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Rank and File Teamsters Take Power in Chicago

by staff |
April 2, 2001
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Richard Berg (right),  Tom Leedham
Richard Berg (right), delegate to the IBT convention is shown here with the Rank and File Power Slate presidential contender, Tom Leedham (left). (Fight Back! News)

Chicago, IL - In a stunning upset, members of Teamsters Local 743 voted to send a rank and file slate of delegates to their convention; rejecting the slate dominated by officers, staff and stooges for International President Jimmy Hoffa Jr. The Teamsters International Convention sets policy for the union, and nominates candidates for International Union President and the Executive Board. Conventions are held only once every 5 years.

The Chicago Teamsters called themselves the 743 New Leadership Slate and ran against the sell-out leadership that called itself the Hoffa Take Back slate.

The current pro-Hoffa Local 743 executive board has gained a reputation for making deals with management, gutting union contracts, paying themselves big salaries with members' dues money and being buddies to current Teamsters International President Jimmy Hoffa Jr. Hoffa Jr. has done nothing for Local 743 members.

Bitter discontent among members has been growing for years, especially among Latino and African American members, who are the vast majority of the Local's membership. Members who don't speak English have been ignored and abused by both the employers and the union. In many shops, the only union presence has been the dues deducted from workers' paychecks. The need for a real union that fights for its members has been growing and is what propelled the New Leadership Slate to victory.

"We formed the New Leadership Slate because we knew only the members could turn this union around," said University of Chicago Hospitals (U.C.H.) union steward Richard Berg, "and now we've proven that members can challenge the people in power and win." Berg is one of the newly elected delegates.

U.C.H. tried to terminate Berg on bogus charges in the middle of the campaign. Immediate protests by fellow Teamsters got Berg his job back. It also made it clear to everyone that management and the corrupt union forces were working together.

The 743 New Leadership Slate delegation has 11 of the Local's 20 delegates and 13 of the 20 alternates. The delegation plans to go to the Teamsters convention and fight for the right of every member to elect their own union stewards, to allow all members to see accurate contract changes in writing before voting on them, and to limit the salaries of union officials. Local 743 President Chester Glanton pays himself $190,000 a year from members' dues money.

This fall, members of Local 743 will be voting again. There will be two important elections. They will be voting for who will control their Local Union and on who will control their International Union.

The 743 New Leadership Slate will be supporting the Tom Leedham Rank and File Power slate at the convention and again in the fall elections.

The Local 743 officers' election has the Labor movement in Chicago stirring. In Local 743, union members have shown they are capable of challenging these old-guard Teamsters. Rank and File control of this important 14,000 member local would be a victory for all workers.