saying not so fast. They’ve organizing to defend their right to vote, to run for office and to win.
July 24, 2014: Hoffa claims there’s no need for an anti-corruption body in our union because corruption is a thing of the past. Meanwhile, two Hoffa campaign donors have been busted this week on charges of stealing members’ dues and taking employer payoffs.
The Hoffa administration has retained two attorneys who formerly worked for President George W. Bush to try to end the members Right to Vote, and also the Independent Review Board (IRB).
The IRB independently investigates corruption in the Teamsters. The Hoffa administration says the IRB should be eliminated because Teamster corruption is a thing of the past.
That is news to Teamster members in Connecticut Local 1150 where the IRB has charged the top official with embezzling union funds and in St. Louis area construction locals where the IRB has caught a union representative taking payoffs in exchange for sweetheart contracts.
When TDU was founded organized crime dominated the Teamsters Union at its highest levels. There’s no doubt that Teamster corruption is down since then, but that is precisely because members have the Right to Vote and an independent anti-corruption watchdog.
TDU is organizing members to defend the Right to Vote and root out corruption in the union. If you share these goals, you can say so by signing this petition.