Office of the Election Supervisor for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters

IN RE: STEFAN OSTRACH,
Protest Decision 2000 EAD 57
Issued: December 6, 2000
OEA Case No. PR110601WE

See also Election Appeals Master decision 01 EAM 15 (KC)

Stefan Ostrach, a member of Local 206, filed a pre-election protest pursuant to Article XIII, Section 2(b) of the Rules for the 2000-2001 IBT International Union Delegate and Officer Election ("Rules")against Rome Aloise, secretary-treasurer of Local 853 and an International Union representative. The protester alleges that on November 1, 2000, at a meeting of various IBT local union officials called to discuss support for Local 439's strike against Summit Logistics ("SL"), Aloise threatened retaliation against Local 439 and its members because of Local 439 secretary-treasurer Howard Rempfer's candidacy for International office on the Tom Leedham slate.

Election Administrator representative Michael Four investigated the protest.

Findings of Fact

On November 1, 2000, officials of various IBT locals in California met to discuss the ongoing strike by Local 439's membership against SL. The attendees included Aloise, Rempfer, Chuck Mack (secretary-treasurer of Local 70, president of Joint Council 7, and a vice-president of the IBT), Joe Fahey (secretary-treasurer of Local 912), Mike Johnston (secretary-treasurer of Local 880), and a number of other individuals from these and other local unions.[1]  Mack called the meeting in order to solicit support for Local 439's ongoing strike against SL. Local 439 has approximately 5000 members. Of these, 1600 are employed by SL. The SL strike has now been settled.

Rempfer, Local 439's principal officer, was elected for the first time in January 2000. According to Mack and Aloise, there had been much opposition to Rempfer's strategic decision to strike SL.

The November 1 meeting occurred at Mack's Local 70. Mack began by stating that it was his responsibility to try to solicit as much support as possible for the SL strike. Mack spoke briefly as the meeting started, and then introduced Rempfer, who spoke about Local 439's need for support from other area IBT locals. Following Rempfer's comments, Aloise asked a few general questions about the strike. Then, Aloise asked Rempfer if he was still running on Leedham's slate. According to Aloise, who admitted asking this question, he thought it was foolish for Rempfer to be running a national campaign while at the same time trying to manage and win a significant strike such as that at SL.

Aloise made other comments to Rempfer about IBT politics. Thus, Aloise admits that he told Rempfer that he was "out there campaigning against Hoffa and yet you want Mack who you are running against to help you." (Mack is a candidate for election on the Hoffa slate.) Aloise also said "we are here for Chuck Mack not for Howard." (Aloise explains these comments by claiming that he wanted to ensure that Mack -- rather than Rempfer - received credit for the SL strike.)[2]

Other comments attributed by Rempfer to Aloise are denied by him. Thus, Rempfer told our investigator that Aloise told the assembled local union leadership at the meeting "we should not be helping him, because he is running on the Tom Leedham slate." We find, notwithstanding Aloise's denial, that he made this statement, and in so finding, we have relied on the testimony of Local 880's Johnston, who, as supporter of the present Hoffa slate had no political motivation to support or corroborate Rempfer. Consistent with Rempfer, Johnston told our investigator that Aloise said words to the effect that "you're not doing my members or your members any good by doing that [running for office]" and "I don't care if you resign, go back to work for Safeway or come off the Leedham slate, but as long as you are on Leedham's slate, I'm not going to support you."[3]

Mack offered testimony concerning the background of Aloise's views towards Rempfer. Mack stated that Aloise, and a number of local union leaders, believe that Rempfer is a weak leader and has embarked on a bad strategy at SL that could hurt other area IBT locals. Mack acknowledged that Aloise criticized Rempfer at the November 1 meeting for his involvement in the International Union elections, and further acknowledged that Aloise stated that it was stupid for Rempfer to be involved in those elections during a major strike by his local. Mack agreed that Aloise asked Rempfer if he was still running as a candidate on Leedham's slate, and that (after Rempfer acknowledged this candidacy) Aloise said the only reason that anyone was attending the meeting was out of respect for Mack. According to Mack, after making these comments, Aloise said he could not support Rempfer and walked out of the room. Mack told our investigator that he felt Aloise's comments were ill-advised, ill-timed, embarrassing to him personally, divisive, and contrary to the goal of rallying support for the SL strike. Mack, however, stated that he did not feel Aloise's statements were intended as a threat of retaliation for Rempfer's association with the Leedham slate. As has Aloise, Mack characterized the comments as an attack on Rempfer's leadership and strike strategy.[4]

After the November 1, 2000 meeting, Local 439 received strike support from a number of area IBT locals including - according to Aloise, Rempfer, Mack and Johnston - Aloise's Local 853. Johnston noted that Local 853 was in fact more supportive of the SL strike following the November 1, 2000 meeting than a number of other locals.

Aloise asserts that his local's assistance to Local 439 shows that no one at the November 1, 2000 meeting took Aloise's comments as anything more that frustration with Rempfer personally and a criticism of his strategy and leadership style. The protestor and Rempfer, on the other hand, assert that Aloise's comments have the effect of chilling support for Leedham slate candidates, by sending the message to IBT members in California that support for Tom Leedham and his allies is viewed with hostility by union leadership and may result in loss of union support for collective bargaining goals and collective actions such as strikes.

Analysis

Article VII, Section 11(g) of the Rules states that "[r]etaliation or threat of retaliation by the International Union, any subordinate body, any member of the IBT, any employer or other person or entity against a Union member, officer or employee for exercising any right guaranteed by this or any other Article of the Rules is prohibited." This provision gave Rempfer the right to support the Leedham slate and participate with it in its electoral campaign, free from any threat of retaliation against him or his local union constituents. Hoffa, P812 (August 16, 1996).

Here, we find that Aloise's statements at the meeting of November 1, 2000, constituted a threat of actual harm and thus violated Article VII, Section 11(g). As we have found above, Aloise told Rempfer in front of a number of California local union officials that "I don't care if you resign, go back to work for Safeway or come off the Leedham slate, but as long as you are on Leedham's slate, I'm not going to support you." Aloise's statement, even if motivated by his personal dislike of Rempfer or his belief that Rempfer was a poor union leader, clearly conveyed the message that Rempfer's support for Leedham would result in a loss of support for Local 439 in a difficult strike against a major employer. The threat of such a loss of strike solidarity, even if not carried out, can by itself deal a serious blow to the collective strike effort of a local union's membership. The mere making of such a threat clearly rises to the level of a "palpable threat of actual harm."

Nor can there be any doubt that Aloise's statement was a threat of retaliation for protected electoral activity, in this case Rempfer's participation in the Leedham electoral efforts. Moreover, Aloise's statements are only made more coercive by his walkout from the meeting, along with a number of other local union leaders.[5]  Aloise's disrespect for Rempfer's leadership abilities and his strike strategy, while providing a context for Aloise's statements, do not excuse his threat of retaliation for Rempfer's protected electoral activity.

For the foregoing reasons, the protest is GRANTED.

Remedy

When the Rules have been violated, the Election Administrator "may take whatever remedial action is appropriate." Article XIII, Section 4. In fashioning the appropriate remedy, the Election Administrator considers the nature and seriousness of the violation, as well as its potential for interfering with the election process.

In weighing the appropriate remedy here, we have weighed the fact that the SL strike has ended and that Aloise's local union did not subsequently withhold support from that strike. These factors negate the need for what might otherwise be an appropriate remedy here, viz, an order barring any withholding of strike support from Local 439. However, since Aloise's statements at the November 1 meeting were made in the presence of a number of other local union representatives, and since our investigation has established that Aloise's statements have become well known in a number of California locals, we have determined that any remedy here must address the potential chilling effect on support for the Leedham slate that has resulted from Aloise's misconduct.

Based on the foregoing, the Election Administrator orders Aloise to cease and desist from threatening retaliation against any IBT member for supporting the Leedham slate, and further orders Aloise to sign and cause the attached notice to be published in the next issue of Joint Council 7's newspaper. Within two (2) days of such publication, Aloise shall file an affidavit with the Election Administrator attesting that such publication has been accomplished.

An order of the Election Administrator, unless otherwise stayed, takes immediate effect against a party found to be in violation of the Rules. Lopez, 96 EAM 73 (February 13, 1996).

Any interested party not satisfied with this determination may request a hearing before the Election Appeals Master within two (2) working days of receipt of this decision. The parties are reminded that, absent extraordinary circumstances, no party may rely in any such appeal upon evidence that was not presented to the Office of the Election Administrator. Requests for a hearing shall be made in writing, shall specify the basis for the appeal, and shall be served upon:

Kenneth Conboy

Election Appeals Master

Latham & Watkins

Suite 1000

885 Third Avenue

New York, New York 10022

Fax: 212-751-4864

Copies of the request for hearing must be served upon all other parties, as well as upon the Election Administrator for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, c/o International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 25 Louisiana Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20005, all within the time period prescribed above. A copy of the protest must accompany the request for hearing.

 

William A. Wertheimer, Jr.

William A. Wertheimer, Jr.

Election Administrator

cc: Kenneth Conboy

Chris Mrak

Michael Four

2000 EAD 57

 

NOTICE TO TEAMSTER MEMBERS

The Rules for the 2000-2001 IBT International Union Delegate and Officer Election ("Rules") protect the right of all IBT members to run for delegate, alternate delegate and International office and to support candidates of their own choosing for those offices. The Rules further prohibit any retaliation or threat of retaliation against any IBT member for engaging in such protected conduct.

The Election Administrator will not permit any such improper retaliation or threat of retaliation.

The Election Administrator has concluded that Rome Aloise, secretary-treasurer of IBT Local 853 and an IBT International representative, has violated the above-referenced prohibition against threats of retaliation by threatening to withhold support for a now-concluded strike by 1600 members of IBT Local 439 against Summit Logistics because the secretary-treasurer of Local 439 is a supporter of the Tom Leedham slate. The Election Administrator has ordered Aloise to cease and desist from such conduct and to sign and cause publication of this Notice in the newspaper of Joint Council 7.

Any protest you have regarding your rights under the Rules or any conduct by any person or entity which violates the Rules should be filed with William A. Wertheimer, Jr., Office of the Election Administrator, 727 15th Street, NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20005, telephone 800-565-VOTE, telecopier 202-454-1501.

 

____________________

Rome Aloise

International Representative and

Secretary-Treasurer of IBT Local 853

 

This is an official notice prepared and approved by William A. Wertheimer, Jr., Election Administrator for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

 

DISTRIBUTION LIST VIA UPS NEXT DAY AIR:

 

Patrick Szymanski

IBT General Counsel

25 Louisiana Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20001

 

Bradley T. Raymond

Finkel, Whitefield, Selik,

Raymond, Ferrara & Feldman

32300 Northwestern Highway

Suite 200

Farmington Hills, MI 48334

 

J. Douglas Korney

Korney & Heldt

30700 Telegraph Road

Suite 1551

Bingham Farms, MI 48025

 

Barbara Harvey

645 Griswold

Penobscot Building

Suite 1800

Detroit, MI 48226

 

Tom Leedham c/o Stefan Ostrach

110 Mayfair Lane

Eugene, OR 97404

 

Betty Grdina

Yablonski, Both & Edelman

Suite 800

1140 Connecticut Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20036

 

Teamsters Local 439

1531 E. Fremont Street

Stockton, CA 95205

 

Rome A. Aloise

Teamsters Local 853

2100 Merced Street

Suite B

San Leandro, CA 94577

 

IBT Joint Council 7

250 Executive Park Blvd.

Suite 3100

San Francisco, CA 94134

[1]    According to Rempfer, representatives of approximately fifteen (15) IBT local unions attended the November 1, 2000 meeting.  Most of these locals are affiliated with Joint Council 7, although a few are affiliated with Joint Council 38.

[2]    Aloise also defends his statements by noting that Rempfer was in office only three months when he embarked on a campaign for International office, without taking the effect on his membership into account.  Further, Aloise told our investigator that he was angry because he thought that Rempfer was politicizing the strike and using it as a basis for criticism of the current International administration.  Aloise told our investigator that he had to be able to justify support for the SL strike to his own members and that it would be difficult given Rempfer's conduct and poor leadership.

[3]    Local 912 president Fahey, a Leedham supporter, also corroborated the testimony of Rempfer and Johnston that Aloise asked Rempfer if he was a Leedham supporter and on his slate, and that in response to Rempfer's affirmation Aloise said he would not support Rempfer or his local's strike.  Fahey understood Aloise's comments as meaning that there would be no solidarity with Rempfer's local and its strike as long as Rempfer supported Leedham.  We credit Fahey because of the specificity of his recollection and its consistency with the testimony of Rempfer and Johnston.

[4]    Although Mack's statement to our investigator emphasized a non-political motivation by Aloise for his statements to and about Rempfer and his support for Leedham, they do not provide a basis for rejecting Rempfer's claim, corroborated by Johnston and Fahey, that Aloise told the assembled local union leadership that Rempfer and his local union's strike should not be supported because of Rempfer's support of Leedham.

[5]    The failure of any of the leaders present to disavow Aloise's threat also made that threat more coercive.