Letter to the Editor: IUOE

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Contributed by James H. Thomas
 
I would have liked to start out this article about my union, the IUOE, on a positive note. However, for a very long time I have been troubled by where my union has been in the past, and now where it has arrived.
 
Turmoil from coast to coast, all-out war against anyone speaking out and worse, schemes against workers entitled to pensions and other benefits. The IUOE International uses its vast resources for all the wrong reasons and against the wrong people: their own members.
 
The International interferes in local union elections whenever a candidate appears to question the behavior and policies of IUOE headquarters. The general president puts the hammer down and uses all the power and resources of headquarters: legal, political and staff, to crush any resistance. The Department of Labor (DOL) just issued a damning complaint against the IUOE for just such behavior (interfering and conducting an illegitimate election with heavy handed tactics) regarding IUOE Local 501 in Los Angeles.
 
The long-time IUOE general president, Vincent J. Giblin, recently announced his resignation effective January 1, 2012. After previous announcements that he was staying on as general president and was going to serve for many more years, he left in the middle of the night with a long time remaining on his current term. I believe that part of his motivation was that all these wars, and people fighting back, takes its toll. Or perhaps he was encouraged to leave; only time will tell. On his way out the door he appointed James Callahan of IUOE Local 15 in New York City as our new general president. No election, no search committee, no recommendation from a blue ribbon panel. Just the same old way it's been done for over 100 years. The IUOE has not had a contested election for general president, general secretary treasurer or general vice presidents on an international level in more than 100 years. What is wrong with this picture? Where is the rest of the American labor movement? Can it get any worse?
 
Yes, it can get much worse. Corruption and undemocratic practices are being foisted on the IUOE members and locals that want to do the right thing. Unless you are living under a rock, you have already read about the behavior of many of the IUOE officials involved in corruption and the looting of their own locals. Many of these officials hold paid positions in their own locals, as well as paid positions in the International.
 
The DOL and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have made arrests in many IUOE locals, securing convictions and or guilty pleas.  The government has shown for example, that Local 14 and 15 in New York City (the Crane Operators) have been dominated by organized crime for many years. Local 14 is currently under Federal court supervision.
 
IUOE Local 825 covers the state of New Jersey and 5 counties in upstate New York. On May 8, 2008, the New Jersey district DOJ indicted 23 reputed crime family members and associates for numerous crimes including "labor racketeering." The lead defendant was identified by the DOJ as having had ultimate authority in the management and supervision of a crew of the Gambino crime family, carrying out the crew's labor racketeering in New Jersey.  The lead was working as a Local 825 "lead engineer," a top position in the union in charge of the operators working on projects.
 
During the same time the top officers in the union pled guilty of taking "kickback payments" from contractors for allowing them to use non-union employees on projects throughout New Jersey, the Local 825 members were sitting home out of work while their high paid union officials sold their jobs. The top IUOE Local 825 officials, president, business manager as well as the IUOE international VP and some business agents were sent to prison (some of them are still there). And what was the reaction by General President Giblin, his legal department and Washington staff? The general president placed Local 825 under trusteeship and appointed "acting officials" to run the local. After a short time however, General President Giblin appointed these "acting officials" as the new officials. The problem is that the replacements that Giblin appointed were other representatives, officers, lead engineers, trustees, executive and board members that had served under the very Local 825 officials that committed the earlier crimes and are now in jail. Is this "cleaning up" corruption?

______________________________
...no need for a pesky election.
______________________________
 
Giblin then called for an "election" in Local 825 but he used the rule that if anyone wanted to run against his "appointees" they would have to secure a "nominating petition" with 200 signatures in order to get on the ballot. Guess what, the new appointees were all installed without any opposition and consequently no need for a pesky election. Local 825 is a very big local with about 7,500 members and an income of about $1m per month.
 
What occurred in IUOE Local 825 is not new for the IUOE. What is new is that many IUOE members throughout the US and Canada are tiring of these disrespectful and arrogant officers running our union like a plantation. Social media is having the same affect in the IUOE as it is having in other dictatorial and corrupt regimes around the world. IUOE members are starting to talk to each other and are beginning to demand that our union join the rest of the labor movement, to get fair and honest treatment, up to and including democratic elections and a union that they can be proud to be a member. When it comes to the current behavior of insiders and IUOE officers, the legal staff is just not enforcing the IUOE constitution. It's time for a change.
 
I did not enjoy writing this summary for the rest of labor to read, regarding how my union is conducting business when it comes to the loyal, dedicated members of the IUOE. I would encourage my brothers and sisters, active and retired, to step-up and let the world know how you feel. We have been complicit by keeping silent, hoping things would get better, that someone would arrive on the scene and save our Union; unless it’s us, this is not going to happen.
 
Solidarity
 
James H. Thomas
IUOE Member 51 Years

About the author: 

James H. Thomas is a 51 Years Member of the IUOE.

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