March 18, 2009: President Hoffa has named Brad Slawson, Sr. to replace the only woman on our union’s top leadership.
Cheryl Johnson, the lone woman on the Teamster General Executive Board, is retiring and has resigned as a Central Region Vice President. Hoffa has appointed Slawson, the principal officer of Minneapolis Local 120, to replace her.
The General Executive Board is the highest leadership body in our union. It has 26 members: 25 white men and one African American man.
Ferline Buie, the head of Local 922, serves as an International Union Trustee, but she has no vote and is not a member of the General Executive Board.
Of 1.4 million Teamsters, could Hoffa not find a single woman to name to the leadership to represent women Teamsters?
Slawson, Sr. will be the second member of Minnesota Local 120 on the Board. The other is Secretary-Treasurer Tom Keegel.
TDU believes that our union leadership should reflect the membership and that a strong union involves everyone.
January 26, 2009: A federal district court in Ohio Jan. 22 gave final approval to a $2.43 million consent decree settling an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suit alleging that a regional trucking firm unlawfully discriminated against women in hiring for driver and loading dock jobs (EEOC v. Pitt Ohio Express Inc., N.D. Ohio, No. 06-747, consent decree approved 1/22/09).
At a Jan. 22 fairness hearing, Judge Lesley Wells of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio verbally approved a five-year consent decree between EEOC and Pitt Ohio Express, which the court had tentatively approved last fall (212 DLR A-1, 11/3/08). No written objections were filed to the proposed decree, and no one voiced any objections at the Jan. 22 hearing, according to Jeffrey Stern, an EEOC trial attorney based in Cleveland.
The trucking firm admits no violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act under the settlement, which benefits a class of women who applied for, but were denied, jobs as drivers or dockworkers at Pitt Ohio Express terminals in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati between Sept. 1, 1997, and Oct. 19, 2008. The decree calls for preferential hiring of qualified class members who are still interested in the jobs, as well as equal employment opportunity training for Pitt Ohio Express supervisors, managers, and human resources personnel.
Notices, Forms Sent to Potential Class Members.
Stern, the EEOC attorney, said the commission had sent out 811 notices and claims forms to potential class members after preliminary approval of the decree in October and that EEOC has received about 230 completed claims forms. Potential class members have until Feb. 16 to submit completed claims forms so more are likely to come in, Stern told BNA Jan. 23. EEOC then will review the claims, decide which are valid, and assess the merits of the claimants to determine who may be qualified for placement on the “job offer list” for Pitt Ohio, Stern said.
“We are pleased that this settlement will provide appropriate relief for the people who have been harmed,” said Debra Lawrence, EEOC acting regional attorney in Baltimore. “We are likewise glad that this employer is taking proactive steps to ensure a discrimination-free workplace in the future by addressing the problems that led to the lawsuit.”
“Pitt Ohio is pleased to put this legal dispute behind it through a settlement, reflected in the consent decree entered in federal court,” the company said in a Jan. 23 statement. “The settlement involves no admission of liability by Pitt Ohio. Pitt Ohio has progressive employment practices and programs which value and promote diversity and inclusion through the company.”
The case originated with an EEOC charge filed by Pamela Moher, who applied for driver jobs with Pitt Ohio during the 1990s but was rejected. After EEOC filed suit in 2006, Moher intervened as a plaintiff. She reached a separate $570,000 settlement of her discrimination claims, including $305,000 in attorneys' fees and costs. Under her individual settlement, Moher will not seek employment with Pitt Ohio but she remained eligible for additional monetary relief under the EEOC consent decree.
Decree Includes ‘Priority Hiring.'
The decree provides that within 30 days of final court approval, Pitt Ohio will deposit $2.43 million into a settlement fund for eligible class members, to be administered by an EEOC-selected outside firm.
The decree provides that Pitt Ohio must extend at least 40 offers of employment to class members, including 26 driver positions and 14 dockworker jobs.
Two categories of class members are eligible for “compensatory damages” from the fund after submitting releases, claims forms, and completed questionnaires, according to the decree. “Claimants” are women whom EEOC determines applied for, but were not hired, as drivers or dockworkers at the company's four Ohio terminals during the 11-year period covered by the decree. EEOC will determine how much each “claimant” shall receive, with a minimum award of $1,000 each.
EEOC also will designate “offer eligible claimants,” rejected female applicants whom the commission determines are qualified under Pitt Ohio's current hiring criteria for jobs as drivers and dockworkers and who remain interested in working for the company. Those claimants will be entitled to payments of at least $20,000 each and “priority hiring consideration,” according to the decree. Disagreements between EEOC and Pitt Ohio regarding whether a class member is eligible for hire will be sent to mediation, according to the decree.
After such disputes are resolved, Pitt Ohio will place those with “priority hiring consideration” on a “job offer list” at the terminal of the claimant's choice. When future driver or dockworker job vacancies occur, the company will consult the job offer list, invite as many “job eligible claimants” as it deems appropriate to interview, and offer employment to “job eligible claimants” before considering applicants outside the class, the decree provides.
The decree provides that Pitt Ohio must extend at least 40 offers of employment to class members, including 26 driver positions and 14 dockworker jobs. If at least 30 hires do not result from the company's initial job offers to class members, EEOC will provide Pitt Ohio with the names of additional “offer eligible claimants” and Pitt Ohio “shall in good faith make additional offers” until 30 women are hired or the five-year decree expires, whichever occurs earlier.
Class members who are hired will receive “rightful place instatement,” receiving seniority rights and other employment benefits based on the date they originally applied to Pitt Ohio, the decree provides. Among other steps, Pitt Ohio must designate an in-house “ombudsperson” to informally resolve workplace issues that may arise from women filling the driver and dockworker jobs.
Debra Lawrence of EEOC's Baltimore office and Jeffrey A. Stern of EEOC's Cleveland office represented the commission. Bruce Elfvin of Elfvin & Besser in Cleveland represented Moher. Terrence H. Murphy of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in Pittsburgh represented Pitt Ohio Express.
By Kevin P. McGowan
Click here to read the text of the consent decree.
May 1, 2007: Nichele Fulmore has been a package car driver at UPS in Lumberton, North Carolina for over 12 years. She is a member of Teamsters Local 391 and has been a full-time steward for two years. She began organizing to reform the Teamsters when she realized that “things weren’t right, especially when members are kept in the dark.”
As part of our ongoing “Women Leaders in Our Unions” series, read more about how Nichele is standing up for the women, and men, in her local.
Labor Notes: How many other women in your local do the kind of challenging physical work you do?
Nichele Fulmore: There are only two other women drivers in my building, out of about 40 drivers. I was the only woman for at least five years.
The work is really tough physically—we have to be able to lift up to 70 pounds and the older trucks don’t have power steering. The job just wears you out when you’re out driving and lifting all day long, sometimes for 10-12 hours at a stretch. I think the fact that this is such a challenging job physically deters a lot of women from taking this job. I grew up working, so I was pretty sure I could manage it.
LN: UPS is pretty demanding when it comes to the physical requirements, isn’t it?
NF: Yes. When I was pregnant my doctor put me on a 20-pound weight restriction and UPS just treated me as if I had an off-the-job injury. So the best I could get was short-term disability through the union while I was off work, but when that ran out, I spent all my time trying to figure out how to keep my head above water financially. I filed a grievance with the union, but we lost it.
TDU (Teamsters for a Democratic Union) put me in touch with other women at UPS who had the same problem. We tried to build a campaign around this issue because it’s happening to pregnant women everywhere—except in California, where the law says that you are allowed to request light duty while you are pregnant. It’s tough to get women organized around this issue because we are such a minority in the trucking industry and we’re all afraid for our jobs, especially in the South.
It’s good we raised this issue though, because it made people more aware of this injustice. Anytime you try to change something that is wrong, there is going to be a struggle. We have to continue to get more members involved—including men—so that we can tackle this issue, and others, more effectively.
When I talked with my male co-workers about it, I asked them, “Would you want your mom, wife, or sister put out of work just because they are pregnant?” It’s an issue for everyone.
LN: How do you and your women co-workers deal with the male-dominated culture at UPS?
NF: We’ll talk amongst each other as much as we can, to give each other support. I’m the steward also, so if they have problems then they take it up with me. We definitely started to stick together more once we got so we would trust each other.
In the beginning you want to see if someone will respond to favoritism from management, by accepting easier routes and stuff like that. So even among women you need to prove yourself. It does make it harder for women though, because we are also having to prove to the men that we can do “their” jobs as well as they can. So you’re working harder, making sure you follow the book, and not complaining about your job.
LN: I know that you also spend a fair amount of time connecting with workers in other unions. Why?
NF: That’s right. I’ve been trying to make contact with different unions in my area. We’re—organized labor, that is—a minority here in North Carolina and so it’s important to try to build some solidarity between us. So I did some picket line support with the striking Goodyear workers recently together with some other rank-and-file Teamsters. We bought a hog and cooked it on their line and also donated some turkeys for Christmas.
Lately I’ve also been going out to meet meatpacking workers at Smithfield. I was just there a few weekends ago. Some Spanish-speaking guy came up and hugged me. I don’t speak Spanish, but we understood each other. I never felt so much inner joy as at that contact. The only difference among people that exists in the world is between men and women; all the other differences we create and we need to work to break those walls down.
LN: If a woman asks you for advice on becoming active in her workplace and union, what would you tell her?
NF: Know your stuff, and educate yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you know is right. Take leadership positions, run for steward and such, when you can, as that will encourage other women and will start to focus the labor movement on issues that are important to women.
And look for role models and try to learn from them. I did a lot of reading on Dr. King. I’m still amazed at the kind of stand a woman like Viola Liuzzo took during the civil rights movement—she was a white woman from Detroit whose husband was a Teamster and who traveled down to Selma, Alabama to join Dr. King on his march to Montgomery, only to be shot by KKK men soon after the march ended. She wanted to come and make a difference and that really inspires me.
by Marsha Niemeijer for Labor Notes magazine
Read more at Labornotes.org.
The Woman Who is President of a New York Teamsters Local is in an Uphill Race for Secretary-Treasurer of the National Union
By Stephen Franklin
Chicago Tribune staff reporter
October 12, 2006. Say a mean-looking, burly guy starts giving Sandy Pope a tough time at a Teamsters union meeting.
Her inclination is to walk up to him and ask what's his problem.
"I'm pretty in your face," she said about the style she has relied on since becoming a Teamster almost 30 years ago.
"It doesn't occur to me to be scared, and sometimes I think that is not wise," said Pope, 50, the No. 2 candidate on a slate challenging Teamsters President James P. Hoffa for the leadership of the 1.4 million-member union. She is the first woman to do so in Teamster history.
Whether her grit will win supporters is another issue. Ballots went out last week, and counting will begin Nov. 14 in Washington, D.C.
Pope's running mate is Tom Leedham, 55, a Teamsters union official from Oregon who, in his third try on behalf of the union's reformers, is facing Hoffa, 65. Pope, who heads a small local in New York, was in Chicago recently trying to drum up support for her ticket.
Leedham's support dropped from 38 percent of the vote on his first effort to 35 percent in 2001. And Hoffa expects to rake in more than $2.8 million in contributions, a slight increase over the last campaign, while Leedham's slate has raised only $300,000, say officials from the two campaigns.
Even Ken Paff, head of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, or TDU, a small dissident group that has fought Hoffa from the day he took over the union in 1999, is hesitant to predict Hoffa's downfall.
"It's hard to call what is going to happen," Paff said. "[Leedham] is running more against a cynical `don't' bother to vote' mood than Hoffa."
Meanwhile, Rich Leebove, Hoffa's campaign spokesman and a Michigan-based consultant for the union, said, "Leedham has never been a serious candidate."
Hoffa backed out of a debate with Leedham set up by the union's court-appointed election officer in August, with Leebove explaining at the time that Hoffa wanted to avoid his opponent's "negativity."
Despite the union's effort to present itself as having shed its criminal ties, the Teamsters remain under a court-appointed election officer and government controls, which were imposed as a result of a consent decree in 1989.
The union's failure to escape the government's grasp and the collapse in April 2004 of the union's internal cleanup efforts are high on the reformers' list of criticisms of Hoffa's leadership.
Once ballyhooed by Teamsters officials for rooting out corruption, the self-policing program evaporated when its leader quit, saying Teamsters leaders had thwarted his work, especially investigations into ties between organized crime and Chicago locals. Teamsters officials denied his claims.
So, too, the reformers point to Teamsters officials' growing payrolls, which is often the result of multiple salaries. Three of the union's five highest paid officials, according to the dissidents, are Chicago Teamsters.
The highest paid Teamster overall was John Coli, the head of Local 727 and Joint Council 25, according to the TDU, which said he received $329,628 last year in salary alone.
But Leebove said the TDU's long-term practice of tallying officials' wages "is not an issue with our membership." Many of the unions' members, he said, "make in excess of $100,000 a year."
Merger with Smaller Unions
While the reformers fault the union for failing to organize new members and stem its membership losses, Leebove points instead to the Teamsters' ability to merge with three small unions in the last five years.
The smaller unions brought in 130,000 members and another 20,000 workers were newly organized, making up for the union's losses, says Leebove.
A major point raised by Leebove is that Leedham got on the ballot with the votes of only 6 percent of the delegates at the union's June convention in Las Vegas. But Pope said that's not a reliable measure of his support.
"We are much more hopeful this time because there are so many angry members," she said.
Indeed the convention became a test of Pope's grit and the toughness of a woman in a union where women account for about one-fourth of the rank and file. Now she is running for secretary-treasurer.
"It was big boys playing little games," said Katie Brutcher, a Teamsters union member from upstate New York, and Leedham supporter. Hoffa supporters "would set her [Pope] up and try to embarrass her," Brutcher said.
Leebove has no apologies. "This was a Teamsters convention, not a society luncheon," he said. "If you can't take the heat, don't get involved."
As Pope explains, she has had a history of being a woman able to stand on her own in a union stamped with the image of a place for tough guys.
She came from a middle-class family; her mother was born in Panama. Pope had dropped out of college after two years and was working as a ward in a state mental hospital in Massachusetts when she lost her job because of a strike.
During the dispute, she met TDU members and decided to move to Cleveland, where the group began, and signed up as a volunteer.
Soon she found a job as a baggage handler at a Greyhound bus station, but got laid off and applied for a warehouse job, which opened the door to becoming a Teamster.
The man who hired her apparently misread her application, and thought her name was Alexander, not Alexandra, she said. "The guy laughed when I came in. He said, `Well, I guess I'm going to have to hire you anyway.'"
On her own time, she began learning how to drive a truck, and then went to trucking school when the warehouse job evaporated. That led to a job as a driver, which she kept up for about seven years before she began raising a family. She eventually went to the union and got involved in its politics.
For several years she was the executive director of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, an AFL-CIO group that speaks on behalf of female workers.
Moving Up the Union Ladder
She became president of Teamsters Local 805 in New York City two years ago after holding several other positions with the local. Previously, she was an international representative for the union and a business agent with another local.
"All the time I was a dockworker and driver, there were no other women. I was the only one. There were so few of us out there," she said.
It wasn't easy being a woman alone on the road, one reason why she began studying martial arts years ago. The men said she didn't belong on the road.
And if someone would make an especially nasty remark, "I just went right up to him," recalled Pope who stands 5-foot-6. "Sometimes I think I am bigger than I am."
When Mary Plagman's doctor put her on a 25-pound weight restriction because of her pregnancy, UPS management informed her that they had no work available for her. As they have done with many other women in her position, UPS forced her off the job and onto leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Anticipating the end of her FMLA leave Plagman-Markham planned to go onto disability leave, but now UPS is challenging her ability to get even that limited protection.
Markham’s doctor put her on restricted work on Dec. 14, 2004 and she filed for disability within 30 days of that date. To prevent her from receiving disability UPS now claims that her disability date was four days earlier, on Dec. 10.
Before TDU won the right for direct elections of delegates, women and minorities hardly ever made it to the floor of the Teamster Convention. The Right to Vote helped that situation. As we look forward to building a movement that includes the voices of all Teamsters, TDU would like to take advantage of Women’s History Month to acknowledge some exceptional women who have fought for their sisters and brothers against the corruption of previous Teamster leaders.
Diana Kilmury, Vancouver Local 213, enraged the old guard in 1981 when she spoke for ridding the union of its bad apples. “I didn’t say you were a bunch of crooks ... [but] if you’re too damn scared to have an Ethical Practices Commission that you yourselves, the General Executive Board will control, then my God, you must be up to something.” Later, Kilmury would go on to become our union’s first female International Vice President in 1991. Those events inspired the film “Mother Trucker: the Diana Kilmury Story.”
Linda Gregg, Denver Local 435, was one of the first women to become a local principal officer. She spoke in favor of increasing strike benefits at the 1986 convention. The majority of delegates, led by then-President Jackie Presser, voted down the proposal on the grounds that it would be too expensive and make the members too eager to strike. The previous night the Teamsters had footed the bill for giant parties with lobster and free-flowing booze.
Ten years later, Laurie Craig from Minnesota Local 1145, spoke against multiple salaries. “Mr. Chairman, why would a union leader want to be paid two, three, or more salaries? It’s against the principles this union is built upon. We are not a corporation where greed is king. We are a union of brothers and sisters. Let’s unite and do what’s right. Put that money, millions of dollars, to work in organizing and bargaining and strike benefits.”
The proposal to eliminate multiple salaries will again be made at the 2006 Teamster Convention.
The questions these women have raised still resonate with the average Teamster. Local 805 President Sandy Pope, a candidate for International Vice President, is the former director of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). She is one of the three women on the still-growing Tom Leedham Strong Contracts, Good Pensions Slate.Hoffa’s slate contains 21 men and no women yet.
Pope says she believes the Teamsters can realize the dreams of the women and men who faced down the old guard in decades past, and that the common-sense, members-first approach advocated by women such as Kilmury, Gregg, and others have given our reform movement a strong base for the work to be done in the twenty-first century.