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Office of the Election Supervisor for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Cobey, 2021 ESD 107


for the



IN RE: CONOR COBEY,                            )           Protest Decision 2021 ESD 107

                                                                        )           Issued: April 15, 2021

Protestor.                                            )           OES Case No. P-122-032221-FW


Conor Cobey, member of Local Union 439, filed a pre-election protest pursuant to Article XIII, Section 2(b) of the Rules for the 2020-2021 IBT International Union Delegate and Officer Election (“Rules”).  The protest alleged that Local Union 439 used union resources to support the candidacy for International office of Steve Vairma.

Election Supervisor representative Deborah Schaaf investigated this protest.

Findings of Fact and Analysis

            On March 20, 2021, Local Union 439 conducted a ratification meeting and vote among members employed at C&S Wholesale Grocers.  The local union convened the meeting at noon in Faklis Park, a public park in Stockton CA.  At the meeting, business agent Ed Speckman went over key provisions of the contract and answered members’ questions about its terms.  Steve Vairma, IBT Warehouse Director, spoke in support of the proposed contract and placed it in context of contracts struck with other grocery warehouse employers across the nation.  He stated that the contract was very favorable, not only for the members who will work under its terms but also for the IBT’s efforts to organize other grocery wholesalers.  He strongly urged ratification.

At the conclusion of this portion of the meeting, which lasted approximately 45 minutes, C&S members voted by secret ballot on whether to ratify the contract.  The balloting and counting of ballots took at least an additional 30 minutes.  The ballot tally was then announced, and the contract was declared ratified by a wide margin.  While the ratification meeting was ongoing and during the voting and tallying of votes, a taco truck stood by, dispensing food and refreshments to those attending the meeting.  The food and beverage expense was paid by the local union.

            After the tally was announced, a local union official told those who remained that the meeting was over and they were free to leave.  Members had come and gone during the course of the meeting, some arriving after it started, others remaining only until they cast their ballots, still others staying through the announcement of the ratification vote results.  With the ratification announced, many members left.  The taco truck left also.

After the ratification meeting was declared over, an announcement was made that a campaign meeting for the Brotherhood Slate, one of two slates competing in the local union’s delegates and alternate delegates meeting, would commence shortly.  Those that supported the Brotherhood slate were invited to attend.  Some 100 members who had attended the ratification meeting remained for the campaign meeting.  At this meeting, Vairma spoke as a candidate for IBT General President, advocating for his own election and for the election of the Brotherhood slate as convention delegates.

Vairma’s travel expenses to the ratification meeting were paid by the IBT.  No reservation was obtained from the City of Stockton nor rental expense incurred for use of the public park.  During the meeting, the local union did not have an exclusive right to use the park or any part of it.  After the meeting, the Brotherhood slate likewise did not have an exclusive right to use the park.

The protest alleged that “the real purpose of the meeting and Vairma’s attendance and union provision of extension food and beverage was to end the meeting and immediately convert the event, the union resources, Vairma’s travel expenses and food and beverage to a campaign rally. Thus extensive union resources were used, and union authority was used to bring the members to the Vairma rally.”

We conclude, contrary to the protest’s allegations, that the purpose of the gathering was to address the ratification of the C&S contract, a step required by the IBT constitution before it can be placed into effect.  No allegation was made nor evidence found that campaign activity occurred during the ratification meeting, whether during the formal ratification presentations or during the period that members voted and their ballots were tallied.

That the Brotherhood slate seized on this gathering as an opportunity to conduct a campaign event immediately afterward did not render the ratification vote a sham or convert the union resources used to produce the legitimate union meeting to an improper campaign purpose.  The Rules, at Article VII, Section 5(a), strictly limit the opportunity for campaigning during union membership meetings, but campaign activity may permissibly occur before and after membership meeting.  Article VII, Section 12(a). 

Finally, we note that the Members Voice slate had equal opportunity to conduct campaign activity of its own in the park, including a post-meeting rally, as neither the union nor the Brotherhood slate held exclusive rights to the use of the park during that time period. 

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

            2021 ESD 107





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

Conor Cobey

Teamsters Local Union 439
Sal Lomeli

Deborah Schaaf

Jeffrey Ellison