As Teamsters vote for a new leader, an Oakland official faces review board charges
on September 22, 2016
A court-appointed ethics panel of the Teamsters union has accused a top East Bay leader of official misconduct, adding a new twist to the union’s nationwide battle for control.
Rome Aloise, the head of Oakland-based Local 853, faces accusations including taking gifts from employers during contract negotiations, getting an unqualified relative on the payroll, and interfering with a 2013 local union election.
On February 10, the union’s Investigative Review Board (IRB) issued a 122-page report to the executive board recommending that internal union charges be brought against Aloise. The executive board had 90 days to file the charges and set a hearing. Teamster officials said a hearing on the charges has been scheduled for October 12 in San Francisco before an investigative review officer. Neither the union nor the IRB made the report public, but a dissident group, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, published the document online.
During an interview last week, Aloise denied all accusations, and claimed that his critics are politically motivated.
“The charges in my mind are designed to undermine the trust of the union,” Aloise said. “They are written so sarcastically and so vehemently and so viciously, as to destroy in my case my 41 years of credibility as an officer and official of this union that’s never lost an election, and has worked on every level of this union as a truck driver on up.”
A three-member Investigative Review Board, made up of current or former federal prosecutors, was created by a consent decree in 1992 to help rid the Teamsters union of corruption. On the panel now sits former Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti, former United States Attorney for the District of Columbia Joseph E. diGenova, and former FBI Director William H. Webster. Although published reports suggest the panel has largely finished its work, the accusations leveled against Aloise underscore the difficulty of solving the union’s leadership controversies.
The 1.4 million-member Teamsters union is now in the heat of national elections for new union leadership. James P. Hoffa, son of the notorious Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa, is running for re-election after serving as general president for three five-year terms.
Aloise, a close ally of James Hoffa’s, heads Teamsters Joint Council No. 7, the union’s regional organization in Northern California. He has served as a trustee for the Teamsters Benefit Trust and heads the union’s dairy division. Aloise is also the principal officer and secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 853, one of the largest unions in the Oakland area, representing around 11,000 members who work in the newspaper, construction and warehousing industries. He has been involved with the union since 1968. Recently he led a fight to secure wages for California concrete delivery drivers, organized for bus drivers in Silicon Valley, and negotiated contracts with big companies like Costco.
Aloise was recently re-elected as Western Region vice president this summer at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Convention, after the Investigative Review Board issued its report.
The report alleges that in 2013 Aloise requested and received six admission tickets to a Playboy Super Bowl party from an employer while in the midst of negotiations. It also alleges that he requested a job for a cousin who was ineligible, entered into sham collective bargaining agreements between Local 853 and an employer, and took actions that allegedly compromised the rights of an elected candidate for a different Teamster local.
Aloise said there is no evidence he committed any wrongdoing. During a phone interview, he also said that in 2015, while he was being investigated, his lawyer issued a written submission that stated that there was no basis for the charges being considered. According to Aloise, the panel’s investigators disregarded his rebuttal.
Officials on the Investigative Review Board did not answer emails seeking comment. The panel’s chief investigator, Charles Carberry, declined to be interviewed. A website listing the board’s pending cases doesn’t mention the Aloise report.
But Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a dissident organization of Teamster members, publicized a copy of the report on its website. In this year’s union election, the group supports Hoffa’s opponent, Fred Zuckerman, and backs challenger Tim Sylvester against Hoffa ally Ken Hall for the position of Teamster general secretary-treasurer.
Kenneth Paff, the co-founder and national organizer for the dissident group, said that Aloise is a member of a regime that doesn’t allow Teamster members to have a real voice. “Everybody marches behind the leader, that is the motto of Hoffa,” Paff said.
Around the same time as the October hearing in San Francisco, ballots for this year’s national Teamsters election will be mailed to members. Votes will be counted in November.
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