Challenge to a Quiet Boss

Flying squads, charges of dirty tricks by incumbent plague a teamster local election

The bigger issue haunting Haynes, one that resonates with many of those low-earning members, is just how hard he is working for them. Even after the city's labor negotiators announced that any union that didn't get to the bargaining table by July 1 would have to provide even deeper concessions than those already agreed to by the biggest municipal union, District Council 37, Haynes simply left town.

He spent a week in Atlantic City at the union's annual shop stewards' conference (where supporters and aides openly promoted his re-election bid), and then took off for another week's vacation. "I get a vacation and I took it," said Haynes. "I was exhausted." As for not being at the table, he said he had already made his decision not to accept the DC 37 contract and was only waiting for an opportunity, as he put it, "to put my nuances in the package" he hopes to win from the city.

Yet last month's trips followed at least four others he took earlier this year to attend conferences in Florida and Las Vegas (each with high-level junket value) associated with his Teamster and AFL-CIO posts.

The challenger: Eunice Rodriguez
photo: Drew Tillman
The challenger: Eunice Rodriguez

"He's just not minding the store," said Rodriguez, 54. "The clock is ticking and he's not there representing us."

Rodriguez's strongest base of support is among the 4,000 school safety officers, who staged a tiny but loud 24-person rally outside Local 237's offices last week. "We can't find Carl Haynes when it comes to fighting to make our jobs better," said John Daniels, a school guard for 15 years. "We can't even communicate with the police department on our radios. They tell us to call 911. We ask where's Carl Haynes, and it turns out he's in Florida."

As Rodriguez and other dissidents passed a bullhorn back and forth, a group of Haynes loyalists in blue T-shirts who call themselves the Local 237 Street Team tried to drown them out with their own shouting. The Street Team, which has its own van and banner, is a group created last year after Rodriguez and Mancuso announced their defections. The group is a constant presence at dissident meetings with the membership, loudly denouncing Rodriguez and her allies. "They show up whenever we are trying to speak to members and start screaming," said school safety officer Mike Waldo.

Haynes insisted he has nothing to do with the group. "That's a rank-and-file group. I have no control over that," he said.

But the flying squad tactic began shortly after Haynes won the services of one of Teamster national president Jim Hoffa's top guns, international representative George Geller. Haynes said Geller was assigned to Local 237 to work as a research director on child care issues. But child care is hardly Geller's specialty. He served as Hoffa's election lawyer and campaign adviser, helping shape a strategy that brought down disgraced former Teamsters reform president Ron Carey.

A former follower of zany political extremist Lyndon LaRouche, Geller has long served as a consultant for members of the Teamster old-guard leadership trying to fight off incursions by dissidents. Geller declined to comment on his role in Local 237, but his presence there underscores the importance that Haynes holds for Hoffa, who is worried that Local 237 and its votes could fall into the hands of rivals in New York.

Rodriguez and Mancuso said they have protested unfair tactics to Hoffa's office, but so far haven't heard back.

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