Editor’s Note: This article originally ran on Jan. 24, 1980, following a series of Globe reports that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980.
The Amalgamated Transit Union International yesterday took over Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589, the most powerful labor group in the MBTA, and ousted the local’s newly elected president.
John J. Gallahue, who assumed control of the union Dec. 18 after defeating acting president George Adams, said last night that he was removed in part because of his attempts to end the First National Bank of Boston’s controversial management of the union retirement fund.
The international union, in a letter to Gallahue, said he was removed to “restore harmony to the local union and to end dissension destructive of the rights and interests of the membership between President Gallahue and other officers and members of the local executive board.
Some 4000 of the 6000 MBTA workers are members of the Carmen’s union.
The international’s action is formally termed a “trusteeship” of the local. It places the international in charge of the carmen’s bank accounts and pension fund.
“Three guys in trenchcoats walked in and told me to clear my desk out,” Gallahue said last night. “They told me to get my personal belongings out and that they were changing the locks.” He said he got no hearing or notice of the action in advance. A hearing is planned by the international in March, he said.
Another factor cited by the international in the takeover was that Gallahue “entertained a motion by membership” that resulted in restoration of James Slattery to the retirement board. Slattery is under suspension by the international for allegedly punching Donald Abbott, who resigned as president of the local in August.
Gallahue said several attempts at “making the operations of the union more businesslike” had met with bitter resistance from members of the union executive board, whom, he said, had complained to the international.
John Rowland, a vice president of the international union who lives in the Washington area, headed a three-man delegation in informing local officers of the takeover, according to George Campbell, vice president of the local.
Campbell said that Rowland left the union office, at 211 Congress st., during the day yesterday and was not expected back. James LaSala, whom Campbell termed “an assistant trustee,” has been left in charge, according to the local vice president.
Union sources said that while the trusteeship initially displaced all the officers of Local 589, everyone but Gallahue had been reappointed.
Richard Branson, a member of the local’s executive board, would not comment on whether disgruntled board members had requested that the international steps in.
“We’ve been instructed by our international that all those questions would have to be referred to them,” Branson said. “They’re handling all our affairs.”
Campbell, reached at the local’s office, also would not comment. “The trustee is not in,” Campbell said. “He left orders not to give any statements at this time. I’m sorry, but I can’t answer anything. The international oversees the affairs of the local union.”
The $200 million MBTA Retirement Fund has been by far the most publicized of the three factors to which the takeover apparently is related.
There have been reports from union sources for months that the membership was increasingly unhappy with the First National Bank’s performance as sole manager of the fund. The Globe Spotlight Team reported in December that the performance of this fund was the worst of 103 public employee pension funds in the state. The Spotlight Team found that the fund had lost $11.1 million from the sale of investments in the last seven years.
Gallahue said yesterday that the carmen voted early last week to end all First National involvment in investing the fund and to allow the First to retain only a “custodial” role - meaning that the fund’s checking accounts and cash would remain there.
After the union vote, the action to remove First National still had to be approved by the MBTA Retirement Board, whose members include three labor representatives and three management representatives. Two labor votes and two management votes were needed to make the change.
Sources said the vote in favor of removing First National was 4-2, but only one management representative - Walter Ryan of the MBTA board of directors - voted with the majority. MBTA director Richard Taylor and MBTA treasurer-controller John Launie voted against the move, and prevented the change because of the two-vote rule.
Gallahue said yesterday that “we thought we had Taylor’s vote” at the beginning of the meeting. The ousted union officer said that international president Dan Moroney called Ryan during the meeting to voice objections to Slattery’s presence because of his suspension by the international. “I feel that the international’s interruption of the meeting had something to with Taylor changing his mind.”
Taylor could not be reached for comment last night.
A half dozen members of local 589, interviewed last night at the Cabot terminal, said they were not suprised by the international’s action, just by how quickly it had happened. Most said that Gallahue’s entertaining of the motion to reinstate Slattery and the international’s reaction will prove to be detrimental to the local and to the T’s riders. Four of the six said they had supported George Adams in last year’s election.
Globe writers Robert Porterfield and John Ellement contributed to this report.