Chicago Teamsters Local 727 has reached a $275,000 settlement with whistleblower Anne Stuart, who sued the local in 2013 for sex discrimination in a case that shines a light on the nepotism, sexism and corruption that has dominated the Teamsters’ movie division in Chicago since the days of the Great Depression.
Stuart, however, only got 25% of the payout — the rest went to her lawyers.
Last February, Local 727’s boss John T. Coli Sr. was kicked out of his $300,000-a-year job as secretary-treasurer after he was indicted for extorting $325,000 – “by the wrongful use of fear of economic loss from threatened work stoppages” – from Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, the city’s largest production center. Fox’s Empire and Dick Wolf’s NBC shows Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med are among the productions filmed there.
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A trial is pending, but Coli has been permanently expelled from the union. His son, John Coli Jr., now runs the local.
Stuart made history in 2010, long before the #MeToo Movement began, when she became the first female admitted to Local 727’s Movie and Trade Show Division. But she says Coli and the men who ran the local – including his son and brother William Coli – refused to refer her for work.
She filed suit in 2013, but her case was dismissed in U.S. District Court. A year later, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a scathing rebuke of the lower court’s judge, overturned his decision and remanded her case for trial before a different judge.
Her settlement, which was reached last March before the case was to go to trial, has gone unreported until now.
Stuart’s one-woman crusade against sexism at the powerful Teamsters local in Chicago has opened the door for other women to become movie drivers there, but she’s received little benefit herself, she says. She still hasn’t gotten a job, and only got $70,000 (25%) of that settlement; the other $205,000 went to her attorneys. Her negotiations were overseen by Susan Cox, a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. Stuart now calls it “the crap ass settlement that I was bullied into.”
“As we discussed, Local 727 is now offering $275,000 as its final offer to settle the case,” her former attorney, Jeffrey Cummings, told Stuart via email shortly before the case was settled. “We’ve agreed to that number based upon you receiving $70,000 and the law firms receiving $205,000 for their costs and fees…Thanks for your patience and determination. You are an awesome person!”
Cummings relayed to Deadline through his old law firm that he is not at liberty to discuss the case. On September 28, 2018, he was selected to fill the next vacancy as U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of Illinois.
In the meantime, Local 727’s attorneys are threatening to sue Stuart for breaching her confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement by posting about the non-monetary aspects of her settlement on Facebook. An attorney for the local told Cummings in a September 11 email that he is “willing to recommend to Local 727 that it not pursue any actions against Ms. Stuart if she immediately deleted the posting. In response, Ms. Stuart seriously exacerbated the situation by making additional postings that violate the terms of the settlement agreement.”
Attached to their email was a 10-page draft of a breach of contract complaint that, if filed, would ask the court to force her to pay back the local’s insurer $105,000, plus attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in enforcing the settlement agreement.
Undeterred, Stuart kept posting, hoping to gain support from the women at Local 727 for whom she’d opened the door to movie driving jobs.
“They want to take me to court for telling the truth,” she posted on the Teamster Women Public Group site on September 14. “If they are so bent out of shape by my vague posts, what in heck are they hiding? They want me to remove the posts, and to stop posting about them. Currently they think I owe them over 200K in fines. Gee whiz, do I have to round up people who have heard Teamster Local 727 members, Chicago Film Unit, refer to me in filthy terms? They would owe me way over 200K. But I have not chosen to pursue that avenue. I asked for Teamster Local 727, the Chicago Film Unit and service members to publicly apologize for the lack of follow thru on the settlement agreement and their decades of discriminatory practices.”
She also posted that she wants a “public thank you” from the women who now have driving jobs in the movie division “Because I stood up and fought.”
In the settlement agreement, Local 727 “denies all claims in Stuart’s lawsuit.” Maggie Ward, the local’s communications director, told Deadline that “Both prior to the lawsuit and since the settlement of it, the statements Ms. Stuart has made about the union are inherently false and misleading. The discrimination case filed by Ms. Stuart was settled and subject to the union’s insurance policy; the insurer made the decision to settle the claim. No money was paid by the union to Ms. Stuart. Additionally, no determination as to the underlying merit of the allegations raised in the claim was made by the Court. The union does not now, or in the past, have any control or input in the hiring decisions as it relates to bargaining unit work in the movie industry. This union prides itself on the expansion of the union Brother and Sisterhood by any and all persons and is accepting and encouraging of both women and men, including Ms. Stuart, working in any industry they so choose. The union has and continues to honor its obligations under the Settlement Agreement and has no further comment at this time.”
As part of the settlement, the union agreed to “sponsor and host an annual job fair and networking opportunity…specifically targeted towards women, to provide persons interested in performing bargaining unit work on the set of a movie or television show with the opportunity to converse with the persons who are hiring on behalf of the participating movie and television production companies.” The first job fair was held last month.
The union also agreed to establish a Women’s Apprenticeship Program to train women to work in its movie and trade show division – but as part of the settlement, Stuart would likely not get to participate in it. But before the union could implement the apprenticeship program, it first had to get NBC and Fox, two of the major employers in Chicago, to sign off on it.
“Our negotiations with NBC regarding the apprenticeship program have progressed, and we have very few remaining issues which we think we will be able to resolve,” Local 727 attorney Brandon Anderson told Cummings in an email dated February 19, 2010, when the union was still offering her only $225,000 to settle. “Discussions with Fox have also progressed and we are waiting to hear back on its issues/concerns. The union is committed to the apprenticeship idea especially in relation to the benefit of the program for women interested in working in the industry.
“Because that commitment involves a financial obligation on behalf of the union, we have come up with a revised settlement offer reflective of the current circumstances. We understand Ms. Stuart’s desire to bring this matter to a conclusion, and we also realize that we need to have some flexibility with the program so that we can resolve the issues that have been raised by the employers. We are offering to increase the settlement payment by $25,000 to a total of $250,000. We are also offering to retain the apprenticeship program concept, revised with the following material changes: in exchange for the additional $25,000, the program will no longer be a condition of the agreement and, assuming the program comes to fruition, Ms. Stuart will not be at the top of the list for 18 offerings.”
To date, there is no public record of the Women’s Apprenticeship Program having been implemented.
The settlement also noted that the local was in the process of creating a “résumé bank” so that employers could find the names of qualified drivers – both men and women – for their productions.
That bank is now up and running, but most of the movie driving jobs in Chicago – and all the jobs on Empire and on Dick Wolf’s three shows there – are still being handed out by members of the powerful Hogan family – a dynasty that controlled all movie driving jobs in Chicago from 1939 until 2008, when the Hogans were unceremoniously removed from office. For decades, when they were union bosses, they’d decided who would work, and they still do today as the city’s busiest family of movie transportation coordinators.
The family’s domination over Local 714 was so nepotistic – its leadership was handed down from father to son and then to grandsons – that IBT president James Hoffa – the son of Jimmy Hoffa – removed Robert and James M. Hogan from the local’s top posts, then, in 2009, disbanded their local forever. Robert Hogan was also permanently exiled from the Teamsters after an Independent Review Board found the local maintained a “referral system” for work on movie sets and was giving the best jobs to Hogan family members and friends.
Once Local 714 was eliminated, its jurisdiction over movie drivers – and its $1.6 million in assets – were handed over to the Coli family-controlled Local 727.
But the Hogan family wasn’t through. They still had a powerful grip on movie driving jobs in the city – no longer as labor bosses, but as transportation coordinators, the ones who actually do the hiring of drivers and transportation captains.
“Any film or TV show filmed in Chicago, we’re involved,” said James M. Hogan, the last and final president of Local 714, before he was kicked out of office.
And Hogan family members are still hiring more drivers than anyone else. William “Billy” Hogan Jr., the 77-year-old son of Local 714 founder William Hogan Sr., is currently the transportation coordinator on Chicago Fire, Chicago Med and Chicago PD, as well as for Wolf’s short-lived Chicago Justice. And Billy Jr.’s son, James A. Hogan, is the transportation coordinator for Empire and Showtime’s The Chi. He was also the transportation coordinator on Summit Entertainment’s Divergent, which employed 42 drivers, two transportation captains and one Department of Transportation coordinator – all men. And more than a dozen of them were longtime friends or relatives of the Hogan family.
Before his death in 1999, William Hogan Sr., who founded the now-defunct Local 714 in 1939, turned it over to his son, William Jr., who ran it for 12 years before handing it off to his brother James M. Hogan and son Robert A. Hogan.
In 1996, an Independent Review Board recommended that the local be put into trusteeship because it was “not being run for the benefit of its members, (but) is being run for the benefit of its principal officer William Hogan, Jr.; president James M. Hogan; recording secretary Robert Hogan, and their family and friends.”
At the time of the board’s investigation, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters itself was operating under a court-ordered Consent Decree designed to root out organized crime and racketeering.
Its 1996 report found that the local had not held a single contested election in at least 35 years, and that “Nepotism was an improper influence in appointments to union positions, obtaining Local employment and in the administration of the local’s 258-member trade show/movie division.”
It also noted that in the 1970s, several reputed organized crime figures were employed as Teamsters at Chicago’s McCormick Place, the largest convention space in North America. A local newspaper article from 1974 read, “The payrolls of union workers at McCormick Place dating back to 1971 reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ in the Chicago crime syndicate.”
During a June 1977 deposition, William Hogan Sr. explained that after the newspaper articles came out, he told David Kaye, then the local’s trade show division chief steward: “So, Dave, I said, if this publicity is going to continue we can’t keep these guys in McCormick Place. We have to put them somewhere else so the heat is off of them, off of us and off of you.”
Hogan also described a conversation he’d had with his son, William “Billy” Hogan Jr., about how he had to tell a reputed mobster he’d have to give up his cush job at the convention center — at least for a little while. “If you go and the heat dies off,” he told the mobster, “we can bring you back, but we will find steady work for you in the manufacturing plant or any other exhibit hall, but not this one. They are zeroed in on and every time you guys work here we are going to get a blast.”
His son, William Jr., in a 1977 deposition, described “a similar conversation” he’d had with another mobbed up member of his local employed at McCormick Place, according to the review board report. And he’s Chicago’s top movie transportation coordinator in Chicago, and has been for years.
Local 714 was placed into trusteeship in 1998, but when it came out, an election returned the Hogans to power, where they ruled for another decade until Hoffa abolished it.
Stuart, meanwhile, is broke now but not broken. She’d been working as a school bus driver but was injured on the job in July 2014 – four months before the 7th Circuit ruled in her favor and remanded her case for trial. She was evicted from her home in December 2015 and temporarily placed in a state program to prevent homelessness, “but state funding ran out,” she told Deadline. “Life went from bad to worse, depending on friends for handouts.”
In 2017, she was living in an Extended Stay hotel and driving for Uber and Lyft, “Basically anything to make a buck,” she said. “At this time, the lawyers started to talk about money and putting dollar amounts on paper. I was then able to take out Oasis Loans as cash advances on legal settlements.”
“I started to pawn my valuables. I got behind on my storage locker of belongings. My storage locker went up for auction, and the buyer refused to return the box containing my personal documents. The only things he returned were the ashes of my dad and brother, which is required by law.
“I was then bullied into accepting the crap settlement. The majority was taken by the attorneys. Over half of what I was supposed to get went to pay back the Oasis Loans. I barely had enough to get things out of pawn, bring the car payment current, and treat myself to a good purse.
“To keep a roof over my head, I’ve had to put what is left of my valuables into pawn. So my finances are at a standstill. I am moving in with a friend for a couple of months because I don’t have the cash to stay where I am currently living at.
“So basically, my life has been reduced to sofa surfing and what can fit into a 5×5 storage locker, and constantly paying late fees on the cell phones because I do not have a consistent income.
“So for now life sucks. I am packing up my stuff in this little furnished studio, so I can relocate again, but due to weather I am housebound. And I just found out that I have major auto issues – another $700 I need to pull out of thin air. It just seems that for every step I take forward, I am pushed back five more.”
Stuart has started a Go Fund Me page, hoping to raise $50,000 to cover her legal fees and living expenses. Noting she is the woman “who has been trying to change the hiring behavior of Teamster Local 727’s Film Unit,” she wrote there that “Although a settlement was unfortunately agreed upon, the same hiring practices continue: unit members are the hand-picked choice of the Transportation Coordinators. Still the battle continues, and now, since I stood my ground, I am in need of assistance with legal fees and keeping a roof over my head, along with paying the normal household bills.”
Finding work, she wrote, is difficult “with the reputation of being a whistleblower.”
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