Remembering Pioneers of Teamster Reform
April 8, 2014: Three Teamsters who helped blaze the trail for Teamster reform have passed away. They had vision, courage and determination and put solidarity ahead of self-advancement.
They, and Teamsters like them, built Teamsters for a Democratic Union. It’s up to us to carry on their legacy of organizing Teamster-to-Teamster to build a powerful, democratic union.
Steve Kindred 1944 - 2013
Founding TDU Member and Hell-raiser
Steve was a founder of TDU in 1976 and one of the initial spark plugs and builders of this movement.
In 1975, Teamsters took up a collection, bought a pass on a Greyhound bus, and sent Steve across the country to recruit freight stewards and activists to a national meeting of Teamsters for a Decent Contract.
One year later, TDU was born.
Steve remained active in TDU for the rest of his life as a carhauler, a TDU staff organizer, a business agent and later as a retiree.
Steve passed away in December, 2013 from cancer.
"Steve was an educator, a radical, and a hell-raiser. He believed ordinary people could make history and he helped make that happen. He inspired so many of us to carry on, because he was never discouraged and never defeated.”
Ken Paff, co-founder of TDU and friend of Steve’s ever since.
Les Cadman 1930-2014
Fighting Concessions & Building TDU
A Teamster steel-hauler out of locals in Youngstown, Gary and Detroit, Les was active in an earlier movement, the Fraternal Association of Steel Haulers.
In 1979, Les joined TDU during a month-long wildcat strike of steelhaulers that shut down steel transport across the Midwest and won a better contract than the International Union had signed.
He remained active with TDU for the rest of his life, and in retirement he did volunteer work in the TDU Detroit office with his wife, Lorene. Les was struck down by a hit-and-run driver, and passed away in March 2014 in Detroit.
"The steelhaul strike changed my life. I saw what an inspiration that Teamster power could be, and the commitment of working Teamsters like Les Cadman. They convinced me that this was what I wanted to do with my life. As unionized steel haul collapsed in the 1980s, we were fortunate that Les stayed in the movement and continued to build TDU.”
Sandy Pope was a young volunteer organizer in the 1979 steel haul strike and went on to be a truck driver, organizer, International Rep and Local 805 President.
Pete Camarata 1946 - 2014
Standing Up to the Mob & Winning the Right to Vote
Pete was a young protégé of James R Hoffa in Local 299, but no friend of Hoffa’s successor as Teamster president, Frank Fitzsimmons, also from Detroit Local 299.
When Fitzsimmons called a “blow off steam” strike for two days in the freight industry in 1976, Pete led a brief wildcat strike in Local 299 in defiance of the sell-out deal.
In 1976, Pete Camarata rose as the only delegate at the Las Vegas IBT Convention to vote against Frank Fitzsimmons for Teamster General President. Later that day, he was beaten unconscious by Teamster goons.
Pete was a founding member of TDU and was TDU’s candidate for General President at the 1981 IBT Convention. His protest candidacy at the 1981 IBT Convention helped pave the way to TDU winning one-member, one-vote election for International Union officers
Pete served on the Steering Committee of TDU for many years and remained active in TDU and the labor movement after he retired. He died of cancer in February 2014 in Chicago.
"When Fitz’s goons beat Pete, they figured they wouldn’t see Pete or TDU again. Wrong. Five years later, Pete was again elected a convention delegate and accepted the nomination for Teamster General President. TDU kept building rank and file power, won the Right to Vote in 1989 and we’re still here in 2014 and we ain’t going away. Pete never stopped fighting the good fight, and the planet is a better place because of him. Pete, with your inspiration we’re keeping the faith. Solidarity Forever.”
Dave Robbins, a member of Providence Local 251 and Pete’s friend for over 30 years, spoke at a packed memorial event at the Chicago Local 705 hall.
Organizing to Defend Our Pensions
March 20, 2014: Over 80 active and retired Teamsters filled the chapel at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota to learn about the move afoot in Congress to weaken pension protections, and what is being done to stop it.
The meeting was organized by TDU and a committee of Twin Cities Teamsters who are organizing to defend their retirement security.
Bob McNattin, a retired member of Teamster Local 120, spoke of the importance of maintaining retirement security not just for Teamsters, but for all working people. He stressed that the threat to reduce pensions would be devastating and could ripple through the economy.
He highlighted the fact that he and many Teamsters had passed on substantial wage increases over the years because they were told the money needed to go to pension contributions to provide a good retirement.
Ann Curry Thompson, a pension rights attorney who works with TDU, outlined how the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP) has spent the last few years lobbying Congress to rework current pension law. She reported on the NCCMP efforts to allow troubled pension funds, like the Central States, the ability to cut already accrued benefits. Thompson said this could slash the benefits of the already retired if a new law should be passed. That is illegal under current law.
The NCCMP, with the support of the leaders of the Central States Fund, is aiming to get a bill into Congress very soon, so the time to step up and fight back is now.
Active and retired Teamsters from Locals 120, 638, 974 and 1145 signed the petition opposing the cuts. The Twin Cities Pension Action Committee is planning visits to local congressional offices and outreach to Teamster locals and their retiree groups.
“We worked hard over many years to insure a secure retirement, said Sam Karam – a YRC Teamster. Now we need to organize to make sure we keep what was promised. This is no reward or bonus for our later years. We earned it.”
Click here if you want to become part of the fight to defend Teamster pensions.
Click here if you want to help organize a pension meeting for your area.
150 Members at NY TDU Education Conference
March 17, 2014: On March 15, 150 Teamsters attended a day-long education conference sponsored by TDU in New York City to educate themselves and build Teamster solidarity.
“It’s inspiring to get together with like-minded Teamsters from all over the Northeast,” said Local 773 member Al Watrous, who made the drive in from Allentown, PA. “Knowledge is power. We need more members to get involved and take the time to learn. I’m looking forward to meeting many other Teamsters at upcoming events.”
The conference, organized by the NY TDU Chapter, brought in members from more than a dozen local unions in NYC, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Workshops included Dealing with UPS management, Running for Local Union Office, Be the Arbitrator: What it Takes to Win Your Grievance, and more.
The Chapter is now organizing a Bowl-a-Thon event and fundraiser for May 3.
Organizing to Defend Our Pensions
March 10, 2014: Over 120 active and retired Teamsters packed the house on March 8 in Richfield Ohio to learn about Congress being lobbied right now to undermine pension law, and the battle to save our pensions. The meeting was organized by Teamsters for a Democratic Union and a committee of Northeast Ohio Teamsters who have been active in defending their retirement security.
The committee is now planning more actions, along with outreach to Teamsters and to contact Ohio Congressional Representatives.
Alex Adams, a retired YRC Teamster and past president of Cleveland Local 407, informed active and retired Teamsters on a visit he and other Teamsters made to Washington in October 2013. At that congressional hearing, Tom Nyhan – executive director of the Central States Pension Fund, testified that pension cuts need to be made so the fund can survive long-term. Adams reported that the rank & file Teamster delegation had support form the International Association of Machinists, the Pension Rights Center, and the AARP in opposing the cuts, and co-sponsored a press conference where Adams spoke.
Ann Curry Thompson, a pension rights attorney who works with TDU, outlined how the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP) has spent the last two years lobbying Congress to rework current pension law. She reported the NCCMP proposes changing the law to allow troubled pension funds, like Central States, the ability to cut already accrued benefits. Thompson said this could slash the benefits of those already retired, as well as those still working.
Active and retired Teamsters from Locals 407, 24, 507, 348, 413, 92, and 964 signed the petition opposing the cuts and formed a committee for Northeast Ohio. The committee is planning visits to local congressional offices and outreach to Teamster locals and their retiree groups. They also plan to prepare for organizing a delegation to visit Washington when the next round of hearings is held.
“It was a great turnout and a good start to getting more organized” said Greg Smith a retired YRC Teamster. “We earned our pension benefits and it’s clear that many Teamsters are ready to fight to make sure we keep them.”
Clik here to become part of the fight to defend Teamster pensions.
TDU is organizing more pension forums. Contact us if you are interested in one coming to your area.
NY Teamster Power Conference: March 15
Saturday, March 15
10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
CUNY Law School, 2 Court Square, Long Island City, NY
Click here to get directions and parking info.
Join Teamsters for a day of union education and strategizing about rebuilding union power.
Click here to download a registration form.
All members who register in advance are automatically entered in a drawing to win tickets to an upcoming Rangers or Knicks-Nets game. (You must be in attendance to win.)
Workshops include: Dealing with Difficult Supervisors, Investigating Disciplinary Grievances, Shop Steward Training, Running for Local Union Office, What it Takes to Win Your Case in Arbitration or at the Grievance Panel, and more!
Register in advance for just $20. Includes lunch. Onsite registration is $25.
Join TDU! A one-year membership costs $40 and includes free conference registration for first-time members plus five entries into raffle drawing.
Call NY TDU at 718-287-3283 to register today or get more information.
Texans Build Teamster Unity at TDU Meeting
Feb 26, 2014: Local 745 members held a TDU meeting in El Paso, Texas to talk about enforcing their contracts, the future of the union and rebuilding Teamster Power.
Teamsters in El Paso are members of Local 745 in Dallas which is 635 miles away!
That kind of distance takes the “local” right out of local union. So members decided to cook up some Teamster Unity of their own and organized a TDU meeting in El Paso on Feb. 22.
The meeting was organized by Teamsters at UPS and UPS Freight. Different generations of Teamsters came together with the common goal of building a stronger union for the future.
Members shared strategies for dealing with contract violations, including seniority, supervisors working, excessive overtime and production harassment.
How to stop concessions at UPS and UPS Freight was another hot topic.
“When we spoke up at the contract vote here in El Paso, they told us, ‘If you don’t like it, get out of the union,’” one UPS Freight Teamster said. “No way are we getting out of the Union. We’re getting even more involved.”
Rebuilding Teamster Power by informing and involving members. That’s what TDU is all about.
Click here to read more about TDU: Who We Are, What We’ve Won, Where We Stand.
TDU Pension Meeting Slated for Richfield Ohio
Active and retired Teamsters in northeast Ohio are organizing a meeting for Saturday, March 8 to address pension issues. The meeting is sponsored by TDU and will be held at the Days Inn - Richfield at 10 am. Ann Curry Thompson, an attorney well versed in pension law, will be a guest speaker.
The meeting comes in response to Congress considering changes to pension law. Teamsters are encouraged to invite co-workers and spouses to learn more about possible cuts for those already retired or soon to be.
Details are available on this flier.
St Louis Teamsters Learn Truck Safety Rights
February 21, 2014: Over sixty Teamsters attended a February 15 meeting near St. Louis to hear Paul Taylor, lead attorney for the Truckers Justice Center, speak on truck safety issues. The crowd included UPS feeder and package drivers as well as UPS Freight road drivers, freight Teamsters, and carhaulers. Taylor discussed various issues involving trucking safety and the protections available to truck drivers.
Taylor recently won two major decisions against UPS on behalf of feeder drivers.
You can also learn more about your rights and protections here.
If you're interested in helping to organize a meeting in your area, contact TDU.
Pete Camarata, Who Fought Fellow Teamsters for Reforms, Dies at 67
In 1976, Frank Fitzsimmons, president of the Teamsters, struck a defiant note in a speech at the union’s convention in Las Vegas. “To those who say it is time to reform this organization, and it’s time officers stopped selling out the members,” he said, “I say to them, ‘Go to hell.’ ”
The next day, Pete Camarata, a rank-and-file Teamster dedicated to reform, rose to say he opposed Mr. Fitzsimmons’s re-election as well as a pay raise for him. He said Mr. Fitzsimmons and his lieutenants had stifled democracy in the union and ignored workers’ concerns. He called for a rule that would automatically expel any Teamster officer who accepted a bribe from an employer.
Boos and catcalls drowned out his remarks.
Afterward, Mr. Camarata — who died last Sunday in Chicago at 67 — attended a cocktail party in the hotel ballroom, but felt unwelcome and excused himself. Several beefy sergeants-at-arms offered to escort him outside. (Mr. Camarata himself was a hefty man, at one point weighing 400 pounds.) Suddenly, one of them punched him. Others kicked him in the head with their pointed cowboy boots. His face was left purple and swollen, his right eye closed.
The police were sympathetic, until they conferred with Teamster officials. According to Lester Velie’s 1977 book about the Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, “Desperate Bargain: Why Jimmy Hoffa Had to Die,” one officer then said, “Get out of town, buddy, and get out fast.”
Mr. Camarata left Las Vegas, but he did not abandon his fight to reform the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. In 1981, as head of a dissident group, he ran for president of the union, the first outsider to challenge its leadership. He lost badly.
The campaign was one of many fights his group, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, picked with a union that the federal government regarded as corrupt. Some were successful. In 1989, the Teamsters leadership accepted the group’s proposals for electoral reform. By agreeing to the direct election of international officers, the union avoided a federal trial on racketeering charges but was subjected to government supervision.
The dissident group grew to more than 8,000 members, and though it comprised just a tiny fraction of the union’s total membership of two million, it was a major force in the election of Ron Carey as a reform candidate for Teamsters president in 1991. Mr. Carey included group members in his leadership coalition. (He was later forced out by the federal government, accused of receiving illegal campaign contributions.)
Mr. Camarata retired from the work force in 1995 but continued to fight for union reforms until his death of renal cancer, his wife, Robin Potter, said.
His first marriage ended in divorce. Besides his wife, he is survived by a stepdaughter, Aimee Potter, and a stepson, Jackson Potter.
Peter Joseph Camarata was born in Detroit on Sept. 7, 1946. His father, Caspar, worked at the Packard Motor Car Company for 36 years, where he helped the United Automobile Workers organize. His mother, Mary, cooked in restaurants and at union meetings.
Pete attended Roman Catholic schools and sang in a choir. As a high school student he helped collect day-old bread for a shelter for the homeless. He enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit and got a job on the loading dock of a trucking company to help with expenses. He ended up dropping out to work full time on the dock and began to think of himself more as a Teamster than as a worker. He became active in Local 299 — the local of both Mr. Hoffa and Mr. Fitzsimmons — and was elected steward.
He was a Hoffa ally. After Mr. Hoffa was released from prison in 1971 — pardoned by President Richard M. Nixon after serving time since 1967 on jury-tampering and fraud charges — Mr. Camarata worked unsuccessfully for his return to the union.
Mr. Fitzsimmons was acting president during Mr. Hoffa’s imprisonment and became president in 1971 when the pardon barred Mr. Hoffa from further union activity. Mr. Hoffa disappeared in Detroit in 1975 and was declared dead in 1982.
At Local 299, Mr. Camarata joined with other young leftist Teamsters to press for more local autonomy. They became affiliated with an organization on college campuses called International Socialists.
In 1976, to win a better contract in Detroit, Mr. Camarata helped lead a wildcat strike in which 300 Teamsters managed to cripple the city. “There wasn’t a truck that moved,” he said in “Detroit Lives,” a 1994 book compiled and edited by Robert H. Mast. “The union bureaucrats were against us, and we had to fight them, too.”
One result of the strike was his election as a delegate to the national convention in Las Vegas. After his open defiance there, he was expelled from the union twice but successfully fought to be reinstated both times. He told Mr. Mast that he had been threatened physically many times.
A flier, signed by a Local 299 member, alleged that the dissident group was financed by illegal drug trafficking. The group denied this. The flier also referred to Mr. Camarata’s weight, explaining his rise to leadership with the phrase “Fat floats.” (He eventually lost 200 pounds and was featured in weight-loss publications, his wife said.)
When Mr. Fitzsimmons consigned Mr. Camarata and other dissidents to hell in 1976, Mr. Camarata had a ready reply: “We’ll meet him wherever he wants.”
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The 2016 International IBT Elections are just around the corner. If you want to be part of the nationwide team of Teamsters who are committed to making real change in 2016, then you need to be at the TDU Convention.
Workshops and steward trainings at the TDU Convention arm members with skills we need to defend ourselves on the job.
Meet up with Teamsters from across the country, from every industry, who are uniting members to take on employers, win stronger contracts, and build a better union.
REBUILDING OUR UNION IN 2016
The Vote No movement sent a message loud and clear to Hoffa & Hall—You’ve got to go! Come to the 2014 TDU Convention to meet up with Vote No movement leaders, local union officers, and concerned members who will be organizing for a new direction in our International union.