Association for Union Democracy

Teamster Official Suspended over threats to members

International Vice President Sean O’Brien is in trouble for making statements at a campaign event for Local 251 Secretary Treasurer Joe Bairos, who is running for reelection this month. In a speech made during a rally in East Providence, Rhode Island, O’Brien called Bairos “one of his closest allies” and stated that “anybody who takes on my friend[,] they’ve got a major problem [and] need to be punished.” A video of the remarks was posted on YouTube on September 9, 2013, but has since been removed.

O’Brien also serves as President of Local 25 in Boston, as well as President of New England Joint Council 10 and as head of the UPS and Freight grievance panels.

On October 17, 2013, the Independent Review Board issued a recommendation that a charges be filed against O’Brien “for bringing reproach upon the IBT and threatening to retaliate against IBT members for exercising their rights protected under federal labor law and the IBT Constitution, including the rights to seek election to office and support the candidate of one’s choice.” In his testimony before the IRB, O’Brien stated that he had not written down his remarks before arriving at the rally, and had not received approval to endorse Bairos with the General President. In fact, there had been no discussion of any endorsement at all.

The IRB found that O’Brien violated Article XIX, Section 7(b)(10) of the IBT constitution, which prohibits “Retaliating or threatening to retaliate against any member for exercising rights under this Constitution or applicable law including the right to speak, vote, seek election to office, support the candidate of one’s choice, or participate in the affairs of the union.”

The IRB is a three member panel consisting of a representative of the office of the Attorney General of the United States, a representative of the Teamsters, as well as an outside third party mutually agreed upon by the government and union. General President Hoffa has 90 days from the date of issue to hold a hearing and issue appropriate punishment, but the IRB will make a final decision in the matter.

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