Local 237 is made up of 24,000 New York City employees who work in government agencies, part of the larger International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has 1.3 million members in the U.S. and Canada.
On Oct. 10, ballots were counted for Local 237’s election. Shockingly, union member Nelson Flores said, only 7,000 votes were counted.
Flores had been working on the campaign for Jakwan Rivers, who was running for president of the union.
“We were amazed,” Flores said when the campaign team found out that they had lost. “Seven-thousand people voted? How did that happen?”
Incumbent president Gregory Floyd, who has held the position since 2007, was reelected.
Rivers and his team were sure they were going to win, so when the numbers came out and they saw the small percentage of members who actually voted, something seemed wrong, particularly because a similar number of votes had been recorded in the 2009 election.
“With over 22,000 members, the same numbers kept coming up in votes for the election,” Rivers said. “When the numbers came out this year, we went to the Postmaster General in Washington, D.C. and complained.”
What they found was surprising.
“There were insufficient funds in the post office account to cover all of the ballots,” Flores explained. “They were holding 5,178 ballots, because they were waiting for payment. So in essence, they only counted 7,000 ballots and we lost 5,000 votes.”
Elections for Local 237 are run through Election Services Solutions, which provides mail-in election services for numerous organizations, including unions. But according to Flores, the leadership at Local 237 is in charge of making sure funds are available for ballot postage.
Flores said that the United States Postal Service (USPS) showed them correspondence they had with someone — they would not reveal the name — at the union stating that there were insufficient funds for all of the completed ballots to get sent back through the mail.
“They knew there were insufficient funds,” Flores said. “The fact that they didn’t pay this was purposeful. We got cheated and the membership got cheated.”
Rivers, who ran for president in the October election and vice president in the 2009 election and lost both times, said that with the additional 5,000 votes, he is sure the election would have had different results.
“I’m very confident that it would have gone another way, and I think they knew that it was going to go another way,” Rivers said. “That is why they stopped the process.”
After hearing of the allegations, Hank Sheinkopf, a representative from Teamsters Local 237, responded heatedly stating that the accusation is “an attempt to disrupt the work of the union.”
“The idiocy of the claim that such a thing could occur in a union that is under federal supervision is patently absurd and defies any kind of logic,” Sheinkopf said.
He also noted that these same members had brought up similar issues in the past to no avail.
“It’s an absurd charge made by people who lost an election,” he said, noting that Election Services Solutions is a “non-partisan and non-candidate based entity.”
“This is just a smear on good people who won an election fair and square,” Sheinkopf added.
Members of Local 237 brought the issue to the law firm Koehler & Isaacs LLP in Manhattan. A media representative from the firm chose not to comment at this time. He did mention, however, that a request has been made to the U.S. Attorney’s office to conduct an investigation.