How Did We Get to This Point?

December 9, 2008: Ballots are out and YRCW Teamsters are voting on concessions under the threat of the company going into bankruptcy. How did we get to this point?

The International Union today mailed out some 40,000 ballots to Yellow Roadway Corporation Teamsters on whether or not to accept a 10 percent wage cut for more than four years. The decision is in the hands of Teamster members.

Teamsters are angry and bitter at corporate mismanagement and the Hoffa administration blunders that have put us in this hole. Many believe at this point we have little choice but to take the concessions. YRCW Teamsters are voting with a gun to their heads.

The ballots will be counted on Dec. 30. Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) is working to have independent member-observers at the count, to ensure a fair vote.

How Did We Get Here?

YRCW management has taken three well-run companies and driven them to the brink of failure.

The recession has affected every trucking company to one degree or another— including nonunion ones like Con-Way and Old Dominion. But the company’s problems go well beyond the economy.

ABF has the same labor costs as YRC, but it is debt-free and well-managed. There was no concessions-talk coming from ABF management until YRCW opened the door. But YRCW—mismanaged and leveraged to its eyeballs—has gone into crisis.

It’s time for Zollars and the top management team at YRCW to admit their mistakes—and to be held accountable for their failed leadership. The same thing goes for the Hoffa administration.

Need to Look at Our Own House

Hoffa came into office promising to Restore Teamster Power, improve our pensions, and to organize the nonunion competition. Many freight Teamsters supported him back then. But by now it is clear the Hoffa administration is never going to deliver on these promises.

When YRC demanded concessions, the Hoffa administration rubber-stamped the company’s plan and agreed to a deal with no snap-back clause to phase out the wage cuts if and when YRCW returns to profitability.

After Hoffa’s ten years in office, freight membership is down to 70,000. Tens of thousands of freight Teamsters have suffered pension cuts and reductions in our retiree healthcare. Our wages and benefits are moving backwards.

The Hoffa administration did organize UPS Freight, which was a step forward. But they gave UPS Freight a substandard contract that allows the company to continue to undercut YRC. The same contract also keeps UPS Freight employees out of Teamster pension plans.

Maybe worst of all, Hoffa let UPS pull out of the Central States Pension Fund. They did it knowing they were recklessly putting Teamster pensions at risk. If YRC fails, it could jeopardize the pensions of hundreds of thousands of Teamsters.

Where to Now?

Whatever happens on Dec. 30, we need a plan for going forward. For years, freight Teamsters have watched as YRCW officials have mismanaged the company and top union officials have failed to protect our interests.

It’s time for us demand a new direction. For all of the hits we’ve taken, freight Teamsters still have a lot of power, including the power to change the course of our union.

That will only happen if we treat Dec. 30 as a beginning and not the end. Thousands of freight Teamsters feel just like you do. They’re angry about the givebacks; they’re worried about the future. Teamsters for a Democratic Union gives us a tool to work together for change.

The next Teamster election is three years away. If we want to elect new leadership that will fight for us, we need to start getting ourselves organized today.

What do you think? Click here to send your comments to the TDU Freight Committee.

Click here to join Teamsters for a Democratic Union.

Click here if you want to be contacted by a TDU organizer to get more information.

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