April 4, 2011: Local 804 Teamsters rallied in front of UPS in Manhattan today to say NO to the War on Workers from Wisconsin to UPS.
Members came together to show their support with public employees who are fighting to save their collective bargaining rights. But they were also taking a stand to defend their own rights.
UPS made $5.8 billion in profits last year. But that hasn’t stopped management from using the recessions as an excuse to eliminate full-time jobs and walk all over the contract.
“People died for the rights we have thanks to collective bargaining,” said Local 804 President Tim Sylvester. “Corporate America is trying to strip our rights away. We’re uniting today across the country to say no,” Sylvester said.
March 25, 2011: Teamster school bus drivers are organizing for change in New York Local 854—including at Outstanding Transport where for years the company has gotten away with paying drivers no overtime pay and paying bus aides less than the minimum wage.
Members at Outstanding met with TDU and launched a plan to enforce their rights—including group grievances, outreach to the media, and an investigation by the state Department of Labor into the company’s wage and hour violations.
Unhappy, the company pushed back by firing Kim Session, one of the workers who has been at the center of members’ organizing.
But Session is back on the job, with full back pay, thanks to solidarity from TDU and 854 Members for Change, a committee of drivers and matrons from across Local 854.
The company claimed Session was being fired for falsifying times on trip-cards for her scheduled runs. But matrons don’t even fill out trip cards.
Owner Charlie Curcio revealed the real reason for the firing when he pulled out group grievances signed by more than a hundred members and complained that Session’s name was on the top of each one.
TDU and 854 Members for Change hit back from every angle.
Within days, the employer had been contacted by the Department of Labor, a City Council member, the New York Daily News, and the National Labor Relations Board.
Teamsters from multiple companies distributed bulletins calling for solidarity and union action.
The company backed down and returned Session to work with full back pay.
“854 Members for Change and TDU really stood behind me. I’ve never seen support like that before,” Session said.
“This fight is about everybody,” said Vincent Lattimore, a TDU member from Local 237 who helped leaflet the company to protest Kim’s unjust firing.
“Teamsters have to stick together. That’s what TDU is all about.”
“Members are used to the companies pushing Local 854 around,” said driver Pierre Jerome.
“Winning Kim’s job back, we showed that members can stand up for ourselves.”
January 24, 2011: With the help of an inflatable rat, Local 804 members are blowing the whistle on UPS management.
Local 804 package car driver Tony Lawrence is back on the job thanks to solidarity from his fellow members and an assist from an inflatable rodent.
Local 804 Teamsters erected a giant inflatable rat in front of UPS to protest the firing of Lawrence, a shop steward and 30-year member. Lawrence invoked his “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” rights under the contract, but management walked him off the job without even notifying the union.
The response by Local 804 and the members at Mt. Vernon was swift and decisive.
The very next morning, Local 804 officers and members rallied in front of the Mt. Vernon building, along with an inflatable rat to symbolize management’s anti-worker practices.
Drivers at Mt. Vernon pledged not to answer management calls to their cell phones or to speak to managers or supervisors except as required by the job.
Sending a Message
The intent was to send a message. And it worked. Lawrence promptly returned to work.
“I was overwhelmed by the support I got,” Lawrence said. “The way the guys rallied left me speechless. It means a lot and I want to thank everyone. This is the kind of unity we need.”
The inflatable rat also made an appearance in front of the UPS hub in Maspeth, Queens. UPS laid off nearly 50 air drivers on Christmas Eve—via text message no less! Clerk and Article 22.3 jobs are also under attack. In the meantime, supervisors can’t keep their hands off of union work.
Local 804 is holding a workshop and strategy meeting on Strategic Contract Enforcement to discuss action to stop supervisors working and defend members’ jobs.
Supervisors should never be doing our work—but especially when our members are on layoff.
Local 804 members also voted to buy an “inflatable” for use at future union rallies at UPS. How do you top an inflatable rat? Stay tuned.
After a decade of givebacks, New York Local 814 commercial movers won a record contract that restores healthcare cuts, saves their pensions, and delivers major wage increases to the lowest-paid members.
“We mobilized. We held rallies. We were more united than ever and the bosses knew it,” said Chris Lang, a member of the negotiating committee and a shop steward at Certified Moving and Storage.
On the last night of talks, the employers gave the union a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum and stepped out of negotiations to let the union team deliberate.
“When the bosses returned to the table, the bargaining committee and Executive Board packed up our things and told them we were walking,” said steward Tim Kurdziel. “That was really the turning point.”
The employers backed down. And several hours later, Local 814 came away with a new contract that made concessions a thing of the past.
January 3, 2011: In early December, a bill was introduced in Congress that will escalate the attack on public employee pensions.
This little-noticed bill is a shot fired at the pensions of millions of American families.
In early December a bill was introduced in Congress that will escalate the attack on public employee pensions.
The Teamsters Union represents 200,000 public workers and we need to respond.
The bill, sponsored by Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif), would force states to report pension fund liabilities in the strictest possible way. A change in pension accounting may not seem significant, but the impact will be huge.
The legislation would dramatically increase state and municipal debt by forcing governments to exaggerate the money needed to finance public employee pensions. The goal of the legislation is to make public workers a target and increase pressure on governments to slash public employee benefits.
The legislation is even stricter than changes that helped undermine workers’ pensions in the private sector. States and municipalities who don’t comply would lose their ability to issue tax-exempt bonds. No city or state can function without issuing bonds.
This little-noticed bill is a shot fired at the pensions of millions of American families.
The Teamsters Union and the whole labor movement and our allies need to mount a campaign to defend workers’ pensions, including the 200,000 Teamsters who work for local and state governments.
Shredding the Safety Net
The safety net of pensions earned for a lifetime of work is being shredded. Too many workers are being forced into 401(k) plans, and many of those took a beating when the stock market tanked in 2008.
The corporate attack on pensions almost certainly contributed to the severity of the Great Recession and the slowness of the recovery. More people over 60 are working, and fewer people under 60 can find jobs. People who lost pensions are not spending, and thus consumer demand continues to slump.
We need to defend the pensions of public service workers: the hard-working people who repair our roads, protect our public safety, pick up our trash, bring us safe drinking water and operate our schools, parks, jails, and transit systems.
And we need a movement to defend their pensions, and to win pensions for all working Americans.
Time to Stand Up and Defend Good Pensions.
“Public employee pensions are next on the chopping block. The Teamsters Union needs to stand up and defend good pensions—in both the public and private sector.
“Under Hoffa, Teamster pensions are getting steamrolled. We need to stand up and defend our retirement security before it’s too late.”
Erik Jensen, University of Minnesota
Local 320, Minneapolis
Hoffa Won’t Do It.
We Have To.
“Public employees have taken wage freezes and lousy contracts to protect our benefits. Now our pensions are under attack.
“There are more than 20,000 public employees in Local 237 alone. We’re the biggest local in the Teamsters. Hoffa has never stood up for us. We need to stand up for ourselves.”
Vincent Lattimore, School Safety
Local 237, New York
December 15, 2010: Teamster members collected 50,000 signatures to successfully accredit Sandy Pope as a candidate for General President.
The Sandy Pope Campaign turned in the petitions to the Election Supervisor on Tuesday, Dec. 14, easily surpassing the 33,437 signatures required by the election rules.
As a result, Sandy and the campaign will be able to reach out directly to 1.3 million Teamsters, including in the pages of the February issue of the Teamster magazine.
A third candidate, Fred Gegare, also submitted accreditation petitions to be tabulated by the Election Supervisor.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union members joined Teamsters across the country in the Sandy Pope petition drive. We should all celebrate this success along with the holidays, and rest up too, because 2011 promises to be a busy year.
We’ve got delegate races to win and a campaign army to build. The petition drive shows that and we have the national network we need to reach Teamsters members who care about our union and want a better future—without Hoffa at the helm.
We’ve got to build that campaign army in the coming year. We’re off to a great start. But this is just the beginning.
Pope declared her candidacy at a gathering of supporters in New York on October 10: “Except for his last name, I don’t think anyone would confuse James Hoffa with his father,” said Pope. “We need a Teamster General President who will put the power of our union to work for the members.
“The Teamsters Union is the most powerful union in the world and we should start acting like it, instead of abandoning members and local unions to deal with the economic crisis on their own.”
Her campaign website is www.SandyPope2011.org
Her campaign raised $15,000 from concerned Teamsters on day one. A fund drive is underway to build the war chest needed to win.
The campaign’s first challenge is a petition drive to make Sandy an officially Accredited Candidate for General President. Teamsters are setting local goals and making plans to deliver a huge petition output. Read more about the petition drive here.
“Tough economic times require tough leadership,” said Pope. “Wall Street drove our economy over the cliff, but working people are the ones paying the price—and, too often, unions are the ones getting the blame. We need to stand up to that, not cave in.
“I’ve mobilized members to protect their health benefits and pensions while Hoffa has been giving away the store,” Pope said.
Pope has not chosen a slate, but is targeting the powerful position of General President. Slates and candidates will not be nominated until late June, 2011.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) has endorsed Sandy Pope and will support her candidacy. TDU’s Steering Committee voted unanimously to back the campaign, after consulting TDU chapters, and activists and members, along with other Teamster leaders.
Sandy will be speaking at the TDU Convention, November 5-7, in Chicago.
Pope ran for General Secretary Treasurer with Tom Leedham in 2006, and led the poll among potential challengers. Leedham is supporting Sandy’s campaign. He told a group of campaigners and Teamster leaders that: “We have the candidate who can win.”
September 28, 2010: These Teamster bus workers make less than the minimum wage!
Now they’re uniting with TDU to enforce their rights and win the pay they deserve.
The Department of Labor is investigating outrageous wage and hour violations at a Brooklyn-based bus company represented by Teamsters Local 854.
Under their Teamster contract at Outstanding Transportation, bus aides, called matrons, make as little as $175 a week to monitor the safety of the physically and mentally disabled adults they transport every day to programs around the city.
The contract defines the work week as 40 hours in five days. The company claims that matrons work only five hours a day. The matrons, who are tracking their working hours, say they work much more.
“It’s Not Fair”
“It’s not fair, and we’re coming together to enforce our rights,” said Kim Session, a shop steward at Outstanding. “If we don’t stand up for ourselves, we can’t get what we deserve. TDU has opened our eyes and we’re more united than ever before.”
Members from other Local 854 bus companies and other concerned TDU members reached out to the workers at Outstanding with leaflets.
More than 90 members attended an organizing meeting. Workers formed a committee to keep members informed and mobilized to enforce their rights.
Dozens of workers have testified as part of the DOL investigation. And more than 100 drivers and matrons have signed group grievances demanding minimum wage, overtime, and extra pay for field trips which is guaranteed in the contract.
The Daily News, one of New York’s biggest papers, has run a series of exposes on the scandal.
Under state wage and hour laws, the Teamster bus matrons at Outstanding are entitled to weekly pay of $315 for a 40-hour week—$140 more than the starting pay of $175 a week in the union contract. Teamster drivers at Outstanding make as little as $360 a week.
Some drivers and matrons work more than 40 hours a week—with no overtime pay. In addition to doing morning and afternoon runs, they do field trips in the middle of their work day.
“Sometimes I work four field trips a week, plus Saturdays,” said bus aide Elaine Mallard. Even when she works six days, Mallard is paid less than minimum wage and gets no overtime pay. She has been a Teamster for nearly three years.
Denials and Excuses
The company, of course, denies it is doing anything wrong. They have even denied that the DOL is investigating. The DOL has publicly confirmed the investigation.
More incredibly, Local 854 officials have defended the situation in the press. They told the Daily News that the contract, which pays less than minimum wage, “improves a bad situation.”
“It’s the same kind of treatment that we’re getting from 854,” Pierre Jerome, a school bus driver and 854 member at Empire Bus Transit, told the Daily News. “The union is in bed with company.”
Jerome, a TDU member, helped workers at Outstanding start organizing. His boss at Empire, John Curcio, is the father of Charles Curcio, who owns Outstanding.
Local 854 has always been a family affair. A third Curcio—Joseph Curcio—was able to organize into Local 854 because of his relationships with organized crime family members. This is according to a report put together by former federal prosecutor and Teamster anti-corruption watchdog Ed Stier.
Today, the mobsters who controlled Local 854 are dead. But the Curcio family continues to dominate Local 854—employing many of the local’s 2,500 members under substandard contracts.
With the help of TDU, workers at all of the companies owned by the Curcios are uniting for change.
“The companies and our own union have treated us like second-class citizens for too long,” said Angel Garces, a TDU member at Consolidated Bus Transit. “It’s time for change.”