Teamsters' House Divided

July 23, 1994|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Sun Staff Writer

Charging that the local leaders had misused members' dues, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters attempted yesterday to take over a 1,200-member local made up of state employees.

But the top two officials of Baltimore-based Teamsters Local 103 turned away the temporary trustee sent by the international headquarters yesterday afternoon, insisting that they had done nothing wrong.

Standing defiantly in the local's rundown Brooklyn office, which had holes in the carpet and a broken copy machine, local President Larry Thomas said he would not turn over the local until the trustee returned with a court order.

He said that the local, which represents state workers across Maryland, was suffering from financial difficulties because of declining membership. But, he said, he had cut staff and reduced his own salary, and another official lent Local 103 money to keep it afloat.

The international's charges of fiscal mismanagement and failure to follow up grievances are "ludicrous," Mr. Thomas said.

But Charles Stansburge, who had been appointed the temporary trustee by the headquarters, said he would return with a court order and take over the local because Mr. Thomas and the other officials had failed to pay some of the local's debts, such as a $5,000 legal bill. "They started to operate the local like the federal government," spending more than they were receiving in dues, he said.

The international, he emphasized, was not charging that the officials had taken money for themselves.

Mr. Stansburge, who is also president of Baltimore-based Local 570, said Local 103 took in about $21,000 a month in dues, of which roughly $7,000 was sent to the international headquarters. Some of the remaining $14,000 went to pay salaries and other expenses, but it was not clear how the rest was being spent, he said.

The local reports having only four full-time workers, most of whom receive comparatively modest salaries, he said. Mr. Thomas, for example, earns about $600 a week, he said.

Mr. Stansburge said he wanted to remove all the current officers of Local 103 and bring in new people to clean up its finances. But one of those he proposed, Tom Ridgely, drew an angry riposte from Mr. Thomas. Mr. Thomas said he had dismissed Mr. Ridgely, who had worked as an organizer, June 16 for borrowing from members and then failing to repay them. And he accused Mr. Ridgely of being behind the international's June 15 decision to take action against the officials.

Mr. Ridgely could not be located yesterday evening.

Mr. Stansburge discounted Mr. Thomas' charge.

News of the spat between the local and the headquarters threatened to undercut the already troubled local.

Local 103, which had 2,316 state employee members in 1991, had less than 1,300 as of last month, said Joseph Adler, Maryland's secretary of personnel. The decline, Mr. Adler said, is partly due to state employee layoffs, but also to growing competition for members from other unions. Floyd Warren, who works at the Eastern Correctional Institute and joined Local 103 this year, said that he had been satisfied with the local's representation.

Mr. Warren said Mr. Ridgely, when he was working as an organizer, gave him inaccurate information about the union's role in worker grievances. But, he said, that was a minor issue.

"I didn't have a problem with the union," Mr. Warren said. But after learning of the dispute, he said, "now, I'm concerned."

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