January 28, 2005: New York Local 805 members elected the Sandy Pope Leadership Action Team in balloting on Dec. 7. Pope, a long-time leader in the Teamster reform movement and a member of the TDU International Steering Committee, defeated the incumbent president by a wide margin. All seven members of her slate were elected.
Cuts to the Local 805 pension were a major issue in the campaign. Pope opposed them and said the union should launch a campaign to preserve benefits. Incumbent President Gerry Whelan said that stock market losses in 2001 and 2002 made pension cuts inevitable even though the Local 805 pension fund is 90% funded—making it much stronger than other funds that have cut benefits.
Members backed Pope by a 58% to 42% margin with 55% of the local’s 1,200 members voting. But Whelan was not about to let the voice of the members get in the way of his plan to cut members’ pension.
In an 11th-hour move before leaving office, Whelan struck a deal with employers to cut the pension accrual rate to zero—meaning that members will earn no pension credit beginning in 2005. At the same fund meeting, employer trustees and an alternate designated by Whelan’s defeated executive board voted to hire Whelan as the fund manager.
As we go to press, the new Local 805 executive board is making plans for a campaign to defeat the pension cuts and job grab pushed through by Whelan and the employers—including possible litigation.
“Gerry took care of himself and hung the members out to dry,” said Ralph Vomaro, the newly elected secretary-treasurer on the Leadership Action Slate. “We’re not going to let him or the employers undermine our benefits.”
Pope and the Leadership Action Team have a track record of defeating employer demands for benefit cuts. In the last round of negotiations, multiple Local 805 employers demanded that members start paying for a portion of their medical benefits.
Instead, Pope, with the backing of strong rank and file negotiating committees, bargained record contribution increases that preserved members’ medical benefits without cuts or cost-sharing on the monthly premium.
“Local 805 members elected the Leadership Action Team to strengthen union representation and fight to protect our benefits—and that’s what we’re going to do,” Pope said.