Harvey Totzke has been the face of Disney labor for two decades. As president of the Services Trade Council -- the umbrella organization representing Disney's six unions -- and as secretary-general of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 737, Totzke commanded a six-figure salary despite only modest union gains. And until two years ago, no one challenged him.
Then, a pair of rabble-rousers campaigned for the HERE executive board on a platform critical of Totzke's administration, only to have Totzke push the union to amend its bylaws essentially to ban them from running. When the U.S. Department of Labor ordered a new election, Cinderella's Castle server Shelley Patton vied for Totzke's throne, and lost by just 86 out of nearly 4,500 votes cast.
Though a Labor Department investigation repudiated her claim, Patton still says Totzke bought the election. And though the next election is still a year away, Patton says Totzke already has prevented two other potential challengers from seeking HERE leadership posts.
On Feb. 28, Patton announced she was again throwing her hat in the ring. And this time she claimed the support of about 220 banquet workers who had backed Totzke, as well as that of former Totzke lieutenant Tom Musiol. Two weeks later, Totzke -- as head of the trade council -- reassigned the banquet workers from HERE and over to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), a union of merchandise and grocery clerks.
With that one move, Totzke prevented Musiol and fellow banquet worker Joe Suarez -- another of the rabble-rousers -- from challenging him, while also undermining Patton's base of support.
Still, Totzke convinced the rest of the trade council that the move was completely above-board. "Had this been a bad thing for `banquet workers`, we wouldn't have done it," says UFCW leader Ed Chambers. "Totzke wouldn't have proposed it. He led me to believe it was `in` the best interest of the people."
Totzke didn't return Orlando Weekly's telephone calls.
Patton and Co. don't buy it. When unions across the country are struggling to raise revenue, why would Totzke cut $80,000 in potential dues from his own?, asks Musiol. "He sees us as a threat."