Teamsters Local Union 135 has been a Local Union of general jurisdiction, affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters since December of 1940. The principal office of the Local Union has always been located in Indianapolis, Indiana, but the Local Union fell on hard times in the late 1940s, and was put under Trusteeship by the International Union around 1948. The Local Union had approximately 3000 members at that time and an individual by the name of Gene SanSoucie came to Indianapolis from St. Louis to run the Local Union during the Trusteeship. Gene was elected President at the conclusion of the Trusteeship in about 1950. Mr. SanSoucie was a very dynamic individual and made great strides to stabilize and build the Local Union.
During the 1950s, Local Union 135 engaged in extensive organizing efforts and substantial amounts of litigation taking on unorganized companies in and around Central Indiana. In addition, during the 1950s, a warehouse Local in Indianapolis merged into Local Union 135, and Local Unions in Columbus and Bloomington, Indiana also became part of the ever-growing Local Union 135.
The most significant merger with Local Union 135 in the 1950s was the merger of Local Union 369 this merger took place in the latter part of 1958, this brought Teamster members into Local Union 135 who worked for companies in the Marion, Muncie and Anderson areas in the State of Indiana. The merger between Local Union 369 and Local Union 135 caused the membership of Local Union 135 to be in excess of 9,000 members at the end of 1959.
The growth of Local Union 135 continued in the early 1960s from organizing efforts and mergers, with a merger taking place in January of 1961 with Local Union 691 on the east side of Indiana with offices in Richmond and Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
Gene SanSoucie made his mark as a Teamster, an organizer, and as a successful builder of a Local Union. Gene SanSoucie was also on the original Trustees of the Central States
Health and Welfare and Pension Funds. When he was in the prime of his life and his career, Gene SanSoucie died in a plane crash in April of 1961. The position of President of Local Union 135 was then filled by Lloyd Reisner, who continued as President until January 1,1966, when Loran W. Robbins became the President of the Local Union.
Loran W. Robbins served as President of Local Union 135 from January 1, 1966 until April of 1983. During his tenure as President, the Local Union continued to grow, primarily through organizing and the growth and expansion of companies under contract with the Local Union. There was one merger, and that was with Local Union 188 in Indianapolis in 1967; Local 188 was primarily a bread and dairy Local Union that needed the support and stability of Local Union 135.
One of the most memorable strikes in the history of the Local Union took place in 1968, when the Local Union had the Batesville Casket Company on strike seeking a contract for its truck drivers from April of 1968 until that Fall when the strike was finally settled. President Robbins engineered a successful boycott of the struck products by engaging in consumer boycott activity at the National Funeral Directors Convention at the Convention Center in Detroit, Michigan. Several of the Batesville Casket Company truck drivers were in Detroit during the week long National Funeral Directors Convention passing out letters to the Convention Delegates about our problems, passing out souvenir key chains with the Teamsters emblem on them, and passing out bumper stickers that stated “I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Batesville Casket”. The strike was settled shortly after the conclusion of the boycott week in Detroit and Local Union 135 has since that time enjoyed a very decent relationship with the Company.
In 1971, the Local Union moved into its new Union office next door to the old school house that had served its members well for many years. The old Union office was torn down and became a parking lot for the members.
During the tenure of President Robbins, the membership of the Local Union climbed to well over 17,000 members, but then in the early 1980s, the deregulation of the trucking industry began, and Local Union 135, as well as many other Teamster Local Unions, lost thousands of good Union jobs. Deregulation cost Local Union 135 members several thousand good jobs in the freight industry, but the Local Union continued to work to succeed under both President Robbins and his successor as President, John Neal, who became the President of the Local Union in April of 1983.
Under the leadership of John Neal, Local Union 135 recovered from many of the adverse effects of deregulation. Local Union 135 also received a boost in its membership in about 1986 when several hundred United Parcel Service employees were transferred into Local Union 135 by the Local Union that had previously represented them.
During the early 1990s, Local Union 135 again responded to Local Unions around it that needed help and assistance, as three mergers took place that have helped protect and preserve the strength of the Local Union in the State of Indiana. On April 1, 1990, Local Union 298 in Michigan City, Indiana became a part of Local Union 135. This was followed on August 1, 1990 by a merger of Local Union 543 in Lafayette and Kokomo, Indiana into Local Union 135. Finally, on January 1, 1992 Local Union 144 with offices in Terre Haute and Vincennes, Indiana merged into and became a part of Local Union 135.
John Neal left the Local Union in August of 1996 and he was succeeded by President Danny L. Barton who was re-elected in 1998 and continues as President at the present time. Under the leadership of President Barton, Teamsters Local Union 135 is today available at all of these offices to negotiate contracts, represent members and organize the unorganized. The Local Union also has a campground and fishing lake near New Castle, Indiana, and it is available for members, retirees and their families.
Individuals interested in becoming Teamsters can call the Indianapolis office of Local Union 135 at (317) 639-3541 or contact any of our outlying offices. Teamsters Local Union 135 has grown to where it is today through a lot of hard work by many different officers and representatives over a good number of years. Even more important that the efforts of the officers, however, has been the dedication and hard work of Union Stewards and members who deserve the bulk of the credit for this success story. The strong and stable history of Local Union 135 for the past 50 years has placed the Local Union in an excellent position to be ready to meet the challenges of the next century. Continued work by the officers, stewards and members of the Local Union will enable the Local Union to continue to respond to the needs of its members, the employers for whom they work, the communities where they live and raise their families, and the needs of organized labor in general, as we move together seeking Justice in the future.