I would like to thank TDU and Convoy Dispatch for the opportunity to get a very important message out to my Teamster brothers and sisters. I am not currently a member of TDU but I do certainly sympathize and support anyone who aspires to make the Teamsters a more democratic union.
I am one of the lead plaintiffs in the WARN Act lawsuit that the rank and file was forced to bring against USF. I say forced because three months after USF shut down Red Star, Jimmy Hoffa appeared to do little more then accommodate the company’s every whim. I was incredulous when I saw the September edition of the “Teamster Freight News.” The headline touts; “Union wins $7 million Red Star settlement. “ I can’t begin to tell you how untrue that is. In fact, not a single IBT representative bothered to show up at the recent fairness hearing that was held regarding the WARN Act lawsuit.
USF Red Star no longer exists because of years of apparent mismanagement, and a “strike” that the IBT claims Hoffa didn’t authorize. Immediately after the shut down a member wrote to Hoffa and asked; “Why didn’t you call off the strike?” Hoffa didn’t bother to respond, but IBT rep Gordon Sweeton did. He wrote, “General President Hoffa was out of town on other business when this strike was called.”
That statement is incredible, if true. Is it possible that the president of the Teamsters is not in possession of a cell phone? Do we really want to trust our future to a man who would be either this negligent, or inaccessible? We lost close to 2,000 Teamster jobs that day and have recouped less than 20 percent of them at Holland.
USF claims that Red Star could not survive after what amounted to be a one-day strike. A strike that the rank and file was never informed of until the walkout actually happened.
Incidentally, USF announced its reemergence in the East a mere month later. USF dumped Red Star, and they supplanted our contract with USF Holland’s workrules, which are substandard. It seemed that the IBT was more attentive to the company’s expansion desires than the needs of their members. Taking all of this into consideration, the rank and file had to step up and take action into our own hands. The IBT did eventually file a WARN Act lawsuit against USF. It was on the eve of the six-month deadline, and a week after they couldn’t coerce me into dropping our lawsuit. Since then they have ridden our coat tails and have taken credit for any success the rank and file has achieved.
Our attorneys, not the IBT lawyers, were designated by the court to represent the “class” and they worked out the proposed settlement. In fact, the IBT refused to help the members’ attorneys. I thought we deserved more than the negotiated settlement, and said so in court. To paraphrase, “I believe that USF’s callous mistreatment of all its former Red Star employees throughout this ordeal is tantamount to that of Enron’s. USF needs to know its heartless actions towards tenured employees, who happen to be unionized, is unacceptable. This is a fairness hearing and what we ask for is what is fair and just. We believe the $7 million offer is woefully inadequate. USF purports to be a $2.3 billion dollar company. Yellow/Roadway purchased USF and now claims to be a $10 billion operation. When USF shut down Red Star, they claimed to have set aside $70 million for possible litigation. Where is it now? I respectfully request the court to consider voiding this settlement so that there might be more money offered to a class that has endured so much at the hands of not only its former employer, but our union as well. A 50 percent increase in the settlement might just be the moral victory that his class needs to restore its faith that justice and restitution are attainable by the little guy.”
This fight took a lot of heart and determination. I’m proud to be a Teamster and a union man that stood up for my brothers and sisters. Any settlement we achieve is due to the fact that we stuck to our principles and united to win what was rightfully ours. We need a union leadership that will do the same.
Local 107, USF Holland