March 15, 2013: The third quarter financial report on the Central States Pension Plan indicates that the fund had $18 billion in assets as of the end of September 2012.
This means the fund held its own for the first nine months of 2012, but surely fell behind in the fourth quarter, when the stock market made no gains. The fund has 30 percent of its total assets pegged to the S&P 500 index of the stocks of the largest U.S. corporations, which were flat in the fourth quarter. The full-year 2012 report is not yet available.
The Independent Special Counsel Report for the third quarter states that 35 bargaining units have left the "old" portion of the Central States Fund, and qualified as "new" employers, by paying down their withdrawal liability. The fund has not identified which employer units these are. The financial report does not reflect much income in withdrawal liability money from this new "hybrid" plan adopted by the fund.
For the Independent Special Counsel report and an explanation of the new "hybrid" pension fund which is getting popular with companies in Central States and in the New England Fund, and other pension information, click here.
Concerned about pensions? Contact Teamsters for a Democratic Union at 313-842-2600. You can join TDU, the movement fighting to protect our pensions by calling us or clicking here.
March 15, 2013: Many members think that union meetings are just a place you go to hear long reports or to listen to beefs that you don't understand by members who work at other companies. And sadly, many union meetings are not much more than that.
Local unions can and should make meetings informative and a forum for ideas and questions. Expert speakers and workshops can be alternated with union business and contract issues.
But even when union meetings seem to be almost designed to keep members away, rank and filers can turn them in something positive. Here are some tips.
Keep it Positive
There's nothing wrong with getting angry when members are getting the short end of the stick. But if you are trying to build unity and support in your local, you need to have some positive proposals.
For example, members in some locals, fed up with the lack of organizing, have proposed that their locals dedicate a percentage of the budget to organizing the unorganized.
Publicize and Mobilize
Getting members to union meetings can be a challenge.
But members are more likely to attend a particular meeting if you help them see why their attendance at that meeting would make a difference. For example, a few years ago TDUers mobilized members to attend in a number of locals in the Midwest and South about unfair pension reemployment rules. As a result, a number of local officers started to take a stand. And, we won a rules change.
So you need a way to tell members why attending a specific meeting is important. Leaflets can help. So will volunteers to spread leaflets and talk it up. Phone lists, texts, and e-mail lists are also effective ways to turn people out to meetings.
Pick and Choose Your Battles
We can all think of dozens of changes that are needed to improve our locals or our working conditions. But there is a danger in taking on every issue that comes along. First, you can't win them all. Second, you run the risk of being seen by your fellow members as all over the map.
So, when possible, pick a single issue that is widely understood and an issue that directly affects a lot of people and/or can attract wide support.
Members in Local 251 have proposed three bylaws changes, including one to require elected rank and filers on all contract negotiating committees. That's an example of a positive proposal which can unite members to build a stronger union.
Work as a Group
While one person working alone can often make a difference, the best way to be successful at union meetings is to work with a team or a small group.
Ideally you can assign each person a job at the meeting. One person can be lined up to make a motion. Another can hand out flyers explaining the motion. A third person can be ready to appeal a ruling by the meeting chair, if they try to shut you down.
The more people you get to do something, the more support you are likely to get. This is because you are showing people right off the bat that a number of people care about the issue or proposal.
Here are some jobs that your people can take on:
- Who will work on the flyer about the issue?
- Who will distribute the flyer?
- Who will speak on the issue or line members up to speak?
- Who will call or text members to get them to attend?
- Who will make the motion or proposal?
- Who will second or support it?
Won't They Just Shut us Down or Use the Rules Against Us?
Maybe. The chair of a meeting can do many things to use the rules against you.
For example, once when members of New York Local 854 organized a group to read proposed changes to the local bylaws, the local officers went to their supporters at the meeting and asked them to leave—so that there would no longer be a quorum. They hastily adjourned the meeting.
The chair may try to just rule you out of order when you want to speak or make a motion. There are a few ways to counter this:
Raise the issue under "new business." This is the point in the agenda where other issues can be raised.
If the chair says the issue can't be brought up at this time, ask, "When exactly can this issue be brought up on the agenda?"
Prepare supporters in advance to demand that you be given the chance to speak. Sometimes that pressure will work. If not, members can even formally appeal the decision of the chair by saying, "I appeal the decision of the chair." Such an appeal is not debatable, does not need a second and is passed or defeated by a simple majority vote. (This is part of Robert's Rules of Order and is contained in most local union bylaws).
The best way to overcome tricks by the chair is to have several members ready to speak up ("let her speak") and vote to overrule the chair.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Don't have the same people always speak. Ask others to help out.
- Have people prepared to speak. You may want to practice in advance. Talk it over.
- Don't make it personal. Stick to the issues.
- Don't speak too much. It's not how much you say, but how you say it and how you organize to back it up. Keep it short and to the point.
Use Meetings to Find Allies
Speaking up at union meetings is important. So is listening. Make a point of talking to other members who raise issues at a meeting. And be sure to get names and phone numbers. Many TDU members have found important allies by listening to other members and following up with them.
Follow Up by Informing Others
What do you say when a member asks, "What happened at the union meeting?" The most common response is, "If you wanted to know, you should have been there."
That won't help get other members involved in building a stronger union.
You're better off answering the question. Don't miss the opportunity to talk about issues that are important to you and draw other members into participating in the fight for a stronger union.
Interested in using union meetings to advance members' rights? Contact TDU to discuss your specific situation. Click here to send us a message.
March 15, 2013: More than 150 Teamsters gathered in New York City on March 9th for a day of educational workshops and stewards trainings.
The conference, organized by the N.Y. Chapter of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, brought together UPS workers, construction workers, school bus workers, dairy workers, and food warehouse Teamsters for workshops on grievance handling, legal rights, and just cause.
Commercial movers met in a special workshop on picketing rights and tactics to prepare for their contract fight, and UPS inside workers held a training on contract enforcement for part-timers.
More than 15 members from Providence Local 251 made the trip down to attend—they're planning their own education conference for May 4.
Sharpen Your Skills
"I needed to be there to sharpen my skills. The grievance handling workshop was a good refresher and the class on just cause provided great tips on defending members."
Kenny Yuen, Steward, Tops Moving & Storage, Local 805, New York
Learning Our Rights
"I learned a lot about my rights on the job at my first TDU conference. I brought along two co-workers and I’ll be working to get more members involved in TDU."
Evette Colón, Consolidated Bus Transit, Local 854, New York
"I was overwhelmed with the atmosphere of the conference—so many Teamsters from different industries, all working for change. I was impressed with the knowledge and skills many of my fellow TDU members have."
Lookman Thomas, Rhode Island Hospital, Local 251, Providence, R.I.
SAVE THE DATE!
2013 TDU CONVENTION
November 1-3, Chicago
The biggest Teamster educational and reform event of the year will once again be hosted by the Chicago Chapter. Save the date so you can join Teamsters from across the country who are organizing to win stronger contracts, enforcing our rights on the job and taking back our union.
5 Things Teamsters Can Do When the Contract Comes Down
1. Read Between the Lines
Last time, UPS walked away with concessions from the union and contract loopholes they've used to crush Teamsters. Make sure you study the fine print on harassment, technology, full-time jobs, subcontracting and other issues.
Freight Teamsters are on the watch against any concessions to their healthcare and wages.
2. Inform the Members
Carry a copy of the proposed contract with you. Organize parking lot or contract review meetings to go over the contract with other members and see if the proposals match up against the improvements we deserve.
3. Attend Local Contract Meetings
Attend the contract meeting called by the local. Make sure you get all your questions and concerns addressed. The companies have been putting out their propaganda—working Teamsters need to have a discussion of the real facts.
4. Don't Settle Short
If the contract doesn't deliver on our crucial issues, we have to come together, speak up, and be prepared to send our negotiators back to the table.
5. Join TDU
TDU and its UPS and freight networks are the only source of independent information about our contracts and pensions. Teamsters need these rank-and-file networks to push our union negotiators and the employers to deliver stronger contracts—and to help us enforce them once they're in place.
"The union and company need to see rank-and-file members paying attention and getting mobilized. The contract will only be as strong as our involvement.
"Study the proposed contract and read between the lines. Get informed now—read the updates from TDU, Make UPS Deliver, and the freight networks—so that we're not bamboozled by PR when the contract hits and so there can be resources to educate others when they have questions."
Michael Savwoir, TDU Steering Committee Co-Chair
March 8, 2013: The U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Review Board has upheld a $100,000 OSHA award to a TDU leader and feeder driver who refused to drive unsafe equipment.
John Youngermann, a TDU steering committee member and UPS feeder driver out of Earth City, Missouri has scored a major win against UPS in support of Teamster rights to refuse to drive unsafe equipment.
The original case dates back to April 2009 when UPS fired Youngermann for refusing to pull a trailer with inoperable tail lights and side marker lights.
Youngermann phoned the company to try to get the equipment repaired. When the company ordered him to pull the unsafe equipment, Youngermann refused. He was terminated and later returned to work under the grievance procedure, but without full back pay.
In April 2010, OSHA awarded Youngermann compensatory and punitive damages as well as back pay with overtime and interest.
UPS appealed. Thereafter an administrative law judge from the Labor Department held a hearing and awarded Youngermann the same relief OSHA had awarded him, plus attorney fees. UPS appealed again, but the U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Review Board officially affirmed the ALJ's ruling on February 27, 2013.
Youngermann is represented by attorney Paul Taylor, an expert in whistleblower law from the Truckers Justice Center.
"This case is a real victory for all UPS employees because it shows that employees can receive justice from DOL when they are disciplined for refusing to break the law," reported Taylor.
"I'm really happy we got this ruling for John, because he received the largest punitive damages award ever in any trucking whistleblower case. Through the efforts of TDU in educating commercial drivers John knew he had the right to refuse to drive an unsafe vehicle," Taylor said.
Find Out More About Your Rights
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act ("STAA") protects drivers' rights to enforce truck safety by making it illegal for a company to discipline, discharge or discriminate against an employee for making a vehicle safety complaint or refusing to operate an unsafe vehicle.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union was instrumental in winning the passage of this law and works with Teamsters to enforce it.
Click here to read more about Your Rights to Refuse to Drive Unsafe Equipment.
Click here to purchase the STAA Handdbook: How to Use the Surface Transportation Assistance Act to Enforce Truck Safety and Protect Your Job.
February 26, 2013: The Hoffa administration has signed on to a joint employer-union proposal to allow "deeply troubled" pension funds to slash accrued benefits, even for Teamsters who have already retired.
This proposal, which could be aimed squarely at the Teamster Central States Fund, comes from the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, a committee of employers, unions and pension plans.
UPS is a prominent member of the group, which also includes several pension funds, employer groups, and some unions.
The group's proposal is to change federal law to allow "deeply troubled" plans, those in danger of going insolvent in the next 20 years, to drastically slash benefits.
These Pension Funds could slash benefits to as low as just 10% above the guaranteed rate set by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. For a retiree with 30 credit years, that rate is currently less than $1100 per month!
If new legislation along these lines is approved, the Central States Fund could eventually slash pensions by over 50%.
Under present law, that kind of cut in accrued benefits is illegal.
The Teamsters Union, the Central States Fund and the Western Conference of Teamsters Fund have joined with employers and some other unions to back this proposal.
The justification is to avoid having pension funds go insolvent down the road.
This is a worthy goal but the only "solution" put forward is to slash earned pensions.
Solutions Not Bailouts is the title of the full report issued by the pension committee. Many of its proposals are positive and reasonable. But the central proposal could be a dagger to tens of thousands of Central States Teamsters.
Consider the case of Greg Smith, an Ohio Teamster who retired from YRC after 29.5 years with a monthly pension of $3019.
If Central States goes bankrupt, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation would pay Smith a monthly pension of about $1100.
The "alternative" being backed by the Teamsters would allow the Central States to cut Smith's pension to as low as $1210!
"Our union should be fighting for legislation that protects our pensions. We all know that Central States is in trouble. No one expects miracles. But the whole point of having a union is to fight for a square deal. This is just a surrender," Smith said.
It's not too late for the Teamsters Union to change course. The pension proposal is in its early stages. But Teamster members and retirees need to make their voices heard.
Millions of workers, retirees and our families depend on union pensions. Our union should be working other unions and seniors' groups to increase PBGC protections for our pensions, not backing legislation so our own union pension funds can sock it to us. That's not a bailout, it's just common sense.
Click here to download a full copy of the report, "Solutions, Not Bailouts."
To help us work to protect good Teamster pensions, join TDU.
"Hoffa and the IBT need to be fighting to protect our pension benefits, not helping the companies and Central States find ways of weaseling out on what they owe us.
"Changes may be coming but we need a leadership that puts members' first and has a plan for protecting our retirement future and doesn't just bow down to what the companies want."
Michelle Glessner, ABF
Local 957, Dayton, Ohio