January 24, 2011: Wall Street greed and the corporate attack on unions has triggered a crisis in our pensions.
Teamster officials didn’t cause this crisis. But they have a responsibility to put forward a plan to address this problem and defend our pensions.
A survey of 18 Teamster multi-employer pension funds, including all of the largest funds and several smaller funds in the East, reveals that all but one are in either “critical” or “endangered” status.
Most funds are in the so-called “red zone” of critical status, including a number of funds managed by Hoffa’s running mates for the General Executive Board.
Teamster leaders are not responsible for the pension crisis, which was triggered by Wall Street greed, the financial collapse, and the corporate attack on unions.
But they do have a responsibility to put forward a plan to address the problem, defend Teamster pensions, and build Teamster power. Our pension funds are an integral part of our union’s strength and our ability to organize and grow.
On that score, we have seen very little from the Hoffa administration.
Hoffa’s Team in the Red Zone
Some of the pension funds surveyed include the New Jersey Local 469 fund, which is in critical status. The Chicago Local 727 fund is 70 percent funded. The Philadelphia Area Fund is in seriously endangered status, with 64 percent funding. The Cleveland Local 507 fund, and the New York Local 210 fund are in critical status. The New England Teamsters Pension Fund, the union’s third largest, is 59 percent funded and in critical status.
Of the 18 funds surveyed, most are in the red zone, including statewide plans in the East such as the Virginia and Upstate New York plans. Four are in endangered status (yellow zone), including the Chicago Local 705 Fund, the Chicago Local 710 Fund and the Central Pennsylvania Fund.
The problem is widespread. No one should blame the individual Teamster officers and International vice presidents associated with those funds for the funds being in trouble: the goal should be a Teamster plan to deal with the overall problem.
The most troubled fund of all is the big Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Fund, covering 25 states. It is 58 percent funded, in critical status, and its director, Thomas Nyhan, told a Congressional hearing last year that it will be insolvent in 10-15 years without help. That situation cries out for a plan from the International leaders, who are busy dodging the issue.
The Failure to Protect Teamster Power
Our flagship fund in serious danger? Pension cuts spreading? How did that happen?
First off, James Hoffa and Ken Hall cut a deal with UPS in 2007 to give away the Central States Fund, to give UPS control of the pensions. We struck in 1997 to stop UPS’s pension grab, which killed it for a decade. Then Hoffa and Hall gave it away without so much as a skirmish, let alone a fight.
Second, the failure to organize and protect Teamster power in trucking led to the decline of major contributors to Central States and many other pension funds. Today YRCW, which has been the largest contributor to many plans, contributes zero. In June it is supposed to resume contributions, but at a mini-level of $1.75 per hour. And UPS Freight contributes zero, because a deal was cut to let them off the hook altogether.This is the fruit of a failure to protect Teamster power in trucking and in other Teamster core industries. Hoffa’s freight division leaders’ only plan is to dodge the issues, sell concessions, and blame someone else.
If YRC doesn’t recover, we could see major pension fund failures, especially in plans such as New York Local 707, New Jersey Local 641, the Baltimore fund, and others which are already in the red zone.
One fund is not endangered. The Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Fund is in the green zone, with 89 percent funding. Why is that?
First off, this fund has maintained a broad funding base of employers. Instead of letting too many employers off the hook, the fund includes the majority of Teamsters in the Western states.
Second, unlike Central States, UPS remains a participant. And UPS part-timers are also participants in the fund as well, an ideal demographic group for a pension fund. Only the Upstate New York and New England funds include UPS part-timers outside the west.
The Western Conference plan has, however, imposed steep cuts in benefits which hurt those retiring in the short run. Like too many of our funds, the employers have 50 percent of the votes on the board but seem to have majority control.
Needed: A Plan of Action
The pension crisis is real. It is the job of the International Union leadership to put forward a plan of action to defend pensions. It starts with rebuilding Teamster power, strategic organizing, and helping locals bargain to protect pensions.
No more corporations should be allowed to exit a Teamster plan without a fight backed by the power of the Teamsters Union. The days of slipping out the back door must end.
The International Union needs to draw Teamster members, retirees and community allies into this fight. Spreading a little Teamster money around Washington has yielded no results. It’s time to turn up the heat and tap real Teamster power to protect our members and retirees.
January 24, 2011: A coalition of Teamster locals is fighting to protect warehouse distribution jobs in the Northeast.
C&S, the largest third party warehouse distributor in the country, is threatening Teamster jobs up and down the East Coast. The company has issued a WARN Act notice and announced plans to eliminate 1,400 Teamster jobs.
For years, C&S has managed A&P’s warehouse distribution work in New Jersey, under a Teamster contract. Now, C&S wants to move the work to nonunion facilities in Pennsylvania and Chester, N.Y.
Standing Up for Good Jobs
C&S management is trying to negotiate a severance package and kick Teamster members to the curb. But New Jersey Local 863 has refused the severance deal—and is standing up for good union jobs at the bargaining table and in the streets.
Local 863 and a coalition of locals are putting pressure on C&S by leafleting A&P, Pathmark and Food Emporium to warn customers about the destruction of good jobs when our communities need them most.
The Next Move
The next move by the coalition is to leaflet at retail outlets of another C&S customer.
Local 639 and Local 730 are leafleting stores in D.C. Their jobs are under attack by C&S too. C&S has also threatened to pull work out of Boston Local 25 and Buffalo Local 264.
A&P, which declared bankruptcy in December, has outsourced its New Jersey warehouse distribution to C&S for years—and C&S is going to continue performing that work. The question is whether those C&S jobs will be good Teamster jobs—or nonunion jobs with low wages and benefits.
New Jersey C&S is the biggest concentration of union jobs at the mostly nonunion C&S. A battle line has been drawn. Teamster jobs and industry standards across the Northeast are at risk.
The International Union is calling on A&P to intervene and get C&S to hold off on moving until a satisfactory solution for Teamsters and A&P is found.
The judge in the bankruptcy case is allowing A&P to bid out the distribution work. Local 863 is hopeful that a union friendly company will get the bid and keep 1,400 Teamster jobs in NJ.
In the meantime, Teamster members are keeping the pressure on and widening their customer outreach campaign.
When TDU was founded in 1976, Teamster members didn’t have the right to vote for top officers and the union was controlled by organized crime.
TDU set out to change that. In 1985, over a hundred thousand members signed a petition demanding the Right to Vote.
Then in 1988, the Justice Department went to court against the union’s leadership under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The suit stated that “the IBT has made a devil’s pact with La Cosa Nostra.” They proposed a federal trusteeship. TDU strongly opposed a government takeover. TDU’s position was that the best anti-corruption program would be to give members the Right to Vote.
When the RICO suit was announced, TDU National Organizer Ken Paff wrote the U.S. Attorney General saying “there is only one ‘reorganization’ under RICO that the government can effectively take: namely, to direct the IBT to hold rank-and-file elections.”
On March 13, 1989, one day before the trial started, the Justice Department reached an agreement with the IBT to settle the RICO suit. It established a court supervised Independent Review Board to clean out corruption. Most important, it provided for the direct election of Teamster officers by Teamster members, with an impartial Election Supervisor.
TDU’s position against government trusteeship and for the right to vote had prevailed.
In 2011, TDU is celebrating 35 years of fighting for a stronger union.
We’ll highlight different moments in TDU’s history in upcoming issues of Teamster Voice.
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.
January 24, 2011: The Central States Pension Fund will totally eliminate retirement before age 57, effective July 1.
A Central States bulletin, available here, states that “No participants, including those covered by a collective bargaining agreement under the ‘Primary Schedule’ of the rehabilitation plan, will be allowed to retire prior to achieving age 57” (unless they retire before July 1, 2011).
Most Teamsters want to work past age 57, but this change will be disastrous for those forced to retire due to layoffs, company closures or for medical reasons. The human cost for those Teamsters and their families will be enormous.
In addition, the Central States Fund has announced that freight and carhaul employers, and others in the top pension fund bracket (class 18), will be exempt from the requirement of raising contributions by eight percent per year. The cap on required employer contributions means that the union does not have to negotiate eight percent per year contribution hikes for any employer in the highest benefit bracket.
We Earned Our Pensions
“This is a terrible decision for our members.
“There are a whole lot of reasons why a guy may need to retire before 57. Family or health issues, the grind of facing another change of operations and the prospect of moving again, and there’s always the worst case when a company goes out of business. We earned our pension benefits and deserve to get them at any age.”
Roy Luckett, ABF, Local 891, Mississippi
February 1, 2011: Can a new plan with a blank slate help organize new members into our pensions?
The New England Teamster Pension Fund has launched a new plan, in a move aimed at enrolling new employers into the fund.
This “Alternative Schedule” would have no unfunded liability, no withdrawal liability, and no rule requiring that contributions increase annually. It amounts to a clean sheet, to facilitate growth in the pension fund.
The new plan is open only to companies not presently participating. This could be newly-organized companies, or Teamster employers who don’t yet have a Teamster pension.
For each $1 per hour of employer contribution, a Teamster would accrue $40 a year toward a monthly pension. For example, a contribution rate of $2.50 per hour would lead to an accrual of $100 per year.
Pensions are payable at age 65, with a percentage reduction for early retirement.
Why a New Plan?
The New England Pension Fund is in the red zone, or critical status, and 59 percent funded. It is very difficult to bargain new employers into the fund, because after a period of time they would assume a share of that unfunded liability and carry it on their balance sheet.
So the separate new plan is designed to facilitate organizing new employers into the fund.
Will it work? That depends on Teamster organizing of new companies and bargaining to get them into this new plan.
January 24, 2011: Under Hoffa, Teamster members have faced the worst benefit cuts in our union’s history.
Hoffa can’t run on his own pension record, so he’s trying to distort Sandy Pope’s.
Get the facts about Sandy Pope’s record on protecting Teamster pensions. Cut through the spin and decide for yourself.
- Sandy Pope is the only candidate for General President who has a proven record of reversing pension cuts.
- After the president of Sandy’s local sided with employers and cut members’ accrual to zero, Sandy teamed up with other members, ran for office and won. She filed a lawsuit against the employer trustees and won increases in members’ pension accrual.
- The Local 805 Pension Plan’s funding percentage is on the rise. The Plan is on the way to full funding over time.
- Like every Teamster plan the Local 805 Pension Fund took major losses in the stock market crash. The fund is currently in the Red Zone—but is on track to reach full funding over time.
- Sandy Pope has negotiated record increases in pension contributions to strengthen the Pension Fund and protect members’ benefits.
- In contract negotiations, Sandy Pope won a blank check that requires Local 805’s largest employer to pay whatever contributions are necessary to protect members’ benefits and keep the Pension Fund on the road to full funding.
“There is one candidate in this race who reversed Teamster Pension cuts—and that’s me. In this economy, Teamsters don’t expect pension miracles. They want and deserve a plan to rebuild our funds and protect our retirement security.”
January 24, 2011: From June 27-July 1, some 1,700 delegates, from all local unions, will convene in Las Vegas for our union’s five-yearly convention.
They have the power to amend or rewrite our union’s constitution—for better or for worse.
They have the power to give members a choice in the Teamster election this November—or to make the event a coronation of Hoffa, who wants to extend his reign to 17 years.
Hoffa and his circle of advisers and handlers have a plan for the convention. Here is what it is:
- Effectively cancel the election by preventing Sandy Pope from getting on the ballot. He can do that by bullying enough delegates so that Pope does not get nominated.
- Silence any debate and independent voices through mob rule.
- Hold a giant Las Vegas party and Hoffa campaign fundraiser, paid for by your dues.
Hoffa spends millions of dollars every year on multiple salaries—and political loyalty. But he will tell delegates that having an election once every five years is a waste of money. Democracy just gets in the way of having giving him a free pass toward 17 years in office.
At the 2006 Convention, Hoffa turned the hype machine to full blast to puff up his failing administration. In the biggest lie of the convention, he told delegates that he was holding in his hands a card-check agreement with UPS Freight—but he forgot to add that it only covered one terminal, and he had made a hand-shake deal to give away Teamster pensions and contract rights to UPS.
When it comes to silencing independent voices, Hoffa’s campaign will stoop to the lowest level. At the 2006 Convention, Hoffa’s campaign tried to boo and shout down every speaker who questioned or criticized Hoffa. They screamed at women delegates and used personal attacks instead of debating our union’s future.
His campaign made his supporters wear goofy red vests, so they could isolate and abuse the independent delegates.
Campaign-appointed “whips” patrolled the aisle and enforced discipline among Hoffa’s supporters—telling them when to boo, when to applaud, and how they should vote on every single issue with a thumbs up or thumbs down.
Hoffa will try the same tricks again. He’s been doing it for years—at the 1996 Convention, his supporters even booed the National Anthem and a moment of silence for fallen members.
“At the last convention, most of Hoffa’s delegates voted the way he wanted, no questions asked,” said David Thornsberry, a Local 89 delegate at the last convention and to this upcoming one.
“I’m going as a working Teamster to this year’s convention to make sure that members get heard and we get the best choice in this election—Sandy Pope.”
What Happens in Vegas
Hoffa wants what happens in Vegas to stay in Vegas. Many members have a different idea.
Right now, independent members and local officers are running for delegate across the country to make sure that working Teamsters get heard on the convention floor.
They’ll go to speak out if Hoffa tries to raise our dues or take away our democratic rights.
And they’ll make sure that members get a choice this fall by nominating Sandy Pope to run against Hoffa.
In every convention since 1991, it has been the independent delegates, many of them in Teamsters for a Democratic Union, who have made history. They have won your democratic rights, including the Right to Vote. They have spoken truth to power. They have given rank and file Teamsters a choice for General President, as Hoffa’s cronies have tried to block the election.
Working Teamsters Deserve a Voice at the Convention
“At the last convention, most of Hoffa’s delegates voted the way he wanted, no questions asked.
“I’m going as a working Teamster to this year’s convention to make sure that members get heard and we get the best choice in this election—Sandy Pope.”
David Thornsberry, UPS, Local 89, Louisville, Ky. 2011 Convention Delegate
Teamster Convention Highs and Lows
Raising Your Dues Without a Vote
Hoffa promised in his campaign that he wouldn’t raise members’ dues. But in 2002—after he got re-elected—he called a special convention and rammed through a proposal to increase dues for all members. He banned cameras from the room and would not a allow hand vote.
In 2006, independent delegates demanded the members’ right to vote on a dues increase. One of Hoffa’s running mates for International office, George Tedeschi, told the Convention “Having a referenda is no more than a waste of money, just like TDU is trying to make this union spend millions of dollars in an election [for International Officers].”
$100 a Day Meal Allowance
In 2006, Hoffa’s delegates voted to raise the meal allowance for IBT officials to $100 a day. This is on top of other allowances and expenses accounts. That’s a lot of Big Macs.
Winning Your Right to Vote
In 1991, old guard officials tried to block your Right to Vote on Contract Supplements. But they lost and members won that important right.
Hoffa’s allies also tried to eliminate the Right to Vote on Convention Delegates that same year. They lost that fight, too.
January 24, 2011: Sandy Pope speaks out on mud slinging by the Hoffa Campaign and what it will take to organize the nonunion competition.
Question: The Hoffa Campaign says Local 805 is losing money and that you can’t be trusted with our union’s finances.
Local 805 has a strong financial foundation. We’ve put our reserves to work taking on the nonunion competition.
The Hoffa Campaign has made a big deal of attacking Local 805 because we have less money in the bank. I will never apologize for putting members’ dues money to work protecting their jobs and their contracts.
Q: How does one local take on the nonunion competition?
It’s tough. The lack of leadership and support from the IBT on organizing is a big reason I’m running for General President. Most local unions don’t have the resources or the reach to succeed on their own.
At Local 805, we’ve still made organizing a priority. I cut my salary. I make $40,000 less than the Local 805 President did more than ten years ago. We hired full-time organizing staff and launched campaigns to take on the nonunion competition.
We’ve organized around a dozen companies—and taken on major targets like FreshDirect, a grocery warehouse that employs more than a 1,000 nonunion workers in the heart of New York City.
When nonunion companies have threatened to take our work, we’ve leafleted customers and protected Teamster jobs.
We even took on Mayor Bloomberg when he tried to kill union jobs by shutting down the Brooklyn Piers. We teamed up with community groups—and took to the streets.
People told me I was crazy. They said you can’t beat City Hall. We proved them wrong.
Not many unions have even dared to take on Mayor Bloomberg. We did and we won. Teamsters are working on those piers today because we took on that fight.
Q: The Hoffa Campaign says your local has lost membership....
A few. Since I’ve been President, the local’s membership has been steady at around 1,200 members. I have never had a company decertify. But we have lost members when electronics companies and tobacco distributors have closed.
Under Hoffa, our International Union has lost a quarter of a million members—and added 140,000 through mergers.
I’m not interested in finger-pointing. We need less of that—and more organizing. The biggest threat to our union’s membership is the nonunion competition.
Q: What can the International Union do differently to boost Teamster organizing?
First, we’ve got to make it a priority. The International Union needs long-term, nationally coordinated campaigns to target the nonunion competition in our core industries—including freight and FedEx.
The concessions we’re seeing, especially in freight but in other industries too, they are the direct result of a decade of failure to make organizing in our core industries a priority.
As an International Union representative, I negotiated a neutrality agreement with the biggest nonunion grocery company in the Northeast, C&S.
We protected thousands of grocery workers under good contracts and good Teamster benefits. Hoffa let that agreement expire. Now C&S is eliminating Teamster warehouse distribution jobs up and down the East Coast.
If we’re going to protect our contracts, our jobs and our benefits, we’ve got to get serious about organizing.
Q: What about organizing at the local union level?
The International has got to do more to help. Hoffa doubled the International Union’s income when he raised members’ dues. He found the money to raise his own pay to more than $350,000. But he can’t find the money to help local unions organize.
As General President, I will expand funding to local unions to help finance strategic campaigns to organize the nonunion competition at the local union level.
That goes for any local. We’ve got to take the politics out of this. If you’ve got a plan to organize the nonunion competition, you’ll get resources to help you do it.
We’ve got to get smarter and more aggressive—and we’ve got to work together. I want to bring local unions together who operate in the same market to organize the nonunion competitors that are undercutting us.
Local unions in the Northeast have started to coordinate on our own to take on nonunion warehouse distribution employers. But local unions can’t be abandoned to do this by ourselves. We need backing and resources from the International Union.
Reprinted from www.SandyPope2011.org
January 24, 2011: Under fire for weak contract enforcement at UPS, Hoffa and Ken Hall convened a national conference call last summer to brief shop stewards and promise International Union action.
But more than six months later, Hoffa and Hall remain out of touch and missing in action.
Compare for yourself the Hoffa administration’s promises and what UPS Teamsters have to say.
Source: Conference call with UPS Teamsters hosted by James Hoffa and Ken Hall, July 29, 2010. Recording available from TDU upon request.
The Empty Promise: “Whether it’s part-timers who they’re harassing over production issues or package car drivers who are out on the road, I have put the company on notice: You either fix your problem or we’re going to make this a national issue for you.”
Members Respond: “Production harassment is at an all-time high. Members face daily threats of harassment, discipline and discharge. We are being held hostage.
“If we wait for panel hearings it’s a month before the union hears our case and most always there is no back pay. Our panels are weak. We need a national response from our union—not empty talk.“
Patricia DePietro, Local 773, Allentown
9.5 Rights / Excessive Overtime
The Empty Promise: “The 9.5 language isn’t perfect, but it is getting better.”
Members Respond: “Hoffa and Hall have watered down the 9.5 language twice—the second time in the middle of the contract. Together with management, they’ve made it harder to enforce our 9.5 rights. No wonder drivers are out on the road until all hours.”
Rich Arnold, Local 449, Buffalo
The Empty Promise: “Our position is zero tolerance for subcontracting.”
Members Respond: “Subcontracting is rampant. The new loopholes Hoffa and Hall negotiated opened the floodgates. We’re prohibited from even filing grievances if the work doesn’t originate out of our hub. We police subcontracting to the best of our ability locally, but to really be effective we need coordination from the IBT.”
John Youngermann, Local 688, St. Louis
UPS Pension Plan Info
The Empty Promise: “For those of you in the UPS pension plan, I am reviewing next week a new website that will be available for you for your pension plan and they are working on a calculator that will be added to that website so you can calculate your pension sometime by the end of this year.”
Members Respond: “The UPS Pension Plan covers 44,000 Teamsters and still doesn’t have a website or easy access to info. The only address or phone I know of is an 800 number at UPS headquarters in Atlanta. You’re lucky if you can get through and then it’s hard to get a straight answer to the most basic questions.”
Todd Hartsell, Local 90, Des Moines