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Chicago Teamsters Elect Reformer

by staff |
October 1, 1999
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Chicago IL - Teamsters working at the Frederick Cooper Lamp Company elected Tony Caldera to be their union steward by a vote of 62 to 30. This is a significant victory for the reform movement in Teamsters Local 743.

The corrupt Teamster bosses who run the local had rigged the previous election so Caldera would lose. It turns out more ballots were cast in that election than there were Teamsters working in the Chicago lamp company.

Following this corrupt election, the union misleaders had a loyal steward and the company had someone who would not give them too much trouble. The union business agent, Richard Lopez, was almost never seen. When he did come to the company, he would dodge the workers and go into the president's office for a private meeting.

Recently, when there was a steward vacancy, Lopez tried to appoint one of his followers rather than hold an election. Following Lopez's example, his steward would spend her free time drinking coffee with the boss and ignoring the needs of rank and file workers.

After several weeks of this the workers had enough. They started organizing meetings at the nearby home of a worker, they talked about their problems and the upcoming union contract negotiations. They decided to pressure Richard Lopez to hold a steward election, to make sure it was fair, and to elect Tony Caldera.

Tony had a history of standing up to the boss as well as to the corrupt union leaders. He had run for Vice President of the local on the reform 743 New Leadership Slate. As an immigrant from Mexico, he had a reputation throughout Local 743 as someone who fought for the rights of all workers no matter where they were born.

The workers' faith in Caldera seems well placed. After his election victory he said, "I drink coffee with the workers, not the boss. When the workers are united they can protect their rights and negotiate better contracts. That is what we will do here."