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Feds investigate Teamsters Local 399 over vote-tampering charges

Feds investigate Teamsters Local 399 over vote-tampering charges

Steve Dayan, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 399, left,  with chef Ruben Enriquez at the L.A. Convention Center in 2013.  

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The federal government has launched an investigation into allegations of vote tampering by officials with Teamsters Local 399, the powerful union representing location managers, casting directors, studio drivers and animal handlers.

The National Labor Relations Board recently notified officers of Local 399 it was investigating claims that the union had “violated the duty of fair representation by conducting a fraudulent membership ratification vote” in July for a new film and TV contract, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Los Angeles Times. 

The three-year contract was overwhelmingly approved in July by a vote of 840-208, the union said on its website.

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According to the Oct. 15 complaint filed with the NLRB, however, the unusually high margin was the result of voting fraud. Dozens of ballots collected by the union did not have proper identification information to certify that the votes were valid, said Eugene Alford, a veteran transportation coordinator who filed the complaint.

Alford, a Texas native who works in Los Angeles, said he had firsthand knowledge of the irregularities because he was asked to help oversee the ballot counting at the union’s office in North Hollywood. He said he supplied evidence, including a video of the ballots, to support his complaint.

“I wasn’t going to sit back and let it go through,” Alford said. “I’m standing up for what I feel is right.”

But Steve Dayan, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 399, said the claims were “meritless” and prompted by his political opponents. He said only ballots from eligible union members were counted in the vote based on a list provided by the Teamsters’ international union.

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“This is politically motivated,” Dayan said. “These are a group of people who are unhappy that I got elected, and they are filing charges and they are all meritless.”

Dayan was elected to head the union two years ago after a bruising and divisive contest to unseat Leo Reed, who ran Local 399 for nearly 25 years. Dayan, a former business agent, had been fired from his job after he told his boss he wanted to run against Reed. Dayan had accused Reed of running the union like his personal fiefdom; he campaigned on bringing greater transparency to the organization.

Now, Dayan finds himself at the center of a storm inside the 4,000-member union.

The investigation likely will be the topic of conversation at a general membership meeting in Burbank on Sunday.

A representative of the NLRB did not respond to requests for comment.

A finding of vote fraud by the federal agency could trigger a new vote on the film and TV contract and possibly lead to the resignations of Dayan and other officers. Dayan expressed confidence that would not happen.

“Let the NLRB investigate this,” he said. “I feel very confident that the charges will be dismissed or withdrawn.”

It’s not the first time Hollywood Teamsters have drawn the scrutiny of the federal government.

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Former union leader Earl Bush was charged by a court-appointed officer in 1991 with embezzling at least $16,200 from Local 399. The charge was later dropped and Bush resigned from the union as part of a settlement of an investigation into corruption allegations against the union.

Twitter: @rverrier

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