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Teamsters Accuse Union Leader of Retaliation

Labor: Some say Eddie J. Mireles is trying to force them into inferior contract. O.C. local rebuffs pickets.

May 22, 1997|E. SCOTT RECKARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Blaming vicious union politics, Teamsters at a soon-to-close Anaheim warehouse on Wednesday accused International Teamsters Vice President Eddie J. Mireles of trying to push them into a new work arrangement that would slash their pay and benefits.

Workers said they could lose up to 20 years' seniority when American Drug Stores, the parent of Sav-on drug stores and Lucky grocery stores, consolidates three warehouses, including the one in Anaheim, into a new La Habra facility.

Nearly 200 pickets protested loudly outside Local 952's union hall in Orange on Wednesday night, some trying unsuccessfully to gain entrance by showing their Local 495 cards.

"We're all Teamsters, right?" shouted Robert M. Rocha, who said he was fighting for his daughter's future as well as his own.

"This [building] is for 952, brother," was the reply from an official inside the building as Rocha was turned away. That prompted the angry crowd to break into loud chants of "495!" and "Down with Mireles!"

The workers, members of Local 495 in Pico Rivera, said Mireles wants to force them to transfer from their unit to his Orange County local, which has an inferior contract, to punish them for backing a rival faction last year when Mireles was elected to his international office.

"He is going to screw us over because we didn't support him," said Mark Dewitt, a spokesman for Local 495.

The unit has more than 400 members at the Anaheim warehouse, handling drugs, shampoos, cosmetics and other pharmacy-related items. Its members generally supported James P. Hoffa, son of labor legend Jimmy Hoffa, in his unsuccessful bid for Teamsters president.

Mireles ran on a ticket headed by Teamsters President Ron Carey, winning as vice president by about 150 votes out of more than 85,000 cast in November.

Mireles' Local 952, based in Orange, previously handled liquor and cigarettes for American Drug Stores out of a Fontana warehouse. Those jobs already have been moved to the La Habra warehouse, where about 200 Local 952 workers are employed.

Local 495 leaders dispute Mireles' claims that he has jurisdiction in La Habra. They say their contract with American has better terms and is transferable, so members of Mireles' local should be required to change locals.

Some Anaheim workers making more than $15 an hour would get a starting wage of just $9 with reduced benefits under the Mireles-negotiated contract, Local 495 leaders say.

"It is hard for us to understand how a union representative would not be willing to work for the best pay scenario for fellow Teamster members," members Peter A. Dilworth and Mark P. Mowen said in a letter of protest to Teamsters president Carey.

Mireles said the jurisdictional dispute will be settled at a hearing by officials of the international union. He declined to discuss specific charges. The hearing date has not been set.

Mireles set the stage for the divisive local battle in 1994 by pulling out of Joint Council 42 of Los Angeles, which lined up firmly for Hoffa. Mireles set up Joint Council 92 in Orange County, which has 10 locals and 50,000 members.

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