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From the Sept/Oct 2003 issue of UDR #148
Time to end the consent decree in the Teamsters Union? -- two articles
Can the IBT police itself?
a long time. But before the current setup can be eliminated, one massive
problem, among many, remains-for both Hoffa and the feds: Despite the
union's own highly touted RISE program, without the IRB and without the
constant pressure of government, the union, under Hoffa, has displayed
a total incapacity to deal adequately with corruption. Here, among many,
are two recent examples:
22, Federal Judge Loretta Preska, upheld the IRB's expulsion of William
Hogan and Dane Passo from the union. Hogan, a Teamster powerhouse, was
one of Hoffa's most important supporters. Passo was a top Hoffa aide whom
he had appointed as international representative. They were expelled because
they had colluded with a non-union company to undercut the contractual
standards enforced by a Teamster local. The non-union company had a suspect
background of racketeer connections; and Hogan's brother was one of the
administration could not or would not deal with this scandalous affair.
When the IRB gave the union a chance to process the charges itself, it
failed; it turned the case back to the IRB. The question is inevitable:
suppose there were no IRB?
On January 27, in a second case, the IRB recommended that Hoffa impose a trusteeship over Local 522, a catchall 1,800-member local in Jamaica NY. The chief local official at the time was the son of a former Luchese crime family underboss. Earlier, the IRB had removed a previous local president for association with organized crime. "Local 522," the IRB reported, "has a long history of ties to organized crime." This time, the union agreed to act. Still it was only on March 10 that Hoffa appointed a trustee. And still there was work to do for the IRB. On March 14, the IRB wrote to Hoffa proposing charges against two of the local's incumbent benefit trustees and one former trustee. They were accused of improperly funneling about $1,500,000 from the benefit funds into the union treasury. (These people deal with more than small change!)
Transmogrification of IBT local 854
same Local 854 is now the target of multiple complaints filed by the National
Labor Relations Board against it and its largest contracted company accusing
them of common responsibility in a campaign of harassment, punitive discipline,
and violent assault against job stewards and their defenders who stand
up against the union and company.
NLRB charges are well-founded, the earlier RISE report could have been
the flawed product of overoptimistic wish-fulfillment. Or, on the other
hand, it may demonstrate that even a local which appears, on first examination,
to be "reformed" can rapidly degenerate if it functions in a
is a 1,900-member catch all local in New York City. One of its largest
contracted employers is Consolidated Bus Transit, a company which is retained
by the NYC Board of Education to bus children to school. According to
RISE, the Board required that the company be unionized in order to get
its lucrative busing contracts. The CBT owner "was able to use Local
854 to organize his companies because of his relationship with Gambino
crime family members." At the time, Local 854 was brought into the
picture precisely because it was conveniently racket dominated. Since
then, according to RISE, Local 854 has been freed of Gambino control.
But there are no reports of any possible corresponding positive changes
in the corporate setup. The role of CBT is a critical element in this
story because all Local 854 members involved in these events were employees
of that company.
quo in the relations between CBT and Local 854 was rudely disrupted in
early 2002 when Jona Fleurimont, Jose Guzman, and others circulated a
petition in the union calling for the election of a shop steward and assistant
at the CBT's Bronx facility. Fireworks exploded! What quickly happened
next is suggested in charges filed by the NLRB in April, this year:
worsened after the steward election. The company threatened to close the
Bronx facility. Employees were threatened with physical assault for union
activities. Fleurimont was forced to undergo a physical examination. The
company repeatedly suspended Fleurimont and Guzman. In sum, the NLRB charged
that CBT "engaged in [this] conduct because Fleurimont and Guzman
were elected shop stewards and engaged in concerted activities and to
discourage employees from engaging in these activities."
all this seems like the normal activities of an abnormal company whose
owner once had relations with an organized crime family. However, the
union has presumably been freed of racket control. Nevertheless, as the
NLRB complaint indicates, the union joined the company so actively in
the harassment that it is hard to distinguish one from the other:
charges that Ann Stankowitz, local 854 secretary treasurer, joined in
the campaign to harass CBTemployees. According to the complaint she failed
to represent workers who are threatened for discharge and arrest by the
company and subjected to intimidating interrogation and surveillance.
But more. She, herself, actually participated in the interrogation.
for the NLRB complaint which awaits trial, but the story continues. What
follows next, is based on an account by TDU:
was circulated calling for the removal of Fleurimont as steward and for
a new election. Two leaflets distributed to Bronx CBT workers denounced
Fleurimont and Guzman. One by the company, on official CBT stationery,
read, "Hopefully, the silent majority will overrule the loud, violent
and selfish minority and take a stand to protect their job and their future."
A second, with unclear sponsorship, announced, "The company needs
150 signatures to remove Jona from his Shop Steward position....If the
company doesn't collect these signatures by Tuesday 1/18/03 they are going
to send 80 buses to Brooklyn. The base is going to be relocated to Red
In a letter
to Gatto, assistant steward Jose Guzman charged, "In addition to
these illegal threats, management was directly involved in the petition
effort. Workers were instructed to come to the office. When they arrived
they were presented with the petition in the presence of management personnel
and asked to sign ...." Nevertheless, the local did schedule a new
in response to a complaint from Fleurimont supporters, RISE was moved
to return to what it had hoped was the scene of eradicated crime. At this
point, the role of RISE in the Teamsters' union is ambiguous. It was initially
retained by General President Hoffa as a kind of research and consultant
group to formulate a union self-reform proposal that would convince the
Department of Justice to end federal monitorship over the union. By now,
however, it has taken on investigative responsibilities that suggest an
enforcement role but do not explicitly declare it.
A RISE representative
did meet several times with the complainants and recorded the story of
their ordeal. He assured them that he would look into the internal union
disputes but that their charges against the company, a collective bargaining
issue, were outside the RISE jurisdiction. It is too early to know whether
the investigation, when completed, will bring relief to the Local 854
activists; but the entry of RISE prompted a new attack on them. At local
meetings, President Gatto announced the RISE investigation; and in a flyer
he denounced "A few of our members who have decided to attack our
local union in what appears to be an effort to destroy what we have built
over the past few years."
In its extensive
report, "The Teamsters: Perception and Reality," RISE cautioned,
"In some cases, despite efforts by government prosecutors and court-appointed
monitors, there are still conditions outside the local that could enable
the return of a racketeering culture. This occurs in locals ... that have
members working in industries that are still influenced or controlled
by organized crime ...." An effective investigation into the complaints
of Local 854 members would have to take that RISE warning into account.
RISE and Teamster reform:
find links to TDU and other Teamster websites on our links page
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