December 7, 2009: After years of sell-out contracts and benefit cuts, members of New York Local 814 have voted for a new direction and a reform slate in their local union election.
Members elected Jason Ide and the New Directions Slate by a whopping 72 percent in big turnout among the local’s 1,000 members. The new team will take office on January 1.They inherit huge problems and major challenges.
The local’s previous leadership negotiated a series of concessionary contracts that allowed employers to hire tiers of low-wage employees who got no pension or welfare contributions.
Over time, both benefit funds went into the tank. Fund trustees adopted a plan that will freeze members’ pension accrual. In one of his last acts as Local 814 President, George Daniello approved healthcare cuts that eliminated members prescription, dental and vision benefits altogether.
Rebuilding the funds and members’ benefits will be a top issue in upcoming contract negotiations covering more than 800 Local 814 members in the moving and storage industry.
“In the past, Local 814 officials bargained concessions and then used the strike as weapon to bully the membership into accepting givebacks. That strategy is out the door,” Ide said. “We’re going to mobilize the membership and be prepared to win gains. With the state of our contract and our benefits, we’ve really got no other choice.”
Winning wage increases that close the gap between higher and lower paid members is another contract goal—gains that Ide and other New Directions leaders won in a successful contract campaign they organized at Sotheby’s last year.
Policing the Contract
The new Local 814 officers are also gearing up to increase contract enforcement.
“We’re creating a task force of members to go out and police jobs,” said Richie Johnson, the new Local 814 secretary-treasurer. “We’ve got to enforce one-to-one ratio so our members are being put to work and employers are funding our benefits the way they’re supposed to.”
To pay for the new programs, the New Directions leadership is cutting officer salaries.
The cuts will free up resources to periodically pay members to come off the job to work for the local on organizing drives and contract enforcement campaigns—but given the local’s finances even that will be limited.
“This is going to be a team effort,” Johnson said.
“We’ve got new generals, but every war is won by the soldiers. We’ve got to build a fighting, rank-and-file army if we want to win,” said Walter Taylor, a member of the TDU International Steering Committee and a Local 814 member.
Taylor helped organize a series of rank-and-file campaigns to vote down bad contracts that defeated some of the concessions pushed by employers and the former officials of Local 814.
“Finally change has come and members have a chance to fight for our future. The old officials locked us out of our own union,” Taylor said. “We have big problems, but now we have hope.”