A major Washington-area construction firm held a 1973 campaign party for the relection of former Teamster local president Frank DeBrouse. Drinks were provided as well as overtime pay for union members who attended according to Labor Department records.
The rare occasion of management throwing a party for a union leader who normally was an adversary in bargaining sessions was seen by union insurgents as an example of a cozy relationship between DeBrouse and Excavation Construction Inc.
Recently, the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland has begun probing DeBrouse and the construction firm as part of an investigation of allegations of labor-management racketeering in Baltimore and the Washington-area suburbs.The investigation, according to labor sources, is scrutinizing allegations that a pattern of favors exists between key former Teamster officials and multimillion dollar construction firms.
DeBrouse won that 1973 election but his opponent Daniel George filed charges of impropriety with the National Labor Relations Board, asking that the vote be overturned.His request was denied. Labor Department officials said that the campaigning activities by Excavation Construction Inc. "Would not have affected the outcome of the election."
"All of George's allegations have all been ventilated and they have all been refuted," said Albert J. Ahern, attorney for DeBrouse. "The man (George) has had his day in court. Now he's trying to get the federal government to carry his coals to Newcastle."
George was the victor in last year's election for president of Washington's Teamsters Local 639, a position he had sought for seven years. In the course of his campaigning, and in labor department hearings, George made accusations that a special relationships existed between DeBrouse and Excavation Construction Inc. The records of Local 639 for the years 1972 and 1975 have been subpoenaed by U.S. investigators, George said, but he has not been asked to testify before a grand jury.
At the heart of the debate between George DeBrouse was the 1974 contract signed by DeBrouse with Excavation Construction Inc., a contract that was not ratified by the membership.
"We haven't found any other company, any other union that participated in that kind of contract," George said yesterday at his union office in downtown Washington.
The contract called for an hourly wage of $4.50 for every worker, regardless of duty. The prevailing union wage at that time was $7 an hour, George said. More bothersome to the union insurgents, at that time, was a home built about the same time by DeBrouse in Davidsonville, Md. It was constructed by Lyon Builders Inc., whose president is listed in corporate records as John W. Lyon. Lyon also is president of Excavation Construction Inc.
Ahern said Lyon is suing DeBrouse for money to pay for the house, his statement is the first confirmation that DeBrouse has not paid for the expensive contemporary home on 2.7 acres.
DeBrouse moved into the home at the exclusive "Tara" section of Davidsonville the month before Excavation's party for DeBrouse.
In 1974, Labor Department investigators found that two days before the Local 639 election, Excavation general manager Larry L. Campbell called a gathering of employes at which he appeared to support the incumbents.
"Campbell was the only speaker and apparently made statements to the effect that he knew nothing of the opposition candidates but felt that the incumbents, mentioning Frank DeBrouse by name, had done a good job for the members in the past," wrote Labor official J. Vernon Ballard.
Fifity-four of Excavation's 110 drivers, all local 639 members attended the half-hour session, held at a job site where other Local 639 members were employed by other firms. Every member attending received two hours of overtime (at $8-17 an hour), according to the labor department investigation, and three cases of beer and two of soda were provided by Excavation.
Ballard said the party "would not have affected the outcome of the election," because DeBrouse won by 143 votes, more than the number of union members attending the function.
The losers appealed through the federal courts, arguing that "a proper investigation would show that hundreds of members of Local 639 knew of the illegal, coercive meeting. It obviously may have affected the results both by intimidating both those who voted and by discouraging others from taking part in the election at all."
The U.S. Appeals Court disagreed, refusing, in August 1976 to overturn the election results. However, Appeals Court Chief Judge Harold Leaventhal wrote he found "the occurence of employer assistance to incumbents in the course of a government-supervised election . . . indeed troubling."
In the same election George claimed that he had been "set up" for an arrest as a suspect in the "Freeway Phantom" rape-murder case that received widespread notoriety here. Two days before balloting, George said he was stopped by District of Columbia police and told there was a warrant out for his arrest.
"Just as the police pulled me over, this black Cadillac came by," said George."There was Frank DeBrouse in the car, parked in front of the police car. I said what's happening?"
No charges were ever filed against George in the murder case. Labor Department investigators confirmed that DeBrouse was "an eyewitness to the arrest" but their investigation "did not indicate that the incident was arranged by him or his supporters or that they engaged in a concerted effort to publicize the event."
George disagreed with that option. "Within an hour after George's arrest," said John V. Long, attorney for George, DeBrouse "began making slanderous calls to various union members . . . On election day, DeBrouse and others spread the poison that George was about to be indicted as the phantom freeway murderer."
George also contnds that DeBrouse bent union jurisdictional rules and made a special exception for Excavation and Construction Inc. in 1975 and 1976. Then, George claimed, DeBrouse allowed Teamster members from Baltimore's local 311 to work on the firm's construction projects to build Washington Metro stations even though local 639 members hired by the firm had been laid off the projects."
"There just seemed to be a free exchange as far as Excavation and Construction Inc. was concerned," George claimed. "The local let Baltimore Teamsters work over her when our employes were laid off . . . Only E&-C had this floating memberships."