IRB Charges International Rep
Kikes testified under oath to the IRB that he never reads the Teamster magazine; that he didn’t know Hogan had been kicked out of the Teamsters (only that Hogan was “out of the loop”); and that he had no idea why Hogan would just happen to show up at Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas while Kikes was there for a Teamster Golf Committee meeting. He also testified that Steve Mack invited Billy Hogan to visit their table during a meeting of the Golf Committee. Mack denied it under oath.
Hogan, Hoffa’s former running mate, was banned from the Teamsters Union in May 2002 for attempting to implement a sweetheart contract in Las Vegas with a company in which the Hogan family had an interest.
Kikes did not return a call to comment.
Members Prepare 2006 Campaign
TDU is committed to making both of these happen and making sure Teamsters have a positive alternative to the failed administration that’s in power right now.
No reform slate has announced it is running for office. That needs to come together soon, but Teamster reform activists aren’t holding back. They’re laying the groundwork now for a successful challenge in next year’s election.
“We’ll need a strong reform slate with leaders who have a vision for rebuilding our union’s power,” said Sandy Pope, president of New York Local 805 and a member of the Committee for New Leadership. “But for that reform slate to win, they’ll need a strong campaign network behind them. The time to build that is now.”
What will it take to win in 2006 and what can we be doing now to get there?
Concerned members and local union officers are getting to work, holding local and regional events and pulling together campaign committees to win this election.
“There’s a lot of anger in New England with the pension cuts and mid-contract givebacks in our UPS supplement,” said Dave Whitney, a Boston Local 25 member. “We feel betrayed and we want Hoffa out. We’re holding a barbecue on Aug. 28 in Worcester to pull together New England Teamsters who want to back reform candidates.”
There’s no getting around it. A reform campaign will need money for staff, campaign literature, candidate travel, and more. Hoffa won the last election by outspending the reform slate by 10 to 1. We’ll never match Hoffa dollar for dollar and we don’t need to. Grassroots campaigns win elections with sweat and hard work, not big cash and slick PR. But our campaign will need money, and it needs seed money to get started.
That’s why members are kicking off their fundraising efforts now.
“It’s going to take a real war chest to run a strong campaign in 2006,” said Greg Kujawa, a member of Minneapolis Local 638. “We’ll need to pony up some serious cash to support our candidates. In Minnesota, we plan to raise thousands and we’re getting started with a picnic fundraiser this summer.”
To get on the ballot, reform candidates will need to be officially nominated by 5 percent of the delegates at the 2006 IBT Convention. In 2001, the Hoffa administration complained that there should not have been an election and tried to keep all opponents off the ballot by putting the squeeze on convention delegates.
That trick failed in 2001, but Hoffa is redoubling his efforts for next year. Local campaign committees are needed not just to get out the vote in the officers’ election, but to win local union delegate races so that reformers will be at the IBT Convention next June to nominate a reform slate.
For more information, contact the Committee for New Leadership, P.O. Box 3392, Bayonne, N.J. 07002, or via email at newleadership2006 [at] gmail.com
For more information:
Picnic to Build New England Campaign Network
Early IBT Delegate Elections Kick Off
Will the Teamsters Union "Change to Win"?
The Change to Win Coalition, led by the Service Employees (SEIU) and joined by the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE-HERE, the Laborers, Farm Workers, and Carpenters says its purpose is to make organizing the unorganized in each union's "core industries" a major priority. The theme they are putting forward is that current union members can't win good contracts, preserve jobs, or save health benefits or pensions as long as the labor movement keeps shrinking.
As we go to press, James Hoffa is on the verge of taking the Teamsters out of the AFL-CIO. With almost no discussion beyond Hoffa's own staff, on July 20 the General Executive Board gave Hoffa and Tom Keegel the unilateral power to split from the labor federation.
What does this mean for Teamsters?
In the short term, the big split among top labor leaders could lead to more weakness and division, but possibly to new strategies. It may lead to unions trying to lure members from each other (raiding) instead of organizing new members.
Is there anything positive for working Teamsters in this split at the top?
In the bigger picture, the question is whether Hoffa is prepared to apply the principles that he has signed onto by joining the Change to Win Coalition inside the Teamsters union.
After all, only 1 percent of every Teamster dues dollar has gone to help support the AFL-CIO; just $9 million out of $700 million in annual Teamster dues. Hoffa tried to get about $4 million of that rebated back to the Teamsters.
So the real question is, is the $700 million in dues going to protect the future of Teamster members?
With that in mind, Teamsters should take a look at the Change to Win Coalition program, endorsed by James Hoffa and Tom Keegel, and see if we can apply it to the Teamsters union. Here are the key Change to Win planks:
Organize in core industries to build power
This is a central Change to Win theme. The Teamsters union must take on Overnite, DHL, FedEx, and other major targets in our core industries. Some of this has started, but much more needs to be done in trucking, construction, warehousing and food processing. In a July 13 letter to the General Executive Board, Local 805 President Sandy Pope pointed out that the 2002 dues increase added $65 million to the international union’s annual budget, only a small fraction of which is being used for organizing. If we are to Change to Win in the Teamsters, we need to redirect resources now spent on multiple salaries, golf matches and PR into core industry organizing.
Stop the “race to the bottom”
Change to Win says that “affiliates undercutting bargaining standards should suffer penalties.”
This is a good principle for our union. For an important example, see “Carhaul Deals Endanger Contract” on page 7. Local 120 has just signed substandard contracts in direct violation of the national carhaul contract. We could apply the Change to Win program right now to help save the carhaul contract.
Rebates to affiliates that are putting resources into organizing
“Half of what unions now pay to the AFL-CIO should be rebated to unions that have a strategic plan and commitment to organizing in their core industries,” Change to Win says. This model can be applied to the Teamsters union: Locals spending significant money on organizing in Teamster core industries could get a rebate of half the per capita paid to the International. This would enhance the ability of locals to organize as part of a coordinated program to build Teamster power.
“The AFL-CIO must make diversity at all levels of the labor movement a central strategic objective, with standards and timetables, including ensuring that the diversity of the membership is reflected in elected leadership,” says Change to Win.
Presently there is one African American, one woman, and no Latinos among the 24 voting members of the General Executive Board.
Clearly, we do need to Change to Win in this area.
The Teamster leadership has embraced the Change to Win program. The next step is a thorough discussion about applying these principles inside our own union, and then using them to build a more powerful and democratic Teamsters union.
All quotes and platform planks are from www.changetowin.org under “Restoring the American Dream.”
Click Here to Read a letter from Sandy Pope, the President of New York Local 805 on this issue
Teamster Officials Meet to Discuss UPS Contract Enforcement
In June, officers and BAs attended a meeting in Chicago to discuss the international union’s plans for UPS contract enforcement. Three years into the UPS contract, it is the first such meeting held.Whether the Chicago meeting is the start of something good or just a pre-IBT election chance to politic remains to be seen. But if the IBT says they are setting a new course, we should hold them to it.
One point addressed at the meeting was the need for the grievance panels to standardize decisions and stop undercutting contract language. What mechanism will the IBT put in place to make this happen? The horse-trading of grievances and other nonsense will only stop if the International provides strong and clear leadership. At the meeting, James Hoffa and others laid the blame on local leaders, but the problems are national in scope and the key grievance panels are run by International appointees.
Information gathering was stressed as key to the IBT’s plan. They distributed a packet consisting of four sheets that locals can use to gather information from members on 9.5 (excessive overtime) grievances, supervisors working, and subcontracting. These are important problems across the country. If you don’t see this material from your local in the near future, you may want to ask about it.
The meeting was advertised as the place where plans would be put forward to deal with the issue of UPS’ growing nonunion divisions: Overnite, Logistics, feeder work subcontractors, and SCS. No such plan was put forward.
There may be more meetings and more mailings to UPS members as the campaign for IBT president heats up.
Pension Reform Debate Leaves Out Families, Future of Pension System
Two experts who testified earlier this year in Congress addressed these broader concerns. Teresa Ghilarducci is a professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame. Norman Stein is a professor of law at the University of Alabama who teaches and writes on labor and employee benefits.
Below are excerpts from their testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. These comments were addressed to the Bush Administration’s proposed legislation on single-employer plans (not Teamster plans), but show the kind of approach that is needed to deal with the pension issue.
The multi-employer (including Teamster plans) legislation now before Congress has the same pro-employer slant that these experts noted in the earlier bill.
Click on the links below for the for full testimony:
Teresa Ghilarducci (Associate Professor of Economics
University of Notre Dame)
Statement of Norman P. Stein On Behalf of the Pension Rights Center
On the roots of the “crisis”:
Norman Stein: “The worst of the problems of defined benefit plans are concentrated in a few industries that have undergone major structural change, partly in response to actions taken by the federal government. … If the airline industry had not been deregulated, United, Delta and U.S. Airways would have been better situated to fund their pension plans adequately.”
Norman Stein: “As a society, we need to accept some responsibility for the current financial problems in the defined benefit system. We should not lose sight of a simple fact: the current fiscal stresses on defined benefit plans and the PBGC are not the product of illegal fraud committed by mendacious corporate managers nor the selfish actions of the millions of Americans who have relied on defined benefit plans. Rather, the problems are, at least in retrospect, the results of the laws that Congress enacted and of actions taken by the Executive branch.”
On the proposed reform legislation:
Teresa Ghilarducci: “The whole idea of ERISA and pension protection was to ensure that promises made and indirectly paid for by workers weren’t reneged on. But this bill steps away from protecting accrued benefits. The bill unfairly places the losses of funding failures on workers.”
Norman Stein: “The administration proposal would require that certain underfunded plans freeze future benefit accruals and would bar benefit improvements. Such restrictions are wrong, so long as new benefits are funded and old benefit liabilities are being amortized under appropriately rigorous schedules.”
On access to information:
Teresa Ghilarducci: “Why not add a worker representative on the board of trustees? … [T]hrough their representatives they would have a genuine link and awareness of ongoing pension funding issues. A worker representative would further transparency goals.”
On what needs to be done:
Teresa Ghilarducci: “Implement funding rules that freeze benefit accruals for funds with below 60 percent funding, but don’t make 80 percent a blanket trigger. … [R]eform should help employers find ways to stay in the system and get through short-term difficulties.”
Norman Stein: “Existing employee benefit expectations should be respected. … [R]estrictions on employees’ access to certain types of benefits, or the immediate negation of certain benefit guarantees, or a mandatory freeze on new benefit accruals, should be avoided wherever possible.”
Hoffa Establishes Procedure for Potential Raids on AFL-CIO Unions
This statement appears to point in a dangerous direction. Instead of coming out squarely against raids, it provides a procedure to potentially initiate them, and even hints at a suggested reason: claim another union has a substandard contract.
We hope Teamsters, Teamster officers, and other Change to Win unions will urge Hoffa to adopt a solidarity policy. Every AFL-CIO union should do the same.
The directive to locals states that “…we did not disaffiliate for the purpose of raiding AFL-CIO affiliates at already organized job sites. In this regard, if you are planning any organizing activity in connection with a bargaining unit already represented by a AFL-CIO affiliated union, you must follow the following procedures prior to engaging in further activity:
1. Submit a letter to the General President which sets forth the name of the targeted employer; the location of the targeted employer; the current bargaining representative of the unit; and your reasons for targeting the unit (e.g. adversely affecting the area standards).
2. Courtesy copy the letter to the IBT Legal Department.”
The statement reads quite differently regarding Change to Win unions: it says there shall be no raiding or interfering with the organizing drives of those unions.
The new policy was sent out over the name of IBT General Counsel Patrick Szymanski.
What the Teamster raiding policy will be in practice remains to be seen. Hopefully, the IBT will quickly arrange no-raid agreements with all AFL-CIO unions. We need solidarity with other unions and other workers, regardless of where their leaders line up on the AFL-CIO split.
Hoffa Administration Issues “Whitewash” Report
July 27, 2005: The International Union has released the “McDonald Report” (available on the IBT website) which purports to demonstrate that the Hoffa administration is working hard to maintain a corruption-free union.
However, the report actually does not deal with that issue at all. Instead it is an 89-page denunciation of Ed Stier, who was the Hoffa administration’s own anti-corruption director for five years.
The document was prepared by Edward McDonald, an attorney who works with the Hoffa administration. McDonald specializes in representing white-collar criminals.
His clients include one of the nation’s largest waste management corporations (major Teamster employers), domestic and foreign bank officials, a member of the Saudi royal family, and the former chairman and deputy chairman of the Russian Securities Commission.
He admits in the report, which took 14 months and untold dues dollars to prepare, that he never even sought to meet or speak with Stier.
The McDonald Report claims that Stier never accomplished much of anything, although he was paid millions of dollars in Teamster dues money; that Project RISE, which Stier headed, was a failure; that Stier padded his bills; and that he lacks credibility. It also claims that Carlow Scalf, Hoffa’s now-discredited Executive Assistant, was astute enough to figure all this out, so Stier falsely charged that Scalf stifled anti-corruption efforts at the behest of Chicago Teamster officials.
This raises the question of why the Hoffa administration consistently paid the bills and promoted RISE and Ed Stier for five long years, until Stier started seriously investigating powerful Teamster officials.
So, the Hoffa version boils down to this: The IBT paid $15 million over five years for an anti-corruption program, and got nothing. So now they have paid Edward McDonald a whole lot more, to denounce Stier. (They have not revealed how much McDonald was paid, but reportedly it was about $500 per hour.)
As a result, our Teamsters Union has no anti-corruption program, and no hope of replacing the I.R.B. with an internal clean-up program as long as Hoffa is at the helm. With a record like that, no wonder they need a scapegoat.
Click here for past Convoy coverage of the corruption scandal
(Acrobat Reader Required)
Click here for Ed Stier's April 29, 2004, Resignation letter
(Acrobat Reader Required)
Click here for Stier's April 2004 Corruption Report
(Acrobat Reader Required, Very Large File)
Click here for Stier's July 13, 2005 response to McDonald Report
(Acrobat Reader Required)
Pension Cuts Hit New England
July 27, 2005: The Union Trustees on the New England Teamsters Pension Fund have agreed to new pension restrictions—including eliminating 25-and-out and 30-and-out pensions before age 57.
The cuts are coming just as news of the fund’s strong financial performance is hitting members’ homes. The Fund just mailed its summary annual report to members this week, in which it reported that Fund assets grew by more than $121.5 million in the last fiscal year.
Members who do not have 25 years of credit by July 31, 2005, will not be eligible for 25- or 30-and-out until age 57. Members who do have 25 years of credited service, but are under age 57, are protected and can get their earned pension. But if they continue to work they will have their pension frozen until that age. So a Teamster who is 53 and 27 years credit, with a pension accrued of $2,300 per month, could work the next four years with zero pension improvement. Then, at 57, the pension will snap back to the full rate.
Pension accrual rates are also frozen. New contracts will have to increase pension contributions by 5% per year to maintain the present rate of accrual.
But the biggest cuts are in early retirement: the Trustees’ July 13 announcement states that the goal is to keep Teamsters working longer.
While most Teamsters don’t retire before 57 and will be hurt very little, many do retire early. Many are forced to because of company closures (including the Red Star victims) or health factors. These Teamsters are going to take the brunt of the cuts imposed.
Worst hit of all are those who fall short of 25 years. A Teamster with 24 years credit, at age 49, will not become eligible for any Special Service (25- or 30-year) pension for eight years, until age 57.
An announcement is expected to reach New England Teamsters any day with the details of the cuts.
New England Teamsters Hit with Pension Cuts
The changes were announced on July 15, just two weeks after the fund announced that its assets grew for the second straight year. In all, the fund’s assets have grown by more than $429 million in the last two years.
The pension cuts come despite James Hoffa’s promises after he negotiated the “Best Contract Ever” at UPS—as well as after freight and carhaul negotiations—that members’ pension benefits would be secure for the life of these agreements.
New England pension accrual rates are frozen. New contracts will have to increase pension contributions by 5 percent per year to maintain the present rate of accrual.
The biggest cuts are in early retirement. If you do not have enough years of credit by July 31, 2005, you will not be eligible for 25- or 30-and-out until age 57. Members who do have 25 or 30 years of credited service, but are under age 57, are protected from the cuts by federal law and can get their earned pension.
UPS and other employers wanted the fund to make even more drastic cuts to members’ benefits, but union trustees refused.
No Grandfathering Protections
Unlike in the past, the changes did not include grandfathering provisions to protect Teamsters who are close to making their 25 or 30 years and were planning to retire soon. Members were given just two weeks notice of the changes.
TDU has received numerous reports of members’ retirement plans being thrown into chaos by the changes.
“I had planned to retire in November 2005 once I made my 30 ‘good years’ after 36 years as a Teamster,” said Dan Faust, a ready-mix driver from Local 42 in Lynn, Mass.
“Now my retirement has been put off for two more years until I turn 57. What really shocked me is they did not grandfather us in as they’ve done in the past. It’s wrong and cold.”
There’s an additional catch that punishes Teamsters with 25 years who continue working. Beginning July 31, these Teamsters will have their pension frozen until they reach age 57. So a Teamster who is 53 with 27 years credit, with an accrued pension of $2,300 per month, could work the next four years with zero pension improvement. Then, at 57, the pension would snap back to the full rate. But a member who has to retire before 57 because of injury or the closure of their company would work extra time for no additional benefit.
Making Members Work Longer
The fund notice said openly that the goal was to get members to work longer.
“I’ve had some of the union trustees on the fund tell me you really shouldn’t be looking to retire that early,” said Jack Reardon, a UPS feeder driver and vice president of Local 170 in Worcester, Mass. “That’s what I expect to hear from the company. You try driving for 25 or 30 years and then be told you need to spend several more years behind the wheel. It’s not right.
“We used to say, ‘When I hit 30 years, you can retire me but you can’t fire me.’ Well that’s out the door,” Reardon said. “I’ll have to work 36 years to be 57. Members are asking, ‘What did we do to deserve this?’ ”
While most Teamsters don’t retire before age 57 and will be hurt very little, many do retire early. Others are forced to because of company closures (including the Red Star victims) or health factors. These Teamsters are going to take the brunt of the imposed cuts.
Other Teamsters hit by the cuts are members who sacrificed wage increases in recent contract negotiations in order to get pension contributions high enough to maintain eligibility for special service pensions—for which they won’t qualify under the new rules.
That’s just what happened to approximately 900 bakery drivers covered by a recently negotiated regional agreement with Interstate Bakeries Corporation. These members took a two-year freeze in their commission rate in order to stay eligible for 25- and 30-and-out pensions.
That contract promise has been broken. But these Teamster drivers are not getting back their commission increases.
Hoffa Pushes Pension Bill That Could Cut Your Benefits
The misnamed “Pension Protection Act” contains a dangerous provision that would allow troubled pension plans to cut benefits that members have already accrued—and even cut the benefits of Teamsters who have already retired for less than one year. Under current laws, these cuts are illegal. Only future pension accruals can be cut.
Not surprisingly, UPS management lobbied heavily for the bill’s passage (HR 2830). But the bill was also supported by the trustees on the Teamsters Central States Pension Plan. And James Hoffa himself hailed the bill as a “great first step.”
All 29 Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce supported the bill, introduced by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), and all 22 Democrats refused to vote on the measure. The bill will be considered in other committees and by the Senate
Teamsters, take warning: this bill is dangerous. UPS management supports this bill because they want the Teamster Central States Pension Fund, and possibly other Teamsters funds, to be able to cut already-earned benefits.
If passed into law, the bill would reduce pension security for Teamster members—and all working families. That’s why the Pension Rights Center, the organization in Washington that protects and promotes the pension rights of American workers and retirees, opposes changes that allow cuts in earned pension credits.
Your Pension in Danger
The proposed bill would make it easier for a troubled multi-employer pension plan to go into “reorganization” status. Once a plan is in “reorganization” the trustees would be free to drastically cut benefits, even benefits already accrued.
If this happens, a Teamster with 30 credit years in Central States could possibly be told, “Sorry, your 30-and-out credits won’t work. You have work until you are 62 to get it.” Disability pensions could be cut, 25-and-out and 30-and-out benefits could be cut for working Teamsters and for those who are retired less than one year.
Only retirement benefits at “normal retirement age” would be legally protected. This is age 62 or 65 for most pension funds.
Employers, Hoffa Want More Power to Cut Your Pension
Under present law, these cuts are illegal.
UPS management wants that changed. So does the Hoffa administration. In a letter to all local leaders in February, IBT leaders complained that “Trustees are limited by ERISA and can only affect [cut] future accruals.” ERISA is the federal pension law that makes it illegal for pension plans to cut benefits that employees have already accrued.
Hoffa, sold his “Best Contract Ever” at UPS as well as the freight and carhaul agreements on the promise that our benefits would be protected. Now he is using your dues money to lobby Congress so Teamster plans can cut benefits that members have already earned! Hoffa’s own lucrative pension plan is unaffected by this proposal.
Why would the Hoffa administration do this? Because Hoffa and other top Teamster officials are intimidated by UPS management. UPS has told them either the company get pension cuts or they will try to pull out of the Teamster pension plans in the next contract.
Time to Fight Back, Not Give Up
Instead of caving in to the company’s threats three years before the next negotiations, our union leadership should be leading members in a fightback to protect our benefits. We should be lobbying Congress for pension reform that protects Teamster retirement security—not undermines it.
The IBT should be educating members about the threat that a UPS pullout would pose both to all Teamsters’ retirement security. Instead, the IBT has let UPS’s rumors and attacks on our pensions go unanswered.
Finally, the IBT should be mobilizing members to fight for adequate funding of our pension plans in the coming contracts. It may require some sacrifice such as reduced wage gains, but we can negotiate these increases.
In fact, on August 1 another sixty cents per hour will go into the Central States Pension Plan for UPS, freight, carhaul and certain other Teamsters. That increase alone will put nearly $100 million a year in new money into Central States. More of that can be done in the next contract.
What You Can Do
This is time for Teamsters to speak out. Write your Congressional reps and Senators. Urge them to oppose any pension bill that allows for cutbacks in earned benefits. Ask your union officers to do the same.
We also urge Teamster members to contact James Hoffa and tell him to use our dues money to fight to protect our benefits—not to lobby for legislation that will make it legal to cut pension benefits we have already earned.
Click here for a downloadable TDU Pension Cut update to distribute to fellow Teamsters
Central States Teamsters click here for a flyer from the Central States Pension Improvement Committee