December 30, 2009: Three years ago, Local 804 members launched a grassroots movement to fight benefit cuts and contract concessions. In December, their hard work paid off when the 804 Members United Slate swept their local union election with 68 percent of the vote.
On Jan. 1, the leadership will take office in one of the most powerful locals in our union.
Local 804 represents 7,000 Teamsters in metro New York—most of them at UPS. The local is the home of legendary Teamster leader Ron Carey, the first democratically-elected General President of the Teamsters Union.
“This is a tremendous victory for Teamsters who believe we can stand up to big companies and the old guard and take back our union,” said Jim Reynolds, the newly-elected Secretary-Treasurer of Local 804 and a long-time TDU leader.
“Local 804 members have proven with their courage and their action that when Teamsters go from anger to hope—and from hope to action—there’s nothing we can’t do,” Reynolds said.
The election victory capped a grassroots campaign that began in 2007 when Local 804 leaders mobilized the membership to reject a concessionary UPS contract by a three to one vote.
UPS was forced to put a better offer on the table—one that reversed a 30 percent pension cut, stopped a proposed 10 cent wage cut, and saved 25 & Out for every Local 804 member.
“I’m usually not involved, but what 804 Members United has done is so unbelievable that I had to participate and support them,” said Ricardo Silva, an inside worker at UPS’s 43rd St. building in Manhattan.
“The contract victory gave us hope that we could bring change to our local,” said Ken Reiman, a newly elected business agent who was also recently elected to the TDU International Steering Committee. “We saw that members were more willing to stand up to UPS than our local officials were. It was clear it was time for a new direction.”
The newly elected leadership team faces big challenges. The Pension Fund has lost $183 million and is less than 50 percent funded. The outgoing local leadership also depleted the Health Fund’s reserves.
“We’re not going to be able to fix all the problems overnight,” said President-Elect Tim Sylvester. “We’ve laid out ten changes we’ll make to rebuild our union’s power. We’re committed to implementing that reform program and tapping the power of an informed and organized membership.”
The new leadership’s goals include increased contract enforcement and the launching of a Teamster University with educational programs for stewards and members.
To pay for these initiatives, the new officers will cut their salaries by $35,000 each and eliminate 401K contributions for officers.
“We’re going to put the dues to work for the members,” said Vice President-elect Pete Mastrandrea.
“This was and will become again a strong union. It’s not all about the officers, it’s about us,” said package car driver Jairo Reyes. “I know from this slate we will find the support, the backbone that we need. There’s a lot of jellyfish out there. So we need to be the backbone.”
This story is part of a series on TDU.org. Click here to read about other Teamsters Who Made a Difference in 2009.
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