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Accusations of misconduct plague Teamsters Local 631


Trusteeship may be imposed upon Las Vegas-based Local 631.

The Las Vegas-based chapter of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), Local 631, is currently under an internal investigation for allegations of misconduct. Charges are ranging from the misappropriation of funds to failure to control jurisdiction.

Complaints have long plagued the union and have finally surface in the form of a potential trusteeship, according to a document signed by the General President James Hoffa on November 9th.

“Based upon credible information regarding the local administration of Local 631, I have determined that it is necessary for me to invoke my authority under Article VI, Section 5 of the International Constitution and to appoint a panel to consider whether a trusteeship should be imposed upon the Local Union,” wrote Hoffa in the document which was addressed to union officers and members.

According to the document, charges against President Kevin Hardison so enraged Executive Board members they attempted to oust him without due process, which is when the International Brotherhood chose to step in.

He and Secretary/Treasurer John Phillipenas have also filed dueling charges against each other according to the IBT document.
In the conglomeration of accusations received by Hoffa, members contended things such as threatened employment due to political activity, meaning the loss of union referrals due to non-support for the Phillipenas slate, as well as the failure of the Local to police its craft, allowing the use of non-union workers when union members were available to work.

This is the second time since 2000 the International has called for a possible trusteeship. With more than 6,000 members, the complaints continue to pile up, and promise to be voiced at the upcoming hearing to be held at Teamsters Local 14 scheduled for December.

Other allegations include members being qualified as journeymen without having been through the apprenticeship program, misuse of union credit cards and vehicles for personal business and that the union based its decisions on whether to process grievances on the member’s political affiliation.

All of this comes after the Las Vegas administration, which was elected on the premise that they would deal with the prior abuses of authority and misconduct, has been in office for only two years. These accusations come at a time when a new labor contract is about to be negotiated, and they continue to be a hot topic for union members.

Where has the “team” in Teamster gone?
Since the 1970s the convention industry has seen a multitude of changes concerning the Teamster laborer’s job and working conditions. Though safety conditions have continually improved with combined efforts of the union, OSHA and general contractors, labor contracts are a continuing source of aggravation for the worker because of increasing favor of the employer over the employee.

The labor contracts are in place to protect the jobs of the members, and in addition to the worker’s pecking order not being enforced, various liberties have been given in the last contract at the journeyman’s expense.

For example, the Collective Bargaining Agreement with Freeman dated June, 2007 to May, 2011 clearly states in article four, section F, number one: “The employer has the right, on an unlimited basis, to directly call journeyman workers, skilled or unskilled extra board workers without regard to position on their respective out of work list.”

This gives the employer the opportunity to pick and choose at will, by-passing employees who are qualified to do the work. Combined with the “roll over” option, which is given in the same section and allows employers to keep the same employees from show to show without giving them “regular status,” this has left many workers without rightful employment regardless of their place in line for the job.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement with Global Exposition Specialists (GES) states in article seven, section C that “the employer must have one apprentice for every nine journeymen and that those apprentices will be dispatched only after the union hiring hall has no available journeyman.”

A 30-plus-year union member and working foreman with experience in all aspects of production who wishes to remain anonymous had this to say about the effects on show floor workers, “We have steadily lost work and benefits,” said the member. “We have put our lives on the line to create a better work place, and now apprentices who are not members and do not pay dues for two years are taking work from those who have built this industry.”

In the past, the Teamsters union controlled almost every faction of work on the show floor from building the exhibits to controlling the freight, even filling publications bins. Everything on the show floor was a job for the union member and for the union to control.

The continual and accumulated loss of many of these jobs have introduced the membership to lean times, after having worked tirelessly to obtain solid control over job parameters.

“We did it all in the beginning, laid and cut in all the special cut carpet, we did the vacuuming and even picked up trash,” said the member. “Teamsters ran the labor trailers, calling the workers, assigning the work and checking in and out. We worked long hours in unsafe conditions, but we endured and we made progress.”

The poor economy and loss of conventions have also greatly affected the industry. Couple this with the loss of dental, vision and some medical coverage in September of 2010, as well as the increased labor hours needed to obtain coverage, and many in the membership are facing tough times.

Members are openly invited to address any comments to the panel at the hearing to be conducted on December 13 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and December 14 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.at Local 14, 1250 South Burnham Avenue, on the second floor.

Members unable to attend are also invited to submit issues in written form to the International Union. Upon completion of the hearing panel members will make a recommendation regarding trusteeship according to the IBT document.

An elected union official whose duty is to monitor the finances of a local union, joint council, conference, or international union. Also, an official appointed by the Independent Review Board or General President of the International Union to manage a local union in trusteeship.

Trusteeship: The assumption of control over a local union by an international union, or by the federal government under the RICO Act. Provided for by the Constitutions of most international unions, trusteeships suspend the normal governmental process of a local union and take over management of the local’s assets and the administration of its internal affairs. Article VI, Sec 5 of the Teamsters Constitution empowers the General President to appoint trustees to take charge of local unions or other subordinate bodies. The Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959 established controls over the establishment and administration of trusteeships.



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