March 27, 2008: Teamsters in New York Local 804 will vote this month on bylaws changes that will put more pension and contract information in the hands of the membership.
The first bylaws change will require the Local 804 Executive Board to include a report on the Local 804 benefit funds at every general membership meeting.
For ten years, the Local 804 pension fund earned dramatically substandard investment returns—resulting in a $100 million shortfall in the fund. But members never knew a thing about it.
The fund’s poor investment record and $378 million overall funding shortfall only came to light when some Local 804 Teamsters obtained a leaked copy of a pension fund actuarial report. By then, the fund had voted to cut the pension accrual by 30 percent.
“During the last contract, we were hit with a lot of propaganda from the company about our pension and very few members really felt like we had the facts. Having reports at our meetings will help members know what is happening with our fund so we can act as watchdogs when we have to,” said Chris Sabatino, a package car shop steward.
“Informed members mean a stronger union and stronger pensions, and that’s our goal,” Sabatino said.
A second change mandates Local 804 to set up a Contract Committee to inform and mobilize Local 804 members when a new contract is being negotiated.
When members were kept in the dark during the last contract, they launched the Local 804 Make UPS Deliver network.
The network held meetings, issued contract bulletins and led a Vote No campaign that defeated a weak contract recommended by both UPS and Local 804.
By voting No by a nearly three to one margin, Local 804 members won a new contract that restored their pensions without giving in to the company’s demand to eliminate 25 & Out pension benefits for new employees.
“UPSers remember 1997 and we know that we win better contracts when members are informed and not kept in the dark,” said Ken Reiman, a package car driver in Melville, N.Y.
“We don’t want another weak contract like this last one. By itself, voting Yes on this bylaws change won’t win us a good contract, but will send a message about what members want our union to do the next time we’re in negotiations.”