NYC MTA TWU 100 bus drivers have called in nearly 1,000 threats this year amid ongoing verbal abuse from passengers
NYC MTA TWU 100 bus drivers have called in nearly 1,000 threats this year amid ongoing verbal abuse from passengers
“Being called a b---h has become like second nature now,” says Marcia Phinn, 51, a bus driver who works out of the Jackie Gleason Bus Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. (TODD MAISEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, September 25, 2016, 4:00 AM
Kelvin Burton, a bus driver for more than two decades, had a rough start to 2015 thanks to a brazen farebeater.
On New Year’s Day around 9 a.m. that year in Flatbush, the rider on the B8 bus got irked that Burton confronted him over the stiffed fare and began to rant about having a gun.
Burton, 46, of Harlem, who has a burly build, took it as blustery tough talk. But he still called police and reported the incident to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Phinn once had to kick everyone off her bus after a woman threatened her life.(TODD MAISEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
“It was a threat, to be honest with you, so I had to call the police, of course,” said Burton, who said the man hopped off after cops were called.
“It was a big scene on the bus, from just asking him for his fare, which I thought was crazy, ludicrous,” Burton said.
Burton’s complaint was one of the 1,466 reports of threats and harassment in 2015.
So far this year, there have been 932 threat and harassment complaints — in addition to 34 reported assaults.
Drivers and union officials said an untold number of incidents never get reported. And it has become such a concern that bus operators are told to let farebeaters board to avoid confrontations that can turn violent.
At the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, one of the biggest depots in the MTA, bus drivers said it’s routine to hear a few four-letter words from passengers during their shifts.
“I get cursed out at least once a day,” said Marcia Phinn, 52, of Staten Island, a 28-year MTA veteran.
“Even being called a b---h has become like second nature now.”
She recalled an especially disturbing incident in December 2008 when she reprimanded some teenagers who pushed their way onto her B35 bus. A woman told her to leave the kids alone, then brought up the recent death of Brooklyn bus driver Edwin Thomas, who was stabbed by a farebeater.
“You gonna get the same thing if you keep arguing with these kids,” Phinn recalled the woman telling her.
“It just rocked me and the only thing that I could do was to take it personal, which means that I had to discharge my whole bus because I needed to get out of that situation,” Phinn said.
The number of complaints from the roughly 11,000 bus drivers in the city have risen each year since 2012, when there were 1,083 reports.
The rise in complaints is because more cases of verbal abuse are being reported — even as spitting incidents and assaults went down by a third between 2011 and 2015.
By the end of this year, the city’s entire fleet of buses will have plastic partitions, according to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.
“Regardless of how they're categorized, these repugnant actions such as assaulting, shoving or spitting on bus operators will not be tolerated,” Ortiz said in a statement.Tags: TWU 100verbal abusehealth and safety
Self-driving trucks threaten one of America’s top blue-collar jobs
By NATALIE KITROEFF
SEPT. 25, 2016
Trucking paid for Scott Spindola to take a road trip down the coast of Spain, climb halfway up Machu Picchu, and sample a Costa Rican beach for two weeks. The 44-year-old from Covina now makes up to $70,000 per year, with overtime, hauling goods from the port of Long Beach. He has full medical coverage and plans to drive until he retires.
But in a decade, his big rig may not have any need for him.
Carmaking giants and ride-sharing upstarts racing to put autonomous vehicles on the road are dead set on replacing drivers, and that includes truckers. Trucks without human hands at the wheel could be on American roads within a decade, say analysts and industry executives.
At risk is one of the most common jobs in many states, and one of the last remaining careers that offer middle-class pay to those without a college degree. There are 1.7 million truckers in America, and another 1.7 million drivers of taxis, buses and delivery vehicles. That compares with 4.1 million construction workers.
While factory jobs have gushed out of the country over the last decade, trucking has grown and pay has risen. Truckers make $42,500 per year on average, putting them firmly in the middle class.
At risk is one of the most common jobs in many states, and one of the last remaining careers that offer middle-class pay to those without a college degree.
On Sept. 20, the Obama administration put its weight behind automated driving, for the first time releasing federal guidelines for the systems. About a dozen states already created laws that allow for the testing of self-driving vehicles. But the federal government, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will ultimately have to set rules to safely accommodate 80,000-pound autonomous trucks on U.S. highways.
In doing so, the feds have placed a bet that driverless cars and trucks will save lives. But autonomous big rigs, taxis and Ubers also promise to lower the cost of travel and transporting goods.
It would also be the first time that machines take direct aim at an entire class of blue-collar work in America. Other workers who do things you may think cannot be done by robots — like gardeners, home builders and trash collectors — may be next.
“We are going to see a wave and an acceleration in automation, and it will affect job markets,” said Jerry Kaplan, a Stanford lecturer and the author of “Humans Need Not Apply” and “Artificial Intelligence: What Everyone Needs to Know,” two books that chronicle the effect of robotics on labor.
Watch: "This is one of the last good jobs in L.A. county"
“Long-haul truck driving is a great example, where there isn’t much judgment involved and it’s a fairly controlled environment,” Kaplan said.
Robots’ march into vehicles, factories, stores, and offices could also profoundly deepen inequality. Research has shown that artificial intelligence helps erase jobs that require basic skills and creates more roles for highly educated people.
“Automation tends to replace low-wage jobs with high-wage jobs,” said James Bessen, a lecturer at the Boston University School of Law who researches the effect of innovation on labor.
“The people whose skills become obsolete are low-wage workers, and to the extent that it’s difficult for them to acquire new skills, it affects inequality.”
Trucking will likely be the first type of driving to be fully automated – meaning there’s no one at the wheel. One reason is that long-haul big rigs spend most of their time on highways, which are the easiest roads to navigate without human intervention.
But there’s also a sweeter financial incentive for automating trucks. Trucking is a $700-billion industry, in which a third of costs go to compensating drivers.
“If you can get rid of the drivers, those people are out of jobs, but the cost of moving all those goods goes down significantly,” Kaplan said.
The companies pioneering these new technologies have tried to sell cost savings as something that will be good for trucking employers and workers.
Otto, a self-driving truck company started by former Google engineers and executives, pitches its system as a source of new income for drivers who will be able to spend more time in vehicles that can drive solo as they rest.
Uber bought the San Francisco-based company in August.
Trucks equiped with an Otto kit have been test driving with autonomous technology up and down Interstate 280 and the 101 Freeway. (Tony Avelar / Associated Press)
The start-up retrofits trucks with kits allowing them to navigate freeways without a driver actually holding the wheel. For the last several months, at least one Volvo truck equipped with the software has been test driving, with a person at the wheel, on Interstate 280 or on the 101 Freeway in California.
The system works by installing a set of motion sensors; cameras; lidar, which uses laser light; and computer software to make driving decisions.
Lior Ron, the company’s co-founder, says that as the system gathers data on tens of thousands of miles of U.S. highways, having the driver asleep in the back could become a possibility within the next few years. That would instantly double the amount of time a truck spends on the road per day, allowing freight companies to charge more for shorter delivery times, Ron said. “The truck can now move 24/7.”
Ron says that the question of whether to pay drivers for hours spent sleeping in a truck while it drives for them has “been an ongoing debate in the trucking industry.”
Otto says its system may eventually allow some big rigs to traverse highways without a driver at all. In that scenario, a truck driver would drive the big rigs to and from “pick up and drop off locations,” playing a role “similar to a tug boat,” but trucks could drive without any human present during the longest stretches of the journey, says Ron, the co-founder.
A view inside the cab of a big rig using Otto's self-driving system. (Tony Avelar / Associated Press)
Several states are already laying the groundwork for a future with fewer truckers. In September, the Michigan state Senate approved a law allowing trucks to drive autonomously in “platoons,” where two or more big rigs drive together and synchronize their movements. That bill follows laws passed in California, Florida and Utah that set regulations for testing truck platoons.
Wirelessly connected trucks made their European debut in April, when trucks from six major carmakers successfully drove in platoons through Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Josh Switkes, 36, says those convoys will be on American roads within a year. Switkes is the chief executive of Peloton, a Mountain View-based company whose software links two semi-trailer trucks. Peloton’s investors include UPS and Volvo Group. The company has begun taking reservations for its system from freight fleets, and it plans to start delivering them “in volume” within a year.
The system works by transmitting very specific data from the first truck to the second truck so they operate in tandem, almost as if they were a train on the open road. When the lead truck brakes, the following vehicle receives a signal telling it how much to apply its brake.
That close communication can make it safe for the trucks to drive as close as 30 feet from one another, the company says. If a car cuts in between the two, the rear truck can automatically slow down, assume a safe following distance, and then return to its previous arrangement with the leader after the car changes lanes, Switkes said.
An engineer at Otto engages the automated truck. (Tony Avelar / Associated Press)
Reduced drag on the first and second vehicles can produce massive fuel savings. For the time being, drivers are installed in both trucks, with their feet off the brakes and accelerators, and their hands on the wheel.
Peloton says its technology reduces fuel expenses by 7% and could save companies even more on salaries.
“As we move to higher levels of automation, we can save them massive amounts in labor [costs],” said Switkes. He said that Peloton could make the rear truck in the convoy fully machine-driven, without any humans present, within a decade.
Even before that happens, though, platooning could segregate drivers into different pay classes depending on whether they’re driving the first or second rig.
“Maybe you pay the front driver more because they have a more important job,” said Switkes. Eventually, as the system makes trucks more efficient, “you may be paying fewer drivers overall,” he added.
Like most companies trying to turn trucks into robots, Peloton sees itself being useful mainly on highways, which are more predictable and less people-filled than city streets. Still, the company announced in July that it will develop and help deploy technology to power a fleet of heavy-duty trucks to serve the San Diego port.
Truck driver Spindola, perched atop a creaky seat as his big rig sat inside the Long Beach port waiting to be OKd for a departure to a nearby storage yard, said he isn’t convinced that a machine could ever do his job.
Truck driver Scott Spindola maneuvers his big rig around the Shippers Transport Express yard in Carson. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
“You need a human being to deal with some of the problems we have out on the road,” Spindola said. There are too many delicate maneuvers involved, he maintained, too many tricks and turns and unforeseen circumstances to hand the wheel over to a robot.
He had just spent about 20 minutes weaving in and out of corridors of 40-foot shipping containers at the port to attach a chassis to his rig and drive it toward a large forklift. There the lift operator slowly slotted a container onto the bay of his truck.
“This is a good job as far as pay, one of the last good jobs,” Spindola said. “Maybe I just don’t want to accept that the future is here.”
Contact Natalie Kitroeff. Follow her @NatalieKitro on TwitterTags: self driving cars
Southwest AMFA Mechanics Challenge Airline Publically In Contract Dispute
September 23, 2016 7:43 PM By Jack Fink
Filed Under: contract, mechanics, picket, Southwest Arilines
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – After working without a new contract for four years, nearly 300 Southwest Airlines mechanics say they’ve had enough.
So along with pilots, flight attendants, and other union workers who support them, they picketed at Dallas Love Field Friday.
Dale Dixon, President of AMFA Local 11 says, “We send a message to Southwest Airlines, that we’re professionals, we’ve not had a raise in four years.”
Mechanics here say money isn’t the issue. Instead, they’re concerned about their jobs in the long term.
Dixon says Southwest has offered them signing bonuses and incremental raises.
But he says they’re concerned the company is outsourcing more maintenance work for their older jets, which need more checks, while keeping in-house maintenance for newer jets, like the 737 Max, which will require less work.
Dixon says, right now, we do not have an idea of what the maintenance operation is going to look like. We don’t know what it’s going to look like for five to ten years from now.”
Southwest Airlines sent a statement saying in part, “…While we are disappointed by the lack of partnership shown by the current AMFA leaders, we remain committed to continue working with them to reach an agreement…”
Mark Drusch, a former executive with both Delta and Continental airlines, who’s now a vice-president at the consulting firm ICF, says Southwest’s managers must find the most efficient way to maintain their planes. “In order for Southwest Airlines labor to be competitive with outsourcing, it is about money. It is about the rates they’re going to pay their labor.”
To extend their message further, the mechanics union is also airing ads on local radio stations, in which they tell customers to urge Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly to reduce outsourcing.
The FAA says any maintenance work that is outsourced and performed by uncertified mechanics, must be conducted under the supervision of and signed off by a certified mechanic.
When foreign repair facilities maintain the jets owned by airlines, the FAA inspects them to make sure that happens.
One passenger we spoke with, John Bennett says, “I don’t have any concerns. I trust Southwest. They’ve been a good company.”
Mechanics like Dale Dixon, who’s been at Southwest for 21 years, agree and say they want the airline to continue to succeed.
Dixon says both sides will return to the bargaining table in early November.Tags: AMFASWA mechanicsoutsourcing
WA ILWU Local 19 Refused To Load Driscoll Berries On Cruise Ship To Support Sakuma Farm Workers
Washington berry pickers win union representation vote MT. VERNON, Wash. — “We won 192 votes for the union and the company got 52,” Ramón Torres, president of the farmworkers union Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice), told a gathering of 250 Sakuma Brothers Farms berry pickers, family members and supporters Sept. 12. They enjoyed a barbecue and live music while waiting at the United Steelworkers hall here to hear the results of the union representation election. Torres’ announcement in Spanish was followed by a translation into the indigenous Mixteca language, spoken by many workers who hail from southern Mexico. The victory was the product of a fight that began with a series of strikes in 2013 in the berry fields of the Skagit River Valley, 60 miles north of Seattle. Workers at Sakuma Farms struck this summer during the strawberry harvest and again during the blueberry and blackberry season. While waiting for the election results, longtime union supporter Benito Lopez told the Militant he was confident in a positive outcome. “People who weren’t with us before are supporting us now,” he said. “They feel mistreated by the company and they see the union keeping on and supporting them.” “We talked to a lot of people and explained what Familias Unidas is all about” leading up to the election, Javier Ramirez said. “This is just the first step,” union Vice President Felimon Pineda told the Militant. “We still have to win a contract. That’s what the workers are waiting for.” Rich Austin Jr., president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 in Seattle, who attended the celebration, told the Militant that longshoremen refused to load Driscoll’s brand berries from Sakuma on cruise ships. As part of the agreement leading up to the election, Familias Unidas called off a boycott of Driscoll’s and Sakuma berries. — Clay Dennison
Nearly 14,000 Uber And Lyft Drivers Sign ATU Local 1181-1061 Union Cards In New York
The drivers want the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to hold a union vote.
posted on Sept. 22, 2016, at 2:49 p.m.
Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
Nearly 14,000 Uber and Lyft drivers in New York have signed up to join the local branch of the Amalgamated Transit Union, according to a union spokesperson. The group plans to rally at the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) headquarters next week to demand a formal vote on unionizing.
The 14,000 sign-ups exceed the 30 percent threshold that federal regulators say must trigger an official vote, the union says. The cards signed by drivers indicate that they seek ATU membership and authorize the union to act as their collective bargaining agent.
In May, Uber struck a deal with the International Association of Machinists and the independent Freelancers Union to form a new Independent Drivers Guild that would represent their workers. While not an official union, the Guild is open to the 35,000 drivers Uber says it employs in New York.
As a condition of the agreement to form the Guild, the Machinists union promised not to try to formally unionize Uber drivers for five years; both the ATU and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have been actively trying to unionize Uber drivers since last winter.
Uber maintains its drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and therefore do not have the right to unionize, although recent legislation in Seattle affirmed their right to do so.
The ATU’s Local 1181-1061 branch is the largest chapter of the ATU, representing more than 14,000 transit workers including drivers and mechanics throughout New York City, Westchester, and Long Island. The 190,000-member Amalgamated Transit Union represents city and school bus drivers, subway and ferry operators, mechanics and maintenance workers, among others in the U.S. and Canada.
Drivers will rally at the TLC headquarters in Long Island City on Tuesday, September 27, at 11AM.
As a condition of the agreement to form the Independent Drivers Guild, the Machinists union promised not to try to formally unionize Uber drivers for five years. However, if the drivers are found to be employees at any time (including within the period of the five year agreement), the drivers can unionize with the machinists. This could happen as a result of a court, regulatory or legislative decision. The Machinists Union also has a history of successfully organizing and unionizing black car drivers in New York City in the last twenty years.
The agreement with Uber and the Freelancers Union is separate from the one they have with the Machinists, even though they were announced at the same time.Sept. 23, 2016, at 8:58 a.m.
Virgin America TWU flight attendants reject tentative contract deal as Alaska takeover looms
Sep 20, 2016, 5:02pm PDT
Virgin America's inflight teammates have rejected a tentative agreement that their fledgling union reached with the airline even as it's being taken over by Alaska Air Group.
The rejection leaves flight attendants at both Burlingame, California-based Virgin America (Nasdaq: VA) and Seattle-based Alaska (NYSE: ALK) in limbo regarding their status and seniority, and frustration is brewing.
Virgin America CEO David Cush with flight attendants at Dallas Love Field.
DALLAS BUSINESS JOURNAL-NICHOLAS SAKELARIS
Virgin's teammates, the equivalent of flight attendants at other airlines, voted 490 to 415 to reject the tentative agreement their union negotiators reached with the airline in August, the Transport Workers Union told members Monday.
Had it been ratified, the new contract was to take effect the day the Alaska takeover closes, which could come as early as next month.
One thing is certain: Virgin America workers won't pay union dues until they ratify a deal, under TWU rules.
TWU union officials said they will contact Virgin America management to discuss the outcome of the vote.
Virgin America spokesman Dave Arnold said the company respects the result of the vote.
"Our inflight teammates have spoken. …We are now turning our attention to our anticipated merger with Alaska Airlines, and we will be discussing next steps connected to the merger with the TWU," Arnold said.
Alaska Airlines has 3,500 unionized flight attendants. They are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, a TWU rival.
Alaska union leaders said on their website that the Virgin America union's rejection vote "raises questions about what happens next," but they did not elaborate.
"In the meantime, we stand in unity with our Virgin America sisters and brothers as they fight for improvements to their wages and working conditions," the Alaska AFA union leadership told its members.
Virgin America union leaders had urged their 1,000 members to vote for the tentative deal, arguing it was important to get an agreement in place even as federal antitrust authorities review the looming takeover.
Virgin America pay, benefits, and worker protections are well below average in the airline industry, they said.
Since there is no guarantee that the government or Virgin shareholders will approve the Alaska takeover, the union said, Virgin workers needed to take immediate action to improve their compensation.
The new contract deal would have given them an immediate 7.5 percent pay increase upon signing along with improved working conditions. Virgin America's flight attendants earn base pay of $20 an hour after six months, compared to Alaska's $24.08 an hour, according to union compensation data. The gap widens after nine years, with Alaska flight attendants earning $44.20 an hour versus $34 an hour for Virgin workers.
The Virgin America flight attendants voted to certify and join the TWU in 2014.
Alaska's union told its members earlier this month that it understood their growing frustration at the lack of detailed news or plans regarding how and when its merger with Virgin America will begin and how the companies will integrate their operations and personnel.
The AFA union will, if Alaska's takeover is approved, eventually represent Virgin's TWU employees, who will receive Alaska pay and benefits. But when that happens depends on the National Mediation Board.
The federal agency must declare that there are "sufficient common indicators" to rule that Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are essentially a single integrated airline.
The NMB makes that decision based on progress Alaska Airlines management makes in integrating the two operations, the AFA union said, noting that approval has taken several years in some airline mergers.
"Management has yet to make several key decisions regarding the merger such as brand identity and aircraft cross training,” the AFA said.
Andrew McIntosh covers aerospace and manufacturing for the Puget Sound Business Journal.Tags: Virgin America TWU flight attendantsAFA
Tokyo Female taxi company workers protest against abuse of power – “Feel encouraged”
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Female workers protest against abuse of power – “Feel encouraged”
Seven female office clerks who were yelled or suffered from sexually-abusive verbal harassment formed a trade union in May this year and joined the National Union of General Workers Tokyo Tobu. They work for the “New Tokyo Branch, Greater Tokyo Privately-Owned Taxi Cooperative Society”, which handles clerical work for 440 individually-owned taxi drivers in Sumida Ward, Tokyo. Both of branch director MORI and assistant branch director MIYAGUCHI denied sexual harassment or abuse of power without showing any remorse and continued to intimidate the union members. Finally, the union decided to go on strike on September 5, when there was a “special seminar” at a local community center for all the individually-owned tax drivers in the district. The strike there was a great opportunity for making the union members’ voice heard. However, this was the first strike for all of them, and NAKAMURA Mio, the union leader, said, “I had a stomachache, was unable to sleep, and was very nervous”. All the other union members were obviously nervous and tense. (M)
video (11 minutes)
Australian port sold for $7.3 billion to consortium; China fund among backers
Mon Sep 19, 2016 | 12:52pm EDT
Australian port sold for $7.3 billion to consortium; China fund among backers
Shipping containers and cranes are seen at a port holding yard in Melbourne in this June 2, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas/Files
By Cecile Lefort and Byron Kaye | SYDNEY
A consortium of global and domestic funds, backed by investors including China Investment Corp, agreed to buy Australia's busiest port for a higher-than-expected A$9.7 billion ($7.3 billion), a sign that tough equity markets are helping fuel appetite for infrastructure.
Australian leaders will also hope the deal shows they still welcome Chinese investment in infrastructure. The federal government last month blocked the sale of the country's biggest power network, Ausgrid, to state-owned State Grid Corp of China and Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings on security concerns.
The price tag for Port of Melbourne fell short of the country's largest privatization deal on record, the A$10.8 billion sale of electricity grid company Transgrid to a global consortium in November 2015, but still ranks among its biggest.
It also smashes the target set by the government of Victoria state which previously said it hoped for A$5.8 billion for the container and multi-cargo port. In 2013, the two ports of larger city Sydney fetched A$5 billion.
Sovereign wealth funds and other asset managers are seeking long-term investment opportunities amid weaker returns from some equity markets and lower bond yields.
"Equity markets are starting to realise that they're going to live in an environment where returns are going to be lower for longer, and they're looking for secure investments," Victoria Treasurer Tim Pallas said in a telephone interview.
FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
Australia began a free trade agreement with China in December but has been trying to ease diplomatic strains since the Ausgrid rejection. China's commerce ministry warned at the time that the move "seriously impacts the willingness of Chinese companies to invest in Australia".
On Monday, Pallas said Australia's sovereign wealth fund, The Future Fund, and Canada's Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System will each get a fifth of Port of Melbourne following the sale, which is packaged as a 50-year lease.
The government investment vehicle of Queensland state (QIC) and New York-based Global Infrastructure Partners are the other consortium partners.
China Investment Corp [CIC.UL] is a major investor in Global Infrastructure Partners. South Korean pension fund NPS is also an investor. QIC's investors include California Public Employees' Retirement System (CALPERS).
All foreign buyers have regulatory clearance, Pallas added. The deal is expected to close on Oct. 31, a statement from the consortium said. Gresham Partners and Credit Suisse acted as financial adviser to the consortium.
The sell-off is part of Australia's more than A$100 billion privatization program, where state and federal governments are trying to cut debt and bankroll capital works by selling "mature" infrastructure assets.
New South Wales state, which arranged the troubled Ausgrid sale, is again trying to offload that asset, and plans to dispose of another grid afterwards. Western Australia state meanwhile wants to sell ports, while the Federal government is selling the Australian Security and Investments Commission's registry arm.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Cecile Lefort; Additional reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Stephen Coates and Edwina Gibbs)Tags: privatizationChineseport privatization
IBT Pres Hoffa Faces Racketeering Probe As Teamster Election Approaches
POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 16, 2016
(Media Advisory) Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), has submitted a letter to the staff of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, calling on the Department of Justice to expedite its widening investigation of racketeering and corruption in the Hoffa administration.
As 1.3 million Teamsters prepare to elect their International Union officers, court-approved anti-corruption officers are conductig a major corruption investigation into the administration of incumbent president James P. Hoffa.
Anti-corruption officers are in federal court seeking subpoenas as part of a widening probe into racketeering, including employer gifts and payoffs to top Teamster officials who rigged the bidding process for business with Teamster benefit funds.
Hoffa and other top officials were taken on at least two European golf vacations by an investment fund owner, Charles Bertucio, who was hired by UnitedHealthcare to land accounts with Teamster benefit funds.1
Hoffa administration officials subsequently rigged the bidding process at a national health benefit fund so Bertucio and UnitedHealthcare were awarded the business even when they submitted the most expensive bid.
The reform movement, Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), has submitted a letter to the staff of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, calling on the Department of Justice to expedite its investigation as the Teamster election approaches. 3
The Teamsters is the largest union in North America whose top leaders are democratically elected by the members. The incumbent, James P. Hoffa, is the son of James R. Hoffa, who was convicted and imprisoned for using the Central States Pension Fund for personal gain.
Hoffa is challenged in the race by Fred Zuckerman, the leader of Louisville Local 89 and an outspoken critic of corruption, contract givebacks and benefit cuts. Ballots will be mailed to the union’s 1.3 million members on October 6.
A 122-page report of charges by corruption officers and related depositions, exhibits and court filings document an elaborate pay-for-play scheme that rewarded top Hoffa administration officials for funneling Teamster benefit fund business to Bertucio and protecting his interests in the Teamsters. The documented findings include:
• Optum, an affiliate of UnitedHealthcare, paid Charles Bertucio to secure accounts with Teamster benefit funds.
• Bertucio took General President Hoffa, his top advisor, his chief of staff, two running mates, Teamster benefit fund officials, and consultants on golf vacations to Europe.
• When Bertucio submitted a substandard bid to the VEBA Trust, a fund covering over 20,000 Teamsters, International Union Vice President Rome Aloise and Hoffa’s Chief of Staff Willie Smith shared inside information with Bertucio so he could restructure his bid, charge as much as possible and still land the business.
• Hoffa’s long-time advisor Richard Leebove monitored VEBA deliberations even though he is exclusively a political and campaign operative and has no role in Teamster benefit funds.
• Bertucio landed the account and three months later, he took Hoffa, his chief of staff, two running mates, Leebove, and other Teamster benefit fund officials and consultants on a golf trip to Scotland to the historic St Andrews golf course.
After anti-corruption officers deposed Bertucio, Hoffa’s Chief of Staff Willie Smith falsified records and back-dated checks to try to cover up the free golf trips. The Independent Investigations Officer has now filed subpoenas in federal court for Smith’s phone and bank records. 4
Bertucio is a long-time associate of a top Hoffa running mate, International Union Vice President Rome Aloise, who faces corruption charges and a criminal investigation.
Aloise illegally made Bertucio a Teamster member under what corruption officers call a “sham contract” to give Bertucio a competitive advantage over rivals seeking business with Teamster benefit funds.
Bertucio also hired Hoffa’s son, Geoffrey Hoffa, to buy access to Teamster benefit fund officials. Under oath, Bertucio admitted to investigators that he did not know what Geoffrey Hoffa did for a living, but that he hired him to “help with introductions” to Teamster benefit fund officials.5
The corruption investigation is being led by Joseph diGenova, the former Special Counsel on a U.S. House of Representatives probe into the Teamsters. diGenova is now the Independent Investigations Officer in charge of leading corruption investigations in the Teamsters.
1 Independent Review Board (IRB) Charges against Rome Aloise, February 10, 2016. (See pgs. 4-5).
2 Declaration in Support of the Independent Investigations Officer’s Application for the Issuance of Subpoenas, United States of America v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 88 Civ. 4486 (LAP); Pages 100-129 of Sworn Testimony of Rome Aloise, Wednesday, November 4, 2015, New York, NY
3 Letter from Teamsters for a Democratic Union counsel Barbara Harvey to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. September 12, 2016
4 Independent Investigations Officer’s Application for the Issuance of Subpoenas, United States of America v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 88 Civ. 4486 (LAP); Declaration in Support of the Independent Investigations Officer’s Application for the Issuance of Subpoenas, United States of America v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 88 Civ. 4486 (LAP);Tags: IBT HoffacorruptionTDU