Judge Rejects Emergency Trusteeship of Pennsylvania Local

U.S. Dist. Judge John Padova Dec. 28 ordered the Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters and James P. Hoffa to return control of IBT Local 115 in Philadelphia to its duly elected officers, finding no emergency situation warranting imposition of a trusteeship without a hearing. Temporarily enjoining Hoffa from exercising the emergency trusteeship that was imposed on the local in Nov., Padova ruled that the information available to Hoffa when he appointed an emergency trustee “does not support a reasonable or good faith belief that an emergency situation existed.”

Padova emphasized that he was not looking at the truth of IBT’s charges against the local or the propriety of the leadership of Local 115. “Rather, the sole question this court is deciding is whether the international removed plaintiffs from office and imposed the emergency trusteeship in a manner consistent with the democratic process embodied in the legislative scheme of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act,” and the Teamsters’ constitution and bylaws, the judge wrote.

Citing allegations of abuse of members’ rights and failure to protect union finances, Hoffa Nov. 15 ordered the trusteeship of Local 115 and the removal of secretary-treasurer John P. Morris, the local’s principal executive officer, as well as several members of the local’s executive board. Morris was also removed from his other positions as president of the Pa. Conference of Teamsters and president of Joint Council 53.  Morris previously was an int’l vice president for the eastern region under former IBT President Ron Carey. In the Teamsters 1996 election, he ran on the slate headed by Carey.

In a notice informing the officers of the reasons for the trusteeship, Hoffa specifically charged that Morris and his business agents viciously abused, physically threatened, and physically assaulted members Morris viewed as disloyal. The notice further claimed that Morris was preparing to wage a war against his enemies and directed Local 115 to purchase stun guns, military clothing, and a variety of tractors, trailers, and buses. The notice also charged Morris with various financial improprieties and alleged that he instigated the termination of 12 members from their jobs at a Kurz-Hastings plant because of suspected disloyalty.

One week after the trusteeship was imposed, the appointed trustee scheduled a formal hearing for Dec. 9, but the local requested that the hearing be postponed. Morris and the other terminated officers filed suit, alleging that IBT violated the LMRDA by imposing a trusteeship without a prior hearing and asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction.  IBT has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 5-7, 2000, before a three-member panel that will make a recommendation to Hoffa on whether a trusteeship should be imposed. IBT’s constitution provides that once the case is heard, the panel must issue a report to Hoffa within 60 days. Hoffa then has 15 days to make a decision. That decision can be appealed to the union’s general executive board.

In finding that an emergency situation did not exist in this case, Padova explained that most of the international’s charges are “longstanding: many are not dated to a specific point in time, and many others are noted to have gone on for years. Most of the charges, therefore, do not describe situations that appeared to be developing suddenly and unexpectedly, and therefore, the circumstances do not reasonably appear to demand immediate action.” As an example, Padova cited that IBT alleged various financial improprieties, but it audited the local’s finances in May and June 1999 and did nothing about the results for five months. Also, the international alleged that there was an emergency because Morris was stockpiling weapons and military supplies and making statements about an impending war. “The local purchased these materials prior to the June audit,” Padova said. “Regardless of the true purposes of these materials, the IBT again waited over five months before acting on this information.”

Padova also noted that since 1993 eight emergency trusteeships have been imposed by the Teamsters and six of those cases were based on a report and recommendation by the Independent Review Board. In one case where there was no IRB report, the trusteeship was imposed based on a request by the local’s executive board. In the other case, Hoffa imposed the trusteeship two months after his attempts to obviate the need for a trusteeship failed.  “Thus, in all eight prior cases of emergency trusteeships, the general president based his decision to institute the trusteeship on more substantial information than was available in the instant case,” Padova wrote. “Here, by contrast, Hoffa lacked an IRB report.” [BNA 12/30/99]

Union Soft Money Update
In the latest soft money reports, three unions made huge payments to Dem. Sen. Campaign Committee, according to Public Disclosure, Inc. On Nov. 2, the Communications Workers of Am. gave DSCC $50,000.  On Nov. 8, the Int’l Ass’n of Fire Fighters gave DSCC $30,000. And on Nov. 11, the Sheet Metal Workers Int’l Ass’n gave DSCC $25,000.