Among the big Chicago locals that were scrutinized by the Independent Review Board under the authority of the consent decree the Teamsters signed with the federal government in 1989 was Local 714. This 10,700-member local covering a wide variety of workers, from law-enforcement officials to metalworkers, had been run by members of the Hogan family since it was founded in 1934.
In August 1996 the IRB produced a devastating report. It charged that the local had been “run for the benefit of its principal officer William Hogan, Jr., President James H. Hogan, Recording Secretary Robert Hogan and their family and friends.” It also alleged that work in the small but lucrative movie and trade-show division had been doled out to Hogan family members and favorites without regard for seniority or any other rule, and that the local had entered into “sham collective bargaining agreements,” one of which allowed a company owned by a Hogan relative to avoid making contributions to the union health fund.
According to the report, Hogan family members in the trade-show division also had “ownership interests” in businesses that had financial dealings with movie and trade-show firms, creating “at least the appearance of serious conflicts of interest” that other union members didn’t know about, and some Hogans also had a financial stake in nonunion business that competed with workers represented by Local 714. Members had never been allowed to vote on trade-show-division contracts; there hadn’t even been an election in the local since 1961. When union meetings were held, the report charged, the Hogan leadership would pack the tiny union hall with trade-show flunkies, who would lose work if they didn’t show up early to fill all the seats and keep other members out. This trade-show army, dependent on Hogan patronage, did as it was told, while members of the Hogan family drew fat salaries from the union and offered cut-rate contracts to employers.
The IRB recommended that the local be put into a trusteeship, and shortly after, Teamsters president Ron Carey appointed John Metz, a Teamsters leader from Saint Louis, as trustee. Metz soon discovered that business agents at the less privileged small shops in the local often dropped valid grievances of workers, and he compiled a four-page list of contracts that had expired but hadn’t been renegotiated, even though some of them had expired two years earlier. Even movie and trade-show workers had been treated shabbily if they were outside the elite core. Dozens of individuals had worked virtually full-time for a decade or more yet hadn’t been allowed to join the union; they were still designated casual workers. A lawsuit filed last summer by some of them contends that the local’s contract directed employers to pay into the pension and health funds maintained by the union, but the workers had never been told that they were covered, so they’d had to pay for their own health care.
Soon after Metz was named trustee, the IRB barred Joseph Hogan from the union for failing to cooperate with its investigation and for alleged ties to the mob. An internal panel also held hearings on ethics charges the IRB had leveled against James Hogan, William Hogan Jr., and William’s sons, Billy III and Bobby, but no action has been taken yet. William Hogan had been running in the number two slot on James Hoffa’s national slate, but after the IRB report was issued he dropped his union membership and withdrew from the campaign.
The IRB report opened the eyes of some local members. Greg Zebrauskas, a burly 37-year-old who started as an extra in trade shows, had been a true-blue Hogan loyalist for years. “In the beginning of the trusteeship,” he says, “I stood in front of the door of the union hall screaming ‘Carey sucks.’ I was 100 percent with them–I would have taken a bullet for Bill Hogan. But the more I stood with them–it was during a one-week period that I changed–none of the politicians [who were supposedly friends with Hogan] stood up for him. The report was 99 percent true. I said, I’m fed up. Originally they told us these people [the trustees] were coming to take our jobs. We didn’t know anything about the international. They just told us bunch of idiots that someone would take our job. Why were we so loyal? I’m not sure. We’ve been robots for Hogan. You could never speak out of line. In 17 years I never saw a contract at McCormick Place. If you asked you’d be laid off.”
As part of his effort to clean up the local, Metz brought in some new faces as business agents, including Jerry De Francisco, a longtime Cook County sheriff’s deputy, and Brian Smith, who’d fought and lost a battle for reform at yet another Chicago local that had been put into a trusteeship. But Metz also hung on to some of the Hogans’ staff, including business agents Joseph Martucci and Genaro Rodriguez, even though other officials from the international union argued that it was a mistake.
Smith began working mainly with the members at small private-sector manufacturing businesses, and he repeatedly discovered cases where Local 714 leaders had apparently signed contracts without involving the members who were affected, and where recognition of the union had served the employer’s interest by stifling shop-floor protests and eliminating the possibility that a serious union would organize the workers. He says that managers at a marine terminal told him, “You keep forgetting that we came to you. Why are you fighting us?”–meaning that they’d made it clear to the local that they wanted to avoid a contract with other unions. He also says that the Hogan leadership had negotiated a substandard contract with another firm that covered only 4 workers out of 100 but enabled the firm to put a union label on its products.
The trade-show contract was to expire in the summer of ’98, and early that year Metz appointed Zebrauskas and a few other reform-minded trade-show workers to negotiate a new one. Some of the Hogans who were still in the union and their allies opposed the proposed contract as a slap in the face of William Hogan. As secretary-treasurer of the local, he’d been head of the negotiating team, and, according to the IRB report, that team had been willing to accept contracts that were inferior to the national standard, rationalizing this as a way to get more jobs. The Zebrauskas team managed to negotiate widespread improvements, including a wage increase and a boost in companies’ pension contributions, from $700 to $2,000 a month. The contract came up for a vote in March ’98, and despite opposition from the Hogan forces–at one point Bobby Hogan, who’d been a business agent for the trade-show division, and several of his allies tried to persuade workers to vote to decertify the Teamsters and be represented instead by an independent union under Hogan control–only four workers voted against it.
In January ’98 Metz had announced that he would recommend to the international that the trusteeship end and elections to replace it be organized. Many of the reformers, including Zebrauskas, thought it was too soon, that Metz hadn’t been able to do enough to clean up the local in the year and a half that he’d been trustee. Seventeen of them traveled to Washington, D.C., to argue against ending the trusteeship, which angered Hogan loyalists. According to a 1998 IRB report, Zebrauskas and other reformers claimed they were threatened at a union meeting that February by Dennis McNamara, a former cop who’d worked as William Hogan’s driver. Several witnesses testified that McNamara called the people who’d gone to Washington “scumbags” and said the way to deal with them was not to break car windows and slash tires but to do bodily harm, to “make them limp like they do in the joint.” One witness stated, “When he was done, the room was going crazy….Everybody was clapping and yelling.” Ten days later, according to press reports, a masked gunman fired a bullet into the office of Chris Gunnels, a union steward who’d come from New Jersey to help clean up the trade-show division. Gunnels was in the office, but the bullet hit his computer. Shortly afterward he left town.
The election was put off until summer, but as it drew near there was bickering over who should be on the eight-member reform slate. Metz argued that business agents who’d been appointed by William Hogan Jr. ought to run with business agents he’d brought in. International Teamsters strategists supported him, saying a mixed slate offered the best hope of keeping the Hogans from regaining power. But Smith and De Francisco distrusted Martucci and Rodriguez, arguing that they’d done nothing to support democratic reform of the bylaws that Smith and De Francisco had helped push through in the spring (Martucci and Rodriguez agree that they didn’t help). Some of the reformers dropped off the slate and began organizing a slate of their own, and at that point Bobby Hogan contacted Martucci and Rodriguez about putting him at the top of their slate. According to reformers, Hogan promised that his father would put up enough money for the slate to run a slick campaign and said that if they didn’t cooperate, members of his family would use their influence with Hoffa–assuming he won–to remove them from office. Hogan was added to the slate.
A third slate was also formed, led by Tommy Hogan, a reform-minded cousin of the ruling family faction who was deeply critical of their operation. He may have hoped to split the Hogan vote, for he says he privately hoped that De Francisco’s slate would win.
Zebrauskas and other reformers campaigned hard for the De Francisco slate. But the Hogan slate was better known, had more money, more goodies to give away, fancier campaign literature, and the support of the Hoffa campaign office. Curiously, given the overwhelming vote for the contract the reformers had negotiated, the slate had also somehow regained the support of much of the trade-show crew of loyalists, who visited work sites, distributed leaflets, and drummed up support. They promised jobs in the trade-show division and told gullible members that by voting for the Hogan slate they were stating that they wanted to stay with the Teamsters. Many local members didn’t seem to care that Bobby Hogan had defended putting relatives on the union payroll and letting relatives own businesses that competed with union members’ employers. At one campaign rally rank-and-file member Nicholas Chavez spoke with unexpected sharpness when he told the Hogan slate, “We’re sick and tired. We don’t just want shirts and jackets. We want to make good money for our families. Now union reps only visit us three to four times a year.” But later he reluctantly said he planned to vote for the very leaders he’d just criticized. Asked whether he’d considered voting for the reform slate, he replied, “I don’t know who they are.”
When the ballots were tallied, the Hogan slate had defeated the reformers by 1,597 votes to 1,138. “I can’t believe it,” De Francisco muttered. Smith said, “Reform is always ‘we’–what more can we do for you as members. The old guard is just ‘me’–and my salary.”
Later at the dimly lit Fraternal Order of Eagles on the southwest side, where the reform slate had frequently met to plan strategy, supporters hoisted a few beers. “At least now I’ve got my balls,” one man in dark glasses declared. “I didn’t have them for 22 years.” Another man said, “I think it’s a great day because we had a voice. We lost, but finally we had participation. I’m proud of these guys who stood up and risked their jobs. You’ve got a lot of character.” Greg Zebrauskas said, “It’s a sad day today, but not really. We’ll win this one day.”
Bobby Hogan promptly hired his father, William Hogan Jr., who’s now an organizer, and appointed his uncle, former president James Hogan, to fill the newly created position of executive director. Someone also put in an order for new luxury cars.
In February the new leaders pushed through bylaw revisions that overturned most of the reforms that members had approved a year earlier. The revisions again concentrated power in the hands of the secretary-treasurer, giving him, for instance, the power to appoint stewards instead of letting members elect them; they also removed caps on official salaries, ended officer pledges to eliminate corruption and strengthen democratic principles, and loosened controls over official expense accounts.
A lot of members were unhappy with the changes. In December 2,700 members of the Cook County Department of Corrections, representing roughly one-fourth of the local, voted to leave the Teamsters and join the Metropolitan Alliance of Police. There are also reports that other blocks of members are thinking about joining another union, including Osco pharmacists, the 1,500 members of the court-services division of the Cook County Circuit Court, and several small suburban police and fire departments. “We didn’t like the way it was before the trusteeship,” says Lemont firefighter Ed Conroy. “The main reason [people want to leave] is they don’t want to be lied to, deceived, and not get any information.” –D.M.