June 23, 2008: Since 1976, Teamsters for a Democratic Union has brought together members who want to build a stronger union—by getting organized and sticking to our principles.
Here’s what we’ve done:
A More Democratic Union
At the 1986 Teamster Convention, TDU members delivered over 100,000 signatures demanding the Right to Vote. Back then members had no vote for our union’s top officers.
TDU won the Right to Vote for General President in 1989, and majority rule on our contracts in 1987. And we’re there as a watchdog today, making sure all Teamsters can cast an informed vote.
Defending Pensions & Benefits
In the 1990s, TDU led the movement that won 25-and-out benefits, and today TDU is the leading force defending our pensions from attacks by employers and union officials who won’t stand up to them.
TDU members built a movement that improved unfair “reemployment” rules in the Central States. We helped reverse pension cuts and preserve 25-and-out in Local 804. Our pension workshops train members to protect their pensions.
Rebuilding Our Union’s Power
Rebuilding Teamster Power starts with educating members and getting them involved.
TDU has been doing that for over 30 years at our annual Convention, with workshops, and our books and Convoy.
With those tools, working Teamsters are winning strong contracts, putting teeth back into the grievance procedure, and taking back their locals.
TDU Gets Results
“Before I joined TDU, I thought we always had the Right to Vote. Then I found out that we won the Right to Vote because TDU members worked for years to get it.
“I joined TDU because the Teamsters I respected the most were already members. The more I learned about it, the more I realized that this is the direction I want to take our union in. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.
“I’ve been a member now for a few years, and the advice of other TDU members has helped me deal with difficult situations—and get results. We need more of that in our union. I hope you’ll join TDU today.”
Local 174, Seattle
Support the movement that's delivered positive results for working Teamsters for over 30 years. Click here to join TDU today!
June 20, 2008: Soaring gas prices. A sinking economy. Our union can shield us in tough times—but only if our leaders plan ahead.
High prices are killing working Teamsters at the pump and in the grocery store. In times like these, a union benefit like a cost of living increase (COLA) makes a real difference.
But incredibly, the International Union failed to bargain a COLA raise for 2008 in both the UPS and freight contracts.
The COLA raise that wasn’t will cost freight and UPS Teamsters nearly $2,000 a piece over the life of the new contracts (See story).
Soaring gas prices top the headlines every day. But somehow our negotiators didn’t get the news. Or did they? Hoffa got a $12,500 COLA raise this year.
UPS and the freight carriers protect themselves with a fuel surcharge. But working Teamsters get no inflation protection in 2008.
This missed opportunity is an example of the difference our union can make in our lives—and the price we pay when our top officers fail to plan ahead.
Teamster Pension Crisis
The pension crisis is another example where our union leadership was caught on its heels at the expense of working Teamsters.
No one could have predicted 9/11 or the big hit our pension funds would take because of the plummeting stock market.
But we can hold our International Union leaders accountable for their failure to respond to that crisis with a proactive plan to protect our benefits.
Experts warned the Hoffa administration that Teamster pension funds would be in trouble if our union failed to bargain enough contributions into the 2002 and 2003 master contracts.
Those warnings were hidden from the members and hundreds of thousands of Teamsters have been been hit with pension cuts.
The corporations were not caught on their heels. UPS and other Teamster employers launched a legislative assault on defined benefit pension plans. With no pro-active plan of their own, the Hoffa administration got behind the employer-backed Pension Protection Act.
By the time our union jumped off the bandwagon at the last minute, it was too late. The Pension Protection Act passed and the result has been a new round of pension freezes and cuts (See story).
Protecting Jobs in a Struggling Economy
The economy is sputtering and nowhere more than in the U.S. car industry, where the crisis is putting Teamster carhaul jobs at risk.
Once again, our International developed no clear union response to a protracted crisis.
Last year, the Hoffa administration threw its support behind a takeover bid of the largest Teamster carhaul company by billionaire Ron Burkle—a move that produced a 17.5 percent wage cut for Allied Teamsters.
Our union finally made a stand this month. When another carhaul company, PTS, forced through wage concessions in bankruptcy court, our union called a strike and forced PTS out of business.
The strike could be a success if if the union successfully presses the shippers to transfer the work to union carriers, and if the union protects the rights of all carhaulers in the transfer process.
As we go to press, the outcome is in doubt. Nonunion carriers have picked up some Teamster traffic, even in Detroit, the heart of the industry and Hoffa’s hometown.
Times are tough. So are Teamsters. We need our union to help us weather the storm by planning ahead, not failing to plan.
June 20, 2008: Teamster members at Anheuser-Busch are worried about the future of their jobs after Belgian beer giant InBev announced its plans for a takeover on June 11.
Anheuser-Busch is the largest beer maker in the United States. InBev and A-B are two of the four largest brewers in the world—and together they would be the biggest, by far.
InBev already owns the Canadian brewer Labatt’s, another Teamster employer.
Local 1149 member Katie Brutcher says members are worried about their jobs: “InBev doesn’t have a good reputation. They buy companies and then put the burden on their new employees to pay off all the debt they take on.
“We don’t want to give up our working conditions or our benefits for them.” Brutcher is a skilled-trades Teamsters at AB’s Baldwinsville, N.Y. brewery.
Industry analysts agree: Ann Gilpin, an analyst for Morningstar, calls the people who run InBev “a bunch of machete-wielding investment bankers who go around and cut costs wherever they can.”
The takeover drew high-level criticism almost as soon as it was announced. Both of Missouri’s U.S. Senators and the state’s governor expressed concern over the deal. One Senator is asking the Justice Department to scrutinize the deal.
But anti-trust law probably can’t block the takeover, since most of InBev’s market is outside of the U.S.
InBev is offering $65 a share, and many shareholders are likely to take the deal. A-B stocks were trading at only $58.35 before InBev announced the move.
The founding Busch family still runs the company, but they only own 3.5 percent of the company’s stock—not nearly enough to stop a takeover. Billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who owns 5 percent of A-B, has endorsed the deal.
New Contract in 2009
Talks for the next contract at Anheuser-Busch start next year. If the takeover goes through, that could give InBev a chance to go after our Teamster wages, pensions and benefits if members are not organized and prepared.
“It’s up to us to stop corporate greed,” Brutcher said. “We have to get ready now to hold the line to protect our jobs and our benefits—and to save the pride we have in what we brew.”
Now is the time for members to get informed and organized, and Teamsters for a Democratic Union can help. TDU sponsors workshops on how to get members involved in winning a strong contract.
Contact us for advice on how to get other members involved in the union, or to set up a workshop in your local.
June 20, 2008: UPS recently sent a mailing to Teamster members to try to get us to donate to UPSPAC, the political arm of the corporation.
Before you give any of your hard-earned cash, you should know that UPSPAC will use that money to undermine your pension security, health and safety rights, and other worker protections.
Here are just a few lowlights from UPS’s recent political action priorities.
Attacking Our Pensions
UPS was one of the main forces behind the misnamed Pension Protection Act. UPS failed in its effort to win the right to cut the pensions of employees who have already retired!
But the company did succeed in passing the law as a whole. The result has been pension freezes and benefit cuts for Teamsters across the country. (See Pension Protection Act: Delivered by UPS on page 7.)
Undermining Worker Safety
Experts credit UPS and its PAC money with killing the most important new worker safety regulations in decades.
UPS led the charge against an initiative by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that would have required companies to reduce back, shoulder and knee injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders.
OSHA’s ergonomics standard would have required companies like UPS to reduce hazards that cause injuries.
UPS complained that reducing injuries would be too costly. In a filing with the SEC, UPS admitted that, “Our competitor would have incurred proportionately comparable costs.” But the company opposed the rule anyway, saying that to reduce injuries UPS would have to “hire additional full-time and part-time employees.”
President Bush subsequently repealed the ergonomics standard.
Buying the Right to Not Pay Teamsters
In the summer of 2006, UPS tried to change California wage and hour laws to avoid a lawsuit over the company’s practice of forcing employees to work off the clock.
The company successfully got the legislature to pass a bill—specifically designed for UPS— that gave unionized transportation companies an exemption from the state’s pro-worker laws governing breaks.
Fortunately, UPS’s bill was vetoed by the Governor. California drivers subsequently won an $87 million wage and hour settlement against UPS for violations committed under the law the company was trying to gut.
All Evil All the Time?
UPSPAC does support a few legislative changes that working Teamsters can get behind—and of course those are the ones the company highlights in its propaganda aimed at members.
For example, UPS is working in Congress to stop FedEx’s abuses of independent contractors and to strip FedEx of its special status under the Railway Act—which, among other things, makes FedEx more difficult for the Teamsters to organize.
But UPS Teamsters who want to help take on FedEx don’t have to give money to UPSPAC. The Teamster political action committee, DRIVE, is active on these same issues.
A recent study reported in the New York Times found that UPS donates PAC money to more Congressional candidates than any other corporation. The same study found that corporations that spread their money around to many Congressional candidates get the most benefit.
That’s good news for UPS’s corporate agenda and bad news for our pensions and workplace rights.
June 26, 2008: When it comes to safety audits, some UPS managers are not following proper methods.
By now, most drivers are familiar with UPS’s pop quizzes on the 10-Point Commentary and other company safety-speak.
The company has decided it’s not enough for drivers to work safely and follow proper methods.
They want us to recite their methods word-for-word like Big Brown parrots.
The company can make us play the game, but there are limits. And some managers are stepping over the line.
A supervisor at a north Georgia center recently told package car drivers at a PCM that it is a “condition of employment” to know the company’s safety tips by heart. The supervisor said it was a member’s responsibility to study the rules on their own time.
Atlanta Local 728 shop steward Matt Higdon correctly pointed out that while the rules may be good to know, they are not a condition of employment. UPS can’t make us study them on our own time and UPS is not permitted to discipline drivers for their performance on a safety quiz.
Later, when Higdon couldn’t answer a question during a safety audit, management threatened to discipline him on false charges of refusing to answer the question. No disciplinary action was taken, but Higdon was scheduled for daily “tutoring” sessions on the clock.
Instead of filing a grievance for being singled out, Higdon got other members involved.
A group of drivers started talking up the issue and prepared to tell management they wanted the same opportunity to get paid safety training.
Management abruptly cut off Higdon’s classes. But the drivers in his center are prepared to request equal access to safety training at overtime pay if other members are singled out in the future.
“Management should know that these kinds of heavy-handed tactics turn people off,” Higdon said. “Sticking together as a group is the best way to send them that message.”
Know Your Rights
Promoting safety is one thing. Using safety quizzes as a cover to harass drivers is another.
In a few cases, UPS has even tried to take drivers out of service without pay based on their performance on a safety quiz. This is completely against the contract. To make sure our managers don’t cross the line, we need to know our rights—and spread the word to other UPS Teamsters.
The company can require you to participate in safety audits, complete quizzes, and even study their safety tips. Do not refuse to answer questions. Do not tell management that you refuse to learn the rules.
UPS cannot force you to study safety materials or answer safety quizzes on your own time. You have the right to be paid for any time you are directed to review materials or answer tests. Insist on your right to be paid and back it up with a grievance if necessary.
Under the contract, UPS does not have the right to discipline you for answering questions incorrectly. In the unlikely event that this happens, file a grievance immediately for discipline without just cause.
Our contract is on our side on this issue. It’s up to us to use it.
Contact Teamsters for a Democratic Union for more information or assistance in enforcing your rights.
June 20, 2008: All UPS Teamsters will be missing something this summer: a cost of living raise of 15¢ per hour.
Gasoline and food prices are skyrocketing. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W), went up 4.5 percent from May 2007 to May 2008. This is the period used in Article 33 of our contract.
When that index goes over three percent, we are supposed to get a cost of living adjustment (COLA).
Calculations by Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) show that the Article 33 formula should give us a 15¢ additional raise, due to the high cost of living.
Instead, our negotiators left this year’s COLA out of the early contract deal. It will be in effect for 2009, if inflation continues to run high.
Curiously, DHL Teamsters did get a COLA raise this year.
While 15¢ is not a lot, look at this way. For a full-timer who averages 46.6 hours per week, that would be $390 this year, and $1,950 over the life of the contract. That would fill your tank a few times.
Look at it another way: a full-time UPSer who gets a 70¢ raise (with half of it delayed until February 2009) will be getting a 2.5 percent raise, but prices have gone up 4.5 percent. Thus we lost two percent, or 57¢ per hour, in buying power. A 15¢ COLA raise would have at least softened that loss to our standard of living.
Most of us don’t think about how important a cost of living clause is until inflation bites us in the wallet. We need to plan ahead and get a much better cost of living clause in our next contract.
Who has such a clause? Our International Union officials do! They get a full 4.5 percent COLA raise this July. James Hoffa’s salary of $277,777 will go up $12,500 due to that COLA adjustment. And he gets a “housing allowance” and other bonuses and perks which add $135,457 to that amount, putting him well over $400,000 a year.
Maybe that’s why he forgot to take care of that 15¢ COLA for us.
June 20, 2008: Chicago Local 705 has entered bargaining with UPS on a new contract covering more than 10,000 Teamsters in the Chicago area. The Local 705 UPS contract is independent of the national agreement. Local 705 Teamsters are currently operating under the 2002 contract, which expires on Aug 1.
The local’s bargaining committee includes nearly 20 rank-and-file UPS Teamsters, with members from every classification.
The company is seeking the same concessions they won in the national contract last year on full-time job creation, excessive overtime, supervisors working, and part-time benefits—as well as some giveback demands especially tailored for Local 705.
UPS also wants to eliminate Local 705’s right to strike when the company does not comply with grievance decisions.
The union successfully used a strike threat last year to force UPS to create more than 200 package car and part-time jobs and to curb supervisors working violations.
Management has also proposed a series of language changes designed to weaken local language where the union has prevailed on issues in arbitration.
Full Time Job Creation
Creating new jobs and strengthening contract language are priority issues for the union.
Local 705 is demanding that UPS preserve the full-time combo jobs created by the 1997 and 2002 contracts and create 500 more combo jobs over the life of the new agreement.
The union also wants to put an end to subcontracting in the cross-town operation by requiring all those runs to be performed by Local 705 members—a move that would create hundreds of new Teamster jobs.
UPS has not turned over its economic proposals. Local 705’s proposals do not include the split wage increase that was in the national contract. The union has proposals on the table for UPS to raise starting pay for part-timers and increase in the minimum guarantee to four hours a day.
“High gas prices are affecting everybody—especially part-timers. Their wages are getting eaten up by the cost of the commute.” said Craig Karnia, a package car steward and member of the negotiating committee. “UPS has been making fat profits off our backs for years. Members say it’s time for them to share the wealth.”
Local 705 is making both the union and company proposals available to the members in their entirety on the Local 705 website. For more information, go to www.teamsterslocal705.org
June 30, 2008: UPS is violating the rights of part-timers in Southern California to get breaks in their fourth and fifth hours—or to get paid for unused break time.
Now, concerned Local 396 UPSers are taking action to enforce members’ rights.
The Southwest Sort Rider gives part-time employees the right to a ten-minute rest break during their 3.5 hour shift—and an additional five minute break after their fourth hour and fifth hour on the job (Section 11 – Rest Breaks).
UPS either has to give Teamsters these breaks, combine them with their 10-minute break or pay them for their time. Since UPS never wants to interrupt the operation, the language has historically meant an extra 10-minute’s pay for part-timers who work a five-hour shift.
Teamsters at the Cerritos hub in Los Angeles say the company has systematically not paid members for their unused breaks.
This affects hundreds of Teamsters in that hub alone—and they suspect the problem is happening at other facilities.
Local 396 shop steward Lawrence Cruz has started distributing a leaflet to inform part-timers about their right to be paid for additional breaks—and other contractual rights.
Cruz also filed a class action grievance on behalf of all affected members who are not being properly paid.
“We need to make UPS pay for all the violations, not just individual claims. Our union has got to stand up for everyone and give UPS a financial incentive to stop violating members’ rights,” Cruz said.
Last year, UPS settled a wage and hour lawsuit by drivers in California for $87 million.
June 20, 2008: A report by Local 804 members reveals that the union’s health fund lost nearly $18 million from 2003 to 2007. During that time, the fund lost 55 percent of its assets. Local officials diverted millions of dollars to the local’s pension plan and hiked members’ co-pays.
Now members are asking what the new contract will mean for the health fund and their benefits.
This crisis in the health fund was brought to light by Local 804 Members United, a network of UPS Teamsters in the New York local who work together to defend their contract and benefits.
Local 804 members reviewed the fund’s financial documents through 2007—the most recent year that the plan’s financial records are publicly available. The fund’s own records revealed that the money allocated under the 2002 UPS contract was not enough to cover members’ healthcare costs. For years, the fund spent down its reserves to make up for the shortfall.
With the health fund already in trouble and losses topping $6 million, Local 804 officials voted with UPS to cut the company’s contributions to the fund. Over the next year, UPS’s healthcare payments were reduced and millions were diverted from the health fund to the pension fund.
Starved for contributions, the health fund lost a whopping $11.3 million in two years. Local 804 members were never told a word.
“It’s totally irresponsible how they let these reserves disappear,” said Pete Mastrandrea, a Local 804 feeder driver. “It’s inexcusable how they’ve managed these funds and they need to answer to the membership for it.”
By June 2007, the Local 804 Health Fund had lost nearly $18 million and negotiations on a new UPS contract were underway.
The negotiations gave the union the opportunity to make UPS pony up the money the health fund would need to protect members’ benefits and beef up the fund’s depleted reserves.
Local 804 officials voted with UPS to hike members’ co-pays while the new contract was still being negotiated.
“It’s unprecedented to make givebacks like that in the middle of bargaining,” Mastrandrea said.
When the contract came to a vote, Local 804 members showed they were ready to take on the company to defend their benefits. Members mobilized to reject the company’s first contract offer over the objections of both management and the local executive board.
As a result, members won a better deal that included record pension money. But unaware of the extent of the damage to the Health Fund, members approved a new contract that included just a 30¢ an hour increase into the medical plan in the first year.
It remains to be seen if that will be enough to rebuild the depleted fund without raising the healthcare costs of Local 804 members or retirees—or dipping into contributions that are supposed to go into the Local 804 pension fund.
“When Local 804 members turned down the contract by three to one, that gave our negotiators leverage to make UPS put the money on the table to protect our benefits,” said steward Tim Sylvester. “Our pension fund has sunk into Endangered Status and our Health Fund has lost $18 million on this Executive Board’s watch. There is no excuse if they settled short in bargaining and failed to get what they need to rebuild our benefit funds.”
June 20, 2008: A pension attorney representing Local 804 members has warned trustees at the Local 804 Pension Fund that they are in violation of federal law for refusing to comply with members’ requests for pension information.
Under the Pension Protection Act, members have the right to more financial and actuarial information from our funds—thanks to a successful lobbying effort by Teamsters for a Democratic Union and the Pension Rights Center.
Local 804 members Bill Reynolds and Tim Sylvester have been waiting to receive the information they requested since Jan. 22. But the Fund has yet to turn over the documents or even respond to their attorney. Under the law, the Fund has 30 days to comply with their request.
The Central States Fund, the Western Conference Fund, the Upstate New York Fund, and other Teamster pension funds have all promptly complied with information requests under the Pension Protection Act.
Under the law, courts can and will assess penalties against a fund that fails to respond to members’ legitimate requests for information.
The pension fund, covering 4,000 full-time UPS Teamsters in metro New York, was rocked by a 30 percent pension cut in 2006. The pension issue led Local 804 members to reject the UPS contract last year and win a better offer that restored their pension to pre-cut levels and stopped company and union officials from eliminating 25-and-out pensions for new employees.
Trustees recently notified members that the fund is in the Yellow Zone. They have said no additional pension cuts will be necessary but have provided no information about when benefits might be improved.
Most other UPS Teamsters will get an automatic increase in their pension accrual every year during the current contract. But the accrual in Local 804 will remain frozen at the 2002 level until the trustees vote to increase it.
“Local 804 members were kept in the dark about our pension and the results were not good. Now we want to see the numbers for ourselves,” said Bill Reynolds. “Will members really have to take our own Fund to court to get the pension information we’re entitled to?”