A top officer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has been defeated for reelection to a post in his own New York City local as rank-and-file insurgents won another victory within the huge trucking union.
Joseph Trerotola, who is third vice president of the IBT, head of the Eastern Conference of Teamsters and president of the union's Joint Council 16 (New York metropolitan area), was unseated as a trustee of Local 584 in voting on Thursday.
Trerotola is also vice president of another, smaller local of security guards, and his loss of the unpaid trustee -- or watchdog -- post in Local 584 does not affect his claim to the more powerful positions within the IBT.
But Trerotola's defeat has more than just local significance. "It's the first time in memory that a standing union vice president has been defeated in his home local... it's a real knock at the front door," said a spokesman for the Professional Drivers Council (PROD), a national group of Teamster dissidents.
Neither PROD nor Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the other major organization of dissidents, played a direct role in the Local 584 challenge, which resulted in a clean sweep, by a 2-to-1 ratio, of all nine offices in the union local.
But the two groups are involved in about 20 other internal union elections that will be held over the next two weekends, the largest number of challenges they have ever undertaken within the more than 700 locals in the 2.2-million-member IBT.
Incumbents already have been ousted in several areas this year, including Flint, Mich.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Jacksonville, Fla., and Green Bay, Wis. They have also lost in several areas, including New Castle, Pa.; Tacoma, Wash.; and Los Angeles. Other contested elections will be held this month in New York, Pittsburgh, and several other cities.
Buddy Lewis, who unseated Trerotola, said the insurgent group within Local 584, called "The Best Slate," campaigned strictly on local issues and did not attack the national leadership headed by IBT President Frank Fitzsimmons.
But much of their campaign rhetoric echoed that of PROD and TDU. "W/e wanted to give the local back to the members," said Lewis. "They [the incumbents] took care of themselves and forgot about the members."
Trerotola came to power by way of a milk-truck drivers' local that was eventually incorporated along with another into Local 584, which now has about 3,000 members, primarily milk truck drivers serving the New York metropolitan area.
Some of the insurgents had run before and lost. Among their issues were recent cutbacks in benefit protections, job security problems, responsiveness of union officials in dealing with members' complaints and the disparity between pensions available to union officers and rank-and-file members, roughly 10 to 1 in some cases.