1/11/08

Teamsters hidden agenda exposed

Teamsters Union Local 142 says it has kicked prominent Gary (IN) businessman Jewell Harris Sr.'s hauling company out of the union, and it wants Harris to pay $330,000 in withdrawal payments.

The union's pension fund sued Harris' Gary company, Enterprise Trucking and Waste Hauling Inc. of Gary, in U.S. District Court to recoup money owed to the fund. Union attorney Teresa Massa said it was the fifth such lawsuit.

But Harris said the union's claims are inaccurate. He says he only owes $39,000 to the union, and he's waiting for the collective bargaining unit to begin contract negotiations with him again. "There is a hidden agenda here," Harris said of the lawsuit. "The contract expired, and we're waiting for them to notify me that they want to commence negotiations."

Harris said the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Hammond was part of an elaborate tactic to whittle away at the concessions Harris won from the union following a bitter labor strike.

"I have no information that the union has any interest in dealing with this employer any time in the future," Massa said. "It's pretty clear that the union can no longer deal with Enterprise, because it won't pay its contributions."

Harris said the union's civil lawsuit against his company is unrelated to his criminal fraud trial, scheduled for later this month, in which he has pleaded not guilty to double-billing the city of Gary for hauling work.

The civil lawsuit says Enterprise Trucking has been removed from the union and now owes $330,735 as a "withdrawal liability."

Jewell Harris Jr., an attorney for Enterprise, said the union's figure is not an actual reflection of what the company owes in outstanding payments to its workers pension and welfare funds. And he added that the union's actions against Enterprise were unprecedented.

(thetimesonline.com)

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