December 5, 2007: Local 174 members at Waste Management and Allied Waste are getting a pension boost of $1.18 per hour in 2008 thanks to strong language negotiated in their last agreement.
Under the Local 174 wastehaul agreements, members won major annual increases in healthcare contributions for their medical dental and vision benefits—starting with a 12 percent in year one of the contract and going up each year.
At the end of each year, if healthcare costs go up less then the maximum negotiated, the union holds a vote and members decide how to divide the surplus between wage and pension increases.
This year, healthcare costs went up very little. As a result, Local 174 members voted themselves a 78 ¢ pension increase effective Jan. 1, 2008. That comes on top of a contractually bargained 35 ¢ pension increase effective next June 1.
Starting next June, Waste Management and Allied Waste will contribute $6.26 per hour into Local 174 members’ pensions.
December 5, 2007: Nearly 450 Waste Management Teamsters in Los Angeles reluctantly voted to end a two-week strike on Oct. 31 and accept a substandard contract after being hung out to dry by Local 396 and International Union leaders.
When Waste Management locked out 500 Teamsters in Oakland this summer to try to force through healthcare cuts and other concessions, Mayor Ron Dellums called the lockout a “dress rehearsal” for this fall’s contract negotiations in L.A.
Mayor Dellums was right. Unfortunately, when it was showtime in L.A., only the Local 396 rank and file were ready to play their part.
Three times Local 396 members voted to reject substandard contracts recommended by the local union leadership that would reduce their medical benefits, maintain substandard wages, and hit members with further benefit cuts if healthcare costs spike.
For twelve days, members struck Waste Management and shut down garbage collection. These Teamsters stood strong and deserved the full support of our union—and a plan to win. Instead, Local 396 members had to take on the world’s largest waste corporation while their union officials stood to the side or actively undermined their strike.
Before the strike, Local 396 officials recommended the company’s substandard contract offer and told members that if they voted it down, the local would call a strike and members would be on their own. And that is exactly what happened.
One week into the strike, Local 396 hosted a meeting of the International Union Waste Division to talk about coordinated action against Waste Management, including extending picket lines nationally. But Local 396 strikers were barred from attending the meeting. And no action plans were announced.
Instead, at a local meeting three days later, union officials told Waste Management Teamsters that the company was threatening to permanently replace the strikers and that this could lead to another PATCO—referring to Ronald Reagan’s infamous strikebreaking tactics against the air traffic controllers in 1981.
Local 396 Secretary-Treasurer Ron Herrera did not even have the decency to attend the meeting of Teamster strikers.
Local 396 negotiators then met with the company and agreed to vote the same contract offer again—a contract that our own International Union said would pay substandard wages.
With no plan to win from Local 396 or the International Union, members voted to accept a new five-year contract that is identical to the substandard contract they previously rejected.
The new contract will move Waste Management Teamsters into an inferior healthcare plan. If the company’s healthcare contributions do not keep pace with the rising cost of healthcare, Local 396 members will have to make up the difference by paying out of their pocket each month toward their medical plan.
Union Lets Company Replace Strikers
Local 396 voted to approve their contract because they were threatened with permanent replacements.
What these members did not know was that Local 396 officials agreed to end the strike without negotiating that strikers would have the right to return to their jobs.
Local 396 officials waited until after members had voted. Then business agents called more than 40 Teamsters to tell them not to go to work because they had been “permanently replaced.”
Waste Management dumped dozens of Teamster strikers—and replaced them with scabs hired through a temporary agency. It is standard practice for Teamster locals to make it a condition of any strike settlement that all strikers return to their jobs.
Under the law, Local 396 strikers who have been “permanently replaced” have the right to return to their jobs as opening become available, and some strikers have returned to work.
“We need to do whatever it takes to get our jobs back,” said Francisco Dominguez, a driver who was permanently replaced from the 213th Street yard. “It’s good to know we have TDU’s support and we’re not alone in this fight.”
National Strategy Needed
Waste Management, and other wastehaul employers, have been on the offensive against Teamsters across the country. While Teamsters in Seattle and Oakland won their contract battles, members in Washington, D.C., New York and now Los Angeles suffered devastating defeats.
Our union needs a nationally coordinated strategy for defending and improving members’ contracts, pay and benefits.
TDU will continue to build a national network of Teamster waste workers to achieve these goals. If you want to build Teamster power for waste workers, contact us and get involved today.
Click here to contact TDU's waste network.
December 5, 2007: The Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Fund, which covers most Teamsters in the Western Region, is ending cuts in pension accruals that were imposed in July 2003.
The accrual rates will increase to the historic base figure of 2 percent of contributions for Teamsters with less than 20 years credit, and 2.65 percent for those with more than 20 years.
This means a Teamster’s monthly pension amount will increase by 2 percent (or 2.65 percent) of the amount the employer contributes that year.
The restoration of the pension levels was announced just in time to help sell the UPS contract.
In the Teamster election campaign of 2006, Tom Leedham repeatedly pointed out that the cuts should have never been cut so drastically, and should have long ago been restored. But the trustees refused to restore the cut long after its own website was reporting that the fund was 100 percent funded.
Members retiring in 2007 lost about $500 per month for life due to those cuts.
December 5, 2007: On Jan. 1, the 13,000 members of Chicago Local 743 will get a chance to build a stronger union as Richard Berg and the New Leadership Slate take office.
This election victory comes after a long history of corruption. In September the current president and three former BAs were indicted for stealing the 2004 election.
The old officers continue to try to obstruct democracy and block the winners from taking office, using union funds and every trick they can. Beyond that, the new leadership faces a big challenge—to turn the union around and build Teamster power. Convoy sat down with president-elect Richard Berg to discuss their plans.
Convoy: How does it feel to be the newly elected President of Local 743?
Richard Berg: It feels great. It was a great victory for all the members who’ve worked so hard and so long to get rid of the criminal element in our union and turn it over to the rank-and-file.
What can your new team do to increase representation for members?
Right now, the current officers are looting our dues money. We’re going to cut salaries and hire more people. BAs will visit all our worksites regularly—whether there’s a problem or not.
We’re going to launch an education campaign geared at all the members—so members can learn what the union does, how it works, and what is expected of all members. We want a union where the members call the shots.
We’ll focus on training stewards. Stewards are our first line of defense.
Our bylaws call for regular election of union stewards, but the current officers have completely ignored that. We won’t.
We’re going to train stewards so they can handle tough situations. And they’ll know that when they take on the boss, we’ll have their back.
What will you do to get rid of the corruption in the union?
We’re going to open the books, and make a real close accounting. Anyone who has been involved in any theft from the members will be removed from Local 743 forever.
The new executive board will have zero tolerance for corruption. We work for the members, not for ourselves.
Local 743 has over 100 contracts in a variety of industries. How did the old leadership handle contract negotiations? What will you do differently?
Workers were left in the dark. At the end of negotiations, the BA would emerge from the room with management and tell members that you can either accept this agreement, or go on strike. Members would know that with no preparation, a strike would be a disaster, so they had to accept some pretty bad contracts.
We’re going to run real contract campaigns. We’ll start early, talking to members, setting up one-on-one organizing networks, fully involving the workers in the negotiating process.
When we first take office, we inherit everything that our predecessors have left us—good and bad. They’re in the middle of several negotiations now.
Our plans will take time. We’ll make changes from day one, but to turn the ship around is going take a concerted effort of the leadership and the membership.
You’ve been active in the national movement for Teamster reform, and you ran with Tom Leedham last year. What role has the Teamster reform movement played in bringing reform to Local 743?
Many of our employers are national or multinational companies. Early on we realized that we can’t live in isolation, we need a national outlook and organization.
Through TDU, we’ve met the most talented Teamsters in the U.S.—and we’ve learned much from them. We couldn’t have done it without the support of people like Tom Leedham and TDU.
What advice do you have for Teamster members who are concerned about the future of our union?
We’re always looking for the Teamster members who want to fight. We found inspiration from places we didn’t expect.
Having a local organization made all the difference, to keep the fight going and lick our wounds when we lost. That inspiration and organization kept us going, no matter what management and our corrupt officials threw at us.
December 5, 2007: Rail labor activists from across North America are coming together to form a new cross-craft inter-union caucus that includes all rail workers in North America—Railroad Workers United.
by Ron Kaminkow, BLET Division 51
Amtrak, Reno., Nev.
“We have been divided—craft against craft, union against union, terminal against terminal—for too long,” says Joe Wyman, UTU trainman in Tucson, Ariz. “We will be stronger by including all railroaders in North America.”
The RWU will be a membership organization. Membership is open to all members of any railroad union, including the BLET and the BMWED, rail crafts that have joined the Teamsters.
The new group got its start thanks to Railroad Operating Crafts United (ROCU), a group founded in 2005 to end the warfare between the BLET and the UTU.
“Rather than continue to beat our heads against the wall in face of the determination of the officials of the BLET and the UTU to remain separate and at war with each other, we decided to put our energy into building an organization that includes all rail labor,” says Ed Michael, an engineer in BLET Div. 724.
“We are not creating another rail union,” explains Jon Flanders, a Machinist in Selkirk, N.Y. “Instead, we are creating an industry-wide caucus where we can all come together to help each other build the solidarity, support, democracy and strength that is missing in our individual craft unions.”
The new group will work to build solidarity among all railroad workers, including:
- Support movements for democracy within the rail unions;
- Build unity at the next round of bargaining;
- Support candidates who actively support RWU goals for leadership positions in the various unions;
- Support mergers between rail unions where they make sense;
- Build local chapters in terminals to recruit members and build solidarity;
- Get behind national legislative campaigns that would benefit rail workers and facilitate union organizing.
RWU has drawn up a “Statement of Principles” to act as a guide to its work, which include unity of all railroad crafts, an end to inter-union conflict, rank-and-file democracy, and coordinated bargaining.
The founding convention of RWU is scheduled to take place Friday, April 11, 2008, at the Labor Notes Conference in Detroit that weekend.
For more information, including a copy of the RWU Statement of Principles, call RWU at 206-984-3051, or go to www.railroadworkersunited.org.
December 5, 2007: Whether or not you attended the TDU Convention, you can help build a stronger union this year and for the future.
In the coming year, TDU members will be working to expand our industry networks, recruit to TDU, and get Convoy out to more and more Teamsters. TDU members also elected a new International Steering Committee to guide TDU over the next year.
TDU members will continue to build industry networks to defend Teamster master contracts and standards. UPS activists met and decided to continue to build the Make UPS Deliver network to link together UPS activists from across the country and share strategies for enforcing the new UPS agreement.
Recruiting to TDU
Recruitment is a big priority for TDU members in 2008. “We need a bigger TDU,” said Walter Taylor from New York Local 814. “In my local we’re going to work hard to recruit more concerned members into TDU. If you’re not already a member, you should join. If you are a member, ask a friend to join.” Taylor is a newly elected member of TDU’s Steering Committee.
The convention discussed the attack on Teamster national contracts, and what members can do to preserve Teamster standards and benefits. Members in freight, rail, and other Teamster industries met to lay plans to defend and expand our master agreements. UPS Teamsters discussed how to continue to build the Make UPS Deliver network after the contract vote as a way to share ideas, connect active members, and enforce the contract.
Convoy Spreads the Word
Members are also working to expand the reach of Convoy. “The convention inspired me to get 100 copies of Convoy each month,” said Tyler Buckner, a Roadway driver in North Carolina Local 391.
“Knowledge is power, and Convoy has the truth. I’m going to use it to help educate members about the 2008 freight contract, and to let them know what we need to do to build a stronger union.” Call (313) 842-2600 to start a new Convoy bundle.
“The next Teamster general election is in 2011, and it’s time to get ready,” Frank Halstead told the convention. “We need new leadership at the top of our union. We’ve got to build a strong TDU to make that possible.” Halstead is a warehouse Teamster in Los Angeles Local 572, and a member of the new TDU ISC.
The location for the 2008 TDU Convention have not yet been chosen.
Local 726: We'll Keep Fighting
Thanks for all the support we got at the recent TDU Convention. We narrowly lost our local election, but that fight is far from over.
We have filed post election protests and look forward to having our case heard because Local 726 members deserve to have an honest election. Our protest outlines numerous serious violations, including counting over 1,300 challenged ballots without verifying their eligibility. We will see this fight through: Local 726 members will get a fair election and will take back our union.
We learned over the past two years that an informed and involved membership is the best hope for our union. Democracy means members having their voices heard and that’s come through loud and clear.
Local 726 members voted down a substandard contract twice and won greater job security for Chicago public sector Teamsters. We’re not going away, and we plan to grow TDU.
Local 726, Chicago
Fighting for the Future Slate
Split Wages Mean Less Money
In the new contract, UPS is splitting wage increases in two parts, one in August and one in February.
Use your calculator—for the first year alone, if you work ZERO overtime, you’ll lose over $360 because the wage increase is split. Think how much you’ll lose with overtime.
If UPS gets away with this, every employer covered by a Teamster contract will jump on the bandwagon. Don’t forget UPS was also the company that started negotiations which included the “unborn,” which is why all these silly “training rates” exist today.
Retired, Local 631
Sutter Creek, Calif.
Interlining Spreads Like Wildfire
Southern California is being overrun by nonunion scab interliners! I work at Roadway, and on a daily basis the nonunion trucks appear at our dock either picking up freight or dropping off pick-ups (most are liftgate requests).
The wildfires are currently under control but interlining is not. This is done on such a large scale here in SoCal, one shop steward can’t monitor all the activity that goes on, 24 hours a day.
I would walk in a second over this issue—drastic times call for drastic measures. The whole month of October our negotiators have been in Phoenix negotiating the NMFA. If the current interlining continues we won’t have any freight Teamsters to bargain for.
Roadway, Local 542
San Diego, Calif.
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