Association for Union Democracy



Union Democracy Review

January-March 2004



Laborers Local 78: Local wins contract, but insurgents take the election.


It was a routine little squib in the New York Times, just an inch and a half, that you probably missed. But there's an important story hidden here: Local 78 represents over 2,000 hazardous materials removal workers in NYC, most of them immigrants and people of color. It's a dirty and dangerous job. In December, they voted to strike; and the threat alone was enough to win them a good contract: a 32% increase, bringing their wages and benefits to $37.00/hr by the end of the four-year contract. But there's more to the story. The local leadership probably would have done its best, but this time, they felt doubly pressured to produce.


While negotiations with the Environmental Contractors Association were still under way, a spirited election contest was raging in the local. The administration Unity Slate faced a strong challenge from the insurgent United Immigrant Slate, which fielded a 15-person opposition ticket. The original election, in June, was won by the administration, but by a thin margin of less than 100 out of 1,600 votes cast. The conduct of the election was challenged.


LIUNA still functions under a limited federal government oversight. Under this scrutiny, the international appointed an Independent Special Elections Officer, Joseph Guerrieri, authorized to rule on election complaints. He found that the administration had discriminatory use of job sites for electioneering; he ordered a new election.


In the rerun, the insurgent ticket won the election. Ed Severino, its top candidate, was elected business manager by 934 to 842, according to the first unofficial tally.


Summary: Alert members, with their union democracy in action, were rewarded with a fine contract.


Laborers' Luskin now wears another hat


In a related story, Robert Luskin has been a special counsel for the Laborers Union with the general responsibility for enforcing the union's reform commitments under a consent agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Now he has undertaken a somewhat different job of lobbying to get the Teamsters union out from under the supervision of that same Justice Department.


The news comes from Robert Novak who reports the story in the October 26, 2003 issue of the Chicago Sun-Times. Novak writes that the Teamsters union under Hoffa, which has been trying for years to get rid of federal government oversight and to eliminate the Independent Review Board which scrupulously acts against corruption, has hired "the prestigious Washington firm of Patton Boggs to try to end the federal oversight."


Hoffa's hope that President Bush would come to his rescue has faded; RISE is stalled; maybe lobbying will help.


Novak reports that Luskin will handle the Teamsters account for Patton Boggs. From tying to make government monitorship effective to trying to get rid of it. Nice work if you can get it.


(Special thanks to Jim McGough of Chicago Local 2 for bringing this news to our attention).

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