Who Says You Can’t Win Big in a Bad Economy?

May 13, 2010: By uniting the members and mounting a credible strike threat, Local 814 members in New York City have won a contract that delivers big in a bad economy.

Local 814 and the employers of the Moving & Storage bargaining group were at loggerheads in contract talks and it was getting close to midnight. The employers were demanding huge concessions and telling the union to take it or leave it.

The Local 814 bargaining committee decided to leave it. They packed up their things, got up from the table and prepared to put their strike plan in motion.

“We had strike captains lined up. We had our picketing assignments. We had a list of all the pending jobs. We were ready to go. And they knew it,” said Walter Taylor, Local 814 union representative.

Management blinked. They asked the union bargaining committee to come back to the table. And several hours later, Local 814 came away with a tentative agreement that delivers on every one of their key issues.

The new contract:

Restores lost medical benefits. The old Local 814 leadership ran the union’s Health Fund into the ground and eliminated members’ dental, prescription and vision benefits. The new contract restores all of these benefits and lowers members’ co-pays too.

Saves Teamster pensions. The employers demanded the elimination of 25 & Out benefits and a 50 percent cut in the pension accrual rate. The new contract maintains members’ pensions and puts the fund on a path out of the Red Zone over time.

Narrows the wage gap. The new contract delivered higher wage increases for the lowest paid Teamster movers. Industry B employees (formerly called “apprentices”) got a $1.37 an hour wage increase in the first year. Casuals got a $1 per wage increase and contributions to the pension fund on their behalf—something that never happened before.

Increases job security. The new contract closes a loophole that allowed the companies to ice out higher-paid industry employees and use lower-paid workers instead.

The contract victory didn’t come overnight. Last year, members organized to elect a reform slate to lead their local and won. From day one, President Jason Ide and the New Directions leadership team mobilized the membership to prepare for the contract—holding meetings and rallies to build membership unity.

“We got a chance to get involved and we took it. The companies saw the membership was united like never before.” said Andrew DiClemente, a bargaining committee member. “They knew we were serious about not settling short.”

Now Local 814 is in the process of settling contracts with companies who aren’t in the employer association.

“If it takes a strike to hold the bosses to the standards we’ve won in this new contract, then we’re ready,” said Local 814 Secretary-Treasurer Richie Johnson. “We’re rebuilding union power in this industry. Bottom line.”

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