April 10, 2009: After Teamsters in suburban Chicago voted down their contract twice, they won new language that protects their overtime and premium work.
Now management is trying to back out of the protections.
USF Holland Teamsters in Local 179 are challenging management over using part-time dockworkers (“supplements”) to take their overtime and premium work.
The members are covered under a local cartage agreement separate from the National Master Freight Agreement.
Cell Phone Call
The conflict boils down to a fight over a cell phone conversation between union and management representatives.
At a recent meeting in Joliet, Ill. members reported on the discussion and mood at their April 2008 ratification meeting, where their contract was voted on.
All agreed the proposed contract would have been rejected for a third time if the language on premium work stood. Members witnessed Rick Geirut, business agent for Local 179, agree from the front of the room that the language on premium work wasn’t right. Members insisted the language should read, “regular employees will not be denied overtime when the supplements are working.” As a solution, Geirut proposed calling Neil London, the USF labor man, in order to clarify the language.
City driver Steve Walski reported, “Geirut spoke by cell phone right there in the meeting. He said London agreed that the language in the proposed agreement was wrong on premium work, and agreed to fix it for the final agreement.” Only then did the contract pass.
Members got a written copy of the agreement in June 2008. The change to the premium work language was not there.
Rick Geirut, who has since become President of Local 179, has at various points assured Holland Teamsters that the issue would be resolved. “I was in on negotiations and I know that’s not what we agreed to,” reported former steward Joe Walczak. Grievances have been filed but management continues to make use of part-time dockworkers to eliminate overtime. At a recent grievance meeting on the issue, London claimed he never agreed to correct the language.
Teamsters want management to sign a side letter of understanding that corrects the contract language.
USF Holland Joliet may be cutting their costs on overtime but the dust hasn’t settled for Teamster members. They are prepared to press on to ensure they get what they were told they were voting for at the ratification meeting. They plan to protect their hard-won contractual rights.
We would suggest one lesson: get it in writing before you vote.