North Carolina Teamsters Speak Out for Freedom of Speech

December 26, 2009: For two years, UPS management has tried to stop Teamsters in Lumberton, North Carolina from distributing Convoy. This summer, the rank-and-file members of Local 391 won a victory that strengthens the rights of all members to read and distribute TDU literature at work.

The story started back in May 2007, when UPS management issued shop steward Nichele Fulmore a warning letter for passing out Convoy at the drivers’ counter before the drivers in her building clocked in.

Under federal law, union members have the right to distribute union literature—including TDU materials—in non-work areas at non-work times.

Members in Lumberton were angry that UPS management was trying to tell them what they could and couldn’t read.

With the help of TDU attorney Barbara Harvey, Fulmore filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

After two years of waiting, the NLRB finally set a hearing date for August of this year. And the Lumberton Teamsters were ready.

Nichele organized four members to take the day off, at their own expense, to testify on her behalf—including both members who did and did not support TDU.

The case was settled prior going to court. And members’ rights were strengthened: under the settlement, the NLRB ruled that members have the right to distribute and talk about union literature in “mix-used” areas that are non-work areas during some part of the day, and work areas at other parts of the day.

“It is time to educate ourselves and straighten out our backbone,” said Fulmore. “There is not a problem in this union that the rank-and-file cannot solve, but we must stop allowing those in power to divide us on personal choices. Learn from these rank and file members who focus on and supported the issue of having the freedom to read whatever we choose."

This story is the fourth in a series on Click here to read about other Teamsters Who Made a Difference in 2009.

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