In Saudi Arabia, women aren’t allowed to drive cars. In Chicago, women aren’t allowed to drive trucks—at least not on movie sets. That’s according to a lawsuit filed against Chicago Teamsters Local 727 that claims no woman has been hired to drive a truck on a union film or TV show shot in the Windy City in the local’s 75-year history. That’s tens of thousands of jobs, hundreds of thousands of days worked.
In 2010, Maura Anne Stuart made history by becoming the first female admitted Local 727’s Movie/Trade Show division. Three years later, she filed a sex-discrimination lawsuit against the union claiming she had been shut out of breaking into its Movie/Trade Show Division for several years. The suit was thrown out by a U.S. District Court judge but was recently reinstated by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The trial could begin sometime next year.
Historically, all union driving jobs on films and TV shows shot in Chicago have been performed by the local’s members whose names appear on its Movie/Trade Show Referral List. When production companies come to film in the city – for such TV shows such as Chicago Fire, Mike & Molly and Shameless and films including Divergent, Man Of Steel and the two latest Transformers pics — their transportation coordinators must select their drivers from that list. Deadline has obtained assignment sheets from September and December of 2011 that list the 300 drivers who are members of Local 727’s Movie/Trade Show Division. All the names on the lists are males. According to Stuart’s lawsuit, no woman’s name ever has appeared on the local’s referral or assignment lists.
Deadline made numerous calls for comment to Local 727 Secretary-Treasurer John Coli Sr. and general counsel Stephanie Brinson. None was returned.
The constitution of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters states that members should “never discriminate against a fellow worker on account of race, color, religion, sex, age, physical disability or national origin.” Teamster locals in Los Angeles and New York, for example, regularly employ women as drivers on film and TV productions. Local 727 responded to Stuart’s suit by denying “that it engaged in any discriminatory activity.”
Stuart, a school bus driver and a member of Chicago Teamsters Local 777, had extensive experience as a precision driver on films and TV shows such as The Fugitive, Prison Break, Wanted and ER and had been trying to get on the Teamsters’ movie referral list since 2006, when the movie division was being run by Teamsters Local 714. That local’s jurisdiction over film work was taken over by Local 727 in 2008 after Local 714 was put into trusteeship – for a second time – by the IBT.
In her lawsuit, Stuart claims that she “attempted – without success – to become a member of the Movie/Trade Show Division with the sponsorship and assistance of a current union member. In particular, in about late 2005 or early 2006, Stuart asked Richard DeAngelo — a longtime Local 714 transportation coordinator for the Movie/Trade Show Division — when she was going to be offered a union card for Local 727. DeAngelo responded with words to the following effect: ‘At this point, probably never. You know your stuff, but if we let you in, they’d have to let in everyone’s wife, sister or daughter who can’t do the job.’” Local 727 said in its response to her complaint. “DeAngelo has never been an agent or representative of Local 727.”
Determined to become a member of the Movie/Trade Show Division, Stuart learned of another way to go about it. She believed that the rules of the Teamsters International Union permitted a Teamster in good standing of one local to gain membership to another Teamster local. Stuart had been a member of Teamsters Local 777 in connection with her school bus driving job since 2008, so in March 2010, she went to Local 727’s office and filled out an application to be put on the movie referral list and plunked down an initiation fee of $150 and a dues payment of $70. After Stuart paid her initiation fee and dues, she was issued a Local 727 membership card.
In its response to her complaint, the union said it “admits that in or about March 2010, Stuart came to Local 727’s office, completed a membership application and dues authorization and paid an amount equal to the initiation fee and first month dues and was issued a membership card. However, in further answering, Defendant states that, pursuant to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Constitution, because Stuart was already a member of Teamsters Local 777, she could not join Local 727 and have dual membership. Stuart’s initiation fee and dues were then applied towards monthly service fees. Defendant lacks sufficient information to either admit or deny that she completed a ‘Teamsters Local 727 Application for Referral – Movie’ in or about March, 2010.”
After receiving a receipt for payment of dues and initiation fees, she went to transportation coordinator Jimmy Hogan’s office and told him that she had received a Local 727 card. According to the suit, “Hogan, who looked shocked, then told Stuart that he had her name and information and that he would call her if he needed her.” The local’s response: “Hogan has never been an agent or representative of Local 727 (and it) lacks knowledge and information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations and, on that basis, denies the allegations.”
Stuart also told a Local 727 business agent named Jon Magna that she wanted to be placed on the list of Local 727 members who were available for work.” But Magna never called her for work, and the suit claims that Magna and other Local 727 officers gave her numerous false reasons why. In August 2013, the suit states, she had a conversation in the union’s office with Local 727 general counsel Stephanie Brinson, who told her that “she was not on their books and declared that Stuart was not a member of Local 727 despite that fact that Stuart paid her dues and holds a Local 727 membership card.”
Stuart’s suit says she called Magna “on a number of occasions … to let him know that she is available for driver work and to ask about opportunities for work. During his conversations with Stuart, Magna asked Stuart more than once if she wanted a refund of her membership dues, and he told Stuart not to bother calling in because he would call her when he had something available.”
Local 727 “admits that Magna offered to refund her dues as dues are not required if an individual is not working in the industry. Defendant denies the remaining allegations.”
The suit states that before Stuart attempted to join the local, a Teamster she knew told her that “you might get a (membership) card, but they’re not going to let you work.” It adds, “Unfortunately, that prediction has been proven true.”