Boss Wilhelm Defends Chicago Trusteeship

Just before a hearing focusing on the trusteeship imposed on Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union Local 1 in Chicago, HERE boss John Wilhelm justified his actions. In a Mar. 13 statement, Wilhelm alleged financial and managerial deficiencies with Local 1, which for decades had been HERE’s flagship. Wilhelm pointed to a sharp decline in union representation in Chicago and substandard wages and contractual protections for Local 1 members. In large part, however, Wilhelm’s statement focused on reckless spending and financial mismanagement by local bosses.

Wilhelm’s press release come one day before HERE conducts a hearing on the trusteeship. The hearing, scheduled for Mar. 14-16, was ordered by the Dep’t of Labor’s Office of Labor Mgmt. Standards. After probing the legality of the trusteeship, OLMS concluded that HERE, “had an allowable purpose for imposing the trusteeship,” but had failed to hold a hearing to justify its actions with members of the local.

The trusteeship was imposed on Local 1 Nov. 29, 1999. Henry Tamarin, an int’l vice president and president of HERE Local 100 in N.Y.C., serves as trustee. No date for the dissolution of the trusteeship or the election of new officers has been scheduled.

In his statement, Wilhelm said Local 1’s problems had been apparent long before a trusteeship was imposed. In 1998, Kurt Muellenberg, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed by a federal judge to investigate corruption within HERE and alleged ties to organized crime, suggested that Local 1 should have been placed in trusteeship years before because of its financial condition, lax management, and suspicious business dealings. Local 1 was home to ex-HERE boss Edward Hanley. Hanley’s ouster from the union in 1998 and the suspension of his son Thomas Hanley, the former president of Local 1, stemmed in part from corruption pertaining to Local 1.

Wilhelm said while Local 1 carried significant debt before the trusteeship, the local’s poor financial condition did not persuade the local bosses to curb spending. He pointed to a $17,000 party thrown following the 1999 election of officers and a $13,000 outing for a few select union officers and members to attend a Chicago Fire soccer match. Wilhelm also pointed to catered membership meetings featuring expensive door prizes and the leasing of expensive vehicles for union bosses.   Wilhelm suggested that the trusteeship is finally imposing some accountability and fiscal responsibility on Local 1. [BNA 3/14/01]