Showdown in Teamsters Local 952

September 30, 2010

Edgar Esquivel, a member of a local Teamster union reform movement in an important Southern California local, explains what's at stake in upcoming elections.

AS TEAMSTER local unions from all over the International prepare to host elections this fall, the credibility of many leaders tied to the union old guard are being questioned.

Teamsters Local 952 in Orange County, Calif., is no exception. On October 5, Local 952 rank-and-file members will finally have the opportunity to decide if they want to put an end to the reactionary policies of Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Kelly and President Bob Hahn. Bidding to replace them is the Reform 952 Slate, a grassroots movement that was born at the UPS hub in Aliso Viejo last January after it became apparent that the status quo in Local 952--linked to Teamster President James Hoffa's old guard--was no longer working.

After Hoffa took over the reigns of the IBT in 1998, Local 952 leaders Kelly and Hahn quickly embraced him as their undisputable leader. Since then, the Hoffa regime has allowed UPS, YRC and ABF to violate Teamster contracts across the U.S. At UPS Freight, formerly Overnite, workers were unionized in 2007 with the promise that they would become part of the Teamsters pension funds, while making wages at or near traditional UPS freight drivers. That hasn't happened.

Teamsters Local 952 members on strike in 2007
Teamsters Local 952 members on strike in 2007

While Teamsters linked to national master agreements are all suffering, at the local level, the situation has never been worse. At Local 952, Kelly and Hahn have not only failed to enforce the contract at UPS, but have agreed with the package handling giant that the economy is bad enough to justify the elimination of full-time jobs created under the previous two contracts--in spite record profits.

Local 952 UPS workers are halfway through the 2007 concessionary deal that Hahn helped draft, and have yet to see one full-time job created from the 20,000 jobs that UPS is required to create under article 22.3 of the contract.

At the last Local 952 general membership meeting in June, a group of reformers spoke out against the local's failure to enforce the contract at UPS. Hahn, to protect himself, responded that the problems at UPS were the fault of the International, and used director of the union's package division, Ken Hall, as his scapegoat.

Hall has since has become Hoffa's reelection running mate--but only after General Secretary-Treasurer Tom Keegel announced his resignation. In his resignation letter, Keegel said that "continuing down the same road as the IBT has traveled for the last few years will not lead us out of our present difficulties, or help us avoid the problems yet to come."

At YRC, the international proposed concessions that cut wages by 15 percent and suspension of payments for pensions for 18 months. Not surprisingly, Kelly and Hahn refused to speak out against the concessions--rather, they campaigned in favor of them. Currently, negotiations for further concessions at YRC are underway, giving members reason to believe that Local 952 will embrace them. At ABF, workers voted to reject a similar proposal.

At Coca-Cola, Local 952 officers sold the members a raw deal that will see their health care costs rise over 150 percent by the end of their contract and allow a nonunion subcontractor to do Teamster work. In August, Coca-Cola workers at six Teamsters locals in Washington state turned down a similar offer from the company and went on strike. At CVS and Straub Distributing Co., health care benefits that had been covered in full by the employers were also lost.

At the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), members saw losses in health-care and floating holiday pay, and had their wages frozen for the next three years. A new deal drafted by Kelly will also allow the company to subcontract 30 percent of its work at less than half the pay that current motor coach operators make.

At Pepsi-Cola, members have been working without a contract since April. The local won't disclose information about the negotiations to its members until after the union election in an attempt to avoid further anger and dissent from workers.

Since Hoffa came to power, well over 100 Teamster officials have become part of the $150,000-plus a year "club." And while Local 952 members get drilled by unjustifiable concessions, both Kelly and Hahn have accepted their induction into this prestigious club.

Worse yet, on top of Kelly's $181,292 salary in 2009 from the local, he also received an $18,000 stipend from the international. After the forced resignation of Kelly's colleague and close friend Jim Santangelo as head of Joint Council 42 and Local 848 in connection with a sexual harassment scandal, Kelly was appointed trustee by his friends at the joint council, giving him a third salary. These three salaries put Kelly well above the $200,000 a year mark and still do not include his three pensions or vehicle expenditures.

CURRENTLY, THE Kelly-Hahn regime is distributing leaflets accusing Reform 952 of not having union, financial or administrative experience.

The reality is that they've forgotten where they came from. Kelly, a onetime truck driver in the freight industry, now apparently feels as if he is a politician--a traditional and reactionary one who has failed to work in favor of Local 952 members by giving away members' hard-earned money to local politicians who have yet to return any favor.

In reality, the current executive board of the local has failed to do its job for quite some time. It has overspent the members' money and put the local's budget in negative territory. Kelly and Hahn are now exhausting the local's financial reserves do to their fiscal malpractices, irresponsibility and incompetence. It is they who put the local $198,000 in the red during fiscal year 2009 on excessive salaries, lavish spending and a drastic loss of union paying members due to lay-offs and dues dissenters.

It is speculated that the membership of Local 952, once near the 11,000 mark, is now under 9,000. Ironically, the Kelly-Hahn regime has accused Reform 952 of having no financial experience, when it is them who have put the local in financial crisis.

Kelly and Hahn have also insisted that the Reform 952 Slate has no administrative experience. To clarify their false accusations, Reform 952 has responded that their candidate for Secretary-Treasurer, Charles Johnson, has years of experience working with financial records and as an administrator to go along with his BS degree in business management.

The Reform 952 candidate for Secretary-Treasurer not only has the experience to take on the task that comes with being a principle officer, but the track record and education to prove it.

Reform 952 will, in fact, if elected change the traditional and failed policies of the Kelly-Hahn regime to better represent the members. First and foremost, all shop stewards will be democratically elected by the rank-and-file, and no longer be appointed by the principal officer.

If Reform 952 wins this election, business agents will also be held accountable for their behavior, commitment and relationship with the members. The days of favoritism and nepotism will come to end. Reform 952 will also make drastic cuts to excessive salaries and unnecessary spending in an effort to effectively manage the budget and maintain a greatly needed positive net flow.

Last but not least, Reform 952 will end the information blackout and put members first by returning their local to them.

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