Who Says You Can’t Win Big In a Bad Economy?

June 1, 2010: Local 814 members have won a record contract that restores healthcare cuts, saves their pensions, and delivers wage increases to the lowest-paid members.

Find out how determined Teamsters won a good contract in a bad economy.

New York Local 814 moves Corporate America—literally. Local 814 members do the commercial moving work for a who’s who of the Fortune 500, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan/Chase and other Wall Street firms.

But, at contract time, employers always pleaded poverty and Local 814 members came away empty-handed. The local’s previous officials negotiated a series of concessionary contracts that allowed employers to create new tiers of low-wage employees who got no pension or welfare contributions. The local’s benefit funds went in the tank. And members lost their prescription, dental and vision coverage.

“It seemed like the union was going down the drain,” said shop steward Kevin Mahon. “I can’t believe how much we’ve turned things around.”

Mahon and other Local 814 members are celebrating a new contract that restores their health benefits, protects their pensions, and delivers major wage increases to the lowest-paid members.

“In this depression economy and with owners used to getting whatever they want, it’s incredible what our union was able to win,” Mahon said.

The contract victory didn’t come overnight. It took early preparation, mobilized members, a credible strike threat and a plan to win.

Uniting the Members

Last year, members organized to elect a reform slate to lead their local and won. From day one, President Jason Ide and the New Directions leadership team mobilized the membership to prepare for the contract.

“We went straight from our election campaign right into the contract campaign,” said Richie Johnson, the local’s secretary-treasurer. “We held shop meetings and membership meetings to unite the members and get everyone on the same page.”

In the past, local officials pushed through weak contracts by negotiating concessions that aimed wage and benefit cuts at new members.

“We found out the hard way that when everyone just looks out for themselves, the whole union gets weaker,” said Tim Kurdziel, a shop steward and bargaining committee member. “This time, nobody was looking out for just their tier or group. We united to win a contract that delivered something for everyone.”

Communication and Mobilization

Communication was key to keeping members united. In between meetings, Local 814 leaders used a phone tree to keep members informed.

“Bargaining committee members called stewards and members to give updates after bargaining sessions and keep everybody in the loop,” Ide said. “At the peak of the campaign, we were sending text-message alerts to more than 700 members at a time.”

The communication network paid off. When it came time for a strike vote, members were phonebanked and more than 250 movers turned out to vote unanimously to authorize a strike.

Credible Strike Threat

On the last night of negotiations, the employers were still demanding givebacks and telling the union to take it or leave.

“The bargaining committee and Executive Board packed up our things and told them we were walking,” Kurdziel said. “That was really the turning point.”

“We had strike captains lined up. We had a list of all the pending jobs. We had our picketing assignments—with strike hubs set up for Midtown East, Midtown West and the Financial District,” said Walter Taylor, a Local 814 Business Agent. “We were ready to go. And they knew it.”

The employers backed down. And several hours later, Local 814 came away with a tentative agreement that delivers on their key issues.

“We got a chance to get involved and we took it,” said Andrew DiClemente, a bargaining committee member. “The companies saw the membership was united like never before. They knew we were serious about not settling short.”


A Victory for Rank-and-File Power

“Local 814 members took back our local—and then we took on the employers and won a contract that saves our benefits and restores our union’s pride.”

Richie Johnson, Local 814 Secretary Treasurer

 


Uniting Across Divisions

“We found out the hard way that when everyone just looks out for themselves, the whole union gets weaker. This time, nobody was looking out for just their tier or group. We united to win a contract that delivered something for everyone.”

Tim Kurdziel, Shop Steward Central Moving and Storage


Credible Strike Threat

“We had strike captains lined up. We had a list of all the pending jobs. We had our picketing assignments—with strike hubs set up. We were ready to go. And they knew it.”

Walter Taylor, Local 814 Mover and Business Agent

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