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VIEWS AND VOICES
Teamster reformer Mark Serafinn is under attack
Fight for honest unions

June 10, 2005 | Page 4

MARK SERAFINN is the former president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 722 in LaSalle, Ill., and a longtime reformer in the union. He wrote this appeal for support and funds to Socialist Worker readers. Contributions can be sent to: Mark Serafinn Legal Defense Fund, P.O. Box 105, Saunemin, IL 61769.

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I AM writing this to you because I need your help. I am involved in a very important federal court case against corrupt elements of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union.

The corrupt Teamster officials in this case are Keith Gleason (president of Joint Council 65 and IBT Tank Haul Division director); most, but not all, of the Joint Council 65 officers; Bill Monroe (IBT representative sent to Local 722 by Teamster President James Hoffa);and Steve Mongan (president of Local 722).

The case is a legal battle to settle the issue of big business unionism using its wealth and clout to crush union reform, free speech and accountability. I am a union reformer being attacked personally. I have been blacklisted and denied any Teamster work, my pension is in jeopardy, and I have lost medical insurance for my family.

Instead of facing me before a federal judge and jury to settle the issue, these IBT officials have tried a variety of legal maneuvers to drive up my legal costs and kill the case.

The history of this case is very simple. I took advantage of a training opportunity at a company called Venture. Venture's policy is to train as many people as possible to have a pool of available trades people. The training was for a work opportunity starting two weeks after the training class. Three other 722 Teamsters were also supposed to be at the training, but failed to show up. Two of these three Teamsters would have had actual job preference after successfully completing training.

On the first day of training, I contacted the hall to inform them that the Teamsters who were supposed to be there had not showed up, and the company called for them. After the first day, I drove to the Local 722 office and told them in person that they were short Teamsters for Venture.

Later in the week of training, the missing Teamsters still had not shown up, so I contacted the hall again. Venture also contacted the hall during the week, asking 722 to fill the positions available and informing 722 that the job available after training had moved up one week. I did the same, but still no response from 722,

In the past, if Teamsters were not available, Venture would award these positions to the Laborers Union to fill. The Laborers had a very large pool of trained people and would gladly take Teamster work.

On the last day of training, I contacted the hall again and told them I would protect our work and be at the job site on time--and to please get the Teamsters who were supposed to be there to the site.

Just prior to the start time of the actual job, I talked to the assigned Teamster steward at the gate and informed him of the problem of the missing Teamsters. He said that he was aware of the problem and had also contacted the hall at the request of the company to resolve the problem

Because there was no guidance from the hall at that time, it was decided that I would enter the gate at the work site to protect Teamster jobs, and that the hall could resolve the issue as they saw fit--by either replacing me or not.

Later, Local 722 President Steve Mongan and IBT Representative Bill Moore filed internal union charges against me and had a member in good standing sign them. The charge against me was for taking Teamster work from a member by self-referral.

During discovery, it was disclosed that one of the Teamster members who was supposed to be at the first day of training was sitting with Mongan at the hall at the time of my first call informing them that they were short of Teamsters at the training. Mongan knew that I would honor my commitments to the Teamsters and protect Teamster work as well as I could--and he used this to file internal union charges against me.

We are in the discovery stage of the court case, and the facts coming out of the depositions and sworn statements are incredible. Not only were the internal union charges against me false, but they were drafted by Moore and Mongan, to be signed by a member of 722.

The member who signed the charges said under oath at the depositions that he has no idea how he filed charges because on the day in question, he thought he signed a grievance prepared by Mongan--not charges against me.

Keith Gleason, the person who presided over union hearings against me, oversaw physical attacks of 722 reformers back in the 1990s. Gleason admitted under oath and in sworn statements that he openly opposed Teamster reformers because we would destroy his perception of what the Teamsters should be and his cushy lifestyle as one of the good old boys under Hoffa--and stated proudly his $138,800 officer yearly salary plus expenses as an example of his view of what the Teamsters were all about.

Mongan, with the full support of the IBT, shut down union meetings where members tried to express themselves and threatened to beat up members who disagreed with him. Office staff and business agents of Local 722 were threatened with their jobs by Mongan and Bill Moore if they even talked with me or any reformers within 722--and in fact were fired from those positions.

Entire Teamster membership from companies were refused a new contract by Steve Mongan if he thought the majority of those members would oppose him in the next election. No contract--no hostile members. One company had to file a National Labor Relations Board charge against Local 722 to get Mongan to negotiate a contract. That has to be a first!

This is just the tip of the iceberg, The depositions are only half way done. Believe me when I say that this case is for every union member who actually believes in the labor movement, honest unions and the welfare of every working man and woman and their families.

These proceedings are costly and beyond my means. Those of you that know me personally know that I have spent most of my adult life fighting for workers' rights. I find it upsetting and ironic that the biggest fight I am facing is against corrupt elements of the union I love most. I would not be asking if I really did not need your help.

In Solidarity, Mark Serafinn

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