Teamster Movers Defeat Local 814 Merger Attempt

Commercial movers and art handlers in New York City have defeated an attempt to merge their local union. Members voted by 60 percent against the proposed merger—despite a barrage of mailings by both Local 814 and Local 810 officials trying to sell it.

The merger had the endorsement of New York Joint Council 16. But it did not have support of the Local 814 membership. The no vote shows once again the value of the right to vote on mergers. TDU members proposed this constitutional reform for years at Teamster Conventions before it was finally approved in 2001.

“What Local 814 needs is new, strong leadership that will fight for strong contracts and organize the nonunion competition—not a merger into a weak local with a history of corruption,” said Walter Taylor, one of the leaders of the Vote No effort. “Now that we’ve defeated this merger, hopefully we can get down to the real business of rebuilding union strength in the moving industry and for all of our local’s members.”

Teamster Local 814 members in New York City had a tough year in 2005. First they were hit with concessions and pension cuts after the IBT gave them no strike support in a fight with the Movers Association. Then they were blindsided with a proposed merger into Teamsters Local 810—a local with a long history of corruption scandals, bloated officers’ salaries, and embezzlement.

The anti-merger effort was led by the same members who formed a rank-and-file network to fight for a strong contract during last summer’s negotiations. Some Local 814 officials also opposed the merger, including George Daniello who had ambitions of his own to head the local.

Daniello got his wish. In the wake of the merger defeat, Local 814 President Pete Furtado has retired and Daniello has taken his place.

To defeat the merger, members distributed informational leaflets about Local 810’s record of corruption and dues waste and it’s weak record on organizing—an issue that is critical to the future of Teamster commercial movers whose wages and benefits are being undermined because of growing nonunion competition.

The committee also revealed that president Lou Smith has nearly doubled his salary to $244,845.

Local 810 has lost 2,000 members since 1997. The only organizing Smith is known for is a sweetheart contract he signed with the Cipriani family to undercut a strike by the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union. That move landed Smith a suspension from union office in 1999.

“The men were fed up. They saw this merger as a dues grab that was for the benefit of certain union officials and not the members,” said Billy Esser, Sr., a Local 814 Teamster at Hanover Moving and Storage. “We don’t want more business as usual. We want real change and we’re standing up for it.”

The Local 814 merger was defeated because rank-and-file members put in action an organized plan to inform and unite the local’s membership. That same combination of rank-and-file organization and unity is what it will take to rebuild Local 814 as a union that delivers strong contracts and good benefits.