In mid January the Eastern Region freight grievance panel awarded over $230,000 to Pittsburgh DHL drivers, but the company continues to defy the decision. Incredibly, it appears that the Hoffa administration is in cahoots with the corporation in refusing to comply with a binding decision and in undermining the union’s own grievance procedure.
Thousands of DHL Teamsters are being used as pawns in a union power struggle, with control over the highest levels of the grievance procedure going to Tom Keegel and International Rep Brad Slawson of Minneapolis, away from the Freight Division of the IBT.
DHL management was not happy a few months back when they lost a grievance over their subcontracting of some Teamster work loading and unloading planes at the Pittsburgh airport. The company was ordered to pay some $90,000, split among several Teamsters who were deprived of overtime work by the contract violation.
Instead of paying up, the company went to Hoffa, who then allowed them to do an end run around the grievance procedure to get better deals. As a result, DHL will now be part of the MCLAC (Motor Carriers Labor Advisory Committee) grievance procedure, where management feels they will fare better. And at the national level, Slawson, the company’s favorite Teamster leader, will be in charge. The company claims that Slawson told them he would reduce the grievance award down to $16,000.
When DHL refused to pay the $90,000 awarded, Pittsburgh Local 249 filed under Article 7 for penalty pay, which led to the additional award of $230,000. That penalty pay increases every day the company refuses to comply.
Who are Hoffa and Slawson working for? The members and the local unions that filed the subcontracting grievances, or management?
Contract Reopener April 1
The union leadership in 2003 negotiated a reopener clause in the contract for April 1, 2006. Now union officials such as International Vice President Chuck Mack are trying to use this good clause as a scare tactic against members, telling them the company will somehow use it to gut the contract. Since we have the right to strike in a reopener, concessionary talk should be completely off the table. Instead of just giving up and not reopening the contract, the union should be bargaining over important issues such as the status of the independent contractors used to get around the union.
If the union and company don’t reopen the agreement, that will be a convenient excuse to not let the members vote on the change in the grievance procedure.
The DHL fiasco is one reason Hoffa has lost support not only from freight Teamsters but many officers and leaders within the Freight Division. A number of Teamster officers believe Hoffa has written off not only the Freight Division, but the future of the freight industry in our union.
Meanwhile, the Hoffa campaign ad in the February magazine boasts that he “restored the hammer” to the freight grievance procedure. This is from the man who is helping management undermine already-won grievances, and whose only freight strikes ever called were the disasters at Overnite and Red Star. Apparently the hammer is for use against Teamster members and leaders who stand up to the company.