I filed a grievance demanding that the company pay “all affected workers” who had been denied holiday pay. My business agent told me the grievance would only cover the members who personally signed it. I say he’s full of it. Who’s right?
March 2006: New York City Teamsters rallied on the steps of City Hall on March 5 to protest comments by the head of the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) calling Teamster warehouse workers “the lowest rung workers” whose jobs should be scrapped. Local 805 members have been fighting the city’s EDC, which is trying to shut down the last working port in Brooklyn. Teamster Local 807 jobs are also on the chopping block. Carrying signs that said, “Save my job,” and “We are NOT low-rung workers,” Teamsters rallied on the steps of City Hall along with supporters from other locals and pro-labor politicians. Local 805 President Sandy Pope told the rally, “This city is not run by Wall Street or the city bureaucrats. It is run by the people who move the goods.” Pope called on the mayor to save the port jobs and make a “public commitment to respect the workers of this city.”
Politics of Division
The day before the rally, Local 805 members received a pre-recorded message from the Teamster General President. But Hoffa wasn’t calling members to turn them out for the rally. Instead, Hoffa called to attack Sandy Pope. Hoffa has poured thousands of dollars into the Local 805 delegate election to try to defeat Pope, a candidate for International Vice President. But you would think the General President could put politics aside for one day while members are fighting for their jobs. “The day before we’re uniting at City Hall to save Teamster jobs, including mine, President Hoffa was phoning us to try to divide our local. And he’s the head of the ‘Unity Slate?’ said shop steward Michael Ambrose. “To me, unity is about bringing workers together to win a better future for ourselves. That’s what Sandy Pope has done for us at American Warehousing.” In January, a mobilization by Teamster members forced the Port Authority to allow a blockaded ship to dock at the port so it could be unloaded by Teamsters. That victory has saved their jobs for now. The fight to preserve Teamster port jobs continues. It would be nice if Hoffa would join it.
So began the historic California Gold Rush of the late 1840s and 1850s. Most came away with nothing more than fool’s gold.
History repeats itself.
This time the promise of gold has hit UPS facilities in the form of a rogue group called APWA (The Association of Parcel Workers of America). This group intends to be a “UPS Only” union that promises equal or better pensions and better health coverage than what we currently have.
If this doesn’t sound like gold, I don’t know what does!
I caution you not to be fooled by their glam and glitz. The APWA has retained attorney Tom Coleman, the former Chairman of the CUE Labor Lawyers Advisory Committee. CUE stands for “Council on Union-Free Environment.”
The group is comprised primarily of business and industry executives. It is quite clear that a growing number of Teamsters are not content with the current direction of our union. The answer, however, is not to take your ball and go home.
The answer is as simple as this: get involved in the union you currently have. Would you consider exchanging our Teamsters Union for an upstart antiunion association? If you even consider this exchange, realize that you will end up with nothing but empty promises and a much bigger set of problems.
The APWA is “prospecting for gold” and I encourage you to see this for what it is: a slick and alluring effort at union-busting.
March 16, 2006: This is a pivotal time for all of us. Perhaps the most crucial decision we will make as Teamsters is the choice we make in the upcoming election for General President of the IBT. That person will be responsible for, among other things, negotiating the next UPS contract and National Master Freight Agreement.
Both have trickle-down effects on every other Teamster contract that is negotiated. It is imperative that James Hoffa not be that person. A look at what happened to nearly 2000 Red Star Teamsters tells you why. Bear in mind that Yellow Roadway Corp. (YRC) and Bill Zollars will be negotiating for four of the five freight companies left in the National Master Freight Agreement.
Consider how USF transformed USF Red Star into USF Holland, and how that will impact your contracts and working conditions in the future. USF Red Star closed and reemerged shortly after as USF Holland. Unfortunately, what didn’t reemerge was close to 2,000 Teamster jobs. Despite promises to the contrary, when the dust settled the IBT recouped only around 20 percent of those Red Star jobs. In addition to that, our contract was replaced by Holland’s oppressive work rules. What do those work rules mean to you?
Well, if you work on the road for Yellow, Roadway or New Penn you just might have to get accustomed to sleeping out five to seven consecutive days. If you are a straight dock man, then you may be out of a job. If you are a city driver, get used to working the dock for three to four hours before you hit the street.
YRC owns USF Holland; to think that they wouldn’t want those same advantages is foolish. And, although Hoffa and Tyson Johnson vowed to “fight” for us, it seemed like they were more interested in accommodating the company. If they “fight” for you the same way, get used to working conditions that are substandard to even nonunion companies.
Red Star Teamsters were left to fight for ourselves. We filed a WARN Act lawsuit and unfair labor practice charges against USF when it was clear to us that Hoffa had abandoned us. We recently won a $7 million settlement for the members from USF and YRC from that lawsuit. Then, Hoffa shamefully took credit for the efforts of the rank and file.
To read more about what could be your future, go to: www.redstarteamsters.com We need strong leadership that will stand up to YRC, UPS and other companies, not a president who will placate these corporate giants, and in doing so sell out the membership. We need a president with integrity and compassion for the members, as well as passion for the job. What we need is a president who will lead, instead of being led.
These characteristics and attributes describe Tom Leedham. He will inspire and rejuvenate the membership and replace the apathy that has gripped every local with a renewed sense of pride. Leedham will also reestablish and demand respect for Teamsters at the workplace, where—under Hoffa—management abuse of members has apparently become commonplace. Also, the stagnation of the growth of our union is rivaled only by the almost nonexistent increase in our rates of pay. Things must change now, before it is to late!
March 16, 2006: The winds of change are blowing in the Windy City, says Mark Day, a UPS driver in Chicago Local 705. “The members of my local are getting behind Tom Leedham.
We’re going to win big-time come November,” Day said. “When members hear Tom, they know he’s for real. They’re tired of the empty Hoffa talk. Tom’s the guy they want leading our union when we take on UPS, Overnite or fighting for our benefits.” Day organized a Chicago campaign meeting with Leedham in early March as part of the Strong Contracts, Good Pensions tour.
As Leedham Slate candidates hit the road, it’s clear the campaign is gaining ground. At a full house in Boston, Leedham asked the crowd, “How many of you voted for Hoffa last time?” More than 100 hands in the room went up. Not this time around. “I went to Hoffa rallies and I cheered with everybody else when he promised 25 & Out and No Dues Increase,” Local 82 member Billy MacDonald said. “I believed Hoffa’s tough talk about unity and power. But that’s all it was, talk.” Now MacDonald is running for convention delegate and building the Leedham Campaign.
For information on where candidates will be next, or to set up a visit by a candidate, contact the Leedham Campaign at (718) 287-6156 or on the web at www.leedham2006.org
Last October, when Local 25 Teamster Dave Vallone returned from 18 months of active duty with the Army Reserves, he looked forward to returning to work as a shop steward—and to running for delegate to the Teamster Convention.
Then Vallone, a 26-year Teamster, learned that he was ineligible to run for delegate because his military leave caused a break in his dues payments. “I couldn’t believe that I lost my right to serve my union because I’d been serving my country,” Vallone said. The Teamster Constitution and the Election Rules both require members to pay their dues for 24 consecutive months before nominations in order to be eligible to run for convention delegate or union office.
This rule is strictly interpreted and bars members from running based on technicalities that have nothing to do with loyalty to our union or members’ commitment to paying their dues. For example, Vallone’s breaks in his dues occurred because he was on military leave training national guard and army reserve units that were being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan—not once, but twice during the 24-month period. Vallone is not alone in being disqualified because of military service. Local 97 Secretary-Treasurer Patricia Ward-Jenkins was barred from running for convention delegate because she paid her dues late when she was activated to serve in Iraq.
In upholding Ward-Jenkins’ ineligibility, Election Appeals Master Kenneth Conboy said, “I share the dismay of the Election Supervisor that an IBT member, on active military service of the United States in time of war, whose continuous dues payment was inadvertently interrupted, is thereby precluded from seeking election to Union office.” But the 24-month rule provides no exceptions for military leave or other involuntary leaves of absence.
Does that really make sense? “The last thing on your mind when you’re called up for military service is paying your union dues on time,” Vallone said. “We call on employers to do the right thing for members on military leave. Our union should lead by example.”
Time to End the 24-Month Rule
The controversy brings to light an extreme example of the many Teamsters who are unfairly disqualified by the 24-month rule—including Teamsters who make late dues payments or go on temporary withdrawal because of pregnancy, on-the-job injury or other factors. UPS Teamster Nichele Fulmore was barred from running for delegate in North Carolina Local 391 last fall because she went on pregnancy leave in July, 2003. Countless Teamsters have been prevented from running for union office because they missed dues payments after on-the-job injuries.
The 24-month rule hurts Teamsters of all political views. Ward-Jenkins is a Hoffa supporter. Vallone and Fulmore back Leedham. All deserve a voice in our union. It obviously makes sense that members must pay their dues to be eligible to run for union office. But with all of these problems—and with the Election Supervisor and Appeals Master both stating their dismay at the inflexibility of the 24-month rule—it’s clear that it’s time to draw up a new eligibility rule that doesn’t disqualify dedicated Teamster members based on technicalities. That rule can and should beapproved at the upcoming Teamster Convention.
“In my opinion, [Hahs’] views and decisions are adversely impacting the survival of our craft and organization,” Brennan wrote in his resignation letter. Since then, he has exercised his seniority on the Norfolk Southern. In his declaration of candidacy, he claims that the “business as usual” attitude of Hahs and past presidents has made the BLET weaker with respect to the carriers and to rival union UTU, even as the rail industry is reaping “record profits.”
He also implies that Hahs has not only failed to appreciate the work of the rank and file, but also failed to develop an effective working relationship with the Teamster administration. He declined to comment for this article, but says position statements will be forthcoming about his vision for the BLET.
One Member, One Vote?
The BLET officer election is scheduled to take place at its national convention in Las Vegas this June—one week ahead of the IBT Convention. But officers may be forced to abandon election by delegate and submit to direct election by the membership instead.
A number of BLET divisions have endorsed an initiative to adopt direct elections of the national officers. The initiative, which is gaining momentum, is close to the threshold of support that would require Hahs to hold a membership referendum on the issue.
Time is running short, but it is still possible that the initiative could be passed before the convention—in which case delegates could only nominate candidates for national office. The mail ballot election would take place within 60 days of the convention.
So far, neither Hahs nor Brennan has issued a statement regarding their views on direct elections in the BLET.
From coast to coast, DHL Teamsters feel the same way: Hoffa did the company’s bidding and didn’t even bother to consult the affected Teamsters. Much anger is focused on the union allowing DHL to leave the freight grievance panels for more pro-company panels, but a second issue also demands an answer: why did the union fail to exercise the option to reopen the contract?
The contract reopener was put in the contract for good reason. It would have given us leverage, right now, on critical issues like organizing all the DHL contractors. And it would have given members the right to vote on changes, including changes in the grievance procedure. Is that why the Hoffa administration allowed the reopener deadline to pass without taking action?
Some officials, including Chuck Mack in California, have tried to convince members that DHL management wanted the contract open. If that were true, why didn’t they reopen it? Either party had the right to reopen. Why would the company want to allow any possibility at all of a work stoppage at this time? The leverage belonged to the union, and the leadership instead collapsed.
Meanwhile, Local 249 continues to struggle to collect the grievance procedure award of over $200,000 for members who lost work due to subcontracting at the Pittsburgh airport. They have the right to strike over the issue, even though the International Union has refused to sanction one. (Joint Council 40 did grant sanction.) Reportedly they are considering legal action as well as a possible work stoppage.
The International Union, in the person of International rep Brad Slawson, tried to undercut the local union and cut a backroom deal with DHL, but DHL lost the issue a second time at the joint area committee and is legally bound to pay the affected Teamsters. Why does the Hoffa administration continue to do the company’s dirty work on this issue?