Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Teamsters Begin Campaign to Become Official Union for LAPD Officers
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters yesterday began an aggressive campaign to get the Los Angeles Police Department rank-and-file to force an election on their union representation in the hopes of becoming their official union.
In front of a Teamsters big-rig plastered with a sign that read “LAPD Officers – Soon to be Teamsters,” Teamsters Joint Council 42 head Jim Santangelo said it is time for LAPD’s officers “who have no voice in their own union” to make the switch from the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
“What is the league so worried about?” Santangelo asked. “Let the men and women of this great department make that choice.”
Thirty percent of the current union membership, roughly 2,500 officers, must submit cards asking for an election on their union representation in order for one to be called by the city.
The Teamsters and their supporters within the department began distributing the blue union authorization cards yesterday.
Union officials say they hope to have enough cards returned by the first week of March so the Teamsters union can file its petition for representation and have an election as early as April.
“Let the cops decide who will represent them from now on,” Sgt. Craig Lally said. “We’re going to get an election. I guarantee that.”
Lally said the Teamsters effort within the department began nearly a year ago when he and a group of about 10 officers who were frustrated with the PPL went to the Teamsters for help. Since then the outward support for the change has grown to almost 300 officers, he said.
But a push for an election may be moot if the PPL can prove that it has a bona fide affiliation with the AFL-CIO, which would prevent the Teamsters from soliciting an election without the express consent of the league.
Last December the league, after 75 years as an unaffiliated union, said it became officially aligned with the International Union of Police Associations, an AFL-CIO union which represents nearly 100,000 active law enforcement officers and support personnel.
Both the PPL and the IUPA have notices on their websites announcing the affiliation, but Santangelo argued that the Teamsters have a right to solicit an election because the league’s affiliation was done improperly and it is not in fact affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
Affiliation with the AFL-CIO protect member unions from raids by other member unions through an official mediation process, meaning that the PPL’s affiliation would help protect the league from the Teamsters’ push for an election.
League Director Peter Repovich said a hearing which will determine if the league is actually affiliated with the AFL-CIO has been scheduled for Feb. 21 at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Repovich said he was not worried about the hearing.
“From our point of view there is no argument,” he said.
Teamsters attorney Lourdes Garcia says the union has “yet to see a shred of evidence” to prove a legitimate relationship between the PPL and the AFL-CIO.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney did, however, receive a letter from the IUPA claiming that the Teamsters are in violation of an AFL-CIO article that prohibits “union raids” of AFL-CIO member unions by other members, Garcia said.
The push for an election comes at a time when the PPL is trying desperately to oust Chief Bernard Parks from office. Santangelo denied that the union’s effort to decertify the league was directly tied to the union’s campaign and Lally added that Teamsters supporters want Parks to retire for the good of the department.
He added that the timing of soliciting an election is coincidental because seeking alternative representation is governed by labor laws.
“I wanted to do this last April,” he said. “We just have a window of opportunity. This is our window of opportunity.”
League officials have characterized efforts to switch over to the Teamsters, which represents 295 police organizations in 20 states, as a push by a small group of officers who won’t be able to come up with the necessary votes.
Repovich pointed to the several dozen officers gathered at the press conference to show support for the Teamsters.
“I don’t view that as a powerful force,” he said.
Officer Jose Gonzalez said the rank-and-file have been discussing possible Teamsters representation for at training days and when they meet each other on the street.
Gonzalez, a seven-year department veteran, said that while officer morale was down, the league’s activities were making it worse, including visits by league representatives coming to roll call before officers go on duty to announce due hikes.
“It may be three or five dollars, but over a year it adds up,” Gonzalez said. “You do the math.”
Gonzalez also said he thinks being represented by the Teamsters would give officers result in better benefits and better contracts.
Lally objected to the PPL’s practice of having officers, not professional negotiators, handle their contracts.
“I have 21 years on the job and I wouldn’t have a clue how to argue our contract,” Lally said. The Teamsters would provide professional negotiators for contract talks, he said.
While Gonzalez says he supports Teamsters representation he also said he feared retaliation from department management for his support.
“You want to say something, but you can’t,” Gonzalez said.
Sgt. John Pasquariello said the department can only punish for misconduct, not personal opinions, and officers are free to support any union effort they wish.
“We really want to stay out of it,” he said. “It’s labor versus labor. We’re not going to get involved.”
Officers are also allowed to wear Teamsters buttons and clothing while off-duty as long as it is not offensive or unbecoming to an LAPD officer, Pasquariello said.
“We don’t delve into people’s lives like that,” he said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company