May 9, 2007: The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) is negotiating new contracts that cover 65,000 grocery workers at Albertsons, Vons, and Ralphs in southern California.
The grocery chains are gearing up for a possible strike, and Teamsters need to be ready to support the clerks.
Healthcare is the big issue in the negotiations. The UFCW lost a 141-day strike against the grocery chains in 2004, and the union agreed to inferior healthcare coverage for new hires to end the strike. Under the current agreement, only 29 percent of new hires are eligible for coverage—and only seven percent of new hires actually get covered.
“We need to stick together with our UFCW brothers and sisters,” said Frank Halstead, a Ralphs warehouse worker in Teamster Local 572. “If the chains get away with more healthcare cuts, it’s only a matter of time before they come after our Teamster benefits.”
The chains have formed a mutual-defense pact. If the union strikes at one of the chains, the other two chains will lock out UFCW members within 48 hours.
“The companies are united. We should be too,” Halstead said. “We have to stand up and say we won’t cross UFCW picket lines. Our future is on the line.”
May 9, 2007: In a wake-up call to wastehaul Teamsters, Waste Management forced through healthcare cuts on 150 Teamsters in Corona, Calif. after Local 396 officials failed to take action to stop labor law violations by the company.
Waste Management has been attacking Teamster health benefits across the country in an effort to get all employees paying for a portion of their healthcare. Entering contract negotiations, Corona Teamsters had a top health plan with no co-pays and were uniting to keep it that way.
They organized a series of actions to win a strong contract. Bargaining committee members held contract unity meetings that were attended by nearly everyone in the bargaining unit. Members signed a petition saying no to healthcare cuts.
When the District Manager for all of Southern California came to the yard in Chino, Calif. to hold a safety meeting, he saw a room full of Teamsters all wearing stickers that said, “Don’t Trash Our Healthcare.”
“We wanted the company to know that we would stick together to win a strong contract and a better future for our families,” said Daniel Barrios, a driver from the Corona yard. “We stepped up. But our union representatives didn’t back us up.”
When negotiations resumed, management presented its first and final economic offer—a blatant violation of their obligation under federal law to bargain in good faith. The company held captive audience meetings and threatened Teamsters that they would lose their jobs if the contract didn’t pass—another violation of the law.
Instead of filing unfair labor practice charges, Local 396 held a last-minute ratification vote without even holding a meeting to inform and unite the members. The concessionary contract passed by just one vote, 76 to 75.
Under the new five-year agreement, members were moved into an inferior Teamster health plan. Even worse, the company’s benefit contributions will only increase by three to five percent a year even though the cost of healthcare is rising by eight to 15 percent.
Under the contract, members will have to pay out of pocket to cover the difference. As a result, members could be paying well over $200 a month to cover their healthcare by the end of the contract "Our union representatives were laughing at us after they counted the votes, but I don’t see anything funny about it. This contract is going to hurt our families and weaken the bargaining power of Local 396 members whose contracts expire this fall,” said Pedro Pelayo, a roll-off driver from the Chino yard.
“If we want to win improvements in the waste industry, then rank-and-file Teamsters need to organize ourselves so we have a strong voice and the power to vote down contracts that move us backwards,” said Isidro Valdivia, a driver from Chino. “I’ll do whatever I can to help my fellow Teamsters in LA County so they don’t go through what we just did.”
May 9, 2007: Waste Management and other industry giants have been attacking Teamster benefits across the country as part of a national plan to shift healthcare costs onto employees.
In April, the company opened up a new front in the healthcare war in Corona, Calif. by cutting the medical benefits of 150 members of Local 396.
Teamsters in the Corona and Chino yards were moved into an inferior healthcare plan as part of their new contract. By the fifth year of the agreement, members could be paying $200 a month or more for their healthcare.
The next critical battle may be right up the road. This fall, Local 396 will negotiate contracts covering nearly 2,000 wastehaul Teamsters in Los Angeles County.
The time is now for our union to draw the line against healthcare cuts.
LA County is one of the highest concentrations of wastehaul Teamsters in the country. The majority of these Teamsters work for the Big Three employers: Waste Management, Allied Waste, and Republic Services.
Our numbers there give us the power to protect members’ benefits—and to send employers and unorganized workers in the industry the message that our union can win strong contracts and a better future for wastehaulers.
Teamsters in Southern California know it won’t be easy.
“What happened in Corona is a wake-up call for us,” said Jose Morales, a driver for Waste Management Sun Valley Division. “We’ve got to get organized and be prepared to stand up for ourselves.”
Other Teamsters have shown it can be done. In Seattle, Local 174 launched a contract campaign a year in advance and won major gains. Members at Waste Management and Allied went from paying close to $300 a month for their health insurance to just $30 a month.
“If we want to succeed this fall, then the rank-and-file membership has to be organized,” Morales said. “We need to build a network of wastehaul Teamsters across LA County so we can take coordinated action and show the employers—and our union representatives—that we’re serious about winning the contracts we deserve.”
For more information about rank-and-file efforts to build a network of wastehaul Teamsters in Southern California—and across the country—contact, Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
May 9, 2007: Justice was slow but Hoffa and his slate have finally been forced to pay over $100,000 that they failed to pay employers during the 2006 election campaign. On March 28 the Election Supervisor ordered the Hoffa campaign to pay in full, with interest (2007 ESD 407).
Hoffa had tried to convert the debt to employer contributions, but TDU attorney Barbara Harvey successfully argued that it would be illegal.
Hoffa’s attorney (and son), David Hoffa, first tried to deceive the Election Supervisor by claiming that Hoffa’s running mates had all contributed the maximum allowed. The Election Supervisor proved that most of these rich officials had actually contributed zero or close to it, after they pressured local officials to pony up plenty.
After the March 2007 General Executive Board meeting, Hoffa’s running mates were told they would have to pay up. The meeting turned into a shouting match, because some International officials had been lied to about who donated what. Then they saw the truth, as calculated by the Election Supervisor. Read more: www.tdu.org/hoffamustpay.
May 9, 2007: International Vice President Frank Gillen was charged on April 26 by the Independent Review Board (IRB) with giving false testimony under oath. He faces a hearing and could be expelled from the Teamsters Union, if the charge is sustained. Gillen is charged with lying to cover up his association with Thomas Ryan, who was banned from the Teamsters for embezzling union funds.
Gillen heads Local 500, Philadelphia Joint Council 53, the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters, and is an International Vice President for the Eastern Region, part of the Hoffa slate. These four salaries pay him $231,796 per year in salaries, plus many thousands in allowances.
Billy Hogan, the former president of Chicago Joint Council 25 and formerly Hoffa’s running mate, faces a hearing in federal court in New York on May 21. Hogan was expelled in 2002 from the Teamsters Union for colluding with a non-union employer that his family owned to sign a sweetheart deal undercutting Teamsters in Las Vegas.
Hogan now faces a charge of criminal contempt. He is charged with repeatedly violating his prohibition on involvement in the Teamsters Union.
by Bruce Blake, Local 848, Retired
May 9, 2007: Operating on the principle that a strong union is built on rank-and-file involvement, the majority of Local 848 drivers at the Vons grocery warehouse in Los Angeles signed a petition asking for a shop steward election. Local 848 Secretary-Treasurer Jim Santangelo agreed to the petition—but denied members an honest vote.
“The election was a total fraud,” says Howard Palmer, a Vons driver. The members wanted an election at the yards but Santangelo insisted on a mail vote. “A mail vote wrought with improprieties,” Palmer said.
Ballots were mailed to the wrong members in different facilities; there were candidates on the ballot who did not request to run; there was no process to challenge questionable ballots; no eligibility check; observers were kept so far from the counting process they were rendered useless; the returned envelopes were mailed to the local so anyone could discard ballots cast for candidates they did not support; and even more.
“All we want is a fair election, is that so much to ask for?” Palmer said.
An IBT Western Region Vice President and Joint Council 42 President, Santangelo has a history of violating members’ democratic rights. During the 2006 International election almost a dozen charges were upheld against Santangelo for violating member’s rights and election rules.
A recent National Labor Relations Board settlement required Santangelo to post notices that he would not threaten members with physical harm, intimidate members, or refuse to accept and process grievances for arbitrary or discriminatory reasons.
Vons drivers are not the only union members that are getting fed up with the strong-arm tactics. Members at Unified Grocers, Coke, US Foods, and Sysco are also beginning to demand change.
Jim Lewis, a Vons Driver and long time Teamster says that members need to stand up for what is right. “It is our civic duty to stand up to our officials and hold them accountable. Working Teamsters need to demand that our rights be respected and not let officials intimidate them.”
May 9, 2007: Going back to the table gives the two unions a chance to fix problems in the proposed agreements.
On Feb. 28 the Rail Labor Bargaining Committee, a coalition of seven rail craft unions including the BLET and the BMWED, announced that they had reached a tentative agreement with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee. Rail members were supposed to vote on the contracts in April, and the agreements were to take effect in June.
But on April 5, the BLET admitted that they had only agreed to an outline of the proposed contract—not to specific contract language. When lawyers from both sides tried to hammer out the actual contracts, they found out that they could not agree on the specific language. So now the unions are back at the table.
The BLET and the BMWED have been bargaining for new contracts since 2004. Under the old agreements, the carriers have raised the cost of monthly employee healthcare premiums each year. Under the old BLET contract, engineers went from paying $100 a month in 2004 to $148 a month this year.
In a press release, BLET President Don Hahs said there are two outstanding issues that are preventing an agreement, but he wouldn’t say which issues.
Hahs insists on keeping members in the dark, saying, “Details of the agreement cannot be released until both parties have signed off on the final document.” Maybe Hahs should have been a little more careful before announcing the tentative deal in February.
The outlines released in February won’t bring healthcare costs under control. Instead, BLET and BMWED members will pay 15 percent of their monthly healthcare premiums, and the carriers can raise costs each year.
In 2006, the average cost of employer healthcare premiums increased by 7.7 percent—double the rate of inflation. That means healthcare costs for rail Teamsters could skyrocket. In 2010, monthly cost-shifting premiums are capped at $200 or the 2009 rate, whichever is higher.
For BLET members, the proposed outline will also eliminate the Harris Cost of Living Adjustment. Engineers did win one victory, though: the carriers dropped their demand for single-crew operations, at least for this round of bargaining.
Rail Teamsters are waiting to see what will change at the bargaining table. This new round of bargaining is our chance to fix the problems in the proposed agreements.
May 9, 2007
Master Freight: The Time is Now
My freight brothers and sisters, a call to action. It’s time to dig out those National Master Freight contract books that expire March 31, 2008…the names of the union negotiating committee members are in there, thirty-three of them plus Hoffa. Many will be back at the table this time around. If one of these guys is in your local, it’s time to get to them in union meetings with our contract demands.
The time to start is now, to make sure our issues get on the table. I guarantee you that the employers are already making their plans. Parity in supplements should be one of our demands. We have benefits and language that is better from one supplement to the other. For example, you get three personal days in the East, two in the South, and only one in the Central.
Michael P. Schaffer
Local 769, Roadway
Respect UFCW Picket Lines
Things are getting crazy in Southern California with contract negotiation for the clerks at Albertsons and SuperValu. They’re UFCW members, and they’re fighting for a stronger agreement. They deserve our support.
I’ve been a Teamster since 1970 and to this day, it has always bothered me to see anyone cross a picket line. We need to join together and back our clerk brothers.
In 1985, my local officers told my fellow brothers to cross our picket line or they would be out of a job, even though we were all in the same local. Brothers crossed my picket because they were wholesale and we were retail. A union brother is a union brother whether they have the same job title or not.
The issues facing our clerk brothers are not affecting them alone; they’re affecting all Teamsters! It’s time to strengthen our union before we lose it and unite with our brothers and sisters in Southern California. We should honor their pickets and make things that much tougher for the employers.
Local 952, Retired
La Habra, Calif.
Unity Conference: We’re Watching Closely
We’re keeping a close eye on our officers—they’re at the Unity Conference in Las Vegas this week. We want to make sure they’re there to help make our union stronger—not to party.
Leedham won Local 174. That tells me that the heart of 174 is reform. Reform is alive and well in Seattle.
Mary Pat Lang
Local 174, King County
Thanks TDU For Fighting for Our Pension
I sure hope the union officers from Hoffa on down will be honest enough and caring enough to negotiate tough with UPS and fight to keep our UPS brothers and sisters in our pension fund, along with Yellow Roadway and others.
Central States needs to come clean on their pension operation and give us a break on reemployment rules.
Thanks TDU for keeping our union honest and growing.
And one more thing: Please keep us informed about our union railroad brothers and sisters!
John C. Landgraf
Local 364, Retired
May 9, 2007: Teamster engineers on the CSX lines have ratified an agreement that swaps wage increases for performance bonuses.
Under this agreement, BLET members on the CSX won’t be covered by the national wage agreement with the carriers—and by the end of the agreement, their base wage rate will fall well behind the national rate.
Engineers will get a base pay increase of three percent and a $2,500 bonus at signing. They will receive a six percent bonus in 2007, eight percent in 2008, and 10 percent in 2009—but only if CSX reaches its financial goals.
At the end of the agreement, base pay will be the same as it was in the beginning. That means engineers will make no gains in wages over the life of the contract, and they’ll be starting from scratch when it’s time to negotiate a new contract.
In 2009, engineers under the national agreement will be making 18 percent more than they make now. CSX engineers will still only make three percent more in base pay, and they’ll get a 10 percent bonus if they’re lucky.
“We’ve tried a bonus system for a couple of years on the Norfolk Southern,” said Hugh Sawyer, local chairman of BLET Division 316 in Atlanta. “The problem is that you have no control over determining whether or not you hit the bonus. And at the end of the agreement, you’ve made no progress on your base wage. I’m not against bonuses—but they should be gravy on top of a decent wage increase.”
Apparently many CSX engineers thought giving up wage increases was a bad idea, too—over 40 percent of them voted to reject the new bonus plan. The new agreement won approval with a vote of 1,580 for and 1,113 against. The agreement covers CSX’s Eastern, Western, and Northern Lines, but not the Conrail SAA/CSXT general committee.