By Kevin Galvin
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, June 27, 1998; 12:44 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As doubts grow about the upcoming Teamsters election, acting union
president Tom Sever has raised tensions with political
rivals by dismantling the union department responsible
for reaching out to members.
Sever, who rose to the top of the 1.4-million-member union when incumbent Ron Carey took a leave
of absence, has dismantled the Field Services department
which was responsible for member outreach. He is also
weighing the possibility of layoffs.
Critics say his actions are politically motivated
and threaten programmatic advances made by union reformers over the past six years. Teamsters
spokesman Matt Witt declined comment on what he called
internal matters. Sever was traveling and a did not
return a message left at his office.
A dozen rank-and-file organizers working
under Field Services head David Eckstein have been let
go and 12 members of his field staff were reassigned.
Eckstein was stripped of his power. Two of his aides and
a colleague in the research department had their computers
impounded by Sever.
"The bottom line is it's all retaliation
against me for running for union office," said Eckstein.
The action comes less than a week after Eckstein,
who ran the grass-roots mobilization effort behind
last year's United Parcel Service strike and the member-to-member organizing that Carey emphasized, announced
he was joining Tom Leedham's ticket as a candidate
for union trustee.
Leedham is one of the candidates for president
and has the backing of the grass-roots group Teamsters
for a Democratic Union and of many union department
heads who served under Carey.
Sever, however, plans to run again for secretary-treasurer, the post he held under Carey, on a ticket
topped by John Metz, a local leader from St. Louis.
Eckstein has filed two protests with the
Meanwhile, The Associated Press obtained
a list of Teamsters staff and the amounts they donated to the
1996 Carey-Sever ticket that union sources said was compiled at
Addressed to Sever, a cover sheet to the
Jan. 29, 1998 memo says, "attached is a list of all (Teamsters)
employees donations over $80 to the Campaign.... Also attached
is a list of those who gave nothing."
The list of about 250 donors to the Carey-Sever
slate was prepared at union headquarters and on union
time, according to union officials, and appears to violate campaign
rules that guard against mingling union work and politics.
Revelations about the increased infighting
at Teamsters headquarters comes after the court-appointed
election monitor said he would end federal supervision of the
contest if a funding dispute wasn't soon resolved.
The rank-and-file election of union officers
is key to the government's cleanup of the union, taking place
under a 1989 consent decree the Teamsters signed to avoid racketeering
Carey's narrow re-election over James P.
Hoffa in 1996 was overturned after investigators uncovered an
illegal fund- scheme that pilfered more than $800,000 from the
Carey won the union's first-ever election
for general president in 1991 and built a reputation as a reformer,
whose high point was the two-week UPS strike last year when 185,000
manned picket lines.
Carey was barred from the rerun, and the
coalition of grass-roots reformers and local leaders backing him