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Office of the Election Supervisor for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters


for the



IN RE: DEREK CORREIA,                       )           Protest Decision 2020 ESD 35

NORMAN SAUCEDA,                          )           Issued: December 17, 2020

GENERO VENTURA,                                 )           OES Case No. P-044-120420-FW

JAVI SANCHEZ,                                         )

CRAIG CHAPPELL, and                           )

TRENT MORAN,                                        )


Protestors.                                          )



Derek Correia, Norman Sauceda, Genero Ventura, Javi Sanchez, Craig Chappell, and Trent Moran, members of Local Union 542, filed separate pre-election protests pursuant to Article XIII, Section 2(b) of the Rules for the 2020-2021 IBT International Union Delegate and Officer Election (“Rules”).  The protests alleged that that Local Union 542 and its principal officer, Jaime Vasquez, retaliated against Sauceda for activity protected by the Rules by removing him from his appointed shop steward position.  Because the protests all make the same allegation, they were consolidated for docketing, investigation, and decision.


Election Supervisor representative Michael Miller  investigated this matter.


Findings of Fact


On December 3, 2020, Local Union 542 business agent Ron Cutitta handed steward Norman Sauceda a letter advising him that his services as shop steward were no longer needed.  The letter was dated December 1 and was effective that date.  Sauceda is employed at the UPS San Marcos hub and served as shop steward for pre-load employees there since December 2016.  The consolidated protests alleged that Sauceda was removed from his position because he had engaged in political activity in support of the O'Brien-Zuckerman 2021 slate on December 1, 2020. 


That day, Sauceda and other supporters of O'Brien-Zuckerman 2021 canvassed for accreditation signatures in the employee parking lot of the UPS San Marcos hub.  Protestors Ventura, Sanchez, Chappell, and Moran joined him in that effort.  Sauceda told our investigator the canvassing was successful, garnering some 220 signatures from separate morning and afternoon sessions, with Sauceda getting 50 to 60 signatures himself.  Sauceda said that canvassing occurred without interference from the employer or the union.  Despite this lack of interference, Sauceda and the other protestors contend that the union’s action dismissing him as shop steward was directly connected to the canvassing activity.  As such, the protestors contend the dismissal violated the Rules. 


Business agent Cutitta and principal officer Vasquez deny the allegation, stating that Sauceda was removed for performance reasons.  Cutitta was appointed as business agent responsible for UPS San Marcos two years ago.  Sauceda was one of his stewards.  Cutitta told our investigator he discussed Sauceda’s performance with Vasquez over several months, finally recommending in November 2020 that he be removed as shop steward.  Cutitta said he ran into opposition from Sauceda on almost everything they worked on together when representing members on their grievances.  Cutitta stated that he could not trust Sauceda because Sauceda did not take direction and went his own way, even if it meant a deterioration in labor-management relations.  In Cutitta’s view, Sauceda did not always have the members’ best long-term interests at heart, and instead chose to take confrontational, non-compromising stances—always in his dealings with the company and sometimes even with the union.  When Sauceda did not get his way or things were not going well, Cutitta could not rely on him to be professional.  Instead, Cutitta said Sauceda often become irate, slammed doors, and was unpredictable. Cutitta said that Sauceda had directly caused increasing divisions among employees on the work floor in his unit at the UPS hub.  Cutitta stated further that Sauceda recently got into repeated non-substantive and overly critical arguments with newly appointed steward Andrea Zamora.  He said that because Sauceda disagreed with Zamora’s constructive, problem-solving approach in working with management, Sauceda chose to discredit her publicly, accusing her of not filing grievances under circumstances where, in Cutitta’s view, grievances were not warranted.  Cutitta believed Sauceda was using his position simply to argue with management, thereby creating dissension and tension in the workplace for other members.  Such an approach rendered issues unnecessarily combative, when Cutitta believed Sauceda should have been working to find solutions and bring both sides together.  In short, Cutitta saw the decisions Sauceda made to address workplace issues as too often in direct conflict with Cutitta and Vasquez’s objectives to deal effectively with management, and to ensure positive and cooperative relations with UPS labor relations.


Cutitta elaborated that Sauceda’s actions resulted in unnecessary union expenditures and use of union resources.  Cutitta reported that Sauceda’s approach to handling grievances resulted in a hostile working relationship with the company, which militated against the likelihood of resolving the disputes.  Too often, Cutitta said, Sauceda tried to get the UPS manager involved with a particular grievance fired or disciplined.  He did not appear interested in working with management to solve problems, which Cutitta said was the steward’s principal job.  Cutitta said he had many unpleasant verbal exchanges with Sauceda, in private as well as at the grievance table.  Cutitta said he made it clear that he was displeased with Sauceda’s stewardship approach.  Over the year and a half preceding Sauceda’s removal as steward, Cutitta’s relationship with Sauceda deteriorated steadily, creating workplace divisions between members who liked Sauceda and others who liked the approach Cutitta and Zamora took.  Sauceda’s recent disparagement of Zamora (for purportedly not filing grievances) was a “last straw” for Cutitta and led him to bring the matter to Vasquez.  The two agreed that Sauceda was ineffective, combative, could not take direction, and could not be trusted, and that he should therefore be removed.  Cutitta said there were no political considerations by either in their decision.  The basis of their decision was entirely conduct- and performance-related.


Principal officer Vasquez has led the local union since 2008, assuming the position of secretary-treasurer first by appointment and then retaining it in four subsequent elections.  He told our investigator that he wanted to pursue a policy of cooperation in working with UPS management, and he had directed his business agent team repeatedly to emphasize that objective.  As Vasquez observed it, Sauceda had developed a confrontational and outright combative style in his regular dealings with UPS labor relations that had caused the union-company relationship to deteriorate, to the detriment of the workers.  The result was increasing dissension, polarization, and tension among the workers, and resentment and ineffective labor-management relations.  Vasquez told our investigator that Sauceda would not work with other stewards or business agents as part of the union team.  Vasquez wanted to foster unity among union representatives, but he had seen Sauceda only furthering bad relations with the company both by the type of grievances he filed and the way he handled them once filed.  In Vasquez’s view, Sauceda clearly believed that the union should always be pitted directly against whatever the company was trying to do, and that the relationship should be adversarial.  Vasquez saw that Sauceda’s approach had proven ineffective and damaging over time and had created hostility between labor and management.  As a result, the union did not trust Sauceda to take direction or do his job, and the company disliked him because he was always causing unnecessary problems for them and going after management directly.  Sauceda was aggressive, negative, unreliable, and unstable, and Vasquez and Cutitta’s conciliatory style was increasingly incompatible with Sauceda’s.  Over the last few months, Vasquez and Cutitta discussed the problem several times, ultimately deciding that Sauceda should be removed from his role as steward.


Vasquez decided to remove Sauceda in November 2020, and he directed Cutitta to give written notice to Sauceda directly.[1]  The removal letter was drawn up and dated December 1, 2020.  Cutitta hand-delivered it on December 3, when Sauceda was scheduled to meet with Cutitta to discuss a grievance at a meeting at UPS’s San Marcos hub.[2]  Vasquez told our investigator he was unaware of the petition canvassing for the O'Brien-Zuckerman 2021 slate at the UPS San Marcos hub on December 1 and Sauceda’s participation in it.  However, he knew that Sauceda had been canvassing for the slate “to collect signatures for the past two months” at least, all without any interference or problem.  Vasquez stated further he was unaware even that Correia’s “Members for Members” slate was going to run against Vasquez and his slate in next year’s delegate election or that Sauceda would be part of the slate.  Vasquez denied that Sauceda’s petitioning in the UPS parking lot on December 1 had anything to do with the decision to remove him as steward.


Sauceda told our investigator that the letter removing him as a steward surprised him because in the past, Sauceda has worked diligently on behalf of the members in filing and following their grievances, in spite of what he said was Cutitta’s lack of cooperation in working with him for the common member good.  Sauceda told our investigator that principal officer Vasquez told him in November that Vasquez did not want him handling Trent Moran’s grievance, explaining that he did not trust Sauceda with the grievance.  Vasquez’s statement to Sauceda some ten days before the dismissal was echoed when Cutitta handed Sauceda the removal letter.  According to Sauceda, Cutitta told him he was dismissed because 1) he did not represent LU 542 members well, 2) he performed his role as steward by “doing things for himself” instead of for the union, 3) he “couldn’t be trusted” by either Cutitta or Vasquez, and 4) unspecified “personal reasons.”  Sauceda took issue with each of these reasons and deferred to Cutitta and Vasquez to explain their positions.  Sauceda stated he had been off work on disability since September 2020, when he injured himself, had surgery, and underwent long term physical therapy.  But he noted that, to the extent possible, he had gone to the union and to the UPS worksite to handle grievances when necessary, at his own expense, on his own time.  On December 3, Sauceda was in the facility on union grievance business when Cutitta came out of the supervisor’s office and gave him his dismissal letter, signed by Cutitta.  Sauceda acknowledged to our investigator that he was vocal in support of members’ rights, had questioned the behavior of other shop stewards, and complained often, but had been reliable in taking up any grievances or assignments that the union placed on him – or that he took upon himself to independently pursue.  He defended his record as effective and diligent, and his reputation as solidly intact, despite his absence from work over the past several months.  He thought his removal as steward was directly the result of his activity canvassing for what would be Vazquez’s opponents at the LU delegate and later the International officer election and was to send a retaliatory and intimidating message to him and his supporters that their free exercise of political expression would be met with material damages to their reputation and their ability to do their job.  Sauceda last spoke with Vasquez about two-and-one-half weeks ago, when Vasquez told him he did not want Sauceda to assist in handling member Trent Moran’s grievance, for the reason that Vasquez “could not trust him.”  Sauceda insisted that, in spite of his current but temporary disability, he could still perform as a good steward and take on any assignment given him.  No members had filed or voiced any kind of complaint against him to justify the action by Cutitta and Vasquez.


Protestors Correia, Ventura, and Sanchez told our investigator they had no first-hand knowledge of Sauceda’s performance as shop steward but stated that he had an excellent reputation in that role.  In contrast, protestor Moran had seen Sauceda in action as shop steward and considered him one of the best stewards he had ever seen, primarily because he was not afraid to buck either the company or the union establishment when it came to workers’ rights and safety in the workplace.  Moran opined that Sauceda was dismissed because he was the “most active” steward in putting forward grievances and representing workers, based on what he personally thought was right, and not necessarily what the union wanted him to do.  According to Moran, Sauceda also stood up and objected when he saw OSHA or labor relations violations.  In this regard, Moran drew a connection between Sauceda’s “going it alone” approach as steward and his dismissal from that position, and he felt strongly that the union “powers-that-be” saw Sauceda’s involvement in the petition drive was just one final retaliatory reason that he was dismissed as a steward, because he was not a traditional team player.




Under Local Union 542’s bylaws, “[s]tewards shall be appointed and may be removed at will by the Principal Officer, subject to approval by the Executive Board.”  Notwithstanding this provision, Article VII, Section 12(g) prohibits retaliation against any member “for exercising any right guaranteed” by the Rules.  The right to campaign is protected by the Rules.


In any retaliation case brought under the Rules, there must be a showing that the protected activity was a motivating factor in the decision that is protested.  Cooper, 2005 ESD 8 (September 2, 2005) (emphasis added).  See alsoBundrant, 2005 ESD 19 (October 25, 2005), aff’d, 05 EAM 4 (November 15, 2005); and Miner, 2005 ESD 1 (May 27, 2005).  The existence of a reasonable independent basis for the decision or conduct at issue is a defense to an allegation of improper motivation so long as it is not shown to be a pretext.  There can be no violation if the decision maker would have taken the same action in the absence of the protective activity.  Pope, 2000 EAD 39 (October 17, 2000); Hoffa, P857 (September 11, 1996), aff’d, 96 EAM 234 (September 19, 1996). 


Here, Vasquez as the elected principal officer had authority to set the policy of the local union.  Cf. Virtue, 2007 ESD 403 (July 9, 2007), aff’d, 07 EAM 82 (October 5, 2007).  The policy he adopted – and directed his business agents and stewards to implement – was one of constructive problem-solving with respect to labor-management relations with UPS, concluding that the local union’s members would benefit more from that approach than one of confrontation.  We conclude that he made the decision to remove Sauceda from the appointed steward position because Sauceda failed to implement this approach.  Cutitta’s observation of Sauceda’s behavior over an extended period showed that Sauceda’s actions and behavior did not reflect Vasquez’s announced policy, despite Cutitta’s effort to influence Sauceda to be constructive and solve problems.  That Sauceda was combative and oppositional in his actions toward management was corroborated by Sauceda himself, who told our investigator that he questioned the behavior of other shop stewards and complained often.  Even Moran reported that Sauceda had a “go it alone” attitude and was not a team player.


While the protestors here suspect that Vasquez’s decision was motivated by Sauceda’s canvassing activity on December 1, we conclude that the decision to remove him was made in November, was the result of deliberation over several months, and came only after Sauceda’s public criticism of the performance of steward Zamora.  This conclusion is reinforced by Vasquez’s statement to Sauceda, made in November and thus before the December 1 canvassing, that Vasquez did not trust Sauceda, a statement we believe Sauceda should have regarded as a warning about his performance.  That the decision to remove him was put in writing the same day as Sauceda’s canvassing activity is coincidental, and we find no causal relationship between that protected activity and the decision to remove Sauceda from his steward position, especially where Sauceda had engaged in identical canvassing over several months, all without interference from the local union generally or Vasquez or Cutitta in particular.


For these reasons, we DENY this protest.


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.  Any party requesting a hearing must comply with the requirements of Article XIII, Section 2(i).  All 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 Supervisor.  Requests for a hearing shall be made in writing, shall specify the basis for the appeal, and shall be served upon:


Barbara Jones

Election Appeals Master


Copies of the request for hearing must be served upon the parties, as well as upon the Election Supervisor for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, all within the time prescribed above.  Service may be accomplished by email, using the “reply all” function on the email by which the party received this decision.  A copy of the protest must accompany the request for hearing.


                                                                  Richard W. Mark

                                                                  Election Supervisor

cc:        Barbara Jones

            2020 ESD 35






Bradley T. Raymond, General Counsel

International Brotherhood of Teamsters


Edward Gleason


Patrick Szymanski


Will Bloom


Tom Geoghegan


Rob Colone


Barbara Harvey


Kevin Moore


F.C. “Chris” Silvera


Fred Zuckerman


Ken Paff

Teamsters for a Democratic Union

Derek Correia


Norman Sauceda


Genero Ventura

Javi Sanchez


Craig Chappell


Trent Moran


Jaime Vasquez


Ron Cutitta


Michael Miller


Deborah Schaaf


Jeffrey Ellison




[1] Vasquez’s decision was affirmed by the local union executive board on December 10, 2020. 

[2] The letter was also sent to Sauceda by certified mail on December 1, 2020 and was picked up on December 4.