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5 Southland Locals Secede From Teamsters Council : Union: Officers of their newly created joint council will be inducted today at Local 952's Orange headquarters.

October 27, 1994|DON LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ORANGE — Reflecting lingering divisions in the Teamsters Union since national President Ron Carey began a reform movement three years ago, five Southland locals have seceded from Teamsters Joint Council 42 in Los Angeles, stripping the longtime West Coast power base of 32,000 members.

The secession is being challenged in court by Mike Riley, head of Joint Council 42 and an opponent of Carey. But Riley's effort to obtain a preliminary injunction to block the move was denied Wednesday by a federal judge in Los Angeles.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge William J. Rea clears the way for the five Southland Teamsters locals, plus two others in Central California, to operate under a new joint council. Earlier this month, Carey's Administration in Washington approved the secession and issued a new charter for Joint Council 92, one of dozens of regional groupings of Teamsters locals.

Today, Carey is scheduled to induct officers of the new joint council at a meeting at the Orange headquarters of Local 952, one of the seceding groups.

"We feel we can bring better service to the membership at a lesser cost than Joint Council 42," said Ed J. Mireles, head of Local 952, the 15,000-member local that led the effort to establish a new joint council. Mireles, who will be president of Joint Council 92, said that Riley "has not lived up to his duties and obligations as joint council president."

Riley, who has been president of Joint Council 42 for 16 years, ran against Carey in 1991 and has been critical of Carey's actions, including his recent move to dismantle the union's four regional conferences, which were umbrella groups of joint councils. Riley was head of the Western Conference of Teamsters.

On Wednesday, Riley blamed Carey for the defection of the locals, saying that Carey is trying to stifle dissent in the union.

"He is encouraging these locals to make this move to weaken the joint council," Riley said. "It is pure retaliation, pure intimidation," he alleged, adding that he will pursue his lawsuit to reverse the secession.

Carey was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. His spokesman in Washington, as well as leaders of the new joint council, said that the secession is not politically motivated but reflects members' dissatisfaction with Joint Council 42's performance.

Even with the defections, Riley's Joint Council 42 remains formidable, with about 95,000 members from two dozen locals. Nationwide, the Teamsters Union has 1.4 million members.

Still, the secession is a blow to Riley's power base and will probably hurt his budget as well.

Joint Council 42 now charges each of its affiliated locals $1.56 per member per month. The fees go to pay for staffing and union activities such as lobbying, organizing and bargaining on behalf of the members. With the loss of 32,000 members, the joint council's operating budget has been clipped by $50,000 a month.

As a result, Riley said, he will lay off five of the 13 employees at the joint council. In addition, he said, there will most likely be salary cuts for the remaining workers, including himself. Last year, Riley received about $81,000 as president of the joint council.

Riley, 60, also drew a salary of $187,876 for his role as president of the Western Conference, which was abolished in June. Union records show that Riley also received $29,000 last year as president of Local 986. Altogether, he earned more than $300,000 last year in his various posts--making him the top-paid Teamster in the nation, with double the salary of Carey.

Carey, a maverick New York union leader who took over the nation's largest union in a government-supervised election three years ago, has taken steps to cut salaries as part of his reforms.

"We've been crying for years that the Teamsters need to be more responsive and less bureaucratic," said Ward Allen, head of Bakersfield-based Local 87, which is part of the new joint council. The other members are Local 572 in Carson, Local 63 in Rialto, Local 208 in El Monte, Local 578 in Los Angeles and Local 517 in Visalia.

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