UPDATE, December 19, 2012: We recently reported on the illegal layoff of 42 Teamsters from Elmhurst Dairy in Queens, NY. Now, 138 more Local 584 Teamsters are out of work as Beyer Farms suddenly closes.
Click here to read TDU's story on the firings at Elmhurst Dairy.
A long, salacious report released by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Independent Review Board (IRB) a few weeks ago accused Teamsters Local 120 leaders of some pretty incredible things, including corruption, kick-backs, "sham" deals and missing liquor and sports tickets.
Perhaps the most unsettling allegation, however, was that one of the bar managers wanted to hold a fundraiser for a "nonexistent fake sick baby" and direct the funds instead to a bar the union owns in Fargo.
Well, at least the fundraiser some supporters are holding Saturday in Oak Grove is for a real cause.
This time, the fundraiser is for Brad Slawson Sr. and Brad Slawson Jr., the father-and-son team that led the union until being put on unpaid leave pending investigations, which sources say now include inquiries by the Department of Labor and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Many of the most egregious accusations by the IRB are leveled against the Slawsons and people close to them, including Todd Chester, who is the father of Slawson Sr.'s grandchild.
The IRB says Chester received a $90,000 "finder's fee" for directing Local 120 to a construction firm that ended up building the new union hall. That's a pretty sweet get-to-know-you fee, if true.
So where is the fundraiser for the Slawsons? At Mac and Chester's SRO, owned by -- you guessed it -- Todd Chester, according to minutes of a Blaine City Council meeting. The fundraiser comes two days before union hearings in Minnesota on whether to continue the trusteeship of the local while the Slawsons are suspended.
Two Teamsters who won't be going to Mac and Chester's $50-a-head event are David Kremer and Eric Bucholz.
"Isn't that something?" asked Kremer, a Local 320 member who was a delegate to the International's convention. "They need a fundraiser for guys making that kind of money?"
According to Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a group dedicated to exposing corruption inside the union, Slawson Sr. made more than $278,000 last year, while his son took home more than $190,000, "plus multiple lucrative pensions."
The IRB report accused the Slawsons of culling part of those salaries from undisclosed "stipends" for running or being on a board overseeing the liquor store, which reported income deficits despite paying the board members $335,000 from 2007 to 2012.
A lawyer for the Slawsons said recently that they were not guilty of any charges and that their side of the story would come out soon.
But some are not sure that will be at the hearings that start in Minnesota Dec. 17. Bret Caldwell, spokesman for the international, said people facing IRB charges often won't testify if they suspect they might also be facing criminal charges. "And we've been cooperating with [the Labor Department] and ATF," said Caldwell.
Bucholz, a member of Local 120 and a Supervalu employee for more than 30 years, isn't waiting to hear the Slawsons' side.
"I sure won't be there," he said. Though he can retire, Bucholz said the scandal couldn't have happened at a worse time. "We have contract negotiations this summer. This is not a good sign."
Chester and Slawson are certainly familiar with fundraising. According to the IRB report, Slawson is vice president of the Blaine Youth Hockey Association, which has raised money over the years from bars associated with Chester. It is apparently a profitable marriage for both. In an application to the Blaine City Council to do charitable gaming at the bar, Chester talked about how "significant financially the [hockey association] was to his bar."
The flier for the fundraiser portrays the Slawsons as heroes and scapegoats. "After working their entire adult lives protecting the middle class," it reads, "the Slawsons were suspended by their employers, Local 120, for accusations that are completely false. The cost of fighting an international union will be very expensive."
Not to mention fighting the feds.
Bucholz, however, saw leadership of the local as "completely a family affair."
"They were supposed to be working for us," Bucholz said. "We weren't supposed to be working for them."
December 14, 2012: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has filed suit against the officers of Los Angeles Local 848 to overturn the election held one year ago, and hold a new election conducted by the DOL.
The DOL suit slams the leadership for holding a hearing on bogus charges attacking the challengers, the Walt Johnson Slate. The charges were illegal since they found Johnson's slate guilty for the content of its literature and website, in violation of the free speech provisions of federal labor law. The officers then posted an official notice on union bulletin boards during the election period attacking the challengers.
In addition, the incumbents are charged with allowing 33 ineligible votes to be counted by changing the rules at the last minute.
Incumbent Eric Tate and his slate narrowly won the election over the Walt Johnson Slate on December 1, 2011. The 6,500-member local mostly represents Teamsters in the Southern California delivery, grocery and warehousing industries.
Nikko Hashimoto, who ran on the Johnson slate, filed a complaint with the DOL after Joint Council 42, headed by Randy Cammack, claimed the protest had no merit.
Tate was appointed secretary treasurer of the local in 2009 when his disgraced predecessor, Jim Santangelo, resigned office after Teamsters for a Democratic Union published the story of a half-million dollar payout of union funds to cover sexual harassment charges. That report is available here.
The DOL complaint filed in federal court is available here. According to the court docket, a reply by Local 848's law firm is due by today.
To paraphrase the slogan from a pirate-themed rum commercial, some local Teamsters seem to "have a little Captain in them," both literally and figuratively.
But accusations of missing hooch, including a lot of Captain Morgan rum, is only the start of a mind-boggling 139-page report by the Teamsters Independent Review Board (IRB) alleging fraud and corruption by Local 120 bosses and their family members.
So far, these are just allegations by an independent board, set up in 1989 by the Teamsters with the U.S. Justice Department. But if the allegations are upheld in an IRB hearing, they could be passed along to the department for criminal charges.
Captain Morgan's branding pushes the image of a booze-swilling pirate with an uncommon amount of reckless bravado who likes to toast: "To life, love and loot."
It's hard to distill the IRB's remarkable document, but the nickel summary includes: Suspect finders fees for construction projects, secret payments to union leaders, dealings with "sham" companies, corruption, incompetence, financial improprieties, (deep breath), conflicts of interest, patronage, a "fake benefit for a non-existent sick baby," hundreds of thousands of dollars of unaccounted-for sports tickets and, of course, missing booze.
Paragraph after paragraph of what-the-what moments.
The international put Local 120's top officers, Brad Slawson Sr. and Brad Slawson Jr. (yep, father and son), on unpaid leave when the union was put into trusteeship earlier this month.
Brian Toder, a lawyer for the Slawsons, said he can't discuss details, but cautions, "unfortunately you can't read the parts that were left out. I can promise you that in a real short period of time, the other side will come out. We are in the middle of an investigation right now."
Local 120 distanced itself from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters a few years ago. I asked Toder if his clients might claim the IRB report is retaliation by the international.
"That's part of what I can't get into," Toder said.
However, Ken Paff, a founder of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which fights against union corruption, dismisses the notion the local is targeted. In fact, Paff said the international has been trying instead to eliminate the IRB.
"Why can the IRB find glaring corruption when the [international] can't?" said Paff. "In this case it was about as hard as finding a whale in a bathtub."
Brett Caldwell, spokesman for the international, denied they were trying to eliminate the IRB, just the agreement that put them in place. (Pause for logic check here).
Caldwell cautioned Paff that the members of the international may have had a role in tipping off the IRB. "We don't have that information," said Caldwell, adding, "this behavior is not how we do business, it is not acceptable."
Among the most egregious accusations are that the local paid a $90,000 "finders fee" to Todd Chester for hooking it up with a construction firm to build their new union hall. Chester is the father of the senior Slawson's grandchild. The fee was not disclosed to the local's board.
As the building progressed, Slawson Sr. did not have accountants for the local monitor the actual costs of the project. "This failure was either gross incompetence or corrupt. The evidence suggests the latter," the IRB concluded.
Other salacious details revolve around the local's ownership of a bar in Fargo. "The Teamster Club" had a bar manager and employees, but none was a union member. Full-time employees had no health benefits.
But one person who worked part time as a "consultant" did get benefits, according to the IRB: Todd Chester. He was a "successful bar owner who would set things right," the local bragged. Yet, Chester filed for bankruptcy while owning or managing a Blaine bar (it's not clear which) around the time he got the consulting job. (I want that job. Here's my audition: "Put more booze in the drinks.")
"Slawson Jr. testified the bar put the Teamsters in a better light in the community," the report said. "For a Teamster Local to operate a bar called 'The Teamster Club' using nonunion [employees] who received no benefits to keep its costs down would seem to undercut that claim."
The bar and gaming board ran the club, and its officers got total stipends of $335,000 from 2007 to 2012, while finances tanked. The local tried to argue the bar was actually profitable, but said they downplayed gains to avoid taxes. Whoops.
If the case gets the attention of the Justice Department, documents such as one titled "Analysis of Inventory of Captain Morgan's Spice Rum" should provide amusement. The report alleges at least 548 bottles of the rum are missing from the inventory.
"A spiced rum habit?" scoffed Paff. "Good lord."
To dredge up another Captain Morgan ad: Party like a champion, anyone?
Teamsters members in Minnesota are waiting for the next shoe to drop in a union scandal that has removed the top leadership from Blaine-based Teamsters Local 120.
A report by the Washington, D.C.-based Independent Review Board (IRB) alleged widespread corruption by the union's top leaders, including Secretary Treasurer Brad Slawson, and his son, President Brad Slawson, Jr.
"There is evidence that the Secretary Treasurer and President are corrupt and incompetent, the Local is engaged in financial malpractice and not being conducted in the best interests of the members," according to a report to International Brotherhood of Teamsters president James Hoffa.
The report from the IRB alleges the pair may have diverted union funds to a relative, bought tens of thousands of dollars in season hockey, football and baseball tickets with members' money and created sham union benefit programs.
The IRB is a three-member panel established by the federal court in New York City in 1991, following a series of Teamsters corruption scandals in the 1980s. It has investigatory authority and can get subpoenas to collect evidence and take sworn testimony.
Neither Slawson nor his son responded to inquiries about the report from MPR News. The relative, bar manager Todd Chester, also did not respond to questions about the allegations. None faces any criminal charges yet.
The Slawsons have been removed from any official union functions since Nov. 13, when the International Brotherhood of Teamsters put the local in emergency trusteeship. That came four days after the report from the IRB.
The 139-page document lays out a catalog of alleged corruption, arguing the Slawsons had been engaged in years of questionable business and personal activity at the union for years.
Among the allegations:
• The pair got the union to abruptly change direction on a Teamsters Local 120 office construction project, changing builders and prompting a $90,000 payment to Todd Chester, then a local bar manager. He was a close friend of Slawson Jr. and was the father of one of Slawson Sr.'s grandchildren, according to the IRB report.
• Local 120 leadership dipped into the union's strike fund to pay for the construction project.
• The local ran a money-losing bar in Fargo, N.D., which also personally paid union leaders tens of thousands of dollars. The Local 120 also hired the same Todd Chester as a part time consultant for the bar and provided him with health benefits.
• More than $200,000 worth of liquor and beer was unaccounted for in 2010 and 2011 at the Fargo bar.
• Local 120 leadership signed a promotional agreement with an insurance broker, American Pride, and signed a sham representation agreement with the firm to make it appear a union company. Union leaders then allowed the company to pitch its products, like life insurance, to members at Teamsters meetings.
• Union leadership bought season tickets for the Minnesota Wild, the Minnesota Vikings, the Minnesota Twins and the University of Minnesota Gophers hockey team, but left scant record of who got the seats. A five-year review showed only six recorded instances of Twins tickets going to union members at union meetings.
• Union leaders falsely claimed meal and drink expenses on Teamsters credit cards. The expenses were allegedly billed to the union — including a bar bill for the Slawson Jr. during a contested union election.
• Slawson Jr. ran unsuccessfully in 2008 to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Bills from local printers for his personal campaign materials (used at the state DFL convention in Rochester) went unpaid, but Slawson Jr. allegedly offered to steer union printing business to the shops if they would write off the debt.
Some Teamsters like Eric Bucholz, a warehouse worker for SuperValu, say the local leadership has long been insular and resistant to change.
"It's been a good-old-boys club for years and years," Bucholz said in an interview about the charges. "It was really hard to get anybody out of there."
He also said he thinks there may be more to come for Local 120. "We really don't know how far down this thievery is going to go. How many people in the hall knew about it? If they start going through all the credit cards, how far back does this go? How many people were involved in this stuff?"
He says he's particularly concerned because the Teamsters contract with Supervalu is set to expire in June, and it isn't clear who will be able to bargain with the beleaguered grocery supplier. Supervalu announced last week it was freezing pay and cut the company 401(k) match for non-union employees.
Other Teamsters in Minnesota say they hope authorities pursue indictments against union leadership for the alleged corruption detailed in the IRB report.
"It's criminal," says David Kramer, a Teamster member from Local 320, another unit that represents 11,000 public employee workers around the state. Both Local 120 and Local 320 belong to Joint Council 32, an affiliation of 13 Teamsters unions in the upper Midwest.
Kramer is also a member of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a group of union members that advocate for reform among the Teamsters nationwide. He says corruption like that alleged in Local 120 hurts the union effort overall.
"A lot of people are going to be angry about this," Kramer says. "It pisses people off that their dues money is going where it isn't supposed to be going."
The Teamsters Club in Fargo, N.D., has been a money loser, propped up by subsidies from its owner, Teamsters Local 120.
But red ink aside, the bar allegedly managed to pay more than $1,000 a month in stipends to two key members of its oversight board, Brad Slawson Sr. and Brad Slawson Jr.
The Slawsons were each drawing six-figure salaries as the top two executives of Local 120, a prominent, multistate union based in Blaine. The local's 11,661 members didn't know the Slawsons were also getting paid by the Fargo bar.
The payments are among scores of financial improprieties that are alleged in a review board's investigative report on Local 120, from thousands of dollars of missing booze at the Teamsters Club to a $90,000 finders fee that a Slawson family friend received in connection with a new union hall in Blaine.
On Nov. 13, the Slawsons were booted from their posts, at least temporarily, by the Teamsters international union, and Local 120 was placed into emergency trusteeship. The international took over Local 120 after an investigation by the Teamsters Independent Review Board.
"There is evidence that the secretary-treasurer (Slawson Sr.) and the president (Slawson Jr.) are corrupt and incompetent, the Local is engaged in financial malpractice and is not being conducted in the best interests of its members," the review board alleged in a 139-page report. [Click here to download that report from www.TDU.org.]
The Slawsons are on an unpaid leave of absence. Slawson Sr., a nationally known Teamsters leader, and his son declined to comment for this story.
An internal Teamsters hearing on the allegations is expected within 30 to 60 days. Both Slawsons could be barred from holding office with the union.
The Independent Review Board is commissioned partly by the U.S. Justice Department to root out corruption nationwide in the Teamsters union. The review board grew out of a 1989 consent decree the Teamsters signed with the Justice Department to avoid racketeering charges.
At the heart of the board's findings are allegedly questionable money management decisions made by the Slawsons with little or no oversight from the local's executive board or membership.
Payments to friend
For example, a close family friend of the Slawsons got a $90,000 fee for introducing Local 120 to a construction firm that ended up building the new union hall. The Blaine contractor made a $135,000 profit on the deal -- only $45,000 more than the finder's fee. The contractor paid the fee, but it was included in the Teamsters' costs for the building, according to the report.
Slawson Sr. told Independent Review Board investigators that he only learned of the $90,000 fee during the investigation and was surprised by the amount, the report said.
The same family friend who got the fee, Todd Chester, was later hired as a consultant to help shore up the finances of the Teamsters Club. Chester, the father of one of Slawson Sr.'s grandchildren and a friend of Slawson Jr. since high school, had experience running a bar.
But while Chester worked in Fargo, inventory at the Teamsters Club didn't square with sales, causing investigators to conclude there was a diversion of beer and liquor, particularly Captain Morgan rum, the report said. Chester could not be reached for comment.
The investigation also alleged that Local 120 had "sham" contracts with American Pride Home Services, which handled financial services connected with the new union hall.
American Pride was organized by the Teamsters, but its workers had no collective bargaining or seniority rights, staples of any union contract -- though they paid union dues. American Pride itself paid union dues for some workers who had left. The report said Slawson Sr. "actively hawked" the company's products to union members.
The report also concludes that Slawson Jr., a Teamster since 1988, avoided paying a personal debt to two union vendors by promising them more union business. Slawson, 42, had spent at least $560 on buttons and leaflets in a failed bid to be a delegate for Barack Obama at the 2008 Minnesota DFL Convention.
In addition, the report tells of Local 120 officers allegedly spending union money at bars and restaurants for no union purpose. Meanwhile, the local spent $214,755 on sports tickets between 2007 and 2011 -- for the Vikings, Twins, Wild and Gophers hockey team -- but had almost no records indicating the tickets were used for union purposes.
A growing force
Teamsters Local 120 encompasses several industries and particularly represents drivers and warehouse workers. Slawson, 64, was a truck driver in 1970 when he joined the Teamsters. In 1983, he was elected as a business agent -- a full-time union job. He worked his way up the ladder and by 2004, he was Local 120's top officer, an elected position.
During Slawson Sr.'s tenure, Local 120 has grown, absorbing Teamsters locals in Fargo, Des Moines and Dubuque, Iowa, and Sioux Falls, S.D., as well as a local in Minneapolis that represents about 110 mailroom employees at the Star Tribune.
In Fargo, Local 120 inherited the Teamsters Club. The bar has an oversight board whose prime function -- under North Dakota law -- has been to decide which charities receive the tavern's gambling proceeds.
Since 2007, the bar's board members, most of whom have been officers or executives of Local 120, have received a total of $335,832 in stipends, according to the review board's report. Slawson Sr. and Slawson Jr. collected $72,700 and $68,100 respectively.
Partly because of the stipends, Local 120 paid operating expenses for the bar out of its general fund, the report said.
Stipends not authorized
The stipends were never disclosed at a union general membership meeting. Nor were they authorized by the union's executive board, a possible violation of federal law, the review board report said.
The bar was paying stipends at a time Local 120 itself was having financial difficulties, the review board report said. Due to the recession, about 4,000 Local 120 members had been laid off since 2008, erasing about $200,000 a month in union dues, according to federal court records.
In March 2010, Chester was hired as a consultant to the Teamsters Club at an annual salary of $20,622. Chester would hold that post until August 2011, although he filed for personal bankruptcy in November 2010, listing debts just short of $1 million and assets of only $23,320.
In bankruptcy court records, Chester said that in addition to a Teamsters gig, he was manager of Route 65 Pub & Grub in East Bethel.
At the Teamsters Club, Chester devised a strategy to raise sales through "a fake benefit for a non-existent sick baby or other false cause," the review board report said. But the idea was shot down when other bar employees said that it couldn't be done, the report said.
Chester also believed the bar was carrying too much inventory. So he planned to return booze and beer to wholesalers for credit. But the Independent Review Board subpoenaed the bar's wholesalers and found that no inventory had been returned.
The review board analyzed inventory and sales patterns and found a gap -- $236,000 in lost revenue from unaccounted-for beer and liquor. "The conclusion is that inventory was being diverted from the bar's operations," the report said.
"As a bankrupt bar owner with access to and control over the inventory...Chester had both means and motive to remove inventory," it said.
Chester also figured prominently in the choice of a contractor for a new union hall in Blaine. Local 120 had first received a proposal in 2007 from Ryan Cos., a large Twin Cities construction firm, with a guaranteed maximum price of $2.88 million.
Then, Chester brought Blaine-based Stone Construction to Local 120. Stone came in with an original bid that was more than $200,000 cheaper than Ryan's, and the Slawsons advocated switching to Stone, the report said. In an analysis produced by the local, Ryan was described as a union contractor, while Stone was not, the review board's report said.
In the end, Stone built the Blaine Teamsters hall for about $3.2 million. Stone paid Chester $90,000 out of the money it received from the union. The report found that the fee was not an approved cost under the contract between Teamsters Local 120 and Stone, and it was not disclosed to Local 120 in any document.
The review board report noted other potential irregularities concerning the new hall. Stone was supposed to return $26,961 in escrow money to Local 120. Stone hasn't, and Local 120 has made no attempt to collect it, the report said. Stone didn't return calls for comment.
November 21, 2012: The biggest Teamster dairy in New York, Elmhurst Dairy, has been trying to cut costs by dumping higher-paid senior workers for years. This fall, the company offered Teamsters a buyout, but few members took the offer.
So management turned to union-busting instead. Last month, the company laid off the 42 highest seniority Teamsters at the Dairy and replaced them with new hires who start at just $10 an hour.
"Elmhurst thinks they can do anything and they're trying to break the union," says Hammey Boureima, a Local 584 member who has worked at Elmhurst for 15 years. "If the union doesn't stand up and fight, all the companies will do the same thing." Hammey has five children and is not sure how he's going to cover rent this month.
The diary workers set up their own pickets outside the plant and were discussing plans to reach out to the public and major Elmhurst customers to win support for their reinstatement. Political officials spoke out against the firings, and Local 584 and Joint Council 16 issued a call for a rally scheduled for October 24th.
But the company responded by filing for a temporary restraining order against any work stoppage, strike or other interference in the company's normal operations (but not prohibiting leafleting or other outreach to the public or Elmhurst customers.) The Joint Council cancelled the rally and the Local backed off the plans to reach out to Elmhurst customers.
"After they cancelled the rally, the union told us to meet the following Monday and that we'd be leafleting customers and reaching out to the public," says Chester Rodman, who has worked at Elmhurst Dairy for 7 years and has 20 years as a Teamster in the industry. "That Monday happened to be the day Hurricane Sandy hit. Since then, and it's been more than two weeks, we’ve heard nothing about the leaflets or plans to reach customers and demand we be brought back."
The union and company are entering into arbitration over the layoffs and the Local has filed NLRB charges against Elmhurst Dairy for breaking the union contract.
Members voted overwhelmingly to contribute an hour's pay per week to assist the Elmhurst Dairy Teamsters. But none of the Elmhurst workers has yet received any financial assistance from these contributions.
Local 584 members are discussing possible actions and asking what the union's plan is.
"We can't just sit around and leave it up to the courts," said TDU member Shermon Connor, a delivery driver at Tuscan Beyer Farms. "We need to be reaching out to customers and the community to demand Elmhurst bring these guys back to work."
November 21, 2012: Skimming union money. Sham contracts. Non-union contractors. Misusing credit cards. The whole ugly story is in a 139-page report issued on November 9 by the Independent Review Board (IRB). Click here to download it.
The deals have been going on in the 11,000-member Local 120 for years, but the Hoffa administration either couldn't find it or didn't want to.
The IRB report details a series of long-running schemes to divert union funds to Brad Slawson Sr., Brad Slawson Jr., and their family and friends, who ran Local 120, at the expense of Local 120 members in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa.
The report calls for a trusteeship of Local 120. Upon receipt of the IRB report, James Hoffa imposed a trusteeship, ousting the Slawsons and the executive board, and sending in a trustee to run the local temporarily.
The schemes and scams found by the IRB include: skimming money from construction of a new union hall; turning a union-owned bar and gambling hall into Slawson's own family cash machine; fabricating a sham labor contract for personal gain; and diverting union funds to pay off personal debts, pay bar bills, and buying tickets to professional sports events. The sums of money involved are staggering.
Click here for a good summary as well as the entire 139-page corruption report produced by TDU.
Hoffa: Tolerates and benefits from corruption
The IBT couldn't find the problem here, when it was about as hard as finding a whale in a bathtub. The IRB found it–perhaps that is why Hoffa wants to abolish the IRB.
The Hoffa administration has a record of tolerating corruption in our union. That's why Ed Stier, who was hired by Hoffa to set up Project RISE to replace the IRB, quit in 2004 and stated, "The problem is Hoffa," because Hoffa's office was blocking his investigations.
That wiped out Hoffa's chance to end the IRB, because he refused to set up an effective, independent structure to deal with corrupt practices and individuals within our great union.
Hoffa protects corrupt Teamster officials because he depends on their political support.
The report called on Hoffa to put Local 120 into trusteeship, so Hoffa appointed Bill Moore, of Topeka, Kansas to run Local 120. Moore was removed from office by the IRB in a one-year suspension during 2009 for lying under oath about his association with Dane Passo, who was banned from the union for making sweetheart deals.
That is Hoffa's idea of the right man to clean up corruption.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union is working to not just clean up the bad spots in our union, but to create a new culture of zero tolerance of misuse of the members' trust.
"For years, we've heard reports about stuff going on at the hall. It's about time something's finally being done. But a trusteeship will not change much if we can't find ways for working Teamsters to get more involved in our union. Members need to make that happen."
Eric Buchloz, Local 120
Super Valu, Minneapolis
December 14, 2012: Bylaws are the constitution of your local union. They define your rights and responsibilities as a local member, they say how elections will be run, and they set the powers for your officers.
Your local union bylaws can be amended, to make improvements. But you have to know how to go about it.
In many locals, members can only introduce new bylaws amendments in January.
The process of amending local bylaws can vary from local to local. The exact procedure is laid out in your bylaws.
Members must present the proposed changes at a union meeting. After members present a proposed change, it must be read at three consecutive meetings, and then there will be a vote. That’s the time to turn out supporters.
What it Takes to Win
A bylaws campaign can be effective tool for winning positive reforms and education of members. But, like any organizing campaign, a bylaws reform campaign requires good planning. Successful campaigns have usually:
- Picked an issue that matters most to members and focused on it
- Spread the word with leaflets and conversations and support petitions
- Involved supporters in the whole process
Getting the Language Right
Since bylaws are legally binding documents, it's important to get the language in your proposal right. In some cases, General President Hoffa has vetoed reforms approved by local union members because of language technicalities.
TDU can help on this front. We have copies of bylaws language that has been approved by the IBT, and lawyers who can review your bylaws proposals before you run into a legal challenge.
Contact TDU at 313-842-2600 or click here to send us a message.
Click here to read about Teamsters Local 251 and their bylaws campaign to win stronger representation and better contracts.
November 20, 2012: Local 251 Teamsters in Rhode Island are organizing to win stronger
representation and better contracts.
Members from different companies have launched a campaign to change their local bylaws, with three proposed changes:
- The Right to Elect Shop Stewards
- The Right to Elect Contract Negotiating Committees
- The Right to Vote on Officer Salaries and Pay Increases
Half of Local 251's membership works at Rhode Island Hospital where contract negotiations have been a closed-door affair.
"Last time, we didn't even know our contract was being negotiated until Human Resources sent out an email announcing announced there was a new deal," said TDU member Paul Santos. "We found out we had a new contract from management, not the Union!"
"From now on, we want to elect stewards and members to serve on our Contract Negotiating Committee. Members are the ones who have to live under the contract. We should have a say in what’s in there," Santos said.
"Freight Teamsters have elected their shop stewards for years. But other Local 251 members have been denied this right," said YRC retiree Jim Jacob who served as steward at Red Star for years. "Every Teamster should have the right to elect the shop steward that represents them when their job is on the line."
UPS Teamsters are getting involved. When members found out Local union officials make $86 an hour, heads turned.
TDU member and UPSer Matt Taibi says, "Local 251 officers make as much as $179,449 a year. We think officer salaries should be brought more in line with what Teamsters make and the dues savings should be put to work for the membership. However you feel about this issue, we can all agree that members should have the Right to Vote on what we pay our Local Union leaders."
"Local officials work out of the union hall, not the barn. They really have no idea what is going on day to day on the shop floor, and therefore should not be appointing our representatives.
"The rank and file members know who they trust, who they can relate to and who they can count on. This is why members should have the right to elect the stewards that represent them."
Nick Williams, Local 251, Rhode Island Hospital, TDU Steering Committee