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The Mechanics
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Labor & Worker Rights Tue May 18 2010

Legendary Local Loses Leadership - Teamster 743

In Chicago's labor movement, Local 743 holds a special place. For years, reformers aligned with the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU). In 2007, after a decade of struggling against a corrupt old guard leadership, a reformer slate successfully won election, and began instituting reforms--such as drastically cutting pay for local union officers and staff. Along with Local 705, 743 was held up as a model of what could be done with dedicated organizing--turning around corrupt labor organizations to uphold the ideal of democratic workplaces.

However, the slate's leadership soon met resistance from elements wanting to maintain leadership benefits, culminating in a formal complaint being filed with the Teamsters Joint Council after a procedural oversight by local President Richard Berg. The Joint Council, never friends to the TDU, responded by banning Berg and Vice President Gina Alvarez from the union for 5 years. Berg appealed the decision to the union's international President, James Hoffa, Jr. The decision came down last week: Berg and Alvarez would be removed, but the ban would be reduced to two years.

The news caused some heartache among the city's rank-and-file union activists, who have mounted seriously uphill struggles against some of the most corrupt union leadership in the nation here, and held up the TDU's work in Locals 743 and 705 as models. By most accounts Berg and Alvarez were staying firm to their reform promises of drastically reduced union staff and salaries and professional negotiations built on member democracy.

Still, according to the TDU website, Local 743's members will not be deterred by the setback, and plan to restore progressive, democratic leadership to the local:

Local 743 members are already meeting to launch a reform campaign in this fall's local union election.

"We're going to use our voice and our vote to make sure Local 743 is a union that puts members first," said Jean Moore, a member at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

 
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Facts / May 19, 2010 1:08 PM

The fact remains that Berg and Alverez cannot write checks for 10's of thousands of dollars without the approval of their executive board. Those rules are in place to prevent the corruption they claim to be fighting.

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Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
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