Carhaul: New Contract, Old Issues

July 15, 2011: Carhaulers are voting on a new contract. The future of union carhaul is on the line.

In July carhaulers are voting by mail on a proposed new 51-month contract, which would expire on July 31, 2015. It is in large part a continuation of the current contract.

The proposed contract deal was reached on May 31. Wage increases are small: 30¢-30¢-35¢-40¢, so real wages will almost certainly fall behind the rate of inflation. But thankfully there are no monetary concessions.

The benefit language is left open-ended: the agreement provides that the employers must pay enough to maintain current benefits. The Central States Fund has a new rule that does not require any increases in contributions for the carhaul contract. Some increases to the health and welfare funds will be needed to maintain current benefits.

At the Detroit Local 299 meeting on the contract, some members questioned why there is no change in Article 22 (“new business”), which allows for reducing the contract mileage rate on some traffic.

Local 299 Jack Cooper driver Paul Kubal told us that “Article 22 should have been eliminated or reworked. It’s there to give the companies a chance to win back traffic from the nonunion carriers by offering half-rate on those loads. They’ve ended up abusing the language to play games with what they call ‘new business’ and that’s affected Teamster paychecks. That’s why I’m voting no and asking others to do the same.”

Whatever happens with the contract, there are big questions about where the industry is headed. Allied, which has been the largest carrier, is greatly reduced and it is not clear if it will make it for the long term.

Jack Cooper, the carrier which took over most of the GM work when Allied stopped hauling it in March, is struggling to get enough trucks to handle the work. Allied refuses to sell any of its parked equipment to Cooper.

Jack Cooper has also explored buying United Road, a major nonunion operator, but that deal appears to be off the table, at least for now. There is new language in the proposed contract that would allow the union’s national committee to approve the contract terms covering newly acquired operations such as this.

The future of union carhaul is on the line. Carhaulers are looking to the International Union for a strategy to use this opportunity to expand the union sector and protect jobs. Members have not gotten the leadership or even the communication that they deserve.

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