Downsizing Teamster Standards in a Growth Industry

January 10, 2008: The International Union is selling the concessionary freight contract by lecturing members about the threat of nonunion competition.

But at the same time, the Hoffa administration is giving our biggest nonunion competition, UPS Freight, a substandard deal in Indianapolis—and promoting that concessionary package as the “template” for all UPS Freight terminals that we organize going forward.

This isn’t a plan for rebuilding union power in freight. It’s a one-two punch for dragging Teamster standards down to the nonunion level.

On Jan. 8, Hoffa met with some 200 local union officials about the proposed tentative freight contract. A slide show was presented that was 100 percent corporate in content: Yellow-Roadway stock is down. The economy is bad. Nonunion competition is strong.

Not one slide was about building Teamster power—or organizing. And in the whole day, UPS Freight was never mentioned once.

Hoffa directed local officials to go home and sell the contract. He said he would keep track of how many “Yes” votes each official turned out for his concessionary deal.

Freight Teamsters are adults. We don’t need our union to spoon-feed us a sales job. We need leaders with a plan for protecting our industry standards—and strengthening them for the future.

Growth Not Surrender

No doubt we face nonunion competition. The largest competitor of YRC and ABF is UPS Freight, which employs 15,000 drivers and dock workers and is growing fast. If we want to level the playing field, the first and most important thing we can do is bring UPS Freight up to the NMFA level.

Our first step should not be to lower the NMFA down to match UPS Freight, which is what is proposed in this deal. Converting freight Teamsters to “utility employees,” low-paid part-time dock casuals, allowing subcontracting out line haul work, and a longer new-hire period: these are all taken from the UPS Freight playbook.

Instead, our union needs a national campaign to bring UPS Freight into our national contract. That would be a union-building effort that all Teamster members could get behind.

UPS Freight

On a national conference call about UPS Freight this month, Hoffa and Parcel Division Director Ken Hall poured water on the idea of improving on the UPS Freight contract that was negotiated in Indianapolis.

Hall called that deal—which includes low-wage part-time dock workers, utility employees, the same old company pension plan, and costs $150 per month for family health coverage—the “template” for a national contract with UPS Freight.

It is common sense that the more terminals we organize the more bargaining power our union will have to win a stronger contract. Why would the Hoffa administration be telling local officers that the contract we got by organizing 125 UPS Freight employees in Indianapolis is the best we can do?

Many officers and members want to aim higher. On that same conference call a number of officers said they wanted to bargain to get Teamster pensions and benefits into the contract. Leaders in the Freight Division are concerned about any contract that could undercut the NMFA.

The proposed freight agreement also contains a new section that allows employers to use nonunion line haul trucking to reduce railing to cut transit times. This nonunion line haul must be with a “Preferred Company” that the union hopes to organize.

Will our union hold these “Preferred Companies” to NMFA standards? Or will the Hoffa administration water down our union standards in freight with even more substandard contracts?

Building Teamster Power

Trucking is a growth industry. But the Hoffa administration is downsizing our standards—and putting its energy into lowering members expectations instead of mobilizing to defeat concessions and bring the nonunion competition up to Teamster standards.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union is committed to building a national rank-and-file movement to rebuild Teamster Power.

We love our union and are committed to fighting for its future—by resisting concessions, helping to organize the unorganized, and holding our Teamster officials accountable to our union’s mission: fighting for a better life for working people and our families.

That’s a cause worth trucking for.

Join TDU today—or contact us for more information.

Get involved. Visit Freight2008.org to download the contract, get bulletins you can distribute, and read more about the tentative deal.


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