Carhaul Contract Under Fire
July 2006 - Allied Automotive Group’s 3,800 US Teamsters got a raise on July 1 when the 10 percent cut imposed by the bankruptcy court expired without being extended. Just as important to carhaulers was the news that Yucaipa Companies, a Los Angeles firm controlled by billionaire investor Ron Burkle, is taking an interest in acquiring Allied.
Allied withdrew its motion in court to extend the 10 percent pay cut for another three months, when their own records showed that they made an operating profit in May and had not drawn on the credit they said they would need to continue.
Yucaipa bought $100 million of Allied debt from Morgan Stanley for about $70 million and is looking to possibly take over Allied. Top management figures have indicated they are hostile to this move; presumably they will be gone along with CEO Hugh Sawyer if Yucaipa does acquire the biggest carhaul company in North America.
Behind the scenes Yucaipa has contacted the Teamsters Union. Burkle is a prominent Democrat and presents himself as union-friendly; this is not the first troubled unionized company he has moved to take over.
“The work can't be moved, and contractors face a deadline.”
President, Local 200
July 2006. When we came into local union office two-and-a-half years ago, ready mix and construction were being neglected. Since construction work can’t be moved, and contractors face deadlines, construction can and should be a Teamster stronghold. So we put together a strategic plan to organize in construction, and have stuck with it.
To be effective, we knew we’d need solidarity among the building trades unions. We improved our working relationship with the building and construction trade council and the various unions. It’s a two-way street. We’ve gotten support and we’ve extended it, too, in terms of area standards picketing to protect good union jobs in Milwaukee. This gives us the right to picket a job site if companies are paying workers less than the union standards of the Milwaukee area.
Our campaign expanded to the point where we needed to pull a good ready mix steward onto the union staff, at first on a temporary basis, and later as a fulltime business rep.
Our campaign started in 2004 and expanded in 2005 and 2006. We started in ready mix and have now moved into drywall distributors and waste dumpsters. We’ve organized two new ready mix companies and one drywall company, as well as two new dump truck and heavy haul companies.
In late June, we signed a first-ever master ready mix agreement covering 11 employers. It was just ratified during the IBT Convention period. We also, for the first time, started an education and training fund in that agreement.
We’ve added some 40 new Teamster jobs, and got other Teamsters more work, so they work longer in the year. Our members see the positive results. They’re making a better annual wage and also getting more pension credits. It helps strengthen the Central States Fund, too.
We have a strategy to organize, and it’s starting to pay off for Local 200 and for construction workers in the Milwaukee area.
Similar Effort in BMWED Suffers Setback
In a resounding vote, Teamsters in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen have changed their bylaws to give members the Right to Vote for their national officers. Members voting in the mail ballot referendum cast their votes in favor of the change by nearly a two-to-one margin.
A determined group of engineers from Atlanta Division 316 put forward the idea of direct elections in October of last year. Within a few months, other divisions representing 25 percent of the BLET membership signed on. This triggered a provision in the BLET bylaws that called for a referendum of the membership, and in April every member received a ballot asking them to decide the issue.
In mid-June the ballots were counted and the result was overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal. If the membership had voted no, then the BLET would have continued to elect their national officers through delegates at conventions. But activists who put the amendment forward weren’t worried about that.
“We knew the members wanted this,” said W.L. Morris of Division 316, one of the architects of the proposal. “Since we’ve joined the IBT, we have the right to vote for our International officers. Why shouldn’t we have that same right in our National division?”
Ed Michael, President of Div. 724 and candidate for International Teamsters Vice President, agreed. “BLET members deserve the right to hold their leaders directly accountable, and the carriers need to know that our leaders have the confidence of the members they represent. This is more democratic and will make us stronger at the bargaining table.”
Earlier in the week, delegates to the BLET Convention in Las Vegas elected national officers for one last time. Future elections will be based on one member, one vote: unless the entrenched officers are able to figure out an end run around the will of the membership.
Activists Work to Expand the Right, Others Work to Undo It
Some BLET General Chairmen and Vice Presidents have already been making plans to have another referendum two years from now to undo the right to vote. That is the soonest that such a petition could be circulated according to the bylaws.
“We do have to be vigilant in making sure that the powers-that-be don’t steal this victory from us,” says Hugh Sawyer, the Local Chair of Div. 316. “But I think any attempt to rescind this initiative will be a minefield for those whose only argument can be that the rank and file are too stupid to make the decisions. I think the members will reject any such effort.”
As every strategist knows, the best defense is a good offense. The network of BLET members who fought for the right to vote for national officers would like to see a similar effort at the General Committee level.
“General Chairmen are the officers that members most depend on to fight for our bread and butter issues. We have good General Chairs, and we have bad ones, but all of them should have to stand for election by the members,” says Brad Thompson of Div. 442 in Missouri. Currently General Chairs are selected by the Local Chairmen of each division in the Committee.
No initiative has yet been circulated to change the bylaws to make such a change, but a proposal was submitted to the BLET convention that would have brought direct election to the General Committees if it had been adopted. The delegates, under direction of the majority of General Chairmen, voted the provision down and also defeated an effort to have the vote reported out through roll call.
BMWED Faces Higher Hurdle
Rail Teamsters in the BMWED (Maintenance of Way) do not have the provision in their bylaws that BLET members used to obtain a referendum. Instead, activists for the right to vote had to try to persuade the delegates at the BMWED convention to approve one-member, one-vote. This was quite an uphill battle and the reformers fell short. Led by Hoffa running-mate Freddie Simpson, the delegates rejected this proposal, saying that they were capable of speaking for the membership.
This is not the first time the Right to Vote has been raised at Maintenance of Way Conventions, and with the success of BLET members in this area, it may become harder for future delegates to continue to reject direct elections.
July 2006. Recently UPS management has quietly expanded a rural route scheme that they launched under the 2002 contract.
Members from North Carolina to California report that UPS is moving the starting locations for certain rural routes from the UPS building to vacant lots 50 or 60 miles away. Drivers are then forced to drive the extra miles on their own dime to get to work—or relocate, or just bid off the routes and let lower seniority drivers take them.
To get its foot in the door, management may make it seem that they are doing drivers a favor. In Bakersfield, Calif. they got the local to agree to one run because a driver lived far from the UPS building and liked the new arrangement. Then they added other runs to remote locations, forcing other drivers to deal with the extra commuting time and costs. North Georgia management took a similar approach by promising drivers eight-hour days and other goodies.
UPS has a trailer deliver to the remote location each morning. The drivers load their cars, deliver and return in the evening to off-load packages. The DIADs are turned in via a driver who comes by in the evening.
Asheville, N.C. Local 61 members saw five of their runs moved to a parking lot 50 miles from the center. Pressure forced management to provide canvas tarps for protection from the rain, but the runs remain. All of the high seniority drivers got off the runs, bumping back into what are sometimes more physically demanding routes.
Bakersfield driver and Local 87 President Dudley Stewart asked “With profits in the billions why does UPS have to try to save a nickel at the expense of their workers? They are spending thousands of dollars on things like videotaping drivers and then pinching pennies with the rural satellite system.”
When asked about the remote delivery set-up, IBT Small Parcel Director Ken Hall said that he had “sent a letter” to UPS management about the problem. Members dealing with this issue might want to request a copy of that letter from their local, file grievances, and ask the union to take aggressive action to protect our working conditions.
Management did come across with an agreement, which will now be put to a vote of the 2,500 pilots. Not all terms of the contract have been released. Pay for UPS pilots has lagged behind other cargo airlines. FedEx pay has been slightly better and pay at some cargo airlines is nearly $50 per hour more. The UPS pilots have also been concerned about benefits and protections from loss of work to nonunion operations.
Hoffa’s Weak Contracts Can’t Hide Behind His Father’s Famous Name
July 2006. The 2006 IBT election will be a rematch between Hoffa and Tom Leedham, who squared off in 2001. While the names at the top of the ballot are the same as in 2001, the similarities end there.
In 2001, Hoffa was an incumbent without a record. In three years in office, he had never negotiated a UPS or freight contract. In the few bargaining units where Hoffa had negotiated a contract, the members voted against him. But for the most part Hoffa could still run on his father’s celebrity.
This year, Hoffa has to run on his record and it’s not pretty. His “Best Contract Ever” is so weak that he’s back at the bargaining table to try to fix it two years before it expires. Hundreds of thousands of Teamsters have been hit with pension and health care cuts after Hoffa guaranteed his contracts would maintain or increase our benefits.
Tom Leedham has a proven record in exactly the areas where Hoffa has failed.
Winning Strong Contracts
Leedham has negotiated industry-leading contracts as the head of Oregon Local 206 for 20 years, where he represents warehouse, UPS, freight, sanitation, public employees and other Teamsters.
Leedham has eliminated Local 206’s multi-tier contracts that paid different wages and benefits to Teamsters doing the same work. Leedham’s contracts brought all members up to the top scale.
Restoring Good Benefits
When Leedham took office, the Local 206 health trust was nearly bankrupt. Retiree healthcare coverage was being eliminated.
Leedham instituted reforms and won higher employer contributions. He turned that fund around and reversed the benefit cuts.
Today, Local 206 members enjoy a top-notch health benefit with no or low co-pays. Leedham has restored affordable health benefits for retirees.
The Hoffa Legacy
Hoffa’s record dues hike doubled the budget of the International Union. Did Hoffa double our union’s power? Did he double the backing Teamsters get from our IBT? Or did he just double the PR we get in our homes?
Hoffa won the last election on his father’s famous last name. This year, he’ll have to answer for his own infamous record.
Weaknesses in UPS Contract Force Hoffa to Ask Management for Another Bite at the Apple
July 2006. It’s official: Hoffa’s “Best Contract Ever” has failed; the union will now sit down to try to negotiate early with UPS management.
Management seems happy to bargain early, hoping to button up a deal long before any threat of a work stoppage, and before the big 100 year anniversary events. Management is telling the media that they are eager to put forward their demand to pull out of Teamster pension plans.
The timing of the early negotiations seems geared not so much towards securing the best possible contract, but the best possible election PR for Hoffa. The announcement came at the Teamster Convention, with the fantastic claim that management came to the bargaining table because Teamster officials were massed at the Paris Casino in Las Vegas.
We can expect that more such announcements, rallies and PR will be timed to the coming campaign period, leading up to the Teamster election in October. Our contract is being used by Hoffa for political purposes.
Hoffa has never carried the vote of UPS Teamsters, and now he is worried they will turn him out.
Hoffa’s Incompetence Likely to Cost UPS Votes
Hoffa is good at PR. In the 2002 contract we saw him guarantee pension improvements, health care improvements, guaranteed staffing levels to reduce unwanted overtime, and more. He imposed a dues increase and promised it would deliver Teamster Power. It sounded good.
He settled early and settled short, then put his PR machine to work. But six months into the contract, benefits were cut and promises abandoned.
Hoffa is not good at finishing the job. In 2002 he was in an ideal position, coming off the 1997 strike victory, and blew it. Now he’s going to management, admitting his contract failed, while management is pushing to crush our pension plans.
Tom Leedham knows how to finish the job. He knows how to mobilize members and local officers and put a united team in place to win. And he isn’t controlled by consultants, PR men, and handlers. He’s a Teamster for Teamsters.
In 2001 Tom Leedham defeated Hoffa among UPS Teamsters. He won among UPSers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Louisville, New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Memphis, and most other places.
And that was before UPS Teamsters experienced Hoffa’s record of broken promises and benefit cuts.
UPS Teamsters need to get involved. First, in the contract. Our future is more important than politics. Get informed and get involved. Second, get involved in the Teamster election. Get every UPS Teamster to vote. Talk to them about the issues, the candidates and how we can turn our union around this year.
Critical UPS Freight Battle Looms
“This agreement between the Teamsters and UPS Freight is a letter for card check and neutrality at Overnite.”
James P. Hoffa, June 27, 2006
IBT Convention, Las Vegas
With those words, Hoffa promised Teamsters that he won an agreement to let our union organize Overnite (now UPS Freight) without the union-busting tactics we’ve seen from management in the past.
Will Hoffa’s agreement really deliver this promise? We hope so. Organizing UPS Freight is an issue that rises above politics. It’s critical to our union’s future at freight and UPS—and to the future of our pensions and benefits too.
We hope Hoffa’s deal gives us the ability to organize. But we have questions, too.
Agreement Still Secret
When it comes to agreements, the devil is in the details. And we’ve learned the hard way that what Hoffa promises and what he delivers aren’t necessarily the same thing. In 2002 and 2003, Hoffa guaranteed that his agreements at UPS, freight and carhaul would protect our pensions and benefits for six years. We know how that turned out.
So far, Hoffa has not shared the agreement, even with Teamster leaders. But serious questions are being raised since the BNA Daily Labor Report revealed that the agreement is limited to just one UPS Freight terminal out of hundreds.
Hoffa failed to mention this detail at the Teamster Convention. So did the IBT’s press release and Hoffa’s letter to local leaders after the convention.
Under a normal “card check” agreement, an employer agrees to voluntarily recognize the union if a majority of its employees sign a union card. This eliminates the need for an NLRB-run union election. In the past Overnite has used illegal tactics to bust Teamster organizing drives during the NLRB process.
“Neutrality” means that management agrees not to oppose unionization efforts and to let workers decide for themselves.
Hoffa’s card check and neutrality agreement applies to just one UPS Freight facility of the IBT’s choosing. After that, the IBT will have to go terminal by terminal. At this point, there is no agreement from the company to extend card check and neutrality to any other location.
From Card Check to Union Contract
What does this mean for our goal of organizing all 15,000 UPS Freight employees under the National Master Freight or UPS contract and into our pension plans? That’s not clear.
The IBT’s plan is to choose one facility and organize it. The next step, according to Ken Hall, will be to win a contract at that one facility.
What is the IBT’s plan for winning a strong contract at one UPS Freight terminal when the vast majority of the company remains unorganized? So far the IBT is not saying.
On July 1, 2005, Hoffa first announced he would unveil a “comprehensive plan to organize UPS Freight.” More than one year later, local leaders and members are still in the dark about what the plan is to win.
Organizing this long-time union-buster is critical. So is bringing it under a strong master contract and into our Teamster pension and benefit plans.
It will take the unity and involvement of the Teamster membership. All Teamsters should be ready to help.
It’s time for Hoffa to level with the members about the plan for organizing UPS Freight. Concerned Teamsters jumped at the opportunity to take on Overnite before—and we’ll do it again given the chance.
The case stems from work that Teamster Local 177 has been doing with FedEx workers for a number of years. In 2005 the local won an NLRB ruling that FedEx drivers were employees, not contractors. Similar decisions have been issued over the years, which have confirmed that FedEx “contractors” are actually workers who are eligible for unionization.
Drivers at the Barrington, New Jersey terminal became the first FedEx unit to unionize. The new NLRB complaint cites FedEx for threatening and firing workers involved in organizing at the Barrington and West Deptford terminals.
Earlier this year a California court ruled that FedEx Ground single-route drivers in that state were employees and that they should be reclassified as such by April 2006. More than 30 class action lawsuits from contractor drivers are also pending in more than 24 U.S. states. Those lawsuits argue that drivers are not given full autonomy, and demands expense reimbursement, overtime and benefits. If FedEx, which earned $1.4 billion in fiscal 2005, has to classify all 14,000 ground-unit drivers as employees, the pretax hit could be in the neighborhood of $1.4 billion.