The Cheif. Samuelsen Joins Bid For Takeover of International By SARAH DORSEY | Posted: Monday, July 22, 2013 4:30 pm Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen announced July 16 he’ll seek the second-highest office at the TWU International, joining with current Executive Vice President Harry Lombardo in a surprise bid they say will take the union in a more aggressive direction. The current International president portrayed the move as a “self-serving” power grab propelled in part by the strictures he’s put on spending since he took over seven years ago. Mr. Samuelsen said he has no intention of giving up the Local 100 presidency; he was elected to his second three-year term in December. He insisted in an interview last week that his priority remains obtaining a fair contract for the local, whose last pact expired Jan. 15, 2012. The announcement comes just six weeks after International President James Little appointed Mr. Samuelsen to a top-five spot as Administrative Vice President, for which he would have had to compete for re-election at the union’s September convention. Mr. Lombardo, the former head of the Philadelphia local, served as one of 11 vice presidents of the International for a decade before being voted second-in-command by the executive council in 2006. He began as a Car Cleaner in the Philadelphia rail system, and as president, led a 1995 strike that resulted in wage increases and other benefits for members. He is seeking the International presidency. Mr. Lombardo’s slate last week accused Mr. Little of “timid” leadership, blaming him for an ongoing raid by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) on TWU’s airline mechanics. (The transit union is currently challenging signatures the IBT gathered before the National Mediation Board.) The slate also slammed the union’s recent agreement to represent American Airlines workers jointly with the International Association of Machinists. American declared bankruptcy and announced it would merge with US Airways; the IAM currently represents US Airways workers. Mr. Samuelsen believes his union should absorb that cohort. The Local 100 leader accused Mr. Little of a “retreat mentality” for orchestrating the IAM coalition rather than pushing the members to decide between the two unions. “We vastly outnumber them,” he said. “We’d have won.” ‘A Backroom Deal’ He claimed Mr. Little failed to consult the local presidents or International officials over the deal. “What if another union tried to raid our Bus Operators in the Bronx and Manhattan and I decided to fight and...he decide to cut a backroom deal?” he said. “It’s spineless and sleazy.” Mr. Samuelsen accused the International president of facilitating the Teamsters raid by allowing them onto the property to collect signatures so another craft union with similar aims couldn’t get a majority. Calling it “the most bizarre and incompetent scheme that I have ever seen hatched in my 25 years in the labor movement,” he said, “He invited the big, bad wolf into the hen house. You can’t then cry foul when the wolf starts eating the chickens.” Mr. Little presented a vastly different version of events. He said the International’s Administrative Council unanimously approved the vote to join with the machinists. (Mr. Samuelsen, who has sat on the Council since June along with Mr. Lombardo and another member of the slate, denies this.) Mr. Little acknowledged that he didn’t consult the local presidents, arguing that time was tight given the ongoing Teamsters raid. But he said he was taking an even more grassroots step than simply consulting the presidents— """"""""he’d be putting the matter to a ballot vote among the 26,000 rank-and-file members in the division"""""""""""" He also denied his opponents’ depiction of the Teamsters raid. IBT officials approached him because the craft union going after the TWU—the American Mechanics Fraternal Association—was simultaneously seeking to poach Teamsters members at another airline, Mr. Little said. Crises like bankruptcies are opportune times to raid other unions. “People don’t know if they’re going to have a job; they’re losing benefits; people don’t know where to turn,” he noted, arguing that members will grasp for any solution at such a time. He claimed that the Teamsters promised to warn members against an AMFA takeover, but they were really collecting cards supporting their own raid. When enough employees wanted the IBT to represent them, Teamsters President James Hoffa said he “couldn’t walk away from them,” Mr. Little recalled. “John has not been involved in that at all,” he said of Mr. Samuelsen. “If he’d spent the time worrying about Local 100” he’d be more successful], he said. “He has no information on what goes on at the airlines.” The International president said the airline issues were just “disguises” to mask his opponents’ true gripes. He said he supported direct election of union officers by the rank and file, and his challengers wanted to keep the current delegate system. And he said he’d made unpopular changes that alienated some of the Lombardo slate’s supporters. “I restricted some salary raises; I made them accountable for expense reports,” he said. “Before I came in, you didn’t even have to fill out expense reports. [People] were handing us shoeboxes with receipts. “I’ve put policies in place for procedures that were not regularized [before] so everyone [is now] treated equal. We didn’t have any guidelines, what can you spend money on, what can’t you spend money on. So there are a lot of disgruntled people on staff,” he said. Mr. Little acknowledged that airline employees have been disturbed by the turmoil in the industry, which saw merger after merger over the last 10 years. Some blamed the union, and he said he offered to step aside as recently as last year if Mr. Lombardo and others now on his slate thought it would be best. Mr. Little said he was assured he should stay on. “I think this whole thing is very self-serving,” he added. “It’s not in the best interest of the membership. Doing this publicly only plays into the problems we have with being raided by the IBT.” Marsha Spinowitz, an International vice president who previously represented utility workers as the president of Local 101 in Brooklyn and Queens for 26 years, said she was saddened and shocked by Mr. Lombardo’s announcement. “This feels like a marriage split, like a divorce,” she said. “I feel like the family is broken up and all of the kids have to decide if they’re going to live with mommy or daddy.” She said when Mr. Samuelsen was offered the Administrative Vice President job last month, it was widely believed there would be harmony among the officers and no challenges would be posed this fall. “When we fight each other it certainly does nothing to advance the cause of the labor movement,” she added. “The real enemy is corporate greed.” If Mr. Samuelsen becomes Executive Vice President, he won’t be the first Local 100 president to take the second-highest spot while maintaining his old job. Sonny Hall did so in the early 1990s, and John Lawe did both jobs a decade earlier. Mr. Samuelsen said he’s confident he won’t have to spend more time in Washington at the International headquarters than he does now as Administrative Vice President—a couple of days a month.