Do you want to know more about how Teamster members can win strong contracts, protect our pensions and build union power?
Then register for the Working Teamsters Education Conference, Sunday, April 6 in New York City.
Workshops to include:
- Teamster Reform History and the Future of Teamster Power
- Strategic Bargaining Tactics and Contract Campaigns
- Teamster Pensions and the Pension Protection Act
- Ken Paff, TDU National Organizer
- Sandy Pope, President, Teamsters Local 805
- Ann Thompson, Pension Attorney
- Working Teamsters who have been mobilizing to win strong contracts, protect their pensions, and rebuild Teamster Power.
Register Today and Save
The Working Teamsters Education Conference will be held at the Borough of Manhattan Community College from 9:30 am to 1 pm on Sunday, April 6.
BMCC is located at 199 Chambers Street, one block east of the West Side Hwy. Click here for directions.
The conference is sponsored by the NY-NJ Chapter of Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
Registration is required, and will take place starting at 9:30 AM in BMCC Room S106. Register by March 28 and get complete conference registration, including lunch, for just $10. The walk-in registration fee is $20.
Click here to register online.
Click here to download a leaflet and registration form.
For more information, call 718-287-3283 or click here to send us a question.
For directions to the Borough of Manhattan Community College, click here.
March 27, 2008: Teamsters in New Jersey Local 641 were hit with major pension and health and welfare cuts on March 10—just nine days after the Local 641 pension fund announced it was in critical status (the “Red Zone”).
Effective June 1, the pension accrual will be slashed to one percent—the lowest amount allowed for plans in the Red Zone. The minimum retirement age was raised to age 57 with stiff annual reductions for pension benefits for Teamsters retiring below the age of 62.
Under the Pension Protection Act, Local 641 did not have to classify their fund in the Red Zone until June and did not have to adopt a plan or implement any cuts until June of next year.
The fund acted on a much accelerated pace—which may be financially prudent. But coming without any warning, the announcement blindsided members and left some Teamsters scrambling before the June 1 deadline when the changes take effect.
The Local 641 Welfare Fund also introduced major cuts to in health benefits for both working Teamsters and retirees.
Members were informed of the benefit cuts at a March 9 general membership meeting and through a notice from the fund dated March 10.
The cuts in Local 641 reveal how quickly Teamster funds may move in some cases to reduce benefits, now that the Pension Protection Act is in effect—and serve as a warning to Teamsters to get informed now.
A Warning from Local 641
“We were broadsided when pension cuts were made in my local with no warning. I feel like I was slapped in the face. Some drivers on my job are scrambling to retire now before the cuts take effect in June.
“My advice to all Teamsters: Don’t wait for the other shoe to drop. Ask questions now. Don’t let what happened to us in Local 641 happen to you.”
John Roncinske, Yellow, Local 641, Union, N.J.
March 27, 2008: Teamsters in New York Local 804 will vote this month on bylaws changes that will put more pension and contract information in the hands of the membership.
The first bylaws change will require the Local 804 Executive Board to include a report on the Local 804 benefit funds at every general membership meeting.
For ten years, the Local 804 pension fund earned dramatically substandard investment returns—resulting in a $100 million shortfall in the fund. But members never knew a thing about it.
The fund’s poor investment record and $378 million overall funding shortfall only came to light when some Local 804 Teamsters obtained a leaked copy of a pension fund actuarial report. By then, the fund had voted to cut the pension accrual by 30 percent.
“During the last contract, we were hit with a lot of propaganda from the company about our pension and very few members really felt like we had the facts. Having reports at our meetings will help members know what is happening with our fund so we can act as watchdogs when we have to,” said Chris Sabatino, a package car shop steward.
“Informed members mean a stronger union and stronger pensions, and that’s our goal,” Sabatino said.
A second change mandates Local 804 to set up a Contract Committee to inform and mobilize Local 804 members when a new contract is being negotiated.
When members were kept in the dark during the last contract, they launched the Local 804 Make UPS Deliver network.
The network held meetings, issued contract bulletins and led a Vote No campaign that defeated a weak contract recommended by both UPS and Local 804.
By voting No by a nearly three to one margin, Local 804 members won a new contract that restored their pensions without giving in to the company’s demand to eliminate 25 & Out pension benefits for new employees.
“UPSers remember 1997 and we know that we win better contracts when members are informed and not kept in the dark,” said Ken Reiman, a package car driver in Melville, N.Y.
“We don’t want another weak contract like this last one. By itself, voting Yes on this bylaws change won’t win us a good contract, but will send a message about what members want our union to do the next time we’re in negotiations.”
February 21, 2008: Two times in the last 18 months, UPS has blindsided Teamsters in New York City by demanding pension cuts. Now Local 804 Teamster members are organizing to get the information they need to defend their pensions.
Two thousand members have signed a petition to propose changes to the Local 804 bylaws that will put more contract and pension information in the hands of the Local 804 membership.
In November 2006, UPS forced through a 30 percent cut in pension accruals in Local 804. Management claimed that without the cuts the Local 804 fund would fall into “Critical Status” (the “Red Zone”) when the Pension Protection Act went into effect.
An actuarial report was leaked that revealed that the Local 804 pension fund had earned dramatically substandard returns on its investments for a decade. AON Consulting reported that, “The average investment returns over the past five years have been a little more than 3%; over the past 10 years the average return has been just 6%.”
Local 804’s pension investment returns were worse than the Central States Pension Fund over the same five and ten-year periods—and worse than other funds managed by AON Consulting.
“For comparison purposes, we looked at another substantial fund we work with and the average returns over similar periods were 6% over the last 5 years and nearly 10% over the past 10 years,” AON reported.
According to AON, the Local 804 pension fund had a $378 million shortfall—and approximately $100 million of this was due to poor investment performance.
“Members were shocked. We had always been told that our pension fund was in great shape,” said feeder driver Pete Mastrandrea.
“By mandating that our union include a report on our pension fund’s performance at every general membership meeting, we can make sure that the membership is never blindsided like this again,” Mastrandrea said.
The second attack on Local 804 pensions came during UPS contract negotiations.
After months of secretive negotiations, UPS and Local 804 agreed to a new contract that would eliminate 25-and-out pensions for all new employees—a deal that was unanimously endorsed by the Local 804 Executive Board.
UPS sent every Local 804 member a letter saying that if the contract was not approved then it would be illegal for the fund to restore their pensions.
Members voted the contract down by 3 to 1 anyway.
As a result of their united stand, Local 804 members saved 25-and-out, defeated other givebacks and reversed the 2007 pension cuts.
Information is Power
The Local 804 Make UPS Deliver network showed that members can make a difference when they are informed and involved.
Many Local 804 members were still disappointed with the final contract and felt more could have been won if the membership had been better informed—about both contract negotiations and the real story with the Local 804 pension and the Pension Protection Act.
That’s when members decided to propose two changes to the Local 804 bylaws.
The first change will require the Executive Board to include a report on the Local 804 benefit funds at every general membership meeting.
The second bylaws change will mandate Local 804 to set up a Contract Committee to inform and mobilize Local 804 members whenever a new contract is being negotiated.
“This bylaws vote is about what kind of contracts and benefits we’re going to have in the future,” said shop steward Tim Sylvester. “Local 804 has always had some of the highest retirement benefits in the country. But we’ve fallen behind other funds like Washington D.C., Upstate New York, and the Western Conference.
“Local 804 has won top contracts and benefits by leveling with the members and getting people involved. We did that to win 25-and-out before the rest of the country. We did it in 1997. We can do it again,” Sylvester said.
Mandate for Change
Two hundred signatures are required to introduce bylaws changes in Local 804. As Convoy Dispatch goes to press, 2,000 members have signed each bylaws petition.
“Winning strong contracts and pensions by informing and mobilizing the membership is something that every Local 804 Teamster can unite behind,” said Jim Reynolds, an alternate steward and one of the leaders of the bylaws reform campaigns.
“Members proved that by signing these petitions in such huge numbers. This is really a mandate for positive change,” Reynolds said.
The proposed changes will be voted on at the next Local 804 membership meeting on April 20.
February 21, 2008: An “agitator” is the device in your washing machine that stirs things up and gets the dirt out.
That’s also the role played by Local 804 member and UPS package car driver Ken Reiman.
Better known by the name of his newsletter and website, the Local Agitator, Reiman exposes corporate greed at UPS and what working Teamsters can do about it.
Never one to duck controversy, Reiman uses his newsletter both to celebrate union achievements like the 1997 UPS strike and to cast a spotlight on Hoffa and Local 804 officials when they fail to stand up to Big Brown.
Reiman blasted his local executive board for unanimously endorsing the new concessionary contract—which Local 804 members voted against by a nearly three-to-one margin.
His website also lists the salaries of Local 804 officials who make $130,000 and up—noting that their salaries have grown by 40 percent in the last seven years, twice the rate of the UPS Teamsters they represent.
“I’m just trying to inform people and stimulate them and look at what UPS is doing to us and what’s happening in our union. Once members have the information, they can make their own minds.
“I don’t mind being called an agitator. We need to stir things up. That’s how you get change—and we need it,” Reiman said.
January 10, 2008: Forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, where he was organizing support for striking sanitation workers.
Today, many Teamster members still don’t have Martin Luther King Day off, even though it’s a federal holiday. Even worse, at least one Teamster employer marks Martin Luther King Day by laying off Teamster drivers without pay.
This year, Local 807 members are standing up against this practice.
Kraft Foods in Fairlawn, N.J. employs union bakers and Teamster drivers. Confectionery Local 719 members have Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday in their contract—but the Teamster drivers who are covered by the National Master Freight Agreement do not.
For years, Kraft gave the drivers the choice of working on MLK Day or taking the day off without pay. But last year, Kraft laid off every Local 807 driver without pay.
This year, Local 807 members circulated a petition calling on Kraft management “to honor Dr. King’s legacy of standing up for civil and labor rights—not to disrespect it by involuntarily laying us off on Martin Luther King Day.”
The petition goes on to say, “If Kraft is not going to give us MLK Day as a paid holiday like other union employees in Fairlawn, then the company should resume its prior practice of giving each Local 807 member the choice of working or taking the day off without pay.”
Kraft has not yet responded to the petition.
“The Teamsters should be more proactive about winning Martin Luther King Day as a contractual holiday,” said Michael Spruill, the Local 807 driver who launched the petition drive.
“Martin Luther King died supporting union members. He gave his life to win justice for all people. This country would be a shell of itself if it wasn’t for Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement,” Spruill said.
UPDATE: Local 807 members received the backing of the local union and Kraft management agreed to allow members to choose whether they wanted to work the MLK holiday or take the day off. The fight to win Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday under our Teamster contracts continues.
December 13, 2007: Online grocery giant FreshDirect is axing scores of immigrants in a crackdown on undocumented workers at its Queens warehouse.
Teary-eyed workers filed out of the delivery company's factory in Long Island City yesterday after supervisors demanded they produce papers proving their immigration status is legal.
Union organizers say the move may be part of an effort to intimidate the 900 or so warehouse workers in advance of a union vote set for next weekend.
"It's shocking that they would take action like this right before Christmas," said Sandy Pope, president of Teamsters Local 805.
Read the full story in the New York Daily News.
Members are preparing to vote on a better offer from UPS that restores 30 & Out benefits to $3,600 a month-without key givebacks that were included in the first offer.
The Local 804 Executive Board unanimously endorsed the company's first offer which would have eliminated 25 & Out pensions for new hires and diverted 10 cents in members' wages to subsidize UPS's pension costs.
Money in Your Wallet
To sell the concessionary first offer, UPS and Local 804 officials threatened that if members did not ratify the deal then the Local 804 Pension Fund would maintain a 30 percent cut in pension accruals for years to come.
By voting No, members got UPS to put an offer on the table that raises the pension accrual to pre-cut levels, protects 25 & Out benefits, and puts the 10¢ back into members' wages.
Restoring the 10¢ wage diversion will put $1,500 in the pocket of every Local 804 full-timer over the life of the deal.
"I'm very proud that Local 804 members voted against the givebacks that the company and our own union tried to shove down our throats. We never should have been voting on that offer in the first place," said Jim Reynolds, an alternate steward and one of the leaders of the Local 804 Make UPS Deliver network.
"We didn't win the contract we deserve, but by standing united at least we got ourselves out of the hole our negotiators dug for us," Reynolds said.
The new contract offer also maintains a bonus for drivers-called "coffee pay" in New York. UPS automatically pays drivers an extra 15 minutes whenever they work more than 8½ hours. The company's first offer would have eliminated coffee pay for current part-timers who go driving -reducing their pay by nearly $2,000 a year.
Defending Our Legacy
Local 804 won 25 & Out long before most Teamster locals. It took a thirteen week strike to do it. Local 804 member Ed Dougherty was run over and killed on the picket line in the struggle to win that benefit. To this day, the Local 804 scholarship fund is named in Brother Dougherty's honor.
"We felt very strongly that our Executive Board did not have the right to negotiate away a benefit that a Teamster brother sacrificed his life to win," said Tim Sylvester, a shop steward and one of the leaders of the Vote No movement.
Local 804 is organizing a shop stewards' meeting and then preparing to send out ratification ballots with the goal of securing a new agreement before January 1.
"The Local 804 membership made ourselves heard. Whatever we got, we won by sticking together and voting No," said Bill Reynolds, a package car driver in the Suffolk building. "Make UPS Deliver was a big part of it. Ultimately it was up to the rank-and-file."
September 6, 2007: The National Labor Relations Board ordered the reinstatement of a fired Teamster reform activist.
The board has also ruled that a Local 854 official violently threatened a TDU member and shop steward.
This victory for Teamster reform activists came when the National Labor Relations Board overturned on appeal an earlier ruling by an NLRB administrative law judge.
The case shows that even under the worst of circumstances, TDU members can enforce their legal right to organize for fairness on the job and in the union.
Beating a Campaign of Terror
When school bus drivers and Local 854 members began organizing in 2002 to elect their shop stewards and enforce their contract, Consolidated Bus Transit and Local 854 responded with a wave of retaliation against Teamster reformers.
Drivers were followed. Their tires were slashed and windshields smashed. Drivers were suspended and even fired.
TDU took legal action and won numerous decisions against both Consolidated Bus Transit and Local 854, protecting the rights of working Teamsters to organize on the job and in their union.
On Aug. 31, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of TDU members on two final issues that were in front of the board on appeal.
As a result, driver and TDU leader Juan Carlos Rodriguez won the right to return to his job at Consolidated Bus Transit. Rodriguez had been fired in March 2003 in retaliation for his union reform activity.
The NLRB ordered that Consolidated Bus Transit reinstate Rodriguez and pay him “for any loss of earnings and other benefits he may have suffered as a result of the unlawful action against him, plus interest.”
Rodriguez will return to work with full seniority and tens of thousands of dollars in backpay.
Teamster Official Guilty of Violent Threat
If Juan Carlos Rodriguez was the big winner as the result of the NLRB’s ruling, then Local 854 President Danny Gatto is the big loser.
After shop steward Jona Fleurimont’s windshield was smashed by hammer-wielding thugs, Gatto told Fleurimont, “If I had a beef with you, I wouldn’t break your windshield. I’d break something else.”
The NLRB ruled that Gatto illegally and violently threatened Fleurimont, saying “Gatto’s comment was a thinly-veiled threat of assault. Whatever remained implicit in that comment about the immediate and physical nature of the threat quickly became explicit when Gatto tried to goad Fleurimont into starting a fight.”
Gatto’s persecution of Fleurimont didn’t end there. After Consolidated Bus Transit fired Fleurimont in retaliation for his union activity, Gatto instructed Local 854 legal counsel to oppose a settlement reinstating Fleurimont to work. Gatto failed—and legal action by TDU won Fleurimont his job back with more than $20,000 in backpay.
Local 804 President and fund trustee Howie Redmond voted against the cuts, but never informed members that UPS management was seeking cuts.
“Local 804’s officers certainly knew we had a problem and that management wanted cuts. Why was that hidden from the members?” said Local 804 alternate steward Jim Reynolds. “Now they’re going to blame everyone but themselves. Respect and responsibility come from what is done, not what is said.”
“Local 804 officials have said ‘our pension is sacred’ so what’s happened is sacrilege,” Reynolds said.
The announcement was kept under wraps until Nov. 30, just after the Local 804 election and the International election. Could that be a coincidence?
Local 804 officers say the cuts affect them, too. True, but they don’t mention that they are covered by at least two pension plans plus a 401(k).
“Howie is on the national negotiating committee that right now is supposedly negotiating to protect our pensions. We’re always told how powerful he is,” Reynolds said. “But when our pensions were on the line, he and Hoffa and Hall came up empty-handed.”
“If Local 804 members want to reverse these cuts, we better stand up for ourselves and get involved,” Reynolds said. He suggests that members turn out in force for the union general meeting Sun., Dec. 17.