January 23, 2013: The employers are stepping up their attacks on union jobs.
Members say it's time to start fighting back.
Teamster dairy workers in New York City have fought for years against company cost-cutting, growing nonunion competition and weakening contract protections. The employers are stepping up their attacks on union jobs. Members say it’s time to start fighting back.
Nearly 200 members of New York City Local 584 who worked at Beyer Farms were laid off without warning on Dec. 11 when the company suddenly announced it was shutting its doors. These members join the 42 other Local 584 members who were illegally fired by Elmhurst Dairy in late September.
The union has filed a grievance and NLRB charges against the firings at Elmhurst Dairy, and a few of the "Elmhurst 42" have been called back.
Beyer Farms may have closed, but the work itself—including major accounts with public schools and CVS, Duane Reade and other large grocery store chains—hasn't disappeared. Teamsters remain off the job, while the delivery routes are worked by new hires at other companies or nonunion competition.
"We have layoff and recall language in our contract with the dairy employers," says Local 584 member and Beyer Farms utility worker Stephen Mohan. "The companies shouldn't be able to just shuffle work around and ignore our seniority rights. We're asking the union's help to make sure this work stays union and that we get our jobs back."
Local 584 members have some real leverage to fight with too—the high-profile stores and customers on their delivery routes. "Walgreens doesn't want to see a crowd of Teamsters out front leafleting customers," explains Louis DeStasio, an alternate steward and 23-year Beyer Farms Teamster. "We should also be talking to customers, the community, members of other unions and elected officials about this attack on good paying jobs."
In a letter to employees the company stated that their primary milk supplier, Dean Foods, stopped supplying milk for Beyer to process and deliver. Dean Foods put a lien on Beyer's accounts. Beyer Farms claims that since these "circumstances were not reasonably foreseeable," they are not required to give the workers the 60 days notice required by the WARN Act.
Members report that two hours after Beyer Farms announced the closing, a number of sales and management personnel simply walked across the yard and brought their accounts to Elmhurst Dairy. Some of the work is being handled by a nonunion company in New Jersey that happens to be owned by the son of Elmhurst owner Henry Schwartz.
"Walgreens doesn't want to see a crowd of Teamsters out front leafleting customers.
"We should also be talking to customers, the community, members of other unions and elected officials about this attack on good paying jobs."
Louis DeStasio, Alt. Steward, Beyer Farms
Local 584, New York
January 16, 2013: Nearly 10,000 union school bus drivers and matrons are on strike across New York City to fight for critical safeguards that ensure children's safety and the rights of union workers.
Mayor Bloomberg forced the strike by putting out bids that do not include safeguards, called the Employer Protection Provisions, that guarantee that school bus drivers and matrons are hired based on their seniority in the industry. The provisions ensure that the most experienced drivers and matrons transport the city's children to school.
Bloomberg claims he wants to cut costs to put the savings back into schools—this from the same billionaire mayor who has closed 140 schools and slashed public education.
The Employer Protection Provisions protect living wages for workers and child safety for every New York City student. You can't put a price on that.
TDU stands behind ATU and Teamster members in this important fight against corporate politicians who put austerity ahead of living wages and children's safety.
Call Mayor Bloomberg at 1-888-833-7428 and tell him you support the strike and the Employee Protection Provisions.
A strike by New York City school bus drivers that had been threatened for weeks will start Wednesday morning, affecting 152,000 students, the president of the union representing the drivers announced Monday.
Michael Cordiello of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union said more than 8,000 bus drivers and matrons will participate in the strike, brought about by a dispute over job protections in any new bus company contracts for the bus routes. Matrons accompany the children on the bus and make sure they get on and off the bus safely.
"With its regrettable decision to strike, the union is abandoning 152,000 students and their families who rely on school bus service each day," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. "As Chancellor (Dennis) Walcott and I have said, the City will take all steps available to ensure that those who are impacted have the support they need, and we are now activating the protocols we put in place in the event of a strike."
Under the city's strike contingency plans, students would receive free MetroCards for mass transit. Parents or guardians of younger children also would get the cards.
Families of special needs students would be reimbursed for private transportation. Of the 152,000 students who use the buses, 54,000 are disabled and would face extra hardships in trying to find alternative transportation.
There are 1.1 million students in the New York City schools. While the majority don't use school buses, those that do are among the youngest ones.
The city wants to cut transportation costs and has put bus contracts with private bus companies up for bid. The union is decrying the lack of employee protections, saying current drivers could suddenly lose their jobs once their contracts are up in June if the companies they work for aren't the ones getting the new contracts and the new contract holders don't hire them.
The mayor said the privately-contracted drivers were demanding job security, or Employee Protection Provisions.
However, such a guarantee is not allowed in contracts between drivers and companies chosen by the city to provide bus services, the city says. The state Court of Appeals in 2011 barred the city from including EPP because of competitive bidding laws. Hence, the mayor said, the city cannot accept the union demand for an EPP clause.
"Let me be clear: the union's decision to strike has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with job protections that the City legally cannot include in its bus contracts," Bloomberg's statement said. "We hope that the union will reconsider its irresponsible and misguided decision to jeopardize our students' education."
The drivers' contracts expire on June 30, and Bloomberg said the city must "go ahead" in seeking competitive bids that would save money.
Cordiello refuted the idea that the EPP was not allowed. He said the 2011 Court of Appeals ruling was based on the fact that the city at the time did not offer the judges enough evidence to support its contention that the EPP job-security clause does not push up costs.
The union president also challenged the mayor's assertion that both sides in the labor dispute had been talking "all along."
Not true, Cordiello said. He said he'd met the chancellor for only 20 minutes last week, and the deputy mayor for an hour.
The head of another union, Teamsters Local 854, said its members would not go on strike with the bus drivers because their contracts don't allow it, but they would not cross any picket lines. Local 854 represents drivers, matrons and mechanics, some of whom work alongside members of ATU.
Dan Gatto, president of the local, put the blame on Bloomberg. "For weeks now, City Hall has refused to discuss the job-killing provisions they are insisting on as part of new contracts with bus contractors," he said.
"We urge Mayor Bloomberg and his administration to work with the ATU to resolve this dispute before a job action is required," Gatto said.
In 2011, the city said the union was threatening to strike over bus route contract bids, but the union said the warning was a false alarm. No strike took place.
January 7, 2013: New York City is the latest battleground in corporate politicians’ war against workers.
This latest assault is led by Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of NYC who got rich providing media services to Wall Street. NYC has faced budget problems ever since Bloomberg’s Wall Street buddies drove the economy over the cliff in 2008. Now Bloomberg, who has long resisted higher taxes on Wall Street, wants to balance the budget shortfall on the backs of workers.
His target: public school bus drivers and aides, including more than 1,000 Teamsters.
Bloomberg wants to slash the cost of transporting 152,000 NYC students by eliminating decades-old rules (called Employee Protection Provisions) that stop bus companies that win bids with the Department of Education from cutting the wages and benefits of bus drivers and aides.
The Employee Protection Provisions were won as a result of a 13 week strike in 1979 and requires companies to hire laid off union drivers and bus aides from a Master Seniority List. Experienced bus drivers and aides can “follow their work” and maintain their wages and benefits if a new company takes over or wins new routes.
On Sunday, thousands of school bus drivers and parents rallied at New York’s City Hall to speak out for protecting their jobs and to prepare for a possible strike.
Click here to read more on the rally and possibility of a strike.
UPDATE, December 19, 2012: We recently reported on the illegal layoff of 42 Teamsters from Elmhurst Dairy in Queens, NY. Now, 138 more Local 584 Teamsters are out of work as Beyer Farms suddenly closes.
Click here to read TDU's story on the firings at Elmhurst Dairy.
December 14, 2012: Members have re-elected reformers to lead New York Local 804, one of the largest UPS locals in the Teamsters Union.
Tim Sylvester and the 804 Members United Slate swept a hotly contested three-way race.
Local 804 represents 6,000 UPS Teamsters in metropolitan New York. The 804 Members United team won office three years ago after they led a rank-and-file movement to vote down contract concessions and save 25 & Out pensions.
When they took office in 2010, they discovered that incumbents had shredded the local's grievance files, erased the union's computer hard drives, and nearly bankrupted the Local 804 Health Fund.
Actuaries told the new board that, without changes, the Fund would be insolvent and unable to pay a single claim within 18 months.
In their first term, the 804 Members United team saved the Health Fund, which now has more than $20 million in reserves. Now the local's focus is on contract negotiations with UPS.
"With the election behind us, Local 804 members will do what we've always done—come together, stand united and fight for a better contract at UPS," President Tim Sylvester said in a statement on the Local 804 website.
For more info, go to www.804membersunited.org.
November 21, 2012: The biggest Teamster dairy in New York, Elmhurst Dairy, has been trying to cut costs by dumping higher-paid senior workers for years. This fall, the company offered Teamsters a buyout, but few members took the offer.
So management turned to union-busting instead. Last month, the company laid off the 42 highest seniority Teamsters at the Dairy and replaced them with new hires who start at just $10 an hour.
"Elmhurst thinks they can do anything and they're trying to break the union," says Hammey Boureima, a Local 584 member who has worked at Elmhurst for 15 years. "If the union doesn't stand up and fight, all the companies will do the same thing." Hammey has five children and is not sure how he's going to cover rent this month.
The diary workers set up their own pickets outside the plant and were discussing plans to reach out to the public and major Elmhurst customers to win support for their reinstatement. Political officials spoke out against the firings, and Local 584 and Joint Council 16 issued a call for a rally scheduled for October 24th.
But the company responded by filing for a temporary restraining order against any work stoppage, strike or other interference in the company's normal operations (but not prohibiting leafleting or other outreach to the public or Elmhurst customers.) The Joint Council cancelled the rally and the Local backed off the plans to reach out to Elmhurst customers.
"After they cancelled the rally, the union told us to meet the following Monday and that we'd be leafleting customers and reaching out to the public," says Chester Rodman, who has worked at Elmhurst Dairy for 7 years and has 20 years as a Teamster in the industry. "That Monday happened to be the day Hurricane Sandy hit. Since then, and it's been more than two weeks, we’ve heard nothing about the leaflets or plans to reach customers and demand we be brought back."
The union and company are entering into arbitration over the layoffs and the Local has filed NLRB charges against Elmhurst Dairy for breaking the union contract.
Members voted overwhelmingly to contribute an hour's pay per week to assist the Elmhurst Dairy Teamsters. But none of the Elmhurst workers has yet received any financial assistance from these contributions.
Local 584 members are discussing possible actions and asking what the union's plan is.
"We can't just sit around and leave it up to the courts," said TDU member Shermon Connor, a delivery driver at Tuscan Beyer Farms. "We need to be reaching out to customers and the community to demand Elmhurst bring these guys back to work."
The trucking industry in the Northeast was scrambling last week in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to assess the damage to fleet facilities and roadways and to determine which customers were ready to accept deliveries.
The storm, which slammed ashore in southern New Jersey Oct. 29, devastated the shoreline there and swamped lower Manhattan under an enormous tidal surge, killed more than 80 residents around the region and brought transportation services in some areas to a standstill for several days.
Numerous rail, subway and motor vehicle tunnels connecting Manhattan to New Jersey and other parts of New York City were still flooded late last week, as Transport Topics went to press.
Meanwhile, economists said the rebuilding efforts from the destruction will likely provide some segments of the trucking industry a boost in demand in coming months.
Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, summed up the situation for TT: “Nobody can get to work. You can’t move around here.”
Roads that were not clogged with debris or filled with downed power lines were seeing excessive traffic in many areas, including New York City.
With the exception of some limited emergency fuel deliveries, the Port of New York and New Jersey remained closed as of Nov. 1 because of heavy damage, adding to the economic woes in the area.
In Moonachie, N.J., just south of the intersection of interstates 95 and 80, a UPS Freight facility was flooded.
“Moonachie is under water; we cannot get in or out,” said UPS Inc. spokesman Chris Bartlett. “From a service perspective, we’re able to work around that with other surrounding centers but, because New Jersey’s been so badly hit, there’s just not much activity there.”
Likewise, the three UPS facilities in New York were operating at 25% capacity because customers, damaged and without power, were not open, he said.
FedEx Corp. said a critical issue was navigating impassable roads and finding customers who could receive shipments.
“Some folks just may not be either home or their business is not open, but we will try to make deliveries the best as we can, in areas that are inaccessible because of . . . downed power lines, transit closures, flooding or storm debris,” said FedEx spokesman Scott Fiedler.
With so little public transit operating in New York City, “Our major challenge is getting people into our locations to man vehicles and sort,” he said.
Tom Connery, chief operating officer for the Shevell Group, headquartered in Elizabeth, N.J., said deliveries were being delayed because “most of the customers are not ready to take it.”
“The other problem is our ability to get around on local roads,” Connery said. “In New Jersey, there’s just so many trees and power lines on the ground. There were railroad cars that came up onto the turnpike, they floated up there with the tidal surge.”
Shevell owns New England Motor Freight, Eastern Freight Ways and Carrier Industries. Connery said Shevell moved its fleet to higher ground before the storm and has generators to power its headquarters.
Although it is located near the port, Shevell cannot do any business there yet because of the storm damage.
“We have a number of customers that have containers that right now we simply can’t pick up,” Connery said.
Con-way Freight said that more than 40 service centers were initially affected by the storm in 11 states because the carrier moved employees and equipment, said Gary Frantz, director of corporate communications for parent Con-way Inc.
By late in the day on Oct. 30, all but two — one each in New Jersey and Long Island — were up and running, Con-way said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Toth. “And if you look at the ramifications — particularly our port being closed, the largest port on the East Coast — 200,000-something people have their jobs related to that port.”
Admiral Kevin Cook, deputy commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area, said during a call with reporters and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Oct. 31 that officials still were assessing the damage at the port and did not know when it would reopen.
In an effort to start the recovery process moving, the federal government released $29 million in emergency funding as of Nov. 1 for highway infrastructure. The funding included states from Rhode Island to North Carolina.
The government also eased hours-of-service rules and other regulations for truckers hauling storm-related emergency supplies.
The rebuilding efforts — from roads and bridges to houses and boardwalks by the beach — will mean an uptick in business, said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.
“Specifically, flatbed carriers typically see a strong boost in construction freight related to rebuilding,” he said. “We fully expect fleets to see an increase in activity in the coming weeks and months during the cleanup and rebuilding phases,” he said.
“Dry-van carriers will likely see a boost in freight from retailers replenishing store shelves that were depleted in the days before the hurricane, but of course these fleets saw a lull in freight in the midAtlantic and Northeast during the last few days,” Costello said.
Deutsche Bank Equity Research Group of North America said its survey of trucking firms in the storm’s aftermath indicated “that it represents a potential positive for the transports.”
But that positive comes after an economic loss in the range of $30 billion to $50 billion, according to IHS Global Insight.
Shevell’s Connery noted how much was lost because of the storm.
“For a two-day period we did about 60% of our normal revenue,” he said.
Connery said the Eastern Freight Ways division runs flatbeds that should see an increase in business, and items like generators and home goods supplies were “already entering our system.”
The problems caused by Sandy were not limited to rain and wind.
In West Virginia, the storm brought extremely heavy snow that blanketed the northeastern part of the state.
“I think everybody’s still assessing,” said Janet Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Trucking Association. “Now the one thing we are worried about is flooding.”
June 1, 2012: Local 814 Teamsters at Sotheby’s Auction House have ratified a contract and are returning to work after a hard-fought 10-month lockout.
Sotheby’s is a world-wide auction house for the super-rich. The 42 Teamsters employed there handle some of the most valuable art pieces in the world.
Sotheby’s recently sold a painting for $120 million, but they locked out Teamster members for trying to negotiate job security language to protect union jobs that pay a living wage.
The lockout became a symbol of the attack on union jobs and runaway corporate greed. The public rallied to the Teamster cause including members of other unions, artists, students, and Occupy Wall Street.
Teamster supporters engaged in civil disobedience and creative protests as part of a far-reaching corporate campaign.
In a turning point, Sotheby’s dumped the anti-union law firm Jackson-Lewis. Yesterday, workers ratified a contract that returns them to work.
Local 814 members won modest wage increases, protected their benefits, and language that strengthens their seniority rights in terms of job assignments and overtime.
On the issue of securing union jobs, the lockout ended in a stalemate. Local 814 protected their work week guarantees but was not able to win language that would bring temporary workers into the union.
“We didn’t achieve all of our goals. But I’m proud of the way we united not just Teamsters, but all kinds of people who are concerned about what’s happening to working people in this country,” said Sotheby’s Teamster Julian Tysh.
“We struck a chord, we built alliances. The lockout may be over but the bigger issues are still there and the struggle for justice continues,” Tysh said.
“I want to thank all those who supported us in this effort from the Joint Council to Occupy Wall Street,” Local 814 President Jason Ide said in a Teamster statement.
“This lockout was a misguided attempt by the 1 percent to crush the hopes and lives of middle class workers. That was never going to happen on our watch.”
March 16, 2012: On Thursday morning the New York State Legislature agreed to a deal limiting pensions for future public employees. The state thus joins 43 others that have recently enacted legislation curtailing public retirement benefits.
Though New York needs to reduce its spending, the cuts come at a particularly bad time: over a third of New York workers, both public and private, approaching retirement age have less than $10,000 in liquid assets. As a result, those workers are projected to be poor or near poor in retirement, with an average budget of about $7 a day for food and approximately $600 a month for housing.
Click here to read more at The New York Times.