November 4, 2004: For the second time in a year the Members United Slate has been elected the officers of Washington, D.C., Local 639. Their election victory on October 27 put an end to one of Hoffa’s more desperate attempts to undermine a local union election.
Members United won their first election last fall, beating out IBT Trustee John Steger and his Concerned Members slate.
While Local 639 members got on with the job of strengthening their union, Steger and Hoffa maneuvered in the background to have the election overturned. This was after the ballots were counted, and later tampered with, while in the Steger group’s custody.
Hoffa ordered a rerun of the Local 639 election and gave Steger another leg up by imposing a temporary trusteeship and reinstalling the old officers.
It didn’t work. When the votes were counted the 10,000 members of Local 639 elected all fifteen officers and business representatives of the Members United Slate. They expect to be installed and working for the members by mid-November.
Newly elected Local 639 Business Agent Anthony Smith, of the Members United Slate, spoke to the TDU Convention on October 23 a few days before his slate’s victory in the Local 639 rerun election. Here are excerpts from his remarks:
I bring greetings from Washington D.C. slate members, 15 strong officers, agents, and trustees—the duly elected officers, agents, and trustees of Local 639. Another story of ‘Vote Till You Get it Right.’
We’re the second largest local in the East with over 10,000 members. Four of the incumbent BA’s split off to form a coalition slate. We came from diverse backgrounds within the union: some leaning Hoffa, some TDU sympathizers, others less familiar with International politics.
As a group, our slate was not running to become a reform local in the Teamsters, in the broader picture of the Teamsters. We were just looking to reform the local, to make the local better for the members.
[Incumbent President] John Steger is on the International General Executive Board. He’s one of the people we beat.
Steger commented on a number of occasions that they would be invincible because after they merged-in Local 246, the local would be too large for anybody to be able to take them on.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the dance—members took a look at their date and rejected them.
As you heard we’re doing ‘Vote Till You Get it Right.’ We ran a stronger, less conservative campaign the second time around, even more face-to-face, out there in the streets, meeting the people. We’re quite confident that we’ve won again.
TDU has earned great respect in our local and I was told to bring thanks from some of those people who would not have even talked to TDU in the past.There will be no support in 639 for Hoffa in this next campaign, there’s no doubt about that anymore.
November 4, 2004: When the votes were counted on October 16 in 12,000-member Chicago Local 743, TDUer Richard Berg of the New Leadership Slate had upset incumbent President Robert Walston by seven votes. There were 188 unresolved challenged ballots, but many of them came from workers at Silver Capital, a shop that was solidly behind New Leadership, so the outcome looked clear.
On October 18, the day before the challenges were to be resolved, local officials sprang their trick: They suddenly decided the election was flawed, and ordered a new one just as the final votes were to be tallied.
“We had filed numerous protests,” Berg told us, “but they dismissed all of them. But when we won despite all their violations, they decided to grant one of our protests and order a new election.”
James Hoffa upheld the “vote till you get it right” trick. Hoffa has used this dirty trick often, but so far it has failed every time; members react against having their democratic vote tampered with. This is a new version of the undemocratic move, actually stopping the vote count to prevent a challenger from winning.
It will be up to the members of Local 743 to make sure that democracy prevails. They are up against wealthy incumbents who are spending tens of thousands of dollars and are experienced at dirty tricks. The ballots in the second election will be counted on Dec. 4.
November 4, 2004: I am a long-time Menlo/Emery Teamster, and on first hearing of the UPS purchase of our company I thought about the potential positive aspects. The prospect of UPS management possibly being able to make the company grow is reason for celebration.
But on reflection, what will the relationship be?
On one hand, some of the hard times experienced by Menlo Teamsters could actually be an opportunity for the IBT. Many locations, including the Dayton hub, are non-union and could be ripe organizing targets. On the other hand, UPS has purchased a company that has downsized and also subcontracted to non-union labor in many areas.
For example, at one time Purolator (later bought by Emery, which then became Menlo) employed over a hundred drivers in Milwaukee. After management’s consistent efforts to shrink to profitability over the last decade, Menlo Worldwide Forwarding now employs 14 drivers for the Milwaukee area.
At least some of the following questions on behalf of Menlo and UPS Teamsters need to be answered, and soon:
- Menlo Worldwide is coming in as part of UPS Supply Chain Solutions, which is a non-union arm of UPS. We have been assured that they will honor current contracts, which is good, but what work will we be doing? Supply Chain Solutions and Fritz, which UPS bought not long ago, already use non-union subcontractors to move a large amount of air freight. Do they intend to give that work to us?
- Does UPS plan to honor its current contract in the parcel division by bringing us into it? Menlo picks up freight at many of the UPS high-volume accounts. Will there be an effort to combine the work from the UPS side, or from the Supply Chain side? If from the Supply Chain side, will this amount to double breasting like our old friends at CF/CNF? Would Supply Chain subcontractors or Menlo union drivers be assigned to pick up (for instance) pallets of parcels to be delivered to UPS terminals, in addition to the heavy freight?
- Is there any aggressive counter strategy to prevent a repeat of the CF/CNF debacle? The parent company of CF bled it dry over the years and diverted work and resources to its non-union Con-Way division. UPS has growing non-union divisions, like UPS Logistics.
Menlo and UPS employees would like to hear answers to these and other questions. What about it IBT? Meanwhile, we need to build the rank and file network and TDU among Menlo Teamsters, to be prepared for whatever is ahead.
Local 344, Menlo
November 4, 2004: At the recent TDU Convention, UPS Teamsters met to discuss contract enforcement and survival strategies. In the coming months we will report on some ideas that came out of the meeting.
With the PAS/Smart Label system being put in place, UPS package car drivers are contending with several changes. Routes are being changed and stop counts are up. At the same time, the risk of injury is on the rise. Now more than ever we need to find ways to protect ourselves.
We should remember that UPS management frequently stresses the importance of safe work practices. You won’t be any good to the company if injured permanently. One thing we can do is follow those methods:
- Drive the speed limit.
- Don’t run.
- Use hand rails.
- Use the hand cart when it is needed.
- Use help for the over 70 pound packages.
Another approach to working safe and protecting jobs is to make sure that we take the time provided in the contract for lunch breaks. Safety experts long have pointed out that taking regular breaks helps prevent injuries, especially the repetitive strain injuries that UPS workers are susceptible to.
We can also protect ourselves by using these three areas of the contract:
The 9.5-hour workday. The Hours of Work section of the contract states that we have a right to file grievances if and when management forces us to work continuously over 9.5 hours per day. If you have had to work three or more days per week over 9.5 hours, file a grievance.
Optional days. Each supplement has a provision for optional days. Under the Central Supplement we have to request them in writing eight days in advance. The company has to respond within 24 hours.
You do not have to give a reason for taking the day. Make sure you use your optional days and encourage co-workers to do so as well.
Relieved after eight hours. The contract also states that a minimum of ten percent of drivers and full-time inside workers in a center have to be given 8-hour work days, if requested. Say you have 60 people in your center, that means at least 6 can be relieved from overtime on any given day.
Remember that these contract provisions cannot be invoked during peak season. Once peak is over, however, you can be ready to start making use of them. Also, be sure to check your contract for any variations in this language.
Be prepared for management to say, “we’ve got people injured,” or “we’re short-handed.” Remember, it is their job to take this into account. By using this provision in the contract we take a small but important step towards protecting ourselves and having healthier work lives.
By taking all of these steps we will experience fewer on-the-job injuries—a positive outcome for workers and management alike, given the many costs associated with workplace injury.
Steward, Local 90
Des Moines, Ia.
November 4, 2004: At the TDU Convention in October, pension activists in the Central States Fund discussed strategies for building the movement to win pension justice. Leaders and activists targeted initial goals for 2005:
An Independent Actuarial Study
Winning access to the Fund’s financial documents may make it possible to complete an independent study of the Central States Fund. We won an important victory on this front on October 21 (see story page 7) and are pressing to obtain more of the documents that are needed.
Stand up to the Employer Attack on Benefits
UPS and freight employers are stepping up attacks on our pension rights—including in Congress. At the same time UPS has revived its campaign to dump members into a UPS corporate plan. The IBT has done little to counter this attack. Teamsters and TDU will have to fill the void by launching a national campaign to inform members about what’s at risk.
Run and Win in Local Elections
By electing reform-minded leadership we put in place officials who will work with members, not against us, to win pension justice. Local officers should not be puppets of those who cut pensions, but should join the movement to protect pensions.
Elect Delegates to the IBT Convention
Every Teamster local union will have an election for delegates to the next Teamster Convention. The convention floor is where pension activists can propose changes to the Teamster Constitution to hold our pension trustees accountable to the members.
November 4, 2004: Round one in the fight to get the truth about the benefit cuts in the Central States Pension Fund goes to working and retired Teamsters. On October 21, federal judge James Moran ordered that the quarterly reports from the fund’s Special Counsel, including actuarial reports, be opened up to members.
The decision came in response to legal action filed in July by Teamsters Tommy Burke of North Carolina Local 391, Mike Brady of Toledo Local 20, and Brent Lindberg of Minnesota Local 638, who are represented by attorney Paul Alan Levy.
Tommy Burke, a leader of the Central States Pension Improvement Committee, explained the purpose behind the legal action. “We want our pension trustees to be accountable to members and retirees. We want to see the truth about the state of our pension fund, and what the trustees have been doing in the past few years. Most of all, we want the financial information that will let us hire an independent expert to review the situation, and report to all Teamsters and retirees. We hope this decision will let us do that.”
The pension movement’s goals are to restore pension benefits and retiree health care that have been slashed, and eliminate unfair restrictions that prevent retirees from working to supplement their pension.
Judge Moran, while granting the members’ motion, did not grant all of it. He ordered that quarterly reports from the fund’s Special Counsel dating from Aug. 5, 2003, and into the future, be made public. Teamsters may need earlier documents, however, to investigate what the Fund trustees were doing—or not doing —to safeguard the pension fund and protect pension benefits. That issue remains to be dealt with.
Judge Moran ordered that the documents be made public in the coming weeks.
It’s only round one. The Central States Trustees, on Nov. 5, requested the judge to limit what he makes available to the true owners of the Fund, while our movement fights for the opposite.
But it’s a great victory for Teamster members who want their Union Trustees and their pension fund to be accountable to the rightful owners—working and retired Teamsters.
November 4, 2004: Tom Leedham, Secretary Treasurer of Oregon Local 206, addressed the TDU Convention. Leedham headed the Rank & File Power Slate in the 2001 IBT Election, and won nearly 100 locals.
While campaigning Hoffa promised to “restore the power” but has presided over a huge dues hike, the first-ever pension cuts in our two largest pension plans, the demise of his anti-corruption program, and a shrinking Teamsters Union.
Here are some of Tom Leedham’s comments to the convention:
“It’s hard to believe, but Hoffa has now been in office for as long as Ron Carey was. Hoffa has had five and a half years and has very little to show for it...
“When union officers are living too far above their members, they don’t understand what those members live through.
“When it’s time to make those decisions on pensions, they haven’t got a clue what they are doing to the lives of those Teamster families. I make what a freight driver makes.
“I’ve never taken multiple salaries. I don’t have multiple pensions. That means I’m not eligible for early retirement, so Hoffa is stuck with me...
“I commit to you that I will continue to work hard to change this union and I know that you’ll be with me every step of the way...
“If we are going to win in 2006 or influence the direction of our union, we need to recruit and run candidates for delegate and for local union office.”
November 4, 2004: Teamster members have been pushing for trustees to protect pension benefits, and to win higher employer contributions to make up for the stock market downfall following September 11.
Finally, a group of pension trustees has heeded the call. The trustees of the New Jersey Joint Council 73 Pension Fund responded to their funding shortfall by forcing contributing employers to double their contributions to avert a benefit cut.
But the JC 73 Pension Fund is for local union officials and staff only. Doubling the size of the “employer” contributions means that local unions will be sending twice as much of the members’ dues money as before to fund their officials’ pensions.
The amount of members’ dues that local unions are now paying into this extra pension plan is equal to 20% of the total gross salaries of all employees and officials! That’s a lot of money that could be used for organizing or to build Teamster power.
For some local clerical staff, the JC 73 plan is their only pension. But for the vast majority of the fund’s participants—local union officials—the JC 73 pension is a second (or even third) pension. The plan also features a generous lump sum payment option.
It’s good to know that at least somewhere in our union, fund trustees are going the extra mile to avoid pension cuts. Now wouldn’t it be nice if some trustees would do the same for the rank and file—say out West and in the Central States?
Willie Hardy, TDU Steering Committee
Local 667, Roadway, retired
November 4, 2004: The AFL-CIO has a website which identifies companies in your community that are shipping jobs overseas. You can check it out here.
Another new website of interest: Shop Union-Made was recently launched as an online source for products and services by union workers, including cars, clothing, computers, greeting cards, musical instruments and telecommunications services.