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Teamsters official: Union not part
of Norcal scandal

By Jason Bennert, Bay City News Service

July 6, 2006

SAN JOSE (BCN) - The Teamsters do not expect to be named as unindicted co-conspirators in San Jose's Norcal garbage case because they never made any "backroom deals,'' the leader of the Teamsters local that represents the workers at the heart of the scandal said today.

Bob Morales, the secretary-treasurer of Local 350, and Chuck Mack, the president of the council representing all 55,000 Bay Area Teamsters, held a news conference in San Jose this afternoon to discuss the scandal that has resulted in the indictment of San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, his chief aide Joe Guerra and Norcal Waste Systems in connection with a 2000 city contract for garbage and recycling services.

Prosecutors allege that Gonzales, Guerra and Norcal, without informing the San Jose City Council or the public, conspired in 2000 to have the 55 people working on San Jose's recyclables sorting line represented by the Teamsters instead of the longshoremen's union and to have city ratepayers cover the difference in salaries and benefits because the Teamsters had a more lucrative contract. The conspiracy resulted in the City Council approving a 9 percent garbage rate increase in 2003 for what it thought were other unanticipated expenses.

Morales said media reports have unfairly tied the Teamsters to the alleged offenses of Gonzales, Guerra and Norcal. The Teamsters have represented the sorting line workers since San Jose established its recycling program in 1993 and the longshoremen's union has never represented any of the city's sanitation workers.

"We had previously represented the approximately 55 employees,''

Morales said. "At no time did the longshoremen's union have one member working.''

Morales and other Teamsters officials did lobby Gonzales and the City Council in 2000 to ensure that the sorting line workers did not face a pay cut or loss of benefits when Norcal took over the garbage and recycling contract.

"They wanted to protect them through the transition,'' Mack said.

That lobbying was perfectly legal and some of it was done at an open City Council meeting when Morales and other union officials addressed the council about the contract. Morales said he does not think the union will be named an unindicted co conspirator when the grand jury transcripts are made public later this month.

"We're not expecting that,'' Morales said.

Morales said the Teamsters have excellent relations with the longshoremen's union and he believes the longshoremen may have been misled by Norcal and told that the sorting line workers were not represented by a union.

"They were told this is an opportunity for you to gain 50 jobs,'' Morales said.

Sorting line worker Robert Hernandez attended today's news conference. He said he has worked for the various contractors who have held San Jose's recycling contract since 1993 and always been represented by the Teamsters. The sorting line workers would have remained Teamsters in 2000 even if given the opportunity to change unions, he said.

"Even if there had been a vote we still would have stayed with the Teamsters,'' Hernandez said.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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