December 4, 2009: Management at United Airlines is violating the contract and the law by harassing Teamster mechanics who take time off when they’re sick.
Is our union doing all it can do protect these new members?
Last May, over 8,000 mechanics at United Airlines voted to leave another union and become Teamsters.
“I supported bringing in the Teamsters because they talked about [how] tough they were with grievances,” said Angel Zamarripa, a mechanic in Local 961 in Denver. “But now management is coming after us harder than ever before on our ‘dependability’.”
The contract at United protects workers who are going to be late for work, or absent because of illness. If workers call in before their shift started, and if they had enough banked sick time, they are protected from discipline.
If the worker doesn’t call in, management can discipline them for “dependability.” That’s how the system worked for decades.
Now management is stretching the meaning of dependability—without re-negotiating the contract.
Management has started to discipline workers even when they’re only one minute late—and management is treating a one-minute late incident like a full missed day, no call, no show.
This isn’t an isolated problem. Mechanics at San Francisco, the largest United station, report that this problem is widespread there.
The “Wellness Center”
Mechanics report that the company’s “Wellness Center” frequently rejects doctor’s notes, and they often delay processing sick time requests. Mechanics have to push to get their sick time paid—and it often does not show up until the next paycheck.
“They want to discourage people from using FMLA and sick time—even though this is protected time off,” says Zamarripa.
It’s clear “wellness” isn’t the company’s real goal.
Officials Back Down
When management started cracking down, members took action. They filed grievances and they circulated a petition.
Unfortunately, union officials didn’t step up to the plate. They backed down.
Officials of Local 961 refused to hear grievances on warnings issued to members because they said the warnings weren’t discipline. And the president of Local 961 refused to look at the petition because of a dues technicality.
Now the company and the new union are implementing a joint union-management board to decide on grievances at the third step.
But all dependability grievances will be held in abeyance until the company and the union both agree to hear them.
That’s a green light for the company to keep violating the contract and harassing members.
This problem is system-wide. Our union needs to take a stand across the board to protect these new members.
April 21, 2009: International Brotherhood of Teamsters President James P. Hoffa April 15 imposed an emergency takeover of Teamsters Local 747, citing the Houston-based local's “failure to perform its duties” as bargaining agent for some 4,000 pilots at a dozen small passenger and cargo airlines.
In a message to Local 747 members posted on the local's Web site April 15, Hoffa also said in the course of investigating complaints about its representation, he received “credible information and reports” that certain local officials might have engaged in financial improprieties.
Local 747 President and General Counsel E.E. “Gene” Sowell, the only official named, had a legal services employment contract with the local that was intentionally concealed from the membership through a confidentiality provision, Hoffa said.
The decision to impose an emergency trusteeship followed the earlier takeover from Local 747 by the international's airline division as bargaining agent for 120 pilots at Cape Air Inc., based in Massachusetts (61 DLR A-6, 4/2/09).
Hoffa also cited the Teamsters' defeat by the United Transportation Union in a representation election April 8 among 273 pilots at Wyoming-based Great Lakes Airlines, who had been represented by Local 747 (67 DLR A-17, 4/10/09).
As a result of the local's failure to perform its duties, the union “is in immediate danger of losing bargaining units to ongoing decertification efforts,” Hoffa said. “[I]t is apparent that the current leadership of Local 747 has not been responsive to the complaints of these disaffected members and has no prospect of redressing the problems at this time.” Sowell, who previously objected to the international's action regarding Cape Air pilots, could not be immediately reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Local 747 declined comment.
Citing the need to take action to convince members that the Teamsters union is capable of performing as their bargaining agent and other reasons, Hoffa said he was imposing an emergency trusteeship under IBT's Constitution and appointing two experienced international officials as temporary trustees, based in the local's Houston office.
The trustees are “taking all necessary and appropriate steps to provide you with the highest caliber of representation,” Hoffa said in his message to Local 747 members.
A hearing will be held later to determine whether the temporary trusteeship should be continued.
Local Executive Board Faulted
Since 2005, Local 747 has paid Sowell more than $1.2 million for legal services under his employment contract, while incurring “steadily increasing outside legal fees for services” that Sowell was required to handle, Hoffa said.
The contract was concealed from the membership through inclusion of a confidentiality provision, he said.
The other members of Local 747's executive board “have either not performed their duty to oversee the employment contract or have failed to challenge Sowell's apparent abrogation of his responsibilities under the employment contract,” he said.
In addition, outside legal fees in 2007 and 2008 were “incorrectly and misleadingly” reported by Local 747 in its annual LM-2 reports to the Department of Labor as payment to Patrick Flynn for his services as an arbitrator, instead of as its principal outside counsel, Hoffa said.
Besides the pilots at Cape Air and Great Lakes, other groups that have complained to the international or expressed their desire to oust the Teamsters as their bargaining representative include North American Airlines, Gulfstream International Airlines, Omni Air International, Republic Air and affiliates, and Kalitta Air.
By Larry Swisher
April 2, 2009: The Airline Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters says it has removed one of its locals from bargaining with a small Massachusetts-based carrier because of “unacceptably substandard representation.”
In an unusual move, the international issued a press release March 27 in which Airline Director David Bourne said that he is replacing Teamsters Local 747 as the bargaining agent for pilots employed by Cape Air, Inc., who are now in mediation. The division will take over representation directly and decide later on assignment to another local, he said.
But officials from Local 747 responded with a flurry of letters contending that the local is not the bargaining representative of the Cape Air pilots, defending their conduct, and urging IBT President James P. Hoffa to retract the press release.
A spokeswoman for Cape Air said that negotiations for a first contract to cover approximately 120 active pilots have been continuing for some time. She declined to comment on the union dispute. Cape Air, based in Hyannis, Mass., says it is the largest independent regional airline in the country, serving Cape Cod, New York state, the mid-Atlantic, the Florida Keys, the Caribbean, and Micronesia. Cape Air pilots voted for IBT representation in 2006.
Bourne, the director of the Airline Division, told BNA April 1 that he removed Local 747 in response to complaints from Cape Air pilots that they were “not getting the representation they needed.” An election to replace IBT with the independent Cape Air Pilots Association is scheduled for later this month, Bourne said, and pilots at other carriers are seeking to leave the union because of poor service from Local 747.
Pilots at Great Lakes Aviation are now voting on whether to replace Local 747, and decertification drives at “three or four” other carriers are under way, Bourne said. Local 747 represents about 5,000 pilots at 12 airlines, according to the local. According to the National Mediation Board Web site, ballots cast by pilots at Great Lakes on representation by IBT or the United Transportation Union will be counted April 8.
Local 747 President and General Counsel E.E. Sowell called the press release “a fabricated attempt to undermine the local.” In a March 29 letter to Hoffa, he said that the local “does not now, nor have we ever, represented the pilots of Cape Air, Inc.”
Sowell explained that the former Airline Division Director Don Treichler had agreed to continue as chief bargainer after his replacement by Bourne last year and that Local 747 had agreed to fund the negotiations until a first contract was settled, at which time the pilots would become part of Local 747.
Local 747 had refused to accept the Cape Air pilots because it could not afford to adhere to a policy of not collecting dues until a first contract was reached, Sowell said.
A spokeswoman for the local, Ashley B. Marsh, said April 1 that pilots at Cape Air were dissatisfied because the IBT Airline Division “dropped the ball” in negotiations. “They were never under our umbrella,” she said.
The decertification petition at Great Lakes stems from a takeover of an airline where pilots were represented by the UTU, which is seeking bargaining rights at the successor carrier, Marsh said. Local 747 is not aware of dissatisfaction at any other airline, and “we have been receiving letters of support” from pilots since the dispute became public, she said.
Several other Local 747 officials also wrote to the international, questioning why the airline division would publicly attack a local and arguing that an airing of the dispute would strengthen union opponents.
But Bourne said “it doesn't help anybody” to keep the controversy secret and that it was important to let pilots and airlines know that the international is working to address complaints.
By Rick Valliere
December 3, 2008: The International Union announced it will achieve the organizing goal of 40,000 new members in 2008.
UPS Freight was the single largest company organized by our union this year. Twelve thousand UPS Freight drivers and dockworkers joined the Teamsters this year. More than 8,700 First Student workers also joined the Teamsters this year as well as 8,500 United Airlines mechanics.
We’ll have the chance to maintain this momentum in the coming year by pushing for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to form a union. Teamsters need to be in the front lines pushing for this legislation’s passage.
More Teamster organizing can mean more Teamster Power if we win strong contracts that bring the nonunion competition up to union scale.
At UPS Freight, the new contract allowed the company to keep the 12,000 new Teamsters out of union pension and medical plans. UPS Freight also maintained substandard work rules that other Teamster freight employers pushed for and won in the 2008 National Master Freight Contract.
It’s good to see the membership numbers of our Teamsters Union growing. We can grow Teamster Power too—passing the Employee Free Choice Act, organizing the nonunion competition in our core industries, and launching strategic contract campaigns to bring newly organized companies up to union scale.
Click here to sign a petition in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act.
November 6, 2008: DENVER—A bankruptcy judge ruled Oct. 31 that Frontier Airlines may terminate its current collective bargaining contract with mechanics and other employees represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Denver (In re Frontier Airlines Holdings, Inc., Bankr. S.D.N.Y., No. 08-11298, 10/31/08).
Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of Frontier in its motion for Section 1113 relief from its current contract with the Teamsters, Steve Snyder, spokesman for the airline in Denver, told BNA.
Frontier's proposal for relief includes continuing a concessionary contract which includes a 14 percent cut in wages and benefits, the Teamsters said. Officers of Local 961 of the Teamsters, which represents about 430 mechanics, tool room employees, aircraft appearance agents, material specialists and other employees, said they would appeal the decision.
Earlier in the year the pilots agreed to take a 14.5 percent pay cut from June 1 to Sept. 30. They also agreed to forgo the company's contribution to the tax code Section 401(k) plan, which is up to a 5 percent match. The pilots have already agreed to extend the cuts through December, but the company is working for a long-term concessionary contract (110 PBD, 6/9/08; 35 BPR 1280, 6/10/08).
Plan to Outsource Maintenance Jobs.
The company also had been seeking to permanently outsource about 130 maintenance jobs to Aeroman of El Salvador, citing the move as a cost-saving step. It backed away from that move, agreeing to maintain current staffing levels as long a it can furlough maintenance workers during slow times, Snyder said.
Although Frontier and the Teamsters earlier had reached a tentative agreement on the wage and benefits cuts, negotiations broke down over the outsourcing plan.
“The Teamsters are adamantly opposed to all aircraft maintenance outsourcing because it is unsafe, jeopardizes the flying public, costs more than in-house maintenance, and, especially in today's economy, further destabilizes the industry,” David Bourne, Teamsters Airline division director, said in a statement after the ruling.
“This is no way to run a U.S. airline,” he added.By Tripp Baltz
November 5, 2008: A bankruptcy judge has ruled that Frontier Airlines may break its contract with its mechanics union but placed restrictions on the company's contentious effort to move heavy-maintenance work overseas.
Under the Friday ruling by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain in New York, Frontier can outsource the heavy-maintenance work only as a last resort, officials with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said.
Click here to read more at the Denver Post.
October 9, 2008: United Airlines has told the union that represents its mechanics at San Francisco International Airport that it will lay off as many as 414 workers beginning Dec. 7, as part of its efforts to contain costs.
The workers will be shed in what is the second round of layoffs announced this year. The first round ended Friday, during which time 137 workers departed with an involuntary furlough, with recall rights, said Paul Molenberg, business agent for Teamsters Local 856 in San Bruno, one of two locals representing approximately 3,000 mechanics at the United Airlines Maintenance Facility at San Francisco International Airport.
Click here to read more at the San Francisco Chronicle.
May 28, 2008: The International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced May 27 that it has reached a tentative agreement with Denver-based Frontier Airlines for wage and benefit concessions as the company works to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Frontier spokesman Steve Snyder told BNA May 27 that the agreement, reached over the Memorial Day weekend, would implement concessions in wages and benefits for mechanics, tool room employees, aircraft appearance workers, material specialists and related personnel.
Teamsters Local 961 in Denver represents about 430 Frontier employees at the company's Denver hub and headquarters.
In a statement, Matthew Fazakas, the local's president and principal officer, said the union was aware of the issues facing Frontier and the entire airline industry. "We understand that in these tough economic times, all Frontier employees need to contribute to the company's future success," he said.
Fazakas said the local leadership was recommending that the membership vote to approve the temporary concessions plan, which would be in effect from June 1 to Sept. 30. Ballots have been sent out to members, he said.
Fazakas was not available to provide details on the concessions. Snyder declined to comment on the details.
Accord With Pilots, Dispatchers
Frontier recently reached a similar accord with the Frontier Airline Pilots Association, which represents about 700 of the company's pilots, and Transport Workers Union Local 565, which represents about 20 dispatchers. Members of the two unions ratified the side agreements May 15 (100 DLR A-13, 5/23/08).
The pilots agreed to take a 14.5 percent pay cut from June 1 to Sept. 30, John Stemmler, president of the pilots association, told BNA May 27. They also agreed to forgo the company's contribution to the 401(k), which is up to a 5 percent match, he said. Details about the wage and benefit concessions for the dispatchers were not available.
Frontier President and Chief Executive Officer Sean Menke said he was pleased with the tentative agreement with the Teamsters. "In challenging times like these, we need all of our employees supporting us in this process, and this tentative agreement is an important step in that direction," he said.
Frontier recently asked all employees, both union represented and non-represented, to take temporary wage and benefit concessions to help the airline as it attempts to secure debtor financing and emerge from bankruptcy.
On May 1, Menke and other members of the executive management team agreed to up to 20 percent in wage and benefits concessions. Frontier said it will "reexamine all the employee concessions in September based on the developing financial condition of the company and current economic conditions."
The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in April, Snyder said. Frontier hopes to emerge from bankruptcy in about nine to 18 months, he said.
By Tripp Baltz
May 1, 2008: Nearly 8,600 working and furloughed mechanics and related employees at United Airlines are now Teamsters, after voting to join our union in March.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union welcomes our new brothers and sisters to our union.
United mechanics have had it rough since 9/11. Since then, United declared bankruptcy, terminated their pension plan, and subcontracted many of their jobs.
Now the turbulence may get worse.
On Dec. 31, 2009, the contract with United Mechanics will become amendable. With rising fuel costs and the company posting profit losses, management is expected to merge with another carrier or spin off its assets.
One of the biggest issues will be outsourcing.
Audits of the company have shown that they are exceeding the amount of outsourcing allowed under the contract—United outsourced 45 percent of its maintenance operations in 2006.
The International Union promised support for United mechanics in their fight against outsourcing.
Reports from mechanics in San Francisco, the largest maintenance base for United, say that our new members there may be split into two locals.
Teamsters with last names starting with A-Led will go into San Bruno local 856. Teamsters with last names Lee-Z will go into Los Angeles Local 986—over 350 miles away!
Hopefully this situation will be corrected and our power won’t be divided. This would weaken our solidarity, our power, and dilute our ability to hold our local officers accountable.
TDU looks forward to working with the new Teamsters at United to win a strong contract and hold the line against more concessions.
March 31, 2008: United Airlines mechanics overwhelmingly chose the Teamsters Union as their collective bargaining representative by a vote of 4,113-2,631, the National Mediation Board announced Monday.
The 9,300 active and furloughed mechanics who comprise the bargaining unit will become Teamsters as soon as the NMB vote is certified. The board is expected to certify the vote by close of business Tuesday.
Click here to read more at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' website.