From Labor Racketeer to Labor Activist
Is the RW-UFCW sanitizing Sean Floyd?
As President of Teamsters Local 419 in Toronto in the early 1980's Sean Floyd worked hard for his money. Not the money the Local's 2800 members paid him to look after their interests but the money a big corporation paid him under the table to keep labor peace at its west-end Toronto warehouse.
By the time Floyd's labor-management partnership with now-defunct Canadian retailer Consumers Distributing began to unravel in 1985, he'd collected $250,000 in bribes from the company whose workers he represented. His scamming started in the late 1970's when he was Local 419's Secretary-Treasurer and continued after his election to the position of President in 1982. By all accounts, the company got what it paid for.
The average full-time wage at the Malton warehouse is $12.50 an hour. Union leaders say that after 1981 the number of full-time jobs fell from 350 to a low of 214 while the numbers of temporary non-union employees paid as little as $4.25 an hour rose correspondingly.
(Toronto Star, Tuesday, April 7, 1987, 250 strike at Consumers Distributing over 'mess' left by ex-union official)
Members at the Local suspected that he was involved in crooked dealing. A reform slate, headed by a local business agent and a vocal shop steward from the Consumers warehouse, assembled to run against him in the 1982 local elections.
Floyd was up on charges stemming from a $200,000 heist at another west end Toronto warehouse during the 1982 election campaign but that didn't get in his way. He steadfastly maintained his innocence. The warehouse steward on the reformers' slate was fired. Another warehouse worker would later swear that the firing was orchestrated between Floyd and company managers who were concerned about the impact of the reformers' win on negotiations in 1985. Floyd romped to victory.
Shortly after Floyd's election win, the Business Agent who headed the reform slate, Joe Bigeau, was also fired. Floyd then pleaded guilty to the theft charges and was sentenced to six months in prison. On the strength of letters from various local businessmen attesting to his good character, he was granted day parole and continued to run the local.
Early in 1985, Floyd negotiated a new collective agreement with Consumers Distributing and got it ratification despite intense dissatisfaction by the members at the warehouse. With a booming economy, the agreement gave them a $1000 signing bonus in lieu of a wage increase. It was Floyd's last official act as President.
Floyd resigned in March of the year, as his years of being on the take became public. Consumers Distributing was convicted of offenses related to the book cooking that was done to conceal its under-the-table payments to Floyd. The company paid a fine of $125,000. Floyd was charged with tax evasion for failing to report the $250,000 as income. All hell broke loose at the warehouse where members' worst suspicions about Floyd had now been confirmed. Notwithstanding the bribery scandal or the outraged members, Local 914's officers voted him a severance package of $20,000 to send him on his way. A known sidekick named Vern Maguire took over the Local.
At the Consumers warehouse, angry workers staged a wildcat strike, demanding that their collective agreement, negotiated by a man who was in management's back pocket, be invalidated. The OLRB ordered them back to work, but their protests continued. A boycott of Consumers' retail stores was organized. Media attention continued. The Local was finally placed in Trusteeship in July 1985.
In October 1985, Floyd and an accomplice named John Rodgers were arrested after attempting to extort money from Consumers Distributing President, Jack Stupp. The story made local headlines. To help persuade Stupp to cough up the cash they wanted, the two threatened Stupp's family with violence and alluded to connections with international terrorists.
According to defense lawyers who represented Floyd and Rodgers, the extortion attempt was an extension of a kickback scheme between Floyd and Consumers and a last-minute bid by Floyd to come up with money he owed to Revenue Canada.
According to material supplied to the court in the early stages of the proceedings against the men, Rodgers and Floyd were attempting to finance international terrorism.
On Oct. 22, 1985, Rodgers approached Stupp while he was eating lunch at a restaurant near Pearson International Airport and told Stupp he still owed $153,000 in connection with a settlement between the Teamsters Union and Consumers.
(In 1985, Consumers was fined $125,000 for paying Floyd $255,465 in kickbacks in an effort to ensure labor peace with Floyd's membership. Floyd was later charged with evading taxes on that and other undeclared income. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to a year in jail Feb. 7.)
A terrified Stupp went to the police. The next day he wore a concealed tape recorder supplied by police and set off to meet Rodgers in the restaurant's parking lot.
Rodgers learned that Stupp hadn't brought the money and Floyd joined the two men. In the ensuing 30 minutes, Stupp and his family were threatened with physical violence or death unless the money was handed over.
Rodgers claimed the money was "for a cause in Ireland" and told Stupp that if it wasn't paid, he had 10 armed men at his disposal that would look after Stupp and his family.
As soon as Floyd and Rodgers stepped out of Stupp's car, heavily armed Metro police arrested them. Stupp, who still feared for his life, sent his family out of the country.
During Rodgers' bail hearing last November, court was told that the tape revealed Rodgers claiming to have dealt with terrorists from all over the world, including Japan and Libya.
At one point he told Stupp: "I can't get -- guns shipped around the world because of you."
In an interview yesterday, Metro police Staff Sergeant James Corrigan said that his force was provided with "background" material for its investigation by Interpol, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and authorities in London and Ireland.
Calling Floyd the director of the scheme, Rodgers' lawyer, Steven Clark, said his client was an actor who adopted as "part of his scare tactics" the links to terrorism. "Whatever the script was, Rodgers ad-libbed and sort of got carried away," Clark said.
(Toronto Star, March 19, 1986, Ex-Teamster, Irishman get jail terms for extortion bid)
In February 1986 Floyd and Rodgers pleaded guilty to the extortion charges. Floyd was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Rodgers, his co-accused, got 14 months and was ordered deported to his native Ireland. Floyd's sentence came in addition to a one-year sentence he'd received earlier that month on the tax evasion charges.
In 1998, twelve years after his conviction and sentencing, Sean Floyd made a comeback with the Canadian Teamsters. He was hired on as an organizer by Ray Bartolotti, the newly elected President of Local 938, a stone's throw from his former Local 914. More about Bartolotti and the fallout from his election can be found here: Teamsters Local 938 - The Long Road to Reform.
Floyd's return prompted outrage from union members and Teamster officials across Ontario.
Louis LaCroix, Teamsters Canada President, wrote to Local 938's Bartolotti early in 1998, urging him to reconsider.
Bartolotti stood by his man. In a letter, dated February 3, 1998, he told the National President to forgive and forget:
Further to our several conversations regarding Sean Floyd, as I had indicated, it was my intention to hire him as a Business Representative of Local 938 on a contract basis. The reasons are quite simple. Not only did he assist in our election campaign, but primarily because of his experience and knowledge I believe he would be an asset to our organization.
I have received numerous telephone calls and personal visits from prominent Teamsters opposing Mr. Floyd's involvement in the Teamsters' organization. I realize Mr. Floyd has had his problems in the past. However, I feel we should now forgive and forget. Amongst the comments made regarding Sean is that the I.R.B. would not be pleased and that this could have a negative effect on our Local Union.
Obviously, the reason for this letter is to request your assistance in this matter by inquiring if, in fact, the hiring of Sean Floyd would receive the disapproval of the International or the I.R.B.
Anticipating your early response,
Later that year, after intense reaction from officers and members of Teamsters Locals across Ontario, Lacroix laid it on the line and ordered Bartolotti to lose Floyd, or else.
August 7, 1998
Dear Sir and Brother;
Officers of various Local Unions, on behalf of both their membership and themselves, have expressed their shock on learning that your Local has apparently hired Sean Floyd on contract to act as your organizer (memo enclosed). On February 16, 1998, I advised you that it would not be in the best interests of the membership for you to hire Mr. Floyd.
If you have hired this individual, directly or indirectly, despite my advice to the contrary, I must advise you that, in my opinion, you are brining reproach upon this Union. I don't have to remind you what this individual has done, since you are well aware of his prior conviction for misconduct relating to his union office.
Teamsters Canada absolutely opposes your hiring or contracting with Mr. Floyd. IN my earlier letter, I pointed out to you that I believe such an action would bring reproach on the Union. The membership in Local 419 will be outraged. The other Local Unions in Ontario will seriously wonder what kind of Union would rehire someone accused of taking bribes from employers to sell out the membership.
If you have contracted with Floyd, I ask you to immediately discontinue any business dealings with this individual and to advise my office accordingly.
If you fail to act as directed, I will have no choice but to charge you under Article XIX of the Constitution with brining reproach upon the Union.
Please advise me of your position immediately.
Louis Lacroix, President
Floyd was sent packing, reportedly with a severance package and as he had done in 1986. Once again, Floyd vanished from the scene - many hoped forever.
A news item on the web site of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announces some organizing successes by the RW 's Canadian Joint Northern Council (a UFCW affiliate), at a couple of small establishments in Eastern Ontario, thanks to the efforts of Sean Floyd, a labor activist in southern Ontario who has a long standing relationship with the RWDSU in the province.
Workers at Two Shops Vote for RWDSU Northern Joint Council
Workers at two different shops in Cornwall, Ontario, recently voted to become part of the RWDSU. The newest members of the union in Ontario work at Satisfied Brakes and Xactics International, Incorporated.
Simply put, the quality assurance technicians at Satisfied Brakes were not satisfied at all. They had no union representation and they knew they were missing out. The reason they knew is that the other workers at the brake manufacturer did have a union. But the independent union they had was not very effective. So the Quality Assurance Technicians, who know quality when they see it, reached out to the RWDSU. They got in touch with Sean Floyd, a labor activist in southern Ontario who has a long-standing relationship with the RWDSU in the province. With his help the Satisfied Brake workers started their campaign. The vote on May 13 was 9 to 0 in favor of the union.
"The workers at Satisfied Brakes deserve to have a strong union voice," said RWDSU Canadian Director Robin McArthur, "and in Ontario, that strong voice is the RWDSU."
Xactics International, Inc.
Not long after the vote at Satisfied brakes, the RWDSU Northern Joint Council won an organizing campaign at another Cornwall shop. The 21 people employed by Xactics International, Inc., a septic tank and plumbing fitting manufacturer, knew that a union could help them with their concerns about job security.
"In many of our more rural communities there are not a lot of job opportunities," said McArthur. "When you get a job, you want to keep it. People don't want to have to go to Toronto for work. They don't want to leave their homes. So job security is an important issue."
Again, with Floyd's help, the union began the campaign. On May 27th the workers voted overwhelmingly for the union, and the 21 employees of Xactics are now members of the RWDSU. The expectation is that the shop will grow and may possibly employ as many as 100 people in the coming months.
"These may be the first shops to be represented by the RWDSU in Cornwall," said McArthur, "but there will be more."
MFD recently asked the Joint Northern Council if the labor activist named in the RWDSU's news item is none other than ex-Teamster ex-con Floyd and if so, to comment on the nature of the RW's long-standing relationship with him. The Council has not responded.
If RW-UFCW is now employing Floyd to organize, or do anything else for that matter, that is very troubling indeed. If, as the RWDSU news item states, they have "had a long standing relationship with him in Ontario", that is more troubling because it suggests that Floyd never left the Canadian labor scene for long, if at all. Worse, he has been elevated to the status of "labor activist", a term that most certainly has never been applied to him in the past, whatever else he has been called.
MFD is looking into the identity of the Sean Floyd named on the RWDSU's web site. We hope that the Sean Floyd whose praises the RW-UFCW Joint Northern Council has been singing is not the Sean Floyd who sold out hundreds of members for $250,000. The Joint Northern Council will, hopefully, confirm this for us and we'll let you know when it does.
If, on the other hand, Sean Floyd "labor activist" turns out to the Sean the ex-con, we'll tell you that as well and then we'll have a lot more to say.
Sean Floyd, thief, extortionist, tax cheat, labor racketeer - one of the few ever to serve time for labor racketeering in Canada - a guy who used terrorist connections as part of his shakedown shtick, is not a labor activist by anyone's definition.
If the leaders of the mainstream labor movement can't find the line between labor activists and self-serving opportunists, we'll draw it for them.