May 9, 2007: Over the past couple years, over 200 new positions have been created at freight carriers in Georgia, thanks to Local 728. They used Article 3, Section 2 of the freight contract to turn casual workers into Teamsters with seniority, benefits and union protection. Prior to the present leadership taking office in 2005, this part of the contract was rarely enforced.
The NMFA (Article 3.2) has enforceable language requiring every terminal to provide the local union and stewards with a detailed monthly report listing the name of every single casual who worked on every shift and the name of the regular worker replaced. If no one was replaced, that shift counts as a supplemental casual, and leads to required hiring. But the union has to enforce it, or it won’t happen. In the South, and in most NMFA supplements, for every 30 supplemental shifts worked in a two-month period, one full time Teamster must be hired. Some have additional language.
Enforcement Is Key
This contract language isn’t perfect, and it should be improved in the upcoming bargaining. But it is clear, unambiguous language, so the union can use it effectively at the grievance panels. Some locals do a good job, but some don’t even bother to review the monthly reports and create more Teamster jobs. Some local officials will get a friend hired, and then give the company a pass on hiring more Teamsters.
Management sometimes serves up the excuse that they can’t find good workers to hire. The contract does not allow this loophole, so the argument has no merit. It does remind us, however, that we need to get rid of the 75 percent starting rate in freight; it will be easier to hire good drivers when they don’t have to start at $16 per hour.
Local 728 agents have had to stand their ground and do their homework to enforce this clause. Often they get a back-dated seniority date, so the member gains time in the progression, sick days and in earning vacation time.
Like any contract enforcement, when it is done regularly, it gets easier. Employers come to expect to live by the contract they signed.
If your Local Union is not enforcing the freight contract requirement on hiring casuals, it’s time to start. It will put more Teamsters to work and strengthen our hand in the upcoming bargaining.