June 3, 2010: Billy Hogan Jr, the former Teamster vice president and head of the Chicago Joint Council, has made a plea bargain to settle contempt charges in federal court. But he vows to continue to press for relief from the Independent Review Board’s ban on his involvement with Teamster members.
On May 27 Hogan appeared in federal court in New York for approval of a settlement in which he agreed to abide by the ban on any contact with Teamster members, and paid a fine of $10,000.
Sources close to Hogan say that while he cannot appeal a settlement, friends of his may pursue legal action to try to end the IRB’s ban on contact with Teamsters, which he claims is a limit on his free speech rights. The issue has been pursued previously, without success.
Hogan was the head of Chicago Local 714, a post he inherited from his father and later passed on to his son as well as the president of Joint Council 25, and Hoffa’s chosen running mate on the Hoffa-Hogan Slate in 1996.
That was derailed when the IRB charged him with making a sweetheart deal in the Las Vegas convention industry with a company in which a Hogan family member was a principal. He, along with Hoffa’s Special Assistant Dane Passo, was given a hearing and banned from the Teamsters Union.
Since that time he has held no Teamster post, but repeatedly defied the ban on contact with Teamster members, contending that it unfairly limits his personal freedom.
June 1, 2010: BLET National President Paul Sorrow and rank-and-file engineer Tom Brennan are running for the union’s top job in the BLET’s first ever one-member, one-vote direct election.
Everything is in place now for the BLET national election: rules, a nominating convention, and now candidates.
Tom Brennan, a rank-and-file engineer, became the first official candidate when he announced his bid for the top spot in the union back in April.
Paul Sorrow, the current president of the union, is expected to run for the top spot. But he has not announced his candidacy yet.
This will be Sorrow’s first time to run for president. He succeeded Ed Rodzwicz, who was removed from union office for accepting a $20,000 bribe.
Tom Brennan has run for top office before, at the 2006 BLET convention, where he got 42 percent of the delegate vote against Don Hahs. Hahs left office for embezzling union funds, and was succeeded by Rodzwicz.
“Can’t Sit Back”
“There’s no way I can sit back and allow the people who are running our organization to disgrace us and make us the laughing stock of rail labor,” Brennan said in an interview. “When you don’t have any respect walking in the door, you don’t have any way to get things done for your membership.”
Brennan says his top issue is pay: “I think our leaders have short-changed us at the negotiating table. I’m not of the belief that we’re paid enough. Most people in Cleveland at BLET headquarters don’t understand the difficult nature of our job, because they haven’t been out there for years. They just don’t get it.”
Even though he is running against an incumbent in a national union that is spread out all across the country, Brennan said he thinks he can win: “It’s a David versus Goliath battle. But I really like our chances.”
Paul Sorrow did not respond to our request for comments. He, and any other candidates who emerge, can be interviewed for a future issue.
Will the Election Happen?
As Teamster Voice goes to press, some BLET officials are still trying to stop the election from happening. But their time is running out.
They have until June 1 to get divisions representing 25 membership of the membership to approve an initiative taking away the Right to Vote.
BLET members won the Right to Vote in 2006, through a referendum. But this fall will be the first time they get to use it.
The Right to Vote is the best way for members to protect their union and to hold their officials accountable.
June 1, 2010: “We ran for office on a platform of making our union work for the members. But now we’ve been run out of office by staff who thought change was just a campaign slogan.
“This fall, members will get to vote for new Local 743 officers. They have the power to stop the power grab.
“The New Leadership Team will be running a reform slate of candidates this fall. We’ll be behind them and the fight for Teamster reform 100%.”
Richard Berg and Gina Alvarez
In May, Hoffa signed off on a power grab that ousts President Richard Berg and Secretary-Treasurer Gina Alvarez from office in Chicago Local 743.
Local 743 members are already meeting to launch a reform campaign in this fall’s local union election.
How This Happened
Three years ago, Local 743 members voted for change. The New Leadership slate won the election and ended decades of corruption in the local.
When he took office, Richard Berg cut his salary by $70,000 and reduced bloated salaries and staff. Local 743 hired professional negotiators, put an end to backroom deals, and led a successful strike at SK Hand Tool.
But some of the officers who ran with the reform ticket complained when the New Leadership slate cut officer salaries and insisted on holding staff accountable.
They defended union reps who missed grievance meetings, forgot arbitration deadlines, and came to meetings unprepared.
Unhappy at the salary cuts and demands for accountability of union staff, some Local 743 officers teamed up with Berg’s opponents in the Teamster hierarchy, and made a power grab.
The disgruntled officers filed internal union charges. Hoffa approved Berg’s removal on a charge that he had improperly settled a discharged employee’s dispute with the union about his discharge. Hoffa admitted that Alvarez had nothing to do with the settlement, but affirmed her removal because she endorsed the settlement check, as secretary-treasurer.
The real issue is union politics. Now that Hoffa has upheld the charges, Berg and Alvarez are suspended from membership and ineligible to run for re-election in Local 743 this fall.
“We Won’t Go Back”
“The old officials ran the union to benefit themselves—not the members,” said James Cook, a member at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “We’re not going to go back to those days. We’ve made change before and we’ll do it again.”
Local 743 members are preparing now to launch a campaign to keep their union in the hands of the members and elect a reform team this fall when there will be another Local 743 election.
“The New Leadership Team is a team fighting for a union that fights for every member,” said Jean Moore, a member at the UofC Medical Center. “That’s what the members of this local want, and our team will make sure they get it this fall.”
June 1, 2010: The union and YRC are in talks to let the company re-enter Teamster pension funds at greatly reduced rates.
Teamster Voice has learned that the IBT and YRC are discussing the possibility of the company re-entering Teamster pension plans at a greatly reduced contribution rate.
The concession agreement approved a year ago requires management to resume full participation in the pension plans on January 1, 2011.
On August 1, 2010, the NMFA employer contribution rate will increase, and then be over $8 per hour. This would be about $40 million per month in added employee compensation, or nearly $500 million next year.
If the International Union decides to give YRC additional relief from compliance with the contract pension language on January 1, there will have to be another national vote of YRC Teamsters to approve that deal.
The International Union has formed two joint committees with management to discuss the future of YRC pensions. They are considering giving YRC a break on the pension cost, so that an amount much lower than $8 per hour would be contributed.
This would require action by the trustees of many Teamster pension funds. The Central States Fund, which includes the majority of YRC Teamsters, has a rule preventing reductions in pension contribution rates. Most other pension funds do also.
The International Union needs to level with members, and bring members into the decision-making process on the future of their pensions.
The Hoffa administration should learn from the vote at ABF. Freight Teamsters want more straight talk—and less backroom dealing.
May 28, 2010: On May 27, the US Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor, and Pensions held hearings on a piece of legislation of vital importance to Teamsters and retirees.
The Create Jobs & Save Benefits Act of 2010, sponsored by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa), if passed intact and with proper safeguards, could help protect Teamster pensions and aid some Teamster pension funds.
The bill mirrors legislation introduced last year in the House by Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio).
The bill would, among other things, allow for “partition” of certain troubled multi-employer pension plans to allow that the liabilities, and certain fund assets, attributable to bankrupt employers would be transferred to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
Professor Norman Stein, testifying for the Pension Rights Center, told the Senators that it is critical that “partitioned retirees should be treated identically to the participants in the parent plan” with no diminished benefits. This feature must be in any legislation, or it could create second-class Teamster retirees.
Professor Stein noted that the proposal is a case of “a stitch in time saves nine,” for it will help keep pension plans from collapsing and thus ending up costing the PBGC more.
Teamsters should get behind this bill, and at the same time insist that it provide full benefits to all retirees, whether their previous employer is bankrupt or still surviving.
The Pension Rights Center’s testimony of Norman Stein is available here.
The full text of the bill, S. 3157 is available here.
Tell the Senate to pass legislation to protect our pensions at Teamster.org.
May 28, 2010: On May 25, International Vice President Fred Gegare announced his candidacy for Teamster General President. Incumbent President James Hoffa announced his candidacy earlier, and is circulating petitions to become accredited.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), the Teamster reform movement which backed Tom Leedham and Ron Carey in previous elections, has not yet announced a candidate or made any endorsement.
Gegare, contacted about this campaign, said that “members voices are not being heard under Hoffa.” He said he intends to campaign across the country, but not assemble a slate until the end of 2010. He said that Hoffa is listening to insiders, not to Teamster members.
Gegare is the union chair of the Central States Pension Fund, an International vice president, the head of the Dairy Division, head of the Food Processing Division and the President of Wisconsin Joint Council 39.
According to a campaign letter faxed to all locals on May 26, Hoffa has the support of the majority of the General Executive Board, all of whom ran on his slate in 2006 or have been appointed by him since that time. However, Gegare and International vice presidents Brad Slawson and Al Hobart are not supporting Hoffa.
We contacted the Hoffa campaign, but Hoffa spokesman Todd Thompson declined to comment.
Elections for IBT convention delegate will be held in all local unions. In most locals, the elections will be held in January-March, 2011. The IBT Convention, where candidates are nominated, will be June 27-July 1, 2011. The election for General President and all International officers will be in November 2011.
Gegare’s campaign letter is available here.
The Hoffa-Keegel campaign letter is available here.
An Election Timeline is available here.
May 28, 2010: Coca-Cola executives have a plan to eliminate thousands of Teamster delivery jobs.
What is our union’s plan to fight back?
Coke wants to eliminate Teamster jobs by moving toward nonunion, third-party distribution.
The Hoffa administration vowed to draw the line against this “Alternative Distribution” by defeating the company’s pilot program in Southern California—if necessary, through nationally coordinated strike action.
But one month after this tough talk, our union caved in without a fight.
With the IBT’s blessing, four locals have inked a deal that gives Coke the green light to use a non-union, third-party logistics company to do Teamster deliveries.
According to the IBT’s own estimates, the new deal could eliminate hundreds of Teamster jobs Thousands more Teamster drivers could lose their jobs if Coke is allowed to spread their Alternative Distribution across the country.
The SoCal deal also freezes Teamster wages in the first year and delivered a laundry list of benefit givebacks. Member’s out-of-pocket healthcare will more than double—topping out at $135 a month for family coverage by the end of the contract. Retiree healthcare is eliminated altogether for new Teamsters.
How did this sellout happen?
The Threat to Teamster Jobs
In April, the Hoffa administration called an emergency meeting in Las Vegas of all the locals in the Brewery and Soft Drink Conference.
Local officers flew in from around the country to get briefed on the threat posed by Coke’s Alternative Distribution pilot program—and to hear about the union’s action plan for defeating it.
Coke’s new business model is a threat to Teamster jobs nationwide. The company wants to start servicing large accounts through third-party warehouses and distributors instead of Coke Teamsters doing store delivery.
In Southern California, Coke proposed a “pilot program” starting with 7-11 stores. Teamster drivers would deliver trailers to a warehouse. From there, a third-party logistics company would take over warehousing and distribution.
When 7-11 stores need Coke, they’d get the drinks along with other products from the nonunion, third-party company—cutting out the Teamster drivers who currently deliver to each store.
In April, the IBT said the new system was a threat to Teamster jobs nationwide. They told local unions to be prepared for nationally coordinated strike action to draw a line against the new system.
The IBT warned investors of “widespread work stoppages and service disruptions, first in California and then possibly in other key markets.”
It was all empty talk. The union caved without a fight. The new contract covering Coke Teamsters in Locals 848, 896, 952 and 986 allows the company to implement its pilot program at 7-11—and to expand its Alternative Distribution to other customers.
Before Alternative Distribution can be implemented beyond 7-11, the company has to meet with the local unions in Southern California. And these locals have the right to strike if the company implements the new system without the union’s agreement.
But at that point, members would be striking to stop a system that the company has already implemented—instead of stopping this union-busting, job-killing system before it starts.
The International Union’s original plan to stop Alternative Distribution at Coke was an aggressive and well-thought out response to a serious attack on Teamster jobs. But it was all talk.
Teamster members need to demand that our leaders get serious about addressing this threat.
Coke is after much more than a pilot program—and both the company and our union know it.
Coca-Cola Co. is in the process of acquiring the North American operations of Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), the formerly separate bottling and distribution company that employs Teamsters.
The company’s goal is to save $350 million in operating costs—including eliminating Teamster delivery jobs.
After the merger with CCE, half of Coke’s revenue will come from North America. Our union represents 15,000 members who produce and distribute this product. That gives our union leverage to protect good Teamster jobs—but only if we use it.
Is Pepsi Next?
Just like Coca Cola Co., Pepsi has moved to acquire its bottling operations.
In February of this year, Pepsi opened a new subsidiary, Pepsi Beverages Co, after buying its two largest bottlers, PepsiAmericas and Pepsi Bottling Group.
If Coke is allowed to expand its nonunion Alternative Distribution, Pepsi is going to demand the same concession under the guise of “staying competitive.”
Time to Fight Back
The Teamsters represent workers at Coke and Pepsi across North America.
We need a real nationally coordinated plan to protect Teamster jobs in the industry—not tough-talk and backroom sellouts.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union brings members together to defend our industry standards, contracts and benefits.
Are you a Coke or Pepsi Teamster concerned about your future? Do you want to network with other concerned stewards and members in your industry? Click here to contact TDU today.