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Teamsters 743 Officers Sell Out Again

by staff |
July 1, 2004
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People holding signs demanding fair elections
Rank-and-file Teamsters slam sell-out leaders of Local 743. (Fight Back! News)

Chicago, IL - When 50 angry Teamsters confronted their union president, Robert Walston, he arrogantly demanded to know who they were. “I’ve been paying dues to you for 15 years, and you don’t know who I am?” replied Manuel Rico. Rather than learning who Rico was, Walston turned his back on the group and walked away.

The workers came from the Frederick Cooper factory on Chicago’s North Side. Their company had just told them their workweek was being reduced from 40 hours a week to 32 hours. They went to the offices of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 743, because the union representative, Jimmy ‘Shorty’ Burnes, had told them they couldn’t fight this attack.

The workers’ union steward, Tony Caldera, told them otherwise. “I read the contract. Under the section called ‘Workweek,’ it says, ‘The regular workweek shall consist of forty (40) hours...’ They can’t change our workweek without negotiating.”

“We had already prepared a grievance against the company, but Burnes refused to accept it,” related Caldera. “I knew right away that the union hacks had already made a deal behind our backs. We had to let them know we wouldn’t stand for it.”

Rank and File Leadership Shows the Way

Friday, May 28, was the first day that the new 32-hour schedule left them with no work. Caldera urged his co-workers to show up for work that morning anyway. “We went from the factory to the offices of the local. We told Walston that he violated the contract without coming to us.”

Ruben Martinez, one of the other workers, said to Burnes, “You sold us out for four lamps.” The Frederick Cooper factory makes lamps, and the workers have seen management give the union bureaucrats gifts of lamps on many occasions over the years. Martinez and Ruben Quintero had helped Burnes put four lamps in his trunk in November 2003.

When Walston stonewalled them, the Frederick Cooper workers left the offices to make plans for their next step. “If the union won’t process that grievance, we’ll file it again,” said Caldera. “If they refuse again, we’ll take them to the Labor Board for failure to represent us.”

The workers want back pay for all hours lost. They want the 40-hour week reinstated. And they want their union officials to start doing their jobs.

The company claims that business is slow. But some work has already been subcontracted. The plant also makes lampshades, and up to 400 shades a week are being made by a non-union company owned by a family member of one of the managers. “They didn’t give us a chance to learn to make the shades,” explained Rico. “They gave us only one week. One woman with 29 years at the plant was fired when the manager wasn’t satisfied with her performance.” When this happened, the union bureaucrats did nothing to fight her firing.

Vote For the New Leadership Slate

Caldera was not surprised by the treachery from the officers of Local 743. He was a candidate for union office in 2001 with the 743 New Leadership Slate. This slate of workers beat the Walston gang in a delegate race for the national convention that spring. In the fall, they won the local officer races, but the crooks stole the election.

Since that day, Caldera has continued to fight the gangsters that run the union. And this fall, he will stand again as a candidate for local office with the New Leadership Slate.

Caldera put it directly. “We have to demand that Walston and Burnes do their jobs. But we know that we won’t get decent representation until those guys are gone.”

Caldera is running again with Local 743 presidential candidate Richard Berg. The New Leadership Slate has doubled their efforts for the election this fall. Nominations happen on Sept. 1 and they are ready for a fierce campaign. Caldera summed up the situation this way: “Walston has no support among the members. If we can get a fair election, we’ll win.”