[Marxism] Teamster Reformers Win Ballot Status for Sandy Pope

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 4 08:48:28 MDT 2011


Counterpunch July 4, 2011
Teamster Reformers Win Ballot Status for Sandy Pope
Victory in Vegas

By STEVE EARLY

Behind every good man, one finds a good woman, or so we’re told. In this 
year’s contest for the Teamster presidency, that traditional 
gender-based relationship has been reversed—at least in Sandy Pope’s 
campaign. In Las Vegas last Thursday night, it was a small band of good 
men (plus a handful of their union sisters) who rallied successfully 
behind a very unusual woman, one of only sixteen who currently serve as 
Teamster local leaders. As a result of their efforts, Pope—the candidate 
backed by Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU)—made it into the next 
stage of a three-way race that culminates in a referendum vote this Fall.

Nominated along with Pope, president of Local 805 in New York City, was 
fellow opposition candidate Fred Gegare, a Teamster regional leader from 
Wisconsin, who also garnered about 9 per cent of the 1,600 Teamster 
convention delegates. (Five percent was the minimum required for 
nomination.)  Current IBT president James P. Hoffa and his slate, which 
includes UPS contract negotiator Ken Hall for Secretary-Treasurer, 
received 82 per cent of the vote at a meeting completely dominated and 
controlled by the incumbent leadership. Hoffa-Hall supporters worked 
throughout the week to prevent any other candidates from qualifying for 
the ballot.

If the convention voting results seemed lopsided to some observers, they 
didn’t bother John Lattanzio, a mustachioed 57-year old freight handler 
from Spokane, Washington, who helped Pope sign up 50,000 rank-and-file 
supporters last November.  Nor was Lattanzio  rattled by the thunderous 
booing that drowned out Pope and Gegare, along with the delegates who 
nominated them, when Hoffa critics tried to speak briefly last Thursday 
morning. “If you got out of line at these conventions in the past, they 
just knocked you on your ass,” Lattanzio observed. “At least no one is 
getting beat up this year.”

Lattanzio and other TDUers recall that, when Pope ran for 
secretary-treasurer on a reform slated headed by Tom Leedham in 1996, 
she was nominated with just 6 percent of Teamster delegates but then 
received 36 per cent of the membership vote. And two decades ago, the 
most successful TDU-backed candidate ever, Ron Carey, became president 
of the Teamsters after winning 48 per cent of the rank-and-file vote in 
a similar three-way race. Carey’s support, on the convention floor among 
similarly hostile local officials, was only 14 percent in 1991, when top 
Teamster officials fell out among themselves as Hoffa and Gegare have 
done today.

The disconnect between delegate sentiment, heavily pro-Hoffa, and the 
actual grassroots electoral support already demonstrated by Pope (during 
her signature gathering last Fall) was not the only source of cognitive 
dissonance in Las Vegas last week.  Along with thousands of his 
co-workers, Lattanzio recently suffered a 15 per cent pay cut and faces 
the loss of defined benefit pension coverage and other contract 
protections at YRCW, a leading freight company. So he found the 
bombastic rhetoric of Hoffa and his allies to be quite out of touch with 
work place reality in the trucking industry.

”We used to have 2.2 million members,” he says with a mixture of 
wonderment and disgust. “Now we’re down to 1.3 million Teamsters and 
these assholes are bragging about it?”

Lattanzio believes that many local union officials are privately “scared 
to death.”  According to John, “They realize things need to change or 
we’re dead….Even Fred Gegare, who’s on Hoffa’s own executive board, can 
see that the union is not going in the right direction.”

Lattanzio and his fellow delegates from Spokane got to the Teamster 
convention the hard way, because none of them are full-time union 
officials. They ran as rank-and-filers, pledged to Pope, and defeated a 
slate of pro-Hoffa Local 690 officers and executive board members in a 
Teamster affiliate with 3,000 members. Along with another TDU activist, 
Tim Hill, who works as a feeder driver at United Parcel Service in 
Spokane, Lattanzio spent this week handing out Pope flyers, talking to 
other delegates who are working members (a minority of those attending), 
and posting nightly accounts of convention activity on You-Tube, 
Facebook, and the “Local 690/Teamsters United” website. At a Pope for 
President fundraiser last Sunday night, that raised $12,000 in cash and 
pledges, Hill donated a week’s pay--$800--to the campaign, even though 
he has worked only five full weeks so far this year.

A TDU Reunion

Lattanzio first became a union dissident in the 1970s--a 
second-generation member of TDU--after returning from a tour of duty in 
Vietnam and becoming a Teamster like his father. Rocky Lattanzio, who is 
now 80 and disabled, attended the 1976 Teamster convention in Las Vegas 
where soon-to-be TDU co-founder Pete Camarata, was badly beaten by union 
goons for speaking out on the convention floor. Camarata had criticized 
the inflated (and, often, multiple) salaries of top Teamster officials, 
a waste of dues money that continues today. He further enraged the 
officialdom by casting the only delegate vote against Frank Fitzsimmons, 
a member of his own Local 299 in Detroit, who was running for 
re-election as IBT president.

Four decades ago, the IBT had no well-organized reform caucus, 
membership voting on the top leadership, or any type of judicial 
oversight. The union was a cesspool of mob influence, benefit fund 
corruption, various forms of racketeering, and violence against 
dissidents and wildcat strike leaders like Camarata. Among the union 
gangsters at the convention in 1976 were those from Delaware and New 
Jersey who had only recently engineered the killing of James R. Hoffa, 
the convicted felon and former IBT president who sired the current one. 
(The body of the senior Hoffa, lauded by his son on Monday, as “the 
greatest Teamster ever,” has never been found.)

Now retired from the Teamsters, after a long career as a rank-and-file 
activist, Camarata talked about his encounter with John Lattanzio’s 
father, over dinner last week in Las Vegas. “It took a lot of nerve for 
Rocky to come up and say he was with us. I had no friends at all at that 
convention,” Camarata recalled. Further impressed by Pete, after reading 
a pro-TDU article in Readers Digest, the Lattanzios invited Camarata to 
speak in Spokane in 1978. Following a script that hasn’t varied in four 
decades, Teamster officials quickly began red-baiting their visitor and 
his local hosts. Members were warned that a notorious TDU radical was 
coming to town--Pete “Commie-rata” from Detroit.

John Lattanzio describes his mother as a woman “not afraid of anything.” 
But, knowing what her husband and son were up against in the Teamsters, 
even she became worried. “What are you involved in?” she asked Rocky. To 
line up a hotel banquet facility for Camarata’s appearance, John 
Lattanzio  emptied his own personal savings account. But the TDU 
fundraiser and recruitment event proved to be a huge success. It helped 
establish the local TDU chapter that, two years later, backed Rocky’s 
run for president of the local in an early reform movement victory.

Now, John Lattanzio is mentoring and supporting a third generation TDUer 
in Locval 690, who reminds him of himself at the same age. Thirty-three 
year old Tim Hill has long side-burns, colorful tattoos on both arms, 
and an affinity for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Hill’s 
Wobbly ties and active grievance filing almost got him fired early in 
his 12-year Teamster career when he was working as a part-time package 
sorter for UPS. The charge was “sabotage” and the supporting “evidence” 
IWW tracts downloaded by a UPS labor relations manager and presented at 
Hill’s own grievance hearing. His discharge was changed to a month-long 
suspension (a result that could have been worse since Hill’s business 
agent sided with the company during the presentation of his case.)

An Opening for Reform?

Lattanzio believes there is a political opening for the reform movement, 
nationally and in Local 690’s own officer elections  next year. “People 
are ready for a change,” he says. “It’s a whole lot different because of 
what’s happening in UPS, grocery, and freight. In 1967, the NMFA 
[National Master Freight Agreement] was so strong, so solid, that 
everyone got to live a normal home life and we had decent working 
conditions.” Now, at Lattanzio’s freight company, “they’re able to work 
us 11 or 12 hours a day continuously,” with variable start times, and a 
back-logged grievance procedure that does little to curb contracting-out 
and other contract violations.

Both John and Tim are, nevertheless, encouraged by the national 
publicity their photogenic and articulate candidate for president has 
been getting in the New York Times, on CNN, and CBS. Fifteen years 
younger than Hoffa, Pope has 33-years of Teamster work to draw upon in 
the grueling four months of campaigning that lies ahead. An experienced 
local officer with a track record of accomplishment, she ended up 
winning the votes of convention delegates who didn’t dare support her 
publicly.

As Camarata, Lattanzio, Hill, and I were wrapping up our dinner 
discussion last Wednesday night, a hulking Teamster delegate, with a 
jar-head haircut, got up from a nearby table and approached ours.  A 
prison guard back home, he wanted to wish the two Local 690 delegates 
well. Both he and his heavily muscled companion were visibly troubled by 
the convention chairing tactics and booing of delegates that made it 
impossible for Pope supporters to be heard, on any issue.  “We’re 
Hoffa-Hall,” he said, with an embarrassed shrug. “But we don’t agree 
with what’s been going on. This is America and people have a right to 
disagree.”

Last Friday morning, John Lattanzio—one of those Teamster known to 
disagree --joined Sandy Pope on the stage when she made her acceptance 
speech. By that point in the proceedings, no amount of orchestrated 
booing could drown out the reality that 1.3 million Teamsters will have 
the final say about who their next president will be.

Steve Early is a labor journalist, lawyer, and former national union 
representative for the Communications Workers of America, based in 
Boston. For more on SEIU’s  call center servicing experiment, see 
Early’s latest book,  The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor, available at 
www.civilwarsinlabor.org. He can be reached at Lsupport at aol.com.




More information about the Marxism mailing list