Carhaul: How TDU Won the Right to Contract Observers

August 7, 2008: Rank-and-file carhaulers will have their own observers at the contract vote count next week thanks to TDU members who won that right.

When the vote was taken on the 2003 carhaul contract, some Michigan Teamsters knew the result couldn’t be right. These office and dispatch Teamsters had their own supplement, the Michigan Office Supplement, and knew it could not have passed.

They started networking, in Detroit, Flint, Lansing and Pontiac—and they confirmed that the reported “Yes” vote was false.

They decided to take action. In the end, they proved that the vote count was bogus. It didn’t help them deal with their issue of job security, because the employers had a signed contract that was legally enforceable even if it had been voted down. But they did win a right for all carhaulers: to have observers—not just handpicked ones—for the vote count process.

Three Teamsters, Donna McCuiston and Rick Miazga in Local 299, and Ava Miller in Local 332, were represented by TDU attorney Barbara Harvey when they sued in federal court over the vote. They had signed, notarized affidavits from a majority of affected members that they had cast a No vote.

The IBT attorneys took depositions of all voters who said they voted No but couldn’t shake even one.

The lawsuit revealed that the so-called election supervisor was not even present when the office supplement votes were counted. The International Union counted the votes privately in Washington, and faxed a form to the supervisor, who signed it, certifying a ballot count that he had not witnessed.

Rather than losing in court, the International Union settled the case with an agreement to grant observer rights in future contract ballot counts. As a result of the lawsuit, carhaulers won the right to have independent observers on all contract votes. The office workers were disappointed that they couldn’t overturn the contract. But they were proud to win a new right for Teamsters.

There will be observers at the carhaul vote count.

How New Rights Are Won

That’s how new rights are won for Teamsters. Members take action, with Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) being the driving force.

It was TDU that put forward the issue of the Right to Vote on Contract Supplements. We built support, we drafted the constitutional language, and in 1991, we won it at the IBT Convention, after delegate Tom Griffith of Local 776 gave a magnificent speech on the issue. We won a new right.

It was TDU that put forward the right to vote by Majority Rule (instead of 2/3 to reject) on contracts. TDU members fought for it, and finally went to court, and in 1988 we settled the case and won Majority Rule on contracts. Prior to that time, freight, UPS and carhaul contracts had all been imposed on the majority.

The right to vote on contracts by majority rule. The right to vote on contract supplements. The right to independent observers at the contract vote count.

These rights make our union more accountable to our members, and make our union stronger, They make it harder for employers to stick us with a bad contract.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union: where would Teamsters be without it?

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