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Stop the Railroad of Richard Berg!

by staff |
February 28, 2004
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Chicago, IL - Teamsters reformer Richard Berg is being threatened with expulsion from the union. A rank-and-file activist, Berg has been a housekeeper and a member of Local 743 at the University of Chicago Hospitals (UCH) since 1989. The gangsters running the local are out to get him for the ‘crime’ of fighting for workers.

Berg, President of the New Leadership Slate in Local 743, was set up by an employee who was bought off by management and the corrupt union officials. On Feb. 24, Berg was put through a kangaroo court. The charge against him was racism. The judges - members of the union’s corrupt executive board - refused to allow a petition in support of Brother Berg to be read as evidence. The statement, signed by over 80 of his co-workers, almost all African Americans, states: “Brother Berg has always treated members with the dignity and respect consistent with the IBT Constitution and Local 743 bylaws. We are proud that he is a Local 743 union steward at UCH.”

Berg now awaits the decision of the sell-out officials of the local. He could face stiff fines, removal as a steward and member of the bargaining committee at UCH, and, most important to the corrupt leadership of the local, he could be barred from challenging them for union office. There is talk that they could even kick him out of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Berg was outspoken at the last International Convention. Therefore, current International union president of the Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., is expected to rubber stamp the actions taken by his flunkies.

2001 Stolen Election Leads to Bylaws Fight

The president of the Local, Robert Walston, Jr., placed himself in office by illegal means. Richard Berg ran for president as the head of the New Leadership Slate. Walston used his power of union office to hand pick the election judge. The judge voided hundreds of ballots of Berg’s supporters. In addition, many more ballots disappeared from a post office box - a box for which there was only one key, possessed by another member of Walston’s slate.

Jim Fennerty, lawyer for the New Leadership Slate, stated, “It’s obvious that this is an attack by the Walston gang. They are using their stolen positions to deny the members any voice at all in the union.”

The timing of this action is no coincidence. On March 1, an historic vote is taking place on the bylaws of the local. For the first time since the local union was founded in 1938, a rank-and-file effort to change the bylaws is occurring - called the Dignity and Respect Campaign. The assault on Berg is an attempt to defeat this effort.

The proposed bylaw changes are: 1) That the union will fight for the dignity and respect of all Local 743 members in the face of all exploitation and all oppression – be if from management of any other source. 2) That a copy of the union contract should be made available to all workers. If the majority or a large number of workers speak a language other than English, the contract should be made available in that language as well. 3) That union officials should stop stealing votes. We demand fair elections. When the executive board runs for re-election they should not appoint the person who mails and counts the ballots. It should be someone all candidates respect.

Tony Caldera, another officer of the New Leadership Slate, said, “The crooks that stole the last election have lost all legitimacy among the members. They are resorting to more dirty tricks to shore up their unlawful power.”

Kangaroo Court on Trumped-up Charges

Walston’s executive board moved with deliberate speed to bring Berg up on charges. What were they? Marthea Randolph, an employee in the same department as Richard complained that he was rude to her. She claims that he told her she was ignorant. “I never said it,” stated Brother Berg. “I did tell her she didn’t want to be ignorant of the Dignity and Respect Campaign.”

Randolph has never lifted a finger to join in any of the battles that workers at UCH have fought. Now she has accepted 30 pieces of silver to serve Richard up to management and the union hacks.

Chantell Harlin, another co-worker, stated to the officials at the trial, “Richard Berg is no racist. He’s one of us. He’s always fought all out for everyone, no matter who they are. He’s our friend; we struggle, we party and we live under the same working conditions together.”

According to Tony Caldera, this is happening now because, “Walston can’t stand to hear our voices. He tolerates no dissent. He collaborates with management. We’re exposing him and he wants to silence us.”

The New Leadership Slate is demanding that the charges against Berg be dropped and urges all workers to turn out to the Local meeting on March 1 to vote for the Dignity and Respect Campaign.