If I’m a steward, do I have the right to demand that another steward sign my grievance? Does that come under “duty of fair representation?”
Many times, I’ve asked other stewards to sign off on big grievances with me, because I think the union would be more effective if we worked together to attack difficult managers and problems at the workplace. It’s also good to have a witness at the meeting. I’m usually faced with a “do-it-yourself” attitude. Yes, I’m a steward, but I’m already in danger of retaliation from a manager that seems eager to fire me. I’m constantly wondering what will happen if I stick my neck out any further with grievances.
- Lots of grief but no support
December 5, 2006: A Look at the Facts & Figures
- Hoffa won with 65 percent of the vote, in a 21 percent turnout. That is the same margin as in 2001, but with a slightly smaller turnout this year.
- The Hoffa campaign spent over $3 million to Leedham's $300,000 according to forms filed by each campaign with the Election Supervisor. The IBT and Central States and Western Conference Pension Plans spent millions more on propaganda attacking TDU and the pension movement.
- Leedham won a majority of the vote in 82 locals, seven states, and five joint councils. In nine more joint councils Leedham got over 40 percent of the vote.
- Leedham edged out Hoffa in the overall vote among Leedham’s best 194 local unions with 448,000 Teamsters. These locals account for 32 percent of the Teamster membership, but cast 37 percent of the votes. Where Leedham did well, voter turn-out went up.
- Among members covered by national contracts negotiated by Hoffa (UPS, freight and carhaul), the election was a toss-up. Leedham won most of the UPS-freight-carhaul votes in the Central and Southern Regions, while Hoffa won more in the Eastern and Western Regions.
- Among the 175,000 members covered by the Central States Pension Fund, Leedham had strong support.
- Among locals where the Leedham Campaign and TDU had strong outreach, Leedham was able to split the vote or win.
- Among members with little or no connection to the International Union, under local contracts and pension funds, and where there is not a strong TDU presence, Hoffa won big. This was Hoffa's winning margin: less involved members, in a low turnout.
- Among the three newly merged unions in rail and graphic communications, Hoffa won. But in one of them, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), Leedham made inroads, due to TDU activity, a rank and file campaign for the right to vote, and Leedham's running mate for International Vice President at Large, engineer Ed Michael.
- The Virtue-DiLeo Slate in the East, a two-leader slate running for Eastern Vice President slots, had significant support and strong candidates, but won relatively few votes. This showed, as we have seen in earlier elections, that most Teamsters who vote are choosing between the viable candidates for General President, the power position at the IBT. Independent vice presidential candidates cannot muster the votes needed to win. Leedham attempted to get all those who wanted a new direction onto one slate, but it didn't happen this time.
- Aside from tiny locals (with less than 20 votes), the most politically unified local in the IBT was St. Louis Local 604, a unit of carhaulers that voted 97 percent for Leedham (and its principal officer John Thyer).
Our union faces serious challenges in the next five years. Reversing pension cuts. Protecting our health benefits. Winning strong contracts. Organizing the nonunion competition that is undercutting us nationally (like UPS Freight) and at the local level.
In short, we’ve got to rebuild Teamster Power. It’s no secret that TDU thought Hoffa was the wrong man for this job. One hundred thousand Teamsters agreed. But not enough.
It’s no time to cry in our beer. There’s too much at stake. In 2007, TDU will keep on organizing to win strong contracts and benefits and to build a more powerful, accountable Teamsters Union.
And we want you to be a part of it.
Early bargaining is underway at UPS and so is an early blackout on information from the IBT.
TDU is launching a contract information and mobilization network to fight for contract and pension improvements. When freight and carhaul talks gear up, we will do the same.
Whatever industry you work in, TDU can help with workshops and organizing advice to help you fight for the contract you deserve.
When it comes to pensions and benefits, TDU will keep informing Teamsters, uniting members to put the heat on employers and, when necessary, our own fund trustees, to protect our benefits.
For the last year, TDU’s focus has been the International election, but our main focus has always been at the local level: helping Teamsters organize to win strong contracts, enforce their rights on the job, hold officials accountable, and even run for local union office.
The election is over, but the challenges facing our union remain. TDU will continue organizing rank-and-file Teamsters to rebuild our union’s power.
Yellow has submitted a proposed change of operations that would move 199 Teamsters in the East, South and Central Regions. Management proposes to open 53 new bids for Premium Service Employees (PSEs, or combo jobs), as it expands its premium service operation in the East and Midsouth.
The union hearing on the change is scheduled for Jan. 22 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The company hopes to bid just one week later, on Feb. 1. It is likely to be approved (perhaps with modifications from the union side), although a number of Teamsters are understandably suspicious of the growing use of combo jobs.
The proposal would set up three premium service hubs (Hagerstown; Md., Maybrook, N.Y.; and St Louis) and expand the existing three Midwest hubs (Coldwater, Mich.; Cincinnati; and Richfield, Ohio). Lancaster, Pa. Local 771 is slated to be hit hard, losing 126 jobs, as Hagerstown gains 90, establishing it as a new breakbulk.
The PSEs would be distributed to many end-of-line terminals, one or two each, with several concentrated at the hubs. They operate on a Sunday-Thursday bid. Cartage workers (but not road drivers) can bid at each terminal on the new combo jobs.
Yellow established the first combo drivers—allowed for the first time under the 2002 NMFA—in February 2005. They now want to expand the operation.
Technically there are two changes of operations, since PSEs must be set up as a separate board. They will be heard together by the union panel on Jan. 22. Copies of the two proposals are available at www.tdu.org.
The Employee Free Choice Act would amend the National Labor Relations Act to provide stronger protections for workers who want to form unions. 270 members of Congress have cosponsored the bill. Here is a comparison of organizing conditions now, and under the proposed amended NLRA:
Union-busting: The only penalty for illegally firing a union activist is to reinstate the employee with back pay. Other illegal activities are penalized by requiring the employer to post a notice saying they won’t break the law any more.
NLRB Elections: Employers require workers go through a lengthy election process. They use lawyers to drag out the process and wage an antiunion campaign.
Bad Faith Bargaining: Once workers win an election, the boss often refuses to bargain. They know that if they can drag the process out, they may be able to convince workers to decertify the union.
Practice Under Proposed Legislation
Penalties for Union-busting: Employers who illegally fire activists during an organizing campaign would pay triple back pay. Other violations of organizing rights would carry fines up to $20,000.
Card Check: Workers would sign up a majority of their co-workers on representation cards to form a union (this is the process for organizing unions in Canada and Western Europe).
Arbitration for First Contracts: If no contract is reached in 120 days of forming a union, outstanding issues would be decided by an arbitrator.
Yellow’s proposed Office Change of Operations reared its head again and will be heard just days after this is printed, on Dec. 7 in Kansas City. The proposal would move work to Sioux Falls, but not move a single Teamster.
It was first slated to be heard in September, but postponed after a barrage of questions and protests from members, stewards and locals. Teamsters are concerned that the real goal of the proposal is to relieve management from paying grievances when Teamsters wrongfully lose their office work.
Once again stewards and concerned local leaders plan to speak out against it, and call for it to be withdrawn or denied.
Tonnage Down, YRC Profits Up
The economy appears to be slowing if freight industry figures are the indicator. Teamster drivers agree, based on their experiences this fall. Most carriers reported declines in tonnage in the third quarter and weren’t predicting significant improvements in the fourth quarter peak season. Net profits at ABF slipped 22 percent. Bob Davidson, chairman of Arkansas Best, stated that “Something unusual is taking place and I don’t pretend to understand it.” Yellow Roadway CEO Bill Zollars is optimistic and said that “This doesn’t feel anything like the 2000 time frame as we were going into a recession.” YRC profits rose 12.4 percent in the third quarter to a record $95.9 million. He expects profits to grow more in 2007.
FedEx Freight Expands in Canada
According to Patrick Reed, Chief Operating Officer of FedEx Freight, “within three-to-five years we want to be a major player in Canadian LTL.” FedEx plans to use its recent purchase of Watkins Motor Lines as a springboard. Watkins, now FedEx National LTL, will be known to the north as FedEx Freight Canada. FedEx may start using truck-rail intermodal transportation in Canada—something they have shied away from in the US because of service issues. FedEx Freight (non-union) ranks second to YRC (union) among North American LTL carriers.
DHL Won’t See Profits Until 2009
In a recent report to shareholders and analysts, the Deutsche Post chief financial officer reported that DHL won’t reach profitability until 2009. He did say DHL “achieved a trend reversal” this year. When DHL bought Airborne Express the company predicted profits by 2006.
Democrats Take Lead in Congress
Representative James Oberstar (D-MN) is slated to become chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in January. Oberstar is vocal in his opposition to triples. He has also called for more vigorous enforcement of the hours-of-service regulations. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) is expected to chair the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. That panel oversees the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
December 5, 2006:All local and International officials from the Western Region have been invited by International Vice President Jim Santangelo to spend a week at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu in late February. Then, officials with local pension funds can stay an extra week in early March at a pension trustee educational. Some local officials have pointed out to Santangelo their embarrassment at having to face questions from members about these union-paid trips to tropical resorts. He has refused to budge. Also, some local officers want to attend the pension trustee conference, but find the Hawaii trip expensive and time-consuming.
Teamster members of GCC Local 4-N at the San Francisco Chronicle have spent the last few years fighting for a decent contract that upholds industry standards for union pressmen. Despite their united struggle, they were forced to accept concessions by lack of support from the top Teamster leadership.
In an Oct. 13 letter, GCC President (and IBT Vice President-elect) George Tedeschi ordered Local 4-N’s leadership to hold a meeting for Chronicle workers to vote on whether to ratify a concessionary agreement that he had bargained. At that meeting, the contract was narrowly defeated.
When Tedeschi learned that members had rejected his deal, he ordered the local to conduct another vote, this time set in the workplace, on the company’s turf. The contract then passed by a wide margin. The deal includes job cuts, two-tier vacation accrual, mandatory overtime, loss of past practice, and outsourcing of the entire operation in three years.
A Long Struggle
All along, the Chronicle workers have had to fight not only the company, but union leaders who seem to have forgotten the meaning of solidarity. First the officers of Teamster mailers and drivers broke ranks with the bargaining coalition to settle agreements that included a no strike clause. When it looked like the Machinists would go on strike and that the members of 4-N would honor the line, Hoffa’s special assistant Rome Aloise sent a letter to the drivers reminding them that he would order them to cross it. Aloise and Tedeschi publicly undercut Local 4-N, and echoed the company’s claims of poverty even though the company never opened their books to the union.
Strategy Needed from IBT
The members of Local 4-N had a hard fight on their hands when they decided to stand up to one of the most powerful companies in the newspaper industry. They deserved the support of top leaders, not ridicule and obstruction.
The ramifications of this contract are likely to ripple throughout the industry if the Teamster leadership fails to develop a strategy to cut concessions off at the pass. Any successful strategy needs two key elements: grassroots solidarity on the ground, and coordination at the top.
“Seventeen years ago the Minneapolis Star-Tribune tried to play one union against another by getting the drivers to sign a no-strike clause. TDU activists educated us about the dangers of that, and we voted it down,” says Local 638 driver and bargaining committee member Rick Sather. “But now the paper’s been bought by a larger corporation and we could use some help from the International to keep our solidarity strong and devise strategies to fight their proposals.”
Without a strategy to win and a leadership willing to stand up to the newspapers, Teamsters will have a hard time fighting concessions. The industry is changing rapidly, but it doesn’t have to all be on management’s terms. The GCC and the IBT need to take advantage of a tradition of shop floor activity and the strategic importance of Teamsters in the newspaper trades to leverage our power.
The party is back on in the Central Region, too. The 2007 UPS grievance panels for the Central Region will be held at resorts in Florida and Las Vegas. Since the members and stewards who need to attend are in the Midwest, these seem to be planned more around golf outings than representation. In July they will hold one panel in the region: next to a golf resort in Traverse City, Mich.