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Teamster Reformers Struggle to Overcome Sabotage by Outgoing Officers

by staff |
March 5, 2008
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Chicago, IL - Five union reformers entered the offices of Teamsters Local 743 Dec. 31 to receive keys to the union hall from their opponents who had lost election in the fall. The old president Richard Lopez knew he was defeated and that he might be going to jail.

Since that day, Richard Berg, the new president of Local 743, and his staff have been working around the clock to repair a broken union.

“They said that there were two break-ins, one a couple of days after we won the election and one right before they had to hand over the keys,” said Richard Berg, the new president. The walk-through that night told a different story: The old guard leaders had done their best to cover up their theft and wrongdoing.

Massive bags of shredded documents were found in the garbage. Most of the computers were gone. Bills were gone. The phone system was sabotaged. Trustee documents for the pension funds were gone, and the list goes on and on.

Members of the local have expressed excitement about the new leaders and the staff. “I was just happy someone returned my call,” said one caller from Bagcraft, a local manufacturer of boxes. Hundreds of other members have joined in this sentiment.

“There were 175 messages on the phone at my new desk, the old desk of Michael Corrigan. They went all the way back to March of 2007. These guys were really vacationing on the members money,” said Tony Caldera, union representative.

“We are committed to turning this local around and making it a fighting union once again,” said Berg, “I put the union on notice that we are going to train and educate workers from bottom to top about effective union leadership and building a fighting movement of workers.”

Berg continued, “We had over 50 people attend our first stewards and activist training with very little notice. Our members are hungry for change.” The road ahead is going to be tough in the down-turned economy and the new leadership is asking all members to step up and play a role in re-building the union.

As staff and members try to unbury themselves from the years of neglect and theft left behind by the old officers - Walston and Lopez and the others - they are realizing a new thing lies underneath: The members have expressed hope and are now getting involved in the affairs of the union like they have not done since 30 years ago.