In a stunning upset, Leo Reed, a fixture among entertainment industry union leaders for nearly a quarter of a century, was beaten in his bid for a ninth three-year term as head of Teamsters Local 399 by Steve Dayan, a former business agent for the local.
Reed is the second long-time union leader to be toppled this year. In April, George Palazzo was ousted as head of IA Local 729, the set painters guild, losing in a run for another term after 15 years in office.
In the bitterly fought contest for secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters, Dayan received 1,308 votes or 56 percent of the ballots cast. Reed got 1,009 votes or 43 percent. More than 50 percent of the membership voted. Wes Ponsford, also running on Dayan’s Members First slate, won the post of president, beating long-time incumbent Tony Cousimano, who ran with Reed. Ed Duffy, allied with the former secretary-treasurer, was re-elected vice president.
Dayan had campaigned on the need for “new leadership with fresh innovative ideas,” claiming Reed was out-of-touch with today’s industry challenges and insufficiently aggressive in fighting for increased California financial incentives to keep film and television jobs in the state. He also questioned the hiring by Local 399 of two Reed relatives, including his son-in-law who, according to federal records, last year earned nearly $175,000 in salary and expenses.
Reed, for his part, called Dayan and his supporters “traitors” and charged Dayan with being too cozy with the studios on staffing and in accepting lower wage scales on some productions. Dayan was fired as business agent last July when he announced his candidacy. He had held the position since 2000.
Both were more tempered in remarks after the election. “I want to thank Leo for his service and I want to congratulate our slate,” said Dayan, who takes office Jan. 1. “This election has been hard fought and sometimes contentious but it is now time for all of us to let go of the past and move forward together,” he noted. Speaking on behalf of Reed, a Teamsters Local 399 official said, “He congratulates Steve on his victory and he wishes him all the best in running 399 into the future.”
Reed, 74, joined the Teamsters in Hawaii where he was born and raised, and moved to Los Angeles in 1980 where, for a time, he was a bodyguard for Sylvester Stallone. He had previously served on the Honolulu police force. After joining Local 399 Reed drove trucks on film sets. He was first elected secretary-treasurer in 1989. The burly Reed in his younger days played football at Colorado State, and went on to be a pro with the Houston Oilers and the Denver Broncos.
Dayan has been a member of the Teamsters local for 28 years and has served as a business agent, negotiator and organizer for the past 13 years. He organized location managers and casting directors, with both groups now being represented by Local 399. He is the first Teamster to be appointed to the board of the California Film Commission and is vice chairman of the organization. He is a former chairman of FilmLA, and was on its executive board for seven years.
Final Election Results
TOTAL BALLOTS: 2,354
Steve Dayan 1,308
Leo T. Reed 1,009
Gary Watts 19
Wes Ponsford 1,206
Tony Cousimano 1,097
Ed Duffy 1,242
Jack Fisher 1,064
Rosie Falcon 1,168
Lindsay Dougherty 1,144
Chris Sell 1,289
Kenneth Farnell 1,248
Gary Zuckerbrod 1,209