By NANCY CLEELAND, Times Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 13, 1999
A Teamsters local representing more than 1,200 meatpacking workers in eastern Washington state was placed under trusteeship Monday, less than a week after workers at a plant owned by IBP Inc. ended a bitter monthlong strike by narrowly approving a new contract.
Teamsters spokesman Chip Roth said the unusual
move--which substitutes leadership of the local with
a person chosen by the Teamsters--was needed "to protect
the integrity of the union contract with IBP and to ensure that
members' grievances will be effectively addressed." He said
the situation was considered "an emergency," a necessary
condition for changing a local's leadership without a public hearing.
An election for new officers of the local--held every three years--had
been set for November. Now that election could be delayed for
at least 18 months.
The Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a dissident
wing of the labor giant, charged the move was calculated to derail
several strike leaders who had hoped to gain control of the local
in November. The leaders were aligned with the TDU, which had
a full-time organizer at the picket line throughout much of the
strike at the plant in Walulla.
"This is an attack on democracy,"
TDU spokesman Ken Paff said. "These workers didn't get the
support of the international, and now the international is trying
to strip them of their right to a democratic election."
Roth, however, said the trusteeship "has
nothing to do with politics. It would be totally unacceptable
to allow the membership to go three months without adequate contract
Allen Hobart, secretary-treasurer of a Teamsters
local in nearby Yakima, was appointed trustee. He had been called
in to help with negotiations during the strike, after workers
refused to deal with the secretary-treasurer of their own local.
They said the local had not acted on complaints about hazardous
working conditions for years.