Rail Teamsters are starting to wonder just how long they can go without a new contract. Negotiations began in 2004 between the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, but the two parties have still not agreed to a new contract.
The talks stalled when the carriers demanded single-crew operation of trains. Both the BLET and the UTU refused to budge over the issue.
Health Care Costs: Out of Control
Teamster engineers are paying for working without a contract. With no new contract, the carriers are free to pass increased costs along to BLET members. At the start of negotiations, rail Teamsters paid $100 a month for their health insurance. Now that number has shot up to $148 a month.
The failure to conclude negotiations has also kept some areas from keeping up in terms of wages and working conditions.
“On the Illinois Central, their general committee made a separate deal,” said Hugh Sawyer, Local Chairman of BLET Div. 316. “Their agreement raised their wages significantly above the baseline set by the national agreement.”
Many rail general committees make separate deals in addition to the national agreement on wages and work rules.
We don’t think the carriers can win single-crew train operation in this round of bargaining. But even if a new contract is wrapped up this year, new bargaining is scheduled to start again in 2008. And the Union Pacific and other Class 1 railroads are actively pursuing technologies like satellite train operation that could theoretically allow single-crew operation—at a huge potential safety risk.
February 27, 2007: Tom Bennett, the new president of Local 200, was caught by the Election Supervisor illegally using the union membership list in his campaign for local union office against reform leaders Tim Buban and Darryl Connell. In addition, the Election Supervisor ruled that Bennett lied to investigators in an attempt to cover it up. Bennett was fined $500 and on Jan. 26 the Election Supervisor referred the matter to the Independent Review Board (IRB) for further investigation and action.
Bennett obtained the membership list via the Hoffa Campaign last fall. That election has been protested to the U.S. Department of Labor, in part because of Bennett’s actions.
Our NMFA is up March 31, 2008, and we need Mr. Hoffa and the International Negotiations Committee to stop treating freight Teamsters like second class union members. We are paid far short of the UPS drivers, yet we do the same work as they do, plus the additional responsibility of hauling hazmats. We also have to work forced overtime and our companies manipulate workers into doing the work of three or more employees for the salary of one.
After our last contract was approved, our union said we “negotiated the best and most lucrative contract in the history of the Teamsters.” I say, “That needs to be seen.” The fact is, in the past ten years, our hourly rate went up only $3.80.
Yellow Transportation has made record profits and owns multiple trucking companies (Roadway, New Penn, Holland, Reddaway, Meridian IQ , Reimer Express). Our union needs to make our unionized companies bring more than 25, 35, and 50 cent raises to the bargaining table.
Local 641, Yellow
February 27, 2007: Now is the time to win a strong new contract for the 1,200 Local 320 Teamsters at the University of Minnesota, members say. “We’re bargaining from a position of strength this year,” said Erik Jensen, a janitor at the University. “Some of the new people in the legislature got there because voters are so mad at funding cuts for education. We’ve got to use this opportunity to get the best contract we can for the workers who make the school operate.”
The Local 320 contract expires on July 1. In March members of the bargaining unit, custodial, cafeteria, and grounds crews at the university, will elect a negotiating committee.
Rank-and-file Teamsters are organizing a grassroots contract campaign to help win a strong contract.
Jensen and other reform-minded Teamsters are running for the bargaining committee. The membership has elected Jensen to the bargaining committee for the last five contracts.
“Our union leaders usually don’t have an organized plan,” said David Kremer, a candidate for the bargaining committee. “In the past, it’s been up to TDU members to come up with a plan to win what we need.”
In addition to wage gains, Teamster activists are pushing to tighten up wage progression, an ironclad no-privatization agreement to protect jobs, and improvements to retirees’ health savings account.
“We have a pension plan, and we’re proud of that. But many members can’t afford to retire because of pricey health care premiums,” Kremer explained. “Retiring members should be able to put unused sick days into health care savings accounts. Employees at Minnesota technical colleges have already won this benefit.”
Family leave is also an issue. Right now, some departments allow new parents to take their parental leave in flexible chunks. But others won’t. Rank and file leaders have won the support of sympathetic faculty members who want to push the administration for a more flexible and fair rule.
Keep Members in the Loop
The local reformers are committed to keeping the membership informed about bargaining. “We have a commitment to openness,” Jensen said. “In the past, the local tried to keep a lid on what was going on in bargaining. We won’t be secretive. We want to get information out to the members, because we’re counting on their support.”
“This is our chance to lead,” Kremer said. “We can get a strong contract if we get the membership to support our demands at the table.”
February 27, 2007: With no support from their local, Teamsters at the University of Chicago are getting ready for a rank-and-file contract campaign. The contract between Local 743 and the university expires on March 1.
Rank-and-file activists are circulating a petition calling for increased job security, fair treatment from managers, and a raise above the cost of living. “We usually get a three percent annual raise,” said Joe Sexauer, a Local 743 clerical at the university. “We want to do better this time, but we shouldn’t give up job security for a few extra pennies either.”
The Local 743 contract covers over a thousand clerical and blue collar jobs. The university is one of the biggest employers on Chicago’s South Side.
So far, the local has done little to prepare to win a good contract. Rank and file leaders are stepping forward to help do the job.
“Last time the local let the contract stay expired for over a year before we got an agreement,” Sexauer said. “We can’t let it drag on. They just use the retro pay as an incentive to vote for an inferior contract. They bribe us with our own money, and that demoralizes the members.”
February 27, 2007: While most Teamster pension plans have some type of “re-employment rule” that prohibits retirees from drawing a pension while performing certain work, the biggest problems with the rule have been with the Central States Pension Fund.
Despite a successful struggle to improve the rule, problems still exist.
Recently the fund trustees went after a Teamster retiree in Ohio who was working driving used cars—not on a truck, just driving used cars to an auction site. He had been told by his own local union that this work was perfectly OK, and the local backed him on that in writing. When the fund went after him, he immediately quit his part-time work, but that wasn’t enough for the fund. They are demanding all his earnings be paid to the fund. The case is on appeal now.
While mean-spirited problems like this persist, the Central States Pension Improvement Committee (CSPIC) and Teamsters for a Democratic Union have won great gains in making the rules more fair and understandable.
A summary of the reemployment rules are available at the www.centralstatesfunds.org or from TDU.
One question that comes up not contained in those rules is found in federal law: after age 70.5, no pension plan can impose any re-employment rule, and a Teamster can collect a pension while continuing at their Teamster job.
February 27, 2007: UPS is preparing to implement new technology that will monitor drivers like never before. With their new gadgets, the company won’t have to send a supervisor on your route to spy on your methods. Their new technology amounts to an electronic OJS.
As part of early bargaining, our Teamster negotiators have proposed strong language to protect drivers from discipline resulting from the new technology. Winning this new language is a must.
The company is preparing to mount new sensors on package cars that will detect:
- If the package car is moving when the seatbelt is unbuckled
- How hard the brakes have been applied
- How long the driver backed up on an individual stop (time and distance and location)
- How much idle time a package car has
- If the bulkhead door is open while the vehicle is moving
- If the truck is in motion when the DIAD is not mounted in the holder
Tracking Your Every Move
UPS is also testing new technology for the DIAD IV that will monitor where you are when you perform DIAD functions to determine if you are where you are supposed to be when you are performing that function.
Your DIAD will identify whether you are within a tenth of a mile of your delivery address when you scan a package, get a signature, or hit Stop/Complete. If you are more than a tenth of a mile away from your delivery address, then you will have to override in order to perform the function.
The company says this technology is to prevent misdeliveries. But it will give management a treasure chest of information they can use to harass us and to target drivers for discipline.
The company is claiming they have the right to unilaterally implement these changes by exploiting a loophole in the technological change language in our contract (Article 6, Section 4).
Management says its new spy-ware does not represent a “significant change in the work of the bargaining unit” so they don’t need to negotiate regarding the effects of the proposed changes.
We Can Win Protections in Bargaining
As part of early bargaining, our union has put proposals on the table to tighten up this loophole. They have proposed that technological change be defined as “any change in equipment or materials which affects the work of the bargaining unit.”
Our negotiators have also proposed new language that would prohibit the company from using information obtained solely from the DIAD, GPS or any monitoring technology as evidence that an employee violated the contract or any company policy.
This is the kind of strong language we need to protect ourselves from the company’s Big Brother spy tactics. Of course, the company will seek to water this language down.
Our National Negotiating Committee needs to alert members to the threat of this new technology and unite Teamsters to protect ourselves from unfair discipline. An update on the status of bargaining over new “Technological Change” language (Article 6) would be a good place to start.
Contact TDU or visit www.makeupsdeliver.org to see the contract language our National Negotiating Committee proposed to protect us from discipline from the company’s new spying technology.
February 27, 2007: Teamsters at UPS are building a national rank-and-file network to share information and unite members to Make UPS Deliver the contract we deserve. You can help.
Sign up for email updates. You can also register to post comments and swap opinions with other UPS Teamsters.
Spread the Word
Post and pass out contract updates where you work. Contact us and let us know you can be part of the Make UPS Deliver information network.
Have Your Say
What do you think we need to win in this contract—and how can we unite our fellow Teamsters to achieve our goals?
Visit www.MakeUPSDeliver.org or contact Teamsters for a Democratic Union today.
February 27, 2007: A group of UPS workers, with encouragement from management, is attempting to oust the Teamsters Union on a national scale. This outfit, the American Parcel Workers Association, is a wrong turn down a blind alley for Teamsters who want positive change.
The APWA leaders spread UPS corporate propaganda on our pensions. Check www.MakeUPSDeliver.org for the facts on this matter. The APWA advocates an anti-union “right to work state” posture, insisting that UPS workers should be able to decline to pay their union dues, sticking the rest of us with the bill. Their attorney’s firm advertises that they help corporations break unions and force health care concessions on workers. In short, they are against basic union principles.
The APWA has attracted the interest of a number of UPS Teamsters in the South who are frustrated with the Hoffa leadership and the pension cuts imposed by the trustees of the Central States Fund.
The APWA is doomed to fail because the majority of Teamsters are not going to vote out the Teamsters Union and leave behind their pensions, except for their vested rights. They are not going to give up union protection for an untested association.
But in the process, we are concerned that this organization can divert membership energy into a blind alley. Teamsters fed up with pension cuts and leaders who lie to them may head down that alley, instead of on a positive road for change.
If UPS Teamsters want change, and many do want change in our union, we have the tools to make it happen. First of all, we can elect our top IBT officials. James Hoffa was reelected Teamster president in November with 174,900 votes. There are 230,000 UPS Teamsters, and the number is growing. Do the math: UPS workers have the power to elect our top leaders. We can elect leaders in our local unions. And we have a right to vote by secret ballot, by majority rule, on our contract and contract supplements.
Are those hard to accomplish? You bet. But they are a hell of a lot easier than uniting 230,000 Teamsters to leave their union to end up with no protection.
It was Teamsters for a Democratic Union that fought for and won all these rights.
If Teamsters had been distracted into anti-union efforts like the APWA, we never would have won the right to elect our top leaders or majority rule on our contract votes, or 25-and-out; we would not have won our 1997 strike.
We respect the right of all Teamsters to consider any option. Check out the facts for yourself. If you want positive change, the right course is Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a movement that is 100 percent Teamster, 100 percent noncorruptible, and with a proven track record of positive victories.
February 27, 2007: The Central States Pension Fund has invested $54 million in Wal-Mart, a notorious union-buster.
According to financial documents released by Central States, the fund owns $34.8 million in Wal-Mart stock and another $10.9 million in Wal-Mart bonds.
Since Central States invested in Wal-Mart, the fund has lost over $1.8 million on the stocks and $1 million on the bonds.
Central States also owns $8.8 million in Wal-Mart de Mexico. This stock has increased its value since the fund bought it.
With the labor movement and Change to Win uniting to fight back against Wal-Mart’s anti-union policies—and with Wal-Mart being such a bad investment—Teamster members have to ask: Why is Central States banking our retirement money on Wal-Mart?