July 30, 2009: Employer demands for pay cuts and for employees to pay part of health premiums are pretty common these days, but we don’t expect them from the top officers of our union.
But James Hoffa and IBT secretary treasurer Tom Keegel are demanding such concessions—and more—from the employees of the International Union.
They are also threatening that if the employees strike against concessions, they will cross the lines and defeat the strike. Click here to see their letter to officials.
IBT employees in Washington—janitors, secretaries, and folks who work in education, communications, trade divisions, pensions, accounting, data entry and so on—belong to the office and professional union (OPEIU). Over nearly two decades they have bargained several contracts, but this is the first time the top officials have demanded such big cuts.
Hoffa and Keegel ignore a basic union principle: cuts should start at the top!
When an employer asks for concessions, any good union negotiator immediately asks for cuts at the top—equality of sacrifice—before considering any cuts at the bottom.
Hoffa and Keegel each took a huge raise two years ago in the form of a bloated “housing allowance.” They have increased the number of officials, consultants, and cronies getting big money: multiple salaries paid by the IBT have gone up more than ten-fold under Hoffa. The only officials they have let go have been those who dared to think independently of Hoffa. They have special pensions that will make them millionaires in retirement. International officials get a meal allowance of $100 per day when traveling, often to resorts. Even Bret Caldwell, their PR guy who will issue press releases against the employees, had a total compensation of $180,694 last year.
If our union has a financial pinch, there is less money to pay employees. We need to operate on a budget, and should pay employees fairly but never go overboard with the members’ dues money. But any cuts should come only after Hoffa and company have done their own belt-tightening.
In August, the Teamster Rank & File Education and Legal Defense Foundation (TRF) will release a detailed factual report on the salaries and perks of Teamster officials. Teamster members will be able to see for themselves where cuts should be made.