Organizing Report Shows Need for New Strategies to Build Power

October 30, 2005: James Hoffa recently pulled the Teamsters out of the AFL-CIO, saying unions had to boost their bargaining power by organizing the nonunion competition in our core industries. But a special investigation of the most recently available organizing statistics reveals that Teamster organizing in 2004 continued to lag far behind the levels achieved a decade ago.

Researchers found that not only is Teamster organizing down in the Hoffa years, but that the IBT has failed to strategically focus on the targets that could boost the union’s bargaining power in key industries.

The study was conducted by the Teamster Rank and File Education and Legal Defense Foundation, which has analyzed NLRB organizing figures and Department of Labor statistics for years. Key report findings include:

• Teamster membership has fallen by over 100,000 since 1999 when Hoffa took office. The recent mergers of two rail unions and the graphic communication workers have recouped some of these losses, but mergers are not organizing. And you don’t spend millions on organizing to merge with other unions.

• Organizing under Hoffa continues to fall far behind what was achieved in the 1990s. In 2004 the IBT won 248 elections. This figure was slightly better than the 228 wins in 2003, but worse than the 278 wins in 2002, and far worse than the average of 380 new shops organized annually a decade ago.

• Teamster organizing under Hoffa has largely ignored the nonunion competition in our union’s core industries. Tucking and warehousing companies were targeted in just 19 percent of Teamster organizing drives.

More Money, Less Organizing

General Secretary-Treasurer Tom Keegel recently reported that the Hoffa administration has “poured $44 million into organizing.” But even the largest dues hike in Teamster history failed to reverse the Hoffa administration’s record on organizing.

In 2002, the Hoffa administration raised members’ dues by 25 percent, in part, he said, to boost organizing. Hoffa also reshuffled the organizing department and installed Jeff Farmer as Director of Organizing. The Hoffa administration promised then—just as they are promising now—that the IBT would focus on organizing the nonunion competition to boost Teamster membership and bargaining power in our core industries.

Not only has Teamster organizing dropped far below the levels achieved in the 1990s, but organizing is not directed at strategic targets. The IBT did not participate in a single NLRB organizing election at freight companies Overnite, Conway, Estes or Watkins in 2004.

Cintas, touted by the IBT as a big national campaign coordinated with the UNITE HERE union, does not appear at all in the NLRB statistics. How much of the $44 million was “poured” into this campaign?

Some Teamster organizing takes place outside the NLRB process, among public workers or rail and airline workers. However, most Teamster organizing, especially in our core industries, is covered by these NLRB statistics.

Making Gains in Waste

Trucking and warehousing recruitment brought a little over 2,000 workers into the union. Healthcare came in second, with a little over 1,000 workers organized The third largest group of workers organized in 2004 was in waste hauling. A number of local unions have worked with the IBT to organize BFI, Waste Management and Allied—the big players in this industry. In 2002 Waste Management accounted for the most IBT elections against any single employer (20 elections). In 2004 activity has lessened somewhat but continues to show some life. There were 16 elections (and nine wins) against BFI, Waste Management and Allied in 2004.

Is DHL the Strategic Campaign We Are Looking For?

Our union experienced an organizing opportunity when the express package delivery company DHL bought Airborne Express. In 2004 the IBT won elections at up to fifty DHL contractors around the country (the exact figure is hard to determine because DHL just drops organized contractors, forcing the locals to organize the same group under another company’s name). Large units of DHL workers were also won in New York and Miami. Overall the IBT organized over 1,500 DHL workers in 2004.

On paper and in press releases the DHL record looks good. Behind the scenes, however, many local union officials are unhappy with the IBT’s handling of the drive. Some locals have organized the same DHL unit more than once, investing significant resources into the same organizing drive without any end in sight of a good contract that can be defended. Local 162 in Portland, Ore. finally struck the DHL contractor, effectively shutting down their airport operation. The local had leverage until the IBT stepped in and told them to call off the strike. The employer knew of the IBT’s decision before the local did.

We need to use the clout we have with thousands of Teamsters organized at DHL, including in many big cities and including the pilots, to put pressure on DHL to stop recycling the contractors as they are organized. The DHL drive has the potential to bring 10,000 new trucking Teamsters into our national contract and pension plans. We need to make it happen.

Click here: Study Reveals Cost of Hoffa's Broken "Cut and Cap" Promises
Click here: IBT Organizing Lags Again in 2004
Click here: NLRB Statistics on Teamster Organizing
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