Former local Teamster leader Francis C. DeBrouse continued to defend himself against labor racketeering charges today, standing by contracts he had signed as good for the workers and denying he ever sought favors for himself.
"I never signed a labor contract for anything in my life that was for me," said DeBrouse, testifying in his own defence for the second day in a row. "Every labor contract I ever signed was for my members."
The prosecution accused DeBrouse of using his position as president of the nearly-8,000-member Teamster Local 639 in Washington until 1977 to obtain more than $200,000 in goods and services from companies where Teamsters worked. The payoff to the companies was labor peace and lowwage contracts, the prosection contends.
"I utilized 639 to get better contracts wages and working conditions for my members. That's the only thing I ever utilized 639 for," DeBrouse asserted on the Witness stand.
DeBrouse defend a contract with Excavation Construction Inc. covering a Beltway widening job in Virginia. The contract has been potrayed as a low-wage contract favoring the company's owners, one of whom also owns a company that uilt DeBrouse's house. The prosecution alleges that DeBrouse got the house for $145,000 less than it was worth.
DeBrouse said he agreed to a contract that included less than prevailing union wages with Excavation Construction on that job only after other unions had made such agreements. The unions agreed to do so rather than have the job done by cheaper, nonunion labor, he said. Virginia is a state in which it is hard to organize and win recognition for unions, DeBrouse testified.
Excavation Construction truck drivers worked for the lower wages on the Virginia job only voluntarily and then there was no other work available for them at higher rates on other area jobs, DeBrouse said. He said the wages he agreed to on the Beltway job were $4.50-per-hour higher than the $2.50 rate that would have been paid without union involvement, DeBrouse said.
DeBrouse also defended the union local's handling of money collected by Excavation Construction as union dues. The money ended up with the construction firm, rather than in the union treasury.
According to DeBrouse, because the company deducted money weekly on behalf of the union at a rate not in accord with the union's bylawsand constitution, the union eventually returned the money to Excavation Construction and asked the firm to redistribute it to the workers.
"It was not a financial disadvantage to the members involved," said DeBrouse. "It was a financial disadvantage to the union, because we had provided the services" to the workers as if they were paying dues, he said.
DeBrouse denied other charges, including having used his position with the union to persuade Giant Foods and a liquor wholesaler to buy an exterminating contract from a company with which his son worked and in which DeBrouse had an option to buy stock.