I just found the TDU website. It’s got a lot of information! But my BA goes ballistic over TDU. He told me that TDU stands for “Too Dumb to Understand.” Why do they hate you guys?
— Not Sure in L.A.
January 19, 2010: Teamsters Local 805 is launching a new campaign to organize FreshDirect, the biggest nonunion employer in the New York City grocery industry.
FreshDirect is an online supermarket that doubles as a warehouse and a grocery delivery service for New Yorkers. Their motto is: “Our food is fresh. Our customers are spoiled.” More accurate would be: “Our Food is fresh. Our labor conditions are rotten.”
The 1,200 warehouse workers at FreshDirect make starting wages of just $8 an hour with a maximum hourly wage of $11. Health benefits are completely unaffordable. Workers’ shifts are changed frequently.
Teamsters Local 805 is teaming up with political leaders, community groups and immigrants’ rights organizations to demand that FreshDirect respect workers’ rights to organize.
The organizing drive is a joint effort with UFCW Local 342.
Taxpayers have subsidized FreshDirect to the tune of $2.8 million as part of a program that is supposed to create good jobs. But FreshDirect employees make just two-thirds of what the average grocery warehouse worker makes.
When workers tried to organize with Local 805 in 2007, FreshDirect played dirty. They fired key leaders of the organizing drive. Federal immigration officials raided the warehouse right before the union vote. The company won the vote—but not the hearts and minds of FreshDirect employees.
“Ever since, workers have been asking us when we’re coming back,” Local 805 President Sandy Pope told the Village Voice. “Well, we’re coming back.”
The local isn’t coming alone. Political and community leaders are backing the effort.
City Council members have called on the company to sign an agreement to remain neutral during the organizing drive and to agree to an expedited election procedure. Another high-ranking city official, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, has offered to broker an agreement.
“We want workers to have the right to vote to join Local 805 without delays and without intimidation tactics,” Pope said.
If the company refuses to sign a neutrality agreement, Local 805 has already lined up a battery of community supporters to take on FreshDirect in a public campaign. The International Union, Joint Council 16 and many area locals are also backing the effort.
Fresh Direct workers are ready to stand up for themselves and their right to form a union.
It’s up to the company to decide if it wants to agree to a fair election—or put its brand name and tax-payer subsidies at risk in an ugly public dispute.
A bad economy and Hoffa’s weak leadership have meant weak contracts, benefit cuts and less job security.
Five challenges our union must meet to turn things around.
Employers are using the global recession to demand contract concessions, benefits cuts and other givebacks, and too often they have found a willing partner in the Hoffa administration.
We need a new direction in 2010 that replaces go-along, get-along with a union plan of action. Here are five places to start.
Enforce Our Contracts: Standing up to employers starts in the grievance procedure. At the top, we need a stronger stand from the IBT. At the bottom, our union needs to back up stewards and members with more training and support.
Defend Our Benefits: Wall Street, not working Teamsters, caused the economic meltdown, but we’re the ones paying the price with pension and healthcare cuts. Our union can’t out-lobby Corporate America. Our strength comes from our numbers. Our union needs to mobilize the members and join with other unions and allies to defend workers’ pensions and healthcare, including retiree healthcare.
Defend Our Job Security: Defending our jobs starts with enforcing our contracts—and taking on subcontracting, improper full-time job elimination, and excessive overtime violations while Teamsters are on layoff. Too often we’re giving concessions to ‘save jobs’ but then find our jobs given away.
Organize the Nonunion Competition: Nonunion competitors threaten our job security and make it tougher to win good contracts. The Teamster leadership needs a plan to organize in our industries. Members need to pitch in to help make it happen.
Put Members First: We can’t rebuild Teamster Power if the Hoffa administration and some local officials continue to keep members locked out of our union. Members need less PR and more action. It’s time to get involved and return our union to the members.
Rank-and-file power. That’s what TDU is all about. Let’s put it to work to build a stronger union. The status quo isn’t working.
January 18, 2010: Will 2010 be better than 2009? Let’s hope so. Thankfully, Teamster members are coming together from across our union to organize for positive change. TDU’s staff, leaders, and activists are getting down to work to help members organize for change.
They’re getting on the road, holding meetings, reaching out to new Teamsters, and sponsoring educational workshops and conferences.
We’re reaching out across our union to build the army of activists we need to win a new direction for our union and win new leadership in the 2011 IBT elections.
All this work takes resources, and we won’t be able do it without the support of committed Teamster members like you. Teamsters generously donated over $36,000 for TDU at our November Convention—and members who couldn’t make it gave more. Your donation at this critical time will help us reach our winter fundraising goal of $50,000.
To make a donation or sign up for a monthly pledge, go to our website at www.tdu.org/donate
Not yet a member of TDU? Stand up with other Teamsters fighting to turn our union around. Join TDU today.
Willie Hardy, Memphis Local 667
Gina Alvarez, Chicago Local 743
David Kremer, Minneapolis Local 320
January 18, 2010: Like a cat with nine lives, YRCW rolled into 2010 with its debt-reduction plan implemented.
The International Union got some credit for closing the deal by threatening to expose any hedge funds which refused to tender their YRC bonds because they could profit from a bankruptcy.
The YRC situation has highlighted the need for new financial regulations to make such instruments illegal.
Why give brokers and bankers incentives to close companies and destroy pension plans? It’s like allowing people to buy fire insurance on other peoples’ homes, and should be just as illegal.
As we go to press in mid-January, Chicago remains an open question.
On a Jan. 8 conference call with members, Freight Director Tyson Johnson stated that he hoped to have Local 705 and Local 710 Teamsters under the full concessions by Feb. 1.
Presently they are under a 10 percent wage reduction because they have repeatedly rejected the latest concessions.
If another vote is taken on the additional concessions, it will be the fourth vote for Local 710 and the third for Local 705.
Johnson, Pat Flynn and other IBT officials told Chicago members during the last vote in December that if they voted No, YRC would have to shut down before the end of the year.
Many members smelled that stuff a mile away, but since then YRC has routed some freight away from the Chicago locals in retaliation.
Sacrifice Doesn’t Mean Giving Up or Giving In
“YRC Teamsters made tremendous sacrifices in 2009 to see our way into 2010. We all pitched in to shore up the company.
“But our so-called survival needs to mean more than bowing down to the company’s agenda.
“We need to defend the contract and save our union. Our future has to be about regaining Teamster power on the job.”
Al Wilkins, YRC Local 480, Nashville
Management Has to Do Its Part
“Both the IBT and YRC big shots are calling on Teamster members to help the company regain our customer base and lost freight.
“That’s a tall order when management has cut our numbers to the bone.
“We need more drivers and dockmen brought back off layoff to restore consistent service numbers and any kind of confidence in YRC.”
Jimmy Rickert, YRC Local 771, Lancaster, Pa.
Is ABF Next?
“It’s only a matter of time before ABF management comes to us for givebacks.
“If the situation at YRC is any example, Hoffa and Tyson Johnson aren’t going to put up much of a fight. It will all be about helping the company compete and get through the recession.
“We need to protect our wages and benefits as the standard for the freight industry. That means no concessions.
“Otherwise it’s just a spiral to the bottom as they force us to give more and more.”
Tony Lefebvre, ABF Local 728, Atlanta
Make Management Cut the Fat
“When it comes to numbers, the company can say what they want but drivers know what’s going on. There are missed pick ups and deliveries because we’re understaffed on the union side.
“One year ago, we had 134 drivers and eight supervisors. Now we have 77 drivers and seven supervisors. We could stand to lose at least two more supervisors because we don’t need dock baby sitters.”
John Guerdet, Holland Local 371, Rock Island, Ill.
January 18, 2010: While record cold temps are hitting the country, management at UPS Freight in Atlanta is taking penny-pinching to an absurd level.
They turned off the heat in the break room entirely. Management said that the Coke machines would keep the room warm.
It didn’t work. The water cooler froze solid.
January 18, 2010: The dates are set for the three national UPS Freight grievance panels for 2010.
The first panel will be in Ft. Lauderdale, March 3-5, at the Westin Beach Resort. It immediately follows the first UPS panel of the year.
The other panels will be on June 9-11 and Oct. 13-15, at locations to be announced.
The deadline for getting on the docket is Feb. 8. Our union can use the March panel to take on subcontracting nationally.
Now is the time to raise our voices and demand action to protect Teamster jobs.
January 18, 2010: Teamsters in Chicago Local 743 have been battling to free their 11,000-member local from mob and old guard control for many years.
Now the top Chicago officials are escalating the fight. But members are uniting to say “We Won’t Go Back.”
Local 743 members are saying “We Won’t Go Back” to the old guard ways, after elected president Richard Berg and secretary-treasurer Gina Alvarez were ordered out of office by the leadership of Joint Council 25 on Jan. 11.
On Jan. 13, Berg and Alvarez won a stay of effectiveness issued by General President Hoffa, and will remain in their elected offices. But the bogus charges continue to hang over their heads; the International Union will consider the appeal and rule at a later date.
For decades, Local 743 took care of its officers while members paid the price. That changed in 2007, when the members of Local 743 voted Berg, Alvarez and their New Leadership slate into office.
Joint Council 25 officials want to suspend Berg and Alvarez from membership and remove them from their elected positions in the local on charges that they violated union procedures.
In 2004, Local 743 officials stole the election when it was clear that Berg was going to win. Joint Council 25 ruled the election was clean and upheld the results.
The Department of Labor investigated that election and found it was rigged. Former president Richard Lopez and other officers were convicted and are headed to jail for stealing it.
Some Officers Resist Reform
When he took office, Richard Berg cut his salary by $70,000 and reduced bloated salaries and staff.
Berg hired professional negotiators, put an end to back-room deals, and put more resources into education and representation.
Some officers, like VP Larry Davis, went along with the New Leadership platform when they thought it was just a campaign promise. But once they were in office, they demanded higher salaries and defended union reps who didn’t do their jobs.
While Berg and Alvarez are moving the local forward, they want to go backward to the old ways.
“For years officials treated Local 743 like a piggy bank,” said Melanie Cloghessy, a member of Local 743 at the University of Chicago. “We won’t go back to those dark days of corruption. The New Leadership team will keep fighting for a union that fights for us.
“The officials who are making this power grab are going to learn that we’ll fight back against their double-dealing just like we stood up to the criminal activities of the past.”
Members Won’t Let Joint Council Kill Democracy
The leadership of Joint Council 25 had no problem when mobsters, drug dealers and criminals ran Local 743. They never found fault with two local presidents who then were removed by the IRB for their dealings with the mob. They didn’t have any problem with Bob Walston, headed to jail for running a drug operation out of the union hall and for election fraud. Then they were fine with Richard Lopez, also headed to jail.
Now they want to remove Berg and Alvarez from office on a trumped up charge of making a $20,000 settlement with a fired employee to avoid litigation.
Each time the old guard has moved against reformers, they thought they killed reform. Each time, the reform movement has grown stronger. Local 743 members are determined to keep making history.
January 29, 2010: Some rail officials are trying to take away the Right to Vote for BLET officers before members ever get a chance to use it.
Now members are coming together to save the Right to Vote.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), now part of the Teamsters, is one of the oldest unions in the U.S. But they’ve never had a rank-and-file election for their top officers—until now.
The first ever one-member, one-vote election for BLET top officers is scheduled for this fall.
But that election won’t happen if some BLET officials get their way.
In December, BLET divisions 13, 98, 155, and 236 circulated a petition to overturn the new voting system. And they’re hoping to get it passed before the first election can happen.
Their goal is to let the delegates to the BLET convention choose the union’s top officers—the union’s old system for choosing officers.
Why? They say that elections cost too much, that members don’t vote, and that delegates are more informed than average members and will make better decisions.
Was the old system better? Three of the last top officers chosen by the delegates at the last convention are now gone in disgrace—including two presidents. Police arrested the last president, Ed Rodzwicz, at his home for taking a $20,000 bribe from a union attorney.
Three Hurdles to Pass
To pass, the initiative will have to clear three hurdles.
First, divisions representing 25 percent of the BLET membership have to take action at a meeting to support the initiative.
If it doesn’t get that support in six months, the initiative dies.
If it clears that hurdle, a ballot will be sent to every member to vote on the initiative.
Finally, if a majority of voters agree to give up their Right to Vote, Hoffa will get a say. The Teamster General President must approve the initiative for it to take effect.
Hoffa has the power to stop the takeaway and save members’ Right to Vote right now by promising not to approve the initiative.
Members Say ‘No!’
Rank-and-file members and local officers are getting organized to save the Right to Vote.
They’ve formed BLET Members for Democracy, and they’re organizing conference calls, distributing flyers and a four-page Q&A, and getting members to sign a petition to save the Right to Vote.
Their efforts are already meeting with success. Reports are rolling in from divisions that have voted down the initiative: El Paso Division 192, Delaware Division 484, and Little Rock Division 182, for example. Illinois Division 724 and New York Division 11 voted down the initiative unanimously.
Most divisions have not considered the measure yet. You can help save the Right to Vote. Download flyers, the Q&A, and the petition at www.tdu.org/blet-vote
January 18, 2010: Reform leaders have taken office in Teamsters Local 804 and are setting a new direction for one of the largest UPS locals in the country. They’ve also inherited serious challenges.
The 7,000 UPS Teamsters of Local 804 elected the Members United Slate last month with 68 percent of the vote.
In their first official act, the new leadership adopted a Grievants’ Bill of Rights. “Deal-cutting and horse-trading of grievances are out,” said President Tim Sylvester. “Grievances will be settled on their merits and members will be informed and involved at every step.”
Local 804 officers voted to slash their salaries and eliminate contributions to a special 401k plan for officers, financial reforms that will save the local about $400,000 a year.
That will free up money for new educational programs being launched at Local 804. The newly established Ron Carey Memorial Education Fund will pay for Local 804 members to participate in labor education programs.
The local is also launching its own 804 University with workshops for stewards and members.
Some outgoing Executive Board and Business Agents left a huge backlog of unresolved grievances—including more than 150 pending arbitrations. But the local’s grievance records were almost nonexistent. Computer hard drives and software were erased or removed.
Union reps and stewards are working together to process the outstanding grievances and create a new grievance tracking system.