The fight by Local 174 Teamsters shows that coordination and solidarity can beat back employer demands for healthcare concessions. The attack on Teamster health benefits is national, strategic and coordinated. The fight back has to be the same.
As we go to press, Waste Management Teamsters are on strike in New York City fighting for affordable healthcare. Members in Washington, D.C. were recently forced to end their strike and accept healthcare concessions at Waste Management. More Waste Management Teamsters will face giveback demands in the coming months as their contracts come up for bargaining.
Our International Union needs to apply the lessons of Seattle and fight the national attack on our health benefits with coordination, solidarity and a plan to win
It’s not just Teamsters in the waste industry whose benefits are on the line.
Members of Local 1150 in Sikorsky stood strong during a six-week strike at the military contractor—but ultimately were forced to accept healthcare givebacks.
The IBT held a major rally at Sikorsky and coordinated some political pressure—but these efforts were not launched until after members were already out on strike. Teamsters who stand united like the members of Local 1150 deserve to be backed by thorough strike preparations and a plan to win before they’re called into the street.
Coca-Cola is another major Teamster employer that is demanding that members leave Teamster benefit plans and pay for a percentage of company healthcare plans. Too often local unions are left taking on national employers like Coke one local at a time, and the company is winning givebacks.
Some locals have bucked this trend. When Coke demanded that Local 1035 members in Connecticut switch to a company plan, members were ready. The local leadership began preparations a year in advance. They worked with locals in New Jersey and Los Angeles to build a solidarity front. When it came to crunch time, the International dragged its feet on sanctioning a strike extension, but finally did so. On the very day that the strike was to move to New Jersey, the Local 1035 Teamsters won. They remained in their Teamster plan and they don’t pay a dime toward their monthly premiums.
“By working together, we saved our Teamster medical plan with full maintenance of benefits,” said Local 1035 shop steward Bob Elliot. “But you shouldn’t have to fight management and the International at the same time.”
Teamster locals are proving that solidarity plus coordination equals power. Our International Union can and must do more to back up members and locals in their fights against national and multinational employers.