Minnesota Teamsters Plead Guilty to Crimes Against Overnite Employees

Five members of Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 120, including the local’s recording secretary, pled guilty May 17 in Anoka County District Court in Minnesota to disorderly conduct in connection with their actions during IBT’s on-going strike against Overnite Transportation Co. The guilty pleas follow a May 8 finding that union bosses and members were in contempt of the court’s permanent injunction against violence and threats of violence. Local 120 president C. Thomas Keegel also serves as the IBT’s secretary-treasurer under James P. Hoffa.

Bradley Slawson, Jr., the local’s recording secretary and the son of Local 120 vice-president Bradley Slawson, Sr., was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct when, according to police, he entered Overnite’s property and threatened security personnel on Nov. 3, 1999. Slawson pled guilty on May 17 to disorderly conduct and was fined $210. He was found in contempt of court on May 8 for his self-admitted threats and coercion in connection with unrefuted claims that he struck one Overnite driver with a picket sign and locked another Overnite driver in a trailer while the driver was attempting to make a delivery at a customer’s facility. Slawson was ordered to keep away from Overrate property and that of the trucking company’s customers for the purpose of assisting the union in any labor action against Overnite. He was also ordered to pay $500 to compensate Overnite for attorneys’ fees and costs.   Two other Teamsters were fined similar amounts when they too were found in contempt.

Also making a plea on May 17 was Steven Lashomb, who was charged with criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct, when on Nov. 12, 1999, according to police reports, he struck a tractor with a picket sign damaging the windshield. He was ordered to pay a $210 fine plus the cost of the windshield.

Charles Dennis pled guilty to a charge of contempt of court and disorderly conduct in connection with a Dec. 7, 1999, incident. According to police reports, Dennis disconnected air valves on the brakes of two trailers when a driver
stopped at a picket line and attempted to pick a fight with the driver after his vehicle was disabled. Dennis pled guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $210.

Mark O’Brien pled guilty to a charge of contempt of court and disorderly conduct when he, according to police reports, jumped on a truck and began striking it with a picket sign as it was moving past a picket line on Jan. 3, 2000. O’Brien, who was serving as the local’s “picket line captain” at the time of the incident, pled guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $210.

Mike Stermett, the only one of the union defendants actually employed by Overnite, pled guilty to a charge of contempt of court and disorderly conduct when, according to police, he jumped onto an Overnite tractor trailer stopped at the picket line on Jan. 10, 2000, and opened the driver’s side door. Stermett attempted to grab the driver but jumped off the vehicle when the driver managed to drive forward. He was fined $210.

Despite IBT claims of a “peaceful” job action, the Nat’l Labor Relations Bd. has issued nine complaints against IBT for violence and threats of violence. Judges in 21 cities in 14 states, including Minn., have issued injunctions in an effort to curtail violence by picketers and Teamster supporters. In addition, a federal task force is investigating possible IBT links to 48 reported shootings and numerous acts of assault and vandalism aimed at Overnite and its employees since the protest began. In Jan., a 225-page federal racketeering suit named Hoffa, Keegel and other bosses, as defendants in an orchestrated pattern of racketeering activities, including 57 predicate acts of attempted murder, aimed at extorting a labor contract with Overnite. [Overnite Transp. Co., Media Release 5/25/00]