The decision cuts wages by 6.5 percent and reduces sick leave, holidays, vacations, and eliminates union health care and pension plans. Teamsters who previously had union benefits are forced into a company health plan that costs $363 per month for families.
For many workers who don’t make much over $8 per hour, this means 25 percent of their income will go to paying for coverage, or they give up health care.
The jobs of thousands of Teamsters have literally been destroyed. The International Union negotiated a deal to send all contract issues to an arbitrator, who then handed down this concessionary national contract.
No Gate Gourmet Teamsters were allowed to vote on their contract, or on the decision to hand bargaining off to an arbitrator.
Members in Los Angeles Local 572 are furious at the International.“We never would have settled for this contract,” says shop steward Luis Ramos, one of the leaders organizing the fightback. “We voted to reject a similar offer by 90 percent and now with no vote we are stuck with this contract. The International leaders should be ashamed of themselves. By agreeing to arbitration our leaders took away all our power to fight and have left us hung out to dry. Now we are being told there is nothing we can do. It’s despicable.”
“Even though the local officials are telling us there is nothing we can do and to go find jobs elsewhere, we are organizing to fight back,” says Raul Nieves. “We are refusing to take the concessions laying down.”
Instead of giving up like the International and local leadership, the workers have decided to resist. One of the first things they did was inform other members of their fight by demonstrating at the Local 572 membership meeting on Jan. 22.
“At first the officials made fun of us and tried to push us away from the entrance, but when more workers kept coming they stopped laughing and got very upset,” says Concepción Espinosa.
“We submitted a resolution condemning the arbitration decision and demanding the leadership fight for a fair contract,” says Gerardo Rosales.
The next day 100 Gate Gourmet workers demonstrated and handed out leaflets at the Los Angeles airport protesting the cuts. While the demonstration was taking place, Martin Nuñez and other workers were speaking to the airport commission about the cuts, pointing out that they violated airport living wage requirements.
Says Gate Gourmet worker Ana Campos, “We know it’s a tough battle but we are willing and ready to fight.”