Could UPS be applying the same secrecy to incidents involving hazardous materials in an effort to skirt federal reporting requirements?
An investigation indicates that UPS in 2004 failed to properly report a number of incidents, including one involving a serious fire:
On June 22, 2004, a mercury spill resulted in the evacuation of 429 workers at the Hunt Valley UPS facility near Baltimore.
On Nov. 9, 2004, numerous UPS workers at the Greenville, S.C. facility were sent to the hospital after an unknown chemical caused severe skin irritation. At the hospital they were put in quarantine. Part of the center was shut down. The substance was later determined to be a commercial dye.
On Dec. 16, 2004, a fire broke out at the CACH UPS facility near Chicago. Numerous trailers caught fire and over 1,000 employees were evacuated. Some workers were taken to the hospital.
During 2004 UPS did report numerous other incidents. The Department of Transportation, however, does little to determine the accuracy of reporting overall.
Reporting Is RequiredFederal regulations under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act require that carriers give notice by telephone and then by written report of certain hazardous material incidents. Incidents must be reported that involve a fatality or hospitalization, property damage exceeding $50,000, evacuation of the general public for an hour or more, or the shutdown of a traffic artery for an hour or more.
The same regulations require that a carrier submit a detailed written report whenever there is “any unintentional release of a hazardous material during transportation.” Even if a hazardous material is not the cause of a fire, there inevitably will be unintentional releases during fires as a result of damage to packages containing dangerous substances.
Legal ActionUPS management’s inclination to hide, rather than reveal, the truth about incidents has been the subject of recent legal action.
In early 2004 UPS was found guilty of retaliating against a former manager, George T. Luckie, over his insistence that UPS properly investigate and report a serious fire at the Montgomery, Ala., hub. In 2003 OSHA hit UPS with a $70,000 fine for having “deliberately and knowingly removed and/or altered equipment, materials or other evidence” at the scene of a worker fatality in Utah.
All of these incidents indicate that members, stewards and local unions should do everything possible to ensure that UPS is complying with the law. The underreporting of hazardous material incidents can be a means by which corporations can shield themselves from scrutiny. Failure to know about and learn from past incidents can result in even more serious accidents taking place in the future.
The NLRB is investigating numerous unfair labor practice charges including the company’s threat to close the plant if workers voted to remain Teamsters.
Local 556 leaders opened merger talks to discuss what steps Local 839 would take to win the fight for union representation at Tyson and to win contract fights at Smith Frozen Foods and Lamb Weston (ConAgra).
Local 556 wanted a membership vote and representation on the Local 839 executive board, steps that would protect members if Local 556 employers tried to deny bargaining rights to the merged local.
The IBT short-circuited these talks and ordered a merger with no vote or leadership continuity. Smith management has now announced they do not recognize Local 839 as the bargaining agent for the 500 Teamsters employed there.
Readers of Convoy are aware of the role the IBT played in undermining the fight against union-busting at Tyson, where management promoted its decertification campaign by circulating documents written by IBT Vice President Fred Gegare attacking Local 556 leaders.
With the forced merger, the IBT has once again put politics ahead of members’ interests.
It’s time for the IBT to give politics a rest and back up Teamster members who are fighting for contracts at Smith and Lamb Weston.
When Mary Plagman's doctor put her on a 25-pound weight restriction because of her pregnancy, UPS management informed her that they had no work available for her. As they have done with many other women in her position, UPS forced her off the job and onto leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Anticipating the end of her FMLA leave Plagman-Markham planned to go onto disability leave, but now UPS is challenging her ability to get even that limited protection.
Markham’s doctor put her on restricted work on Dec. 14, 2004 and she filed for disability within 30 days of that date. To prevent her from receiving disability UPS now claims that her disability date was four days earlier, on Dec. 10.
The new is not all good. The restrictions on 25-and-out and 30-and-out pensions before age 57 remain in place. New England Teamsters who did not have enough years of credit by July 31, 2005 will not be eligible for 25- or 30-and-out until age 57. Unlike in the past, the changes did not include grandfathering provisions to protect Teamsters who were close to making their 25 or 30 years and were planning to retire soon. Members are calling for the fund trustees to grandfather existing negotiated promises. Teamsters who were close to qualifying under the old rules should have their contracts honored.
Change #1: No Punishment for Continuing to Work
Under the original changes, Teamsters with 25 years who continued working after July 31 would have their pension frozen until they reach age 57. Then, at 57, the pension would snap back to the full rate. A member who had to retire before 57 because of injury or the closure of their company would get no additional benefit for their extra time worked.
The Trustees have now eliminated this “Snap Back” provision. If, and only if, you had 25 years on July 31 and were eligible for a special service benefit, then you will continue to earn the additional $150 per year and be eligible to retire at any age.
Change #2: Honoring Promises in Existing Contracts
Under the original cuts, Teamsters would have suffered a reduction in their pension accrual if they were covered by contracts that did not include annual increases in their pension contributions of 5 percent. This would have meant pension cuts for many New England Teamsters covered under multi-year contracts that were negotiated before the pension rules were changed.
The Pension Fund Trustees have backed off of this unreasonable rule. Now, the Pension Fund will honor all existing contracts by maintaining the accrual rate. When these contracts expire, the new contracts must include increased pension contributions of 5 percent a year to maintain the accrual rate.
Pension Reform, Accountability Needed
Both of the reforms to the original cuts address problems that were first reported by TDU. It remains to be seen whether membership pressure can convince the Trustees to introduce stronger grandfathering provisions that will protect Teamsters who were planning to retire under the old rules.
Teamster members and officers won these improvements by putting pressure on the Pension Fund Trustees. This is an example of how our union trustees on the pension fund are indirectly accountable if we apply enough heat. What is really needed is direct accountability.
The New England pension cuts show the need for us to elect delegates to the 2006 Teamster Convention who will back reforms to the Teamster Constitution to hold benefit fund trustees directly accountable to Teamster members–and to support candidates for International office who will defend our pensions from attacks by the employers and corporate politicians.
April 25, 2005: While Hoffa prepares to release a report justifying his shutdown of RISE investigations into organized crime, government investigators and the press are pursuing the leads Hoffa claims are a dead end:
- Joint Council 25 President John Coli is under investigation by the FBI based on the leads Hoffa chose not to pursue including allegations of organized crime influence and benefit fund scams in Local 727.
- The Independent Review Board is investigating Local 714, the 10,000-member local long run by the Hogan family. At least ten people have been summoned to testify as part of the investigation.
The Independent Review Board (IRB) has already acted on other investigations shut down by Hoffa. Joseph Bernstein, a Hoffa ally and Joint Council 25 Vice President, has been barred from the Teamsters.
In another breaking story, The Chicago Sun-Times has linked former Local 726 president Daniel Stefanski with organized crime figures including “mob bookie Nick ‘the Stick’ LoCoco” who is suspected of taking bribes from working Teamsters who wanted full-time jobs or overtime opportunities.
Stefanski is also alleged to have offered a $20,000 reward to anyone who could provide the address of a mob informant that the Chicago Outfit wants dead.
The Sun-Times revealed that Hoffa knew of these allegations but chose not to pursue them for “political reasons.” Stefanski is a boyhood friend of the Illinois Governor and is now on the state’s payroll.
The collapse of Project RISE last year was a public relations nightmare for the Hoffa administration. With headlines screaming, “Mob stigma again haunts Teamsters,” Hoffa hand-picked corporate attorney Edward McDonald to issue a report and save his image.
One year later, McDonald will finally issue his long-anticipated whitewash.
Incredibly, McDonald’s report barely explores the organized crime allegations, according to the Sun Times, which got access to a leaked copy from the Hoffa administration. Instead, McDonald’s whitewash focuses on personally attacking Stier.
The IBT may not be interested in Stier’s findings. But the feds and the IRB are. TDU will continue to inform members on these breaking stories.
RISE investigators discovered that several funds are giving business to the notorious Group Administrators (GA), an outfit run by David Dorfman. Dorfman’s father Allen is an organized crime figure who was indicted for bilking the Central States Pension Fund out of millions.
Dorfman and GA were dumped from Local 743 in 1995, when an IBT-appointed trustee caught them soaking the fund with excessive fees. So why are Teamster funds still using Dorfman and Group Associates?
That’s what investigators wanted to know. Incredibly, Dorfman and GA are not only working with Locals 714 and 781, but they’re back at Local 743 too!
Another firm, Leahy and Associates served as broker for at least 10 Teamster-affiliated benefit funds in the Chicago area as of 2002.
The head of Leahy and Associates is under indictment in a RICO lawsuit for operating a racketeering enterprise along with members of the Duff family who are considered by Chicago law enforcement authorities to be linked to organized crime.
TDU has obtained a confidential report that Stier issued to Hoffa. It warned of intelligence reports that Chicago mafia figures were exerting influence in the General President’s office to block investigations into their organized crime interests.
The report charges Hoffa with personally derailing investigations into organized crime influence in multiple Chicago locals.
The General President’s office ordered a shutdown of all investigations into corruption and organized crime in Chicago in February, 2004.
In the report, Stier called on Hoffa to reverse course and enable RISE to investigate organized crime influence in Chicago locals and in the General President’s office itself. Hoffa refused and Stier resigned in April 2004, along with his entire staff of investigators.
At the time of Stier’s resignation, speculation centered on the role played by Hoffa’s-then Executive Assistant Carlow Scalf in blocking investigations into organized crime in the Chicago Teamsters, reportedly at the behest of Chicago mob officials.
But the full text of Stier’s 302-page report reveals that Hoffa himself repeatedly derailed investigations into organized crime and protected officials accused of organized crime ties. Included were Teamster power brokers who backed Hoffa in his rise to the General Presidency.
Hoffa Protects Power BrokersHoffa balked when Project RISE recommended that the IBT launch a formal investigation of Local 714, the home local of Billy Hogan Jr., a key Hoffa ally and former running mate. Hogan was barred for life from the union in 2002 for a scheme to steal Teamster trade show jobs in Las Vegas and give the work to a Chicago-based temp agency with ties to Hogan’s relatives.
RISE investigators received information that despite his ban, Hogan continued to exercise control over Local 714. (The local is headed by Billy Hogan’s son, Robert.) RISE investigators also uncovered apparent ties between Local 714 officials and organized crime figures.
Stier recommended that Hoffa appoint a personal representative to assist with a formal investigation. Hoffa took no action. When pressed by Stier, Hoffa instructed Stier to drop the investigation and turn over the Local 714 issues to the Independent Review Board.
Hoffa also refused to act on recommendations to charge three Local 786 Teamsters, including the assistant administrator of the local’s benefit funds for her association with a barred Teamster and Chicago mob lieutenant. When Stier pushed the issue, Hoffa said the charges were too minor.
Hoffa also removed his personal representative to Local 726 without notifying investigators. They were gathering information about organized crime influence in the local and a “Christmas Bonus” scheme that reportedly extorted members for hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in bribes in exchange for jobs and overtime opportunities.
Crisis PointIn all, investigations into one-third of the locals in the Chicago Joint Council were disrupted by Hoffa and his executive assistant, including an examination of the home local of Chicago Joint Council 25 President John Coli and two other joint council officers.
Hoffa also blocked the investigation into numerous reports that an International Organizer has been an organized crime associate.
The situation reached a crisis point when the General President’s office pulled the plug on all investigations into Chicago locals in February 2004.
Stier submitted a report to Hoffa a short time thereafter, detailing the organized crime allegations that needed to be investigated. The report goes out of its way not to prejudge the targets of the investigations. The issue, Stier wrote, was “whether political forces opposed to genuine anti-racketeering reforms will prevent them from being investigated at all.”
Stier warned, “If the current shutdown of IBT anti-racketeering efforts is allowed to stand, the reason for it will be obvious to both Teamsters and outsiders: the continued influence of the Chicago Outfit [organized crime] and the culture of corruption that has flourished in that area for as long as the union has.”
Rank and File WatchdogUntil now, the only Teamsters with access to Stier’s confidential report were Hoffa and the General Executive Board.
TDU obtained the report and is making this information available to the members because the allegations of widespread organized crime influence stretching from Chicago to the General President’s office have to be dealt with decisively and not swept under the rug.
The truth is that the International Union is millions of dollars in the red. Don’t take our word for it. This data comes from the IBT’s own audited reports and financial reports filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. These reports are signed by Hoffa and Keegel.
International Union Net Assets Are Below Zero
The IBT’s LM-2 financial report revealed net assets of minus $8.5 million. That’s right, the IBT has a negative balance sheet.
So why do Hoffa-Keegel claim in the February 2005 Teamster magazine that the IBT has net assets of $148 million? Are they lying to the Department of Labor—or are they lying to the rank and file?
Hoffa even brags on page 16 that “we have the largest net assets in the labor movement.” When Hoffa claims the “highest net assets” of any union, he must mean highest negative assets! By way of comparison the United Auto Workers has net assets of $1.128 billion. And the UAW is half the size of the Teamsters.
Two terms of Hoffa-Keegel and our net assets have dropped by more than $10 million. They have taken us into the red.
In July 2002 we had the largest dues hike in the history of the Teamsters, enacted by the Hoffa “No Dues Increase” slate. Dues went from 2 hours pay to 2.5 hours pay for Teamster members. The bulk of this new money went to the IBT, not local unions. The International Union’s income nearly doubled.
How Could their Big Dues Hike Lead to Deficit?
Ten percent of the IBT budget goes to organizing and fifteen percent to our strike fund. The rest is for the unrestricted use of the leadership. With IBT income up 79%, salaries and appointments have ballooned.
The IBT also has obligations for special officials-only pensions and retirement health plans, that have put the union into debt. According the IBT’s own LM-2 report, the IBT owes unfunded obligations of $55 million in retiree health benefits for IBT employees and also for IBT officials and appointees.
This is a special health plan, not available to working Teamsters. It provides 100 percent coverage for life, for retirees and their families.
No premiums to pay, ever.
No Cuts for Hoffa Appointees
Does that sound better than your health plan? What happened when health costs went up for your retiree coverage? For Central States Teamsters, retiree coverage for a Teamster and spouse has gone from costing $50 per month to an average of over $1000, under Hoffa’s leadership.
Central States Union Chair, Fred Gegare, says that is necessary due a “perfect storm.” But notice that Gegare has free health care for life for his family.
The IBT could lower that obligation, and get our union out of debt, by instituting cost savings and having Gegare and other retired officials pay some co-pays or premiums for their health care. But they won’t do that.
There is an additional $59 million deficiency owed to the pension plan for employees, appointees and officials of the IBT. Do you think they will cut pension accruals in half for highly paid officials? That would help our balance sheet. Central States cut your pension accrual in half.
Will Gegare cut his own?
Old Lies Smell Bad
Once again in the February Teamster magazine they continue to blame the previous leadership of Ron Carey for their own greed and mistakes. Carey left the union in late 1997, nearly eight years ago. At that time, our union had better net assets than it does now, by more than $10 million. Even after all liabilities were accounted for, our union was in the black.
Isn’t it time for Hoffa and Keegel to quit playing the blame game and take responsibility for their own mismanagement?
Hoffa and Keegel recently signed checks for 34 consecutive months to Executive Assistant Carlow Scalf, money that Scalf was embezzling from the IBT. No wonder we are in the red.
The IBT will eventually get out of the red, with that 79 percent increase in income pouring in over $140 million a year. But the money is not being used to build Teamster power as we were promised.
No Teamster should resent paying dues: our union needs money to take on corporate greed. But we have a right to expect our money to be used to build union power, not pork. And, we deserve the truth—not spin or lies—from the officials who manage hundreds of millions of our dues dollars.