Appeals Court Upholds IRB’s Power to Enforce Teamster Constitution

The oversight power of the Fed. Govt. over the Intl. Bhd. of Teamsters includes enforcement of the IBT constitution, as well as fed. labor law. A 3-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Ct. of Appeals held on Oct. 23 that the fed. Independent Review. Bd. (IRB) rightly barred two Calif. Teamsters officials from union membership for denying local bus. agents the right to run for union office.

Before 1990, bus. agents of the Orange-based Local 952 paid their dues by automatic deductions from their paychecks. But upon taking office, Secy.-Treas., Edward J. Mireles ordered those agents to begin paying their dues directly, and to miss monthly payments, so that they would be ineligible under local rules to run for union office. Paul J. Roa enforced the scheme. As a result, most of the union’s agents were ineligible to challenge Mireles in the ’92, ’95 and ’98 officer elections.

The IRB, formed in 1989 to settle a fed. racketeering suit against the IBT, learned of the scheme and referred the case to IBT officials. But after a first panel failed to reach a decision, a second upheld the charges against Mireles, but not his enforcer, Roa. When IBT officials, incl. President James P. Hoffa, upheld that panel’s finding, the IRB took over the case. At an April 2000 hearing, 10 witnesses confirmed the scheme, and the Bd. examined computer records showing a massive change from the “check-off” system of paying dues by bus. agents to a “self-pay” system within 3 mos. after Mireles’ assumption of office.

The IRB found both Mireles and Roa guilty in Oct. 2000, and barred them from holding union office for 7 and 4 years, respectively, and from IBT membership for 4 and 2 years, respectively. U.S. Dist. Judge Loretta A. Preska (S.D. NY, G.H.W. Bush) upheld the IRB. Mireles and Roa appealed to the 2nd Circ., claiming that their actions did not violate the Labor Mgmt. Reporting & Disclosure Act (LMRDA), and that the IRB was limited to violations of the LMRDA in the IBT.

The panel, consisting of circ. judges Dennis Jacobs (G.H.W. Bush), Robert D. Sack (Clinton), and Robert A. Katzman (Clinton), upheld the IRB’s and Judge Preska’s earlier decisions. The appellate judges cited the Consent Decree creating the IRB in 1989, which granted the Bd. power to investigate any “conduct which brings reproach upon the IBT” in violation of Art. II, Sec. 2(a) of the IBT constitution. As they described it, Mireles and Roa “secretly narrowed the field of possible officers, partially insulated an officeholder from challenge, and thereby impaired the system of open competitive election to union office. We think this enough to bring reproach upon the union.” [U.S. v. IBT, Mireles & Roa, U.S. Ct. Appeals, 2nd Circ., 10/23/02]