Teamster Thugs Bully People From Disparate Walks of Life

Longtime Windy City political kingmaker and Teamster kingpin John Coli  Sr. (right, pictured here with former Mayor Rahm Emanuel) is now expected to plead guilty in a case alleging he extorted $325,000 in cash payments from the president of a Chicago film studio. Photo: Chicago Sun-Times file


Two years ago this summer, Chicago Teamsters kingpin John Coli Sr. was indicted on federal charges he had threatened a business with strikes and other workplace trouble unless he was given roughly $100,000 in personal cash payoffs every year.

Subsequently, it was reported that federal investigators had captured numerous conversations between Coli and Cinespace Chicago Film Studios President Alex Pissios, the alleged victim of Coli’s extortionate scheme, on tape.

Next month, the former president of Teamsters Local 727, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) vice president, and ally of IBT President Jim Hoffa will reportedly enter a guilty plea in U.S. v. John T. Coli Sr.

Over the course of a little more than three years, Coli is alleged to have accepted $325,000 in payoffs from Cinespace.

Of course, wealthy business people like Pissios aren’t the only, or even the primary, targets of IBT bullies.  Most often, IBT bosses and their militant followers go after rank-and-file workers.

A charge filed this month with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by Sulane Lowery, an employee of Sysco Foods of Central Alabama, is illustrative of the Teamsters hierarchy’s way of doing business.

According to the charge, the IBT brass is seeking to seize monopoly-bargaining power over the Sysco warehouse where Lowery is employed.  Because he believes he and the whole facility would be harmed by a “one-size-fits-all Teamsters union contract,” Lowery decided to organize a petition drive opposing unionization.

Instead of respecting Lowery’s well-established right under federal law to campaign in support of a union-free workplace, Teamsters operatives quickly turned to thuggery, he alleges.  While he was gathering petitions from like-minded co-workers, he states, several Teamsters agents “ripped from his hands the petitions he was collecting” and then illegally used them to collect personal information about workers who opposed to unionization.

Lowery is receiving free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, who believe the assault on Lowery may have been recorded on video.

Whether they are shaking down a business owner for $100,000, an employee in a non-Right to Work state for a $1,000 a year in forced union dues, or an employee in a RIght to Work state like Alabama to obtain lucrative monopoly-bargaining privileges, Teamster bosses and their cohorts resort again and again to physical intimidation and coercion.

No one can stop a bully from being a bully, but lawmakers at least shouldn’t make matters worse by handing Teamsters chiefs special privileges like monopoly bargaining and forced union dues and fees.