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From the July-August 2009
issue of Union Democracy Review #180
In the Teamsters Union: What's the dollar cost of cruel
The Teamsters Independent Review Board
has been doing a scrupulous job of policing the union for corruption and
expelling characters with organized crime connections. But some Teamster
reformers feel that the Board has been slow in dealing with the kind of
offenses against union democracy that resist evaluation in dollars, like
intimidation, election fraud, and blacklisting. Which makes reports of
the Board's investigation into events in Local 82 (in TDU's Convoy-Dispatch)
of special interest. Local 82 union representatives, according to C-D,
stand accused of vicious beatings of members who protested against the
destruction of the local's contract defenses of job seniority.
Local 82 represents trade show employees in Boston.
There seems to be something about the trade show industry, perhaps its
intermittent seasonal employment system, that lends itself to manipulation
and corruption. (Similar problems in New York and Chicago.) The union's
trade show contracts offer a measure of job security to members by providing
a fair system of job referrals based on seniority. But the errant officials,
says C-D, want to get rid of those seniority guarantees so that they can
hand out the best jobs to their most dependable cronies. When a meeting
was scheduled to vote on ratifying a proposed contract with a major employer,
two union enforcers and a police officer allowed only members loyal to
the administration to enter the hall. The contract was ratified, minus
the seniority language.
Local 82 member Jimmy Lee charged that the day after
he had filed a seniority grievance, he was assaulted by John Perry, the
IBT Trade Show Director. In June, Perry faced hearings on the charges
in state court. The assault charge against Perry was not an isolated incident,
according to C-D, but part of a pattern. To bolster his regime, Perry
had recruited one Joseph Burhoe into the local; his "extensive rap
sheet," reports C-D, "includes a conviction for armed robbery."
Burhoe now faces new criminal charges, accused of beating Eddie Flaherty,
a critic of Perry, so badly that he was left unconscious and hospitalized;
he left the industry in fear.
Commenting on reports that many workers with a criminal
past had been employed at the Boston Convention Center, Perry asked, "We
got a lot of guys in trouble. What's wrong with us trying to provide them
with jobs? To which David Levin, of Teamsters for a Democratic Union,
replied, "Nothing... The trouble is not anyone's past criminal record
but the criminal behavior that is happening right now."
According to TDU, the IRB is investigating. "If
the Hoffa administration is serious about acting against corruption and
protecting Teamster contracts," comments C-D, "they will not
wait on the IRB to take action."
At the Teamsters IRB
When IRB investigators charged that Peter Innaurato
of Philadelphia Local 107 was associating with a member of the La Cosa
Nostra family, the review board referred the case to President Hoffa,
but he turned it back to the board for trial. His decision not to process
the charge in the union does not necessarily display any deference to
organized crime figures but does demonstrate his inability to act in such
cases. In most likelihood, the evidence against Innaurato is gathered
by FBI and/or other law enforcement authorities who would not appear before
a union committee but who are free to testify before the IRB, an agency
appointed by a Federal judge.
Articles on the Teamsters:
the Teamsters Union: What's the dollar cost of cruel beatings?
At the Teamsters
Independent Review Board (3/08-4/08)
elections: inspiration from the ground up (11/06-12/06)
AUD Conference: Confronting
Corruption in Labor Unions (12-06)
Convention reveals fatal flaw in election rules (7/06-8/06)
for TDU charges IRB coddles top Hoffa aide (3/05-4/05)
uncovers corruption before its demise (9/04-10/04)
RISE and Teamster reform at Cornell University (1/04-3/04)
Can the IBT police itself?(9/03-10/03)
The Transmogrification of
Teamsters Local 854(9/03-10/03)
Union safe for dissenters? An exchange (10/11 2002)
The vindication of Ron
Carey (12/1 2001-2002)
"The Fox and the
Chicken Coop" -- comments on the proposed Teamsters Ethics Code. (3/4
Proposals for a Teamster Code" (3/4 2000)
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