November 14, 2008: UPS uses a two-month lag when adjusting its fuel surcharges. That means customers are paying a surcharge based on the price of gas two months ago when it was a dollar per gallon more expensive. You may not want to mention this when you’re making your pickups.
November 14, 2008: Teamsters came from across our union to Cleveland for the 33rd annual TDU Convention, Oct. 24-26.
Members heard from working Teamsters who are getting organized and making a difference in our union.
We reviewed our progress in 2008 and made our plans to build TDU and our union in 2009.
Building TDU in Carhaul
Our new contract was just ratified, but at our terminal, we’ve already started talking about the next one.
I came to the TDU Convention with another member from my terminal, and coming home we’re pulling together a meeting in our local to talk about what we do next.
I look forward to next year’s convention, meeting with all the great Teamsters who come, and continuing our work to win better contracts and a stronger brotherhood.
The challenge is there. I am hopeful that more and more Teamsters will take the challenge and get involved with us.
Ken Kontrath, Allied Local 287 Milpitas, Calif.
Learning from Other Teamsters
This was my first convention, and the best part was getting to learn from other Teamsters. We found out that members in Local 804 are all wearing their TDU shirts on the same day. Now at my building we’re all going to start wearing our Members United shirts every Thursday.
We’re also going to start a TDU Chapter in Maryland. The convention gave me new energy to go home and build the movement to unite Local 355 members and change our union for the better.
I know we can do it. I saw the proof at the TDU Convention.
Ron Reinhardt, UPS Local 355, Baltimore
Spreading the Word
The best thing about the TDU Convention is standing in the room with dedicated Teamsters, and knowing that you’re part of a bigger movement.
I’ve been involved in my union for years, but going to the TDU Convention made me want to get even more involved—and to ask my friends and contacts to get involved in TDU, too. I’m going to spend more time talking to them about TDU, and asking them to join.
Our union needs democracy to make it stronger. The labor movement needs democracy and an active, dedicated membership to improve the lives of workers. TDU breathes life into the Teamsters and fuels the fire against corporate greed.
Matt Taibi UPS, Local 251 Rhode Island
I Joined TDU
It was great to be at the TDU convention in Cleveland and meet Teamsters who cared about our union as much as I do.
There were folks from all over the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
There were great educational workshops and conversations. When I saw all that experience and commitment, I knew I needed to join TDU and be a part of it.
George Simpson Midwest Neurological Local 743, Chicago
Click here to join TDU.
November 14, 2008: Ralphs has announced plans to build the first-ever automated facility in the U.S. to handle perishable grocery items.
California Teamster jobs are on the line.
Until now, grocery warehouses were only automating non-perishable items that could be easily handled by the new machinery.
Ralphs plans to open the new facility at its Compton warehouse in 2011.
The automated facility will partially replace the existing Perishable Service Center at Compton, where approximately 900 Local 572 Teamsters work. The company admits that the automation “could result in a reduction of jobs at our Compton Distribution Center.”
This will be Ralphs’ second automated facility. The company, owned by Kroger, will open its first automated warehouse in Paramount, Calif. in 2010.
The automation at both facilities is being designed by Witron, a German firm that is already launching other automated facilities in the U.S. and Europe.
A Slow Change
Many of the largest warehousers are considering new automated facilities.
Most Teamster warehouse jobs aren’t in danger yet. The switch to automated warehousing will be slow, because the new technology is still very expensive.
But there’s one thing we can be sure of: employers will keep trying to use new technology to reduce the number of Teamsters on the payroll.
What Our Union Can Do
The new machinery will eliminate some jobs but create others. There will be new maintenance jobs, jobs fixing problems with cases, and handling some items the machine can’t handle.
Workers in Compton have been told they will be retrained on the new machinery. It’s our job to make sure that work stays union, and that we can set reasonable limits to the pace of the work.
There’s also more organizing our union can do. The new facilities still require people to unload the trailers. Nonunion lumpers have taken over many jobs that used to be Teamster. Our union should require that Teamster members unload trailers where we can.
This new technology is already widespread in Europe, especially in Spain. The International Union should reach out to European unions and find out how they are dealing with these new challenges.
November 14, 2008: Teamsters at Anheuser Busch have won a new agreement they can be proud of.
But a look at some of the fine print gives some hints about what life under new management may be like.
Anheuser Busch Teamsters have overwhelmingly approved a new five-year contract that guarantees all 12 breweries will remain open for the life of the deal, plus a wage increase of $3.95 over five years.
It could have been much worse. A-B is in the middle of being bought up by Belgian-Brazilian brewer InBev—a company notorious for union-busting.
InBev didn’t negotiate directly with our union. Company negotiators didn’t go after our union standards this time, after our union reached out to other unions at InBev from across the world.
Still, the new deal does show some pointers as to what life will be like under InBev management.
InBev’s CEO Carlos Brito has a reputation for brutal cost-cutting, and he’s pledged to trim $1.5 billion in operating costs from A-B by 2011.
In other breweries, InBev management has cut jobs that aren’t part of the company’s “core.” That means subcontracting out maintenance jobs.
The new contract helps pave the way for subcontracting. In the Paint Department, open positions won’t be filled, and the department will be eliminated by attrition.
Similarly, utility workers won’t be guaranteed new power work located on company property but outside of the brewery’s four walls.
Retiree Healthcare Cuts
Another way InBev will seek to cut costs: shifting the burden of retiree healthcare.
Starting in 2013, retirees will pay a $500 deductible for family coverage. That deductible will go up to $1,000 the next year.
Retirees over the age of 65 will also pay a monthly premium of $100 for family coverage. Retirees under the age of 65 will pay no premiums.
“A-B Teamsters should be proud of holding off InBev for this round of bargaining,” said Katie Brutcher, a member of Local 1149 in Baldwinsville, N.Y. “But now is the time to get ready for new management.”
November 14, 2008: In September, Waste Management forced a disastrous concessionary contract on 240 Milwaukee Teamsters, which stole their pension plan. WMI management defeated their five-week strike and forced them out of the Central States Pension Plan.
Now the concern is that WMI will make the same demand when their 13 other contracts covering Central States Teamsters come up, and that other companies will follow suit.
The Milwaukee Teamsters who don’t already qualify for a full pension now will get nothing but their vested benefits, which in most cases will be very low. In place of a decent pension, the company is offering a 401(k) with a weak matching offer.
The International Union talked about using Teamster Power nationally against the corporation, but failed to act.
The time is now—before any more Teamsters’ pensions are in jeopardy—for the International Union to have a plan to protect the pensions of all WMI Teamsters.
November 14, 2008: The Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Fund has cut the pension accrual rate, effective Jan. 1, 2009, to 1.2 percent of employer contributions.
For 2008 the accrual rate was two percent for Teamsters with less than 20 years in the fund, and 2.65 percent for 20-plus years. So this is approximately a 50 percent cut in what each Teamster will add to their pension next year.
The Western Fund is well funded and is in the “Green Zone” under the Pension Protection Act (PPA) standards. This big cut was imposed because of the recent nose dive in the stock market.
TDU will obtain and make available documents that the fund must disclose because of requirements in the PPA, as soon as they are available.
November 14, 2008: The crisis on Wall Street has millions of Americans—and many Teamsters—worried about their retirement.
Multi-employer pension plans, like our Teamster funds, are still the safest bet for a secure retirement—in good times and bad.
For years, corporate America has been telling members they would be better off if they had all of their retirement in a personal 401(k) plan—instead of the pension plans that hundreds of thousands of Teamster families rely on.
Some pundits even proposed replacing Social Security with personal savings accounts.
Those arguments looked pretty tempting when markets were up.
Now they look really scary.
In the first ten months of 2008, the average 401(k) account has lost 18 to 23 percent of its value, according to the Wall Street Journal. That paper said 401(k)s may be “a failed experiment.”
Not on Your Own
Why are workers in a multi-employer plan better off than in a 401(k) or a company pension? Because they’re not on their own, and their pension is based on a “defined benefit,” not just the whims of the stock market.
Our Teamster pension plans have some important protections:
1. You have a defined benefit: you know what you get when you retire. And after you retire, that amount cannot be reduced.
2. The fund pools contributions from different Teamster employers. So you have more protection if your company goes out of business or declares bankruptcy.
3. You can keep building your pension even if you change your job by getting a job with another covered Teamster employer. Even if you don’t stay in the same pension fund, many Teamster funds have reciprocity agreements that let you count your years in both funds.
Changes Needed in Pension Leadership
Our pension plans are the best road to a secure retirement. But it’s no secret that some members are losing faith in our Teamster plans.
It’s no wonder that members lose faith in our plans when Teamster officials hide problems, keep them in the dark, and let the employers call the shots.
The answer is greater accountability, and Teamster leaders who don’t blindly follow the lead of the employers or Wall Street investment firms.
In New York, members of Local 804 won the right to have regular reports on their pension at every union meeting, after they were blindsided with pension cuts.
In Baltimore Local 355, members are pushing for a Pension Bill of Rights guaranteeing members the right to know what’s going on with their pension—and the right to have a say when changes are needed.
We need Teamster pension trustees who understand that their job is not to keep the costs down for employers, but to fight to protect Teamster benefits.
Pension Divide at UPS
At the beginning of the year, UPS pulled 44,000 Teamsters out of the Central States Pension Fund.
The new UPS-only pension plan did restore early retirement for UPS Teamsters in Central States—but there was a hidden cost.
By 2013, the accrual rate for the new plan will be lower than almost every other UPS Teamster pension plan. Unlike other Teamster plans, in the new UPS plan, the company doesn’t have to make fixed contributions for each employee. UPS management will get to pocket the savings from lower benefits.
Worse yet, the pull-out divided our members and weakened the Central States Fund. It traded away the large and growing contribution from UPS to the fund for a one time payment of $6 billion.
New Corporate Attacks
Now other companies want the same deal UPS got.
That’s why Waste Management sent in their strike-breaking “Green Team” to Milwaukee this fall.
Their goal was to get Local 200 waste Teamsters out of the Central States Pension Fund and into a 401(k) plan. Local 200 Teamsters stood strong on the picket line for a month.
The International threatened to expand picket lines to other WM cities, but they never did, and the company forced members into an inferior 401(k) plan.
The International Union did not use Teamster Power on a national scale against a giant corporation to protect Teamster pensions.
Turn It Around
This is not an easy time to defend our pension plans. But we cannot back down and give up what Teamsters fought to win in earlier tough times.
Turning our pensions around will take the work of thousands of Teamsters working together.
TDU members are helping to build that movement. And you can help.
Get the facts on your plan. TDU and the Pension Rights Center won language in the Pension Protection Act that gives you new rights to get plan documents and actuary reports from your pension plan.
Contact TDU to see if members have already obtained the documents for your plan, or to get a sample letter you can send to your fund.
Keep other members informed. It’s harder for management to play games with our retirement when members are watching. You can help keep members informed by distributing Convoy or by holding a pension information meeting in your area.
Planning for the Future
“Pulling out UPS from Central States is now looking like a really bad idea.
“Give up $600 million a year of sure money for a $6 billion buy-out? If my math is right, the Hoffa administration traded away our retirement security for only ten years worth of what used to be a sure thing.
“Our union leaders are supposed to look ahead to problems down the road. Now it’s up to members like us to keep an eye on how our fund is doing—and look out for our long-term retirement security.”
David Manolis, UPS Local 391, North Carolina
A Pension Bill of Rights
“In Baltimore, we were blindsided when our officials announced that our accrual was being cut to zero.
“For years our officials told us that they were taking care of our fund. Now we know we can’t count on their word.
“That’s why we’re pushing for a Pension Bill of Rights. Members have the right to know how our fund is doing—and to have a say when changes are needed.”
Gary Payne, UPS Local 355, Baltimore
November 28, 2008: In 1989, top Teamster leaders agreed to create the Independent Review Board, a body that investigates and polices corruption in our union.
In 1988, the federal government filed a racketeering lawsuit and tried to put our entire International Union under government trusteeship.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union launched a campaign to stop the trusteeship and instead give Teamster members the power to reform our own union by winning the right to vote for International Union officers.
Our campaign—No Mob Control, No Government Control, Right to Vote—won the day.
Top Teamster leaders settled the lawsuit by signing a deal with the government called the consent degree, which adopted TDU’s proposal for one-member, one-vote elections.
The International Union also agreed to the creation of the Independent Review Board to investigate and remove corruption from our union.
Here are answers to frequent questions Teamster ask about the IRB and the consent decree.
Q: What is the IRB? The Independent Review Board (IRB) is a body our union agreed to set up to investigate and remove corruption from our union.
The IRB was created after the 1989 consent decree that ended the government’s racketeering suit against the top Teamster leadership of the time.
Q: Who is on the IRB? There are three members of the IRB, one appointed by the International Union, one appointed by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and one chosen jointly.
The current three members of the IRB were chosen in 2001.
Hoffa appointed Joseph diGenova, a conservative Republican attorney and former President Reagan appointee.
The U.S. Attorney chose Benjamin Civiletti, who was the Attorney General under President Carter.
Civiletti and diGenova picked William Webster, the former director of the FBI and the CIA, for the third spot.
There is also an investigative team headed by Chief Investigator Charles Carberry, who brings matters before the board.
Q: What can the IRB do? And what can’t it do? The IRB has the power to investigate (including questioning members under oath, examining financial records, etc.) and to make recommendations to the union for charges against officials.
The most serious punishment the IRB can hand out is expulsion from the Teamsters Union; it has no power to bring criminal charges.
The IRB can also recommend that the International Union place a local union in trusteeship.
If the International Union ignores an IRB recommendation, or declines to take appropriate action, the IRB can hold hearings and hand out punishment.
The IRB has no power over running or managing our union. It cannot influence contract bargaining, grievance procedures, pension benefits, political endorsements, officers’ salaries or financial priorities.
Q: What has the IRB done, and what could it do better? IRB actions have led to discipline (suspension, returned funds, and expulsions) of over 600 Teamsters. These decisions are posted at www.irbcases.org.
In 2008, for example, IRB investigations led to the removal of two officials of the International Union. Don Hahs, the President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLET) Teamster unit, was caught embezzling union funds via union-paid trips for his wife, season tickets to the Cleveland Cavs, and more. Hahs repaid $44,963 and was removed from office.
International Vice President Frank Gillen was kicked out for lying under oath about his association with ousted Teamster official Thomas Ryan.
IRB action in 2008 also led to the current trusteeship of Chicago Local 714, a local run by three generations of the Hogan family.
The IRB has come under fire for doing too little to protect members’ democratic rights while devoting resources on investigating Teamster officials who are in contact with persons who have been expelled from our union. Such contact is forbidden.
Q: How much does all of this cost our union? The cost for the investigations and IRB members is about $3 million per year. Teamsters pay about $800 million per year in dues.
The three members of the IRB are each paid $100,000 per year. The staff investigators are paid $84,000 per year. Charles Carberry’s law firm, which provides facilities, support and direction to the investigators, was paid $694,000 last year.
The Hoffa administration often complains about the cost of the consent decree. But these costs include the cost of holding International Union elections and elections for delegates. There is widespread concern that Hoffa’s real goal is to eliminate these elections altogether.
Protecting fair and independently supervised elections for International Union officers is a top priority of TDU.
Q: Didn’t Hoffa promise to get rid of the IRB? After Hoffa took office in 1999, he appointed Ed Stier to head up Project RISE, an internal union anti-corruption task force.
The goal of Project RISE was to take the place of the IRB. But in April 2004, Ed Stier resigned along with his staff, stating that, “My problem is with one man: Jim Hoffa.”
Stier said Hoffa was blocking their investigation into connections between organized crime and Teamster officials in Chicago—especially John Coli, the head of Local 727 and Joint Council 25. Coli is now an International Vice President.
Hoffa’s goal of ending the consent decree was put on hold.
Q: Can Hoffa get rid of the IRB? Not on his own. The International Union would have to convince federal judge Loretta Preska to do that. The only effective route would be to convince the U.S. Attorney that the union is policing itself.
The International Union sought commitments from candidates, including President-elect Obama, that they would consider ending the consent order.
Ending the consent order, without further changes to the Teamster Constitution, would affect something much larger than the IRB: our right to have impartially supervised elections for International officers.
The future of the consent order will not be decided by President Obama, but the President appoints the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who would have such power.
Q. How do I contact the IRB regarding possible corruption? You can contact the IRB hotline at 800-225-5472, or call 212-635-0202. Be forewarned that they will not generally tell a member what or whom they are investigating.
“Carhaul Teamsters learned a great lesson when we voted down the first offer. We beat back the concessions that both the companies and our union bargainers claimed they had to have. We knew times were tough but we stood strong in preserving our contract. That took organization to get it done and that’s where TDU comes in.
“We held conference calls where carhaulers from across the country were able to share information and reinforce opposition to the givebacks. Where would working Teamsters be without TDU? We’d be isolated and discouraged. That’s no way to be a union. So step up today and help us continue the fight to enforce the contract and save our jobs. Join TDU today.” — Paul Kubal, Jack Cooper, Local 299, Detroit
“Owner operators out of Flint voted down the second contract. It didn’t address our issues and we ended up with a worse contract. We need our own supplement.
“We understand the company drivers got changes on most of the proposed concessions so that explains the contract passing. Owner operators need to learn from that fight and organize for our needs. We can push back but, just like the office Teamsters, we don’t have the numbers.
“We’ll need to get all Teamster carhaulers to understand what we face. We need that majority support on the next contract. That’s the union we need to forge.” — J.D. Smith, Allied Owner Operator, Local 332, Flint, Mich.
“It was tough to see the Michigan office supplement bargained away. Our reps claimed it was the best way to defend our jobs. We know they weren’t happy that we held up the last contract. Our loss is the price we had to pay for getting an honest vote count. That said, it shows how important the supplement votes can be.
“We need to prepare now to get stronger language and improvements on the supplements in the next contract.” — Ava Miller, Allied, Local 332, Flint
What do you think? Call (313) 842-2600 or email info [at] tdu.org.
November 14, 2008: In August, Teamster carhaulers stood up, said No to concessions and won an improved contract as a result. But there’s more work to be done.
Carhaulers who are upset with the direction of our industry aren’t giving up. We’re getting organized.
Teamster carhaulers who are upset with the direction of our industry met at the TDU Convention in October to make plans to do something about it.
“We learned in 2008 that carhaulers can have power when we get informed, spread the word and work together,” said Ken Kontrath, a PMT driver in San Jose Local 287. “But we also learned that we could achieve a whole lot more if we don’t wait till the last minute. We won’t make that mistake again.”
The TDU Carhaul Committee is making plans to bring members together in 2009 to enforce our contract, bring Allied back up to full scale, prepare for the next contract just over two years away, and lay the basis for organizing the nonunion competition in the industry.
“We’re going to continue to hold conference calls and meetings to share information nationwide,” said Matt Studd. “Teamsters for a Democratic Union has been there with information and resources for carhaulers who want a new direction.”
“For all my fellow Teamsters who agree that our union is not where it should be, I challenge you to step up and do what’s right: join TDU.”
Help support our work in carhaul. Click here to join TDU.