July 17, 2006: The big health care cuts that the Hoffa administration just slapped on Michigan freight Teamsters will spread to freight, UPS and carhaul Teamsters throughout the Central and Southern Regions.
The Central States trustees are staying quiet about the cuts until after the election for International officers. Then the “surprise attack” will come down.
For the third year in a row, the contractual August 60 cents per hour increase in employer contributions in the freight, UPS and carhaul contracts has been diverted from health and welfare benefits to the Central States Pension Fund, at the request of the employers.
Central States Health and Welfare has balanced the books for the past two years by taking health coverage from retirees. But now they will have to come after working Teamsters.
Many UPS Teamsters have company-provided health and welfare, but the company sets the benefit level by matching Central States benefits, so the cuts will hit them as well.
July 17, 2006: In May, a delegation of Teamster local officers and members, some of them pictured above, converged on Washington to meet with Congressional reps about dangers for Teamsters in pending pension legislation. In particular they were on Capitol Hill to deliver a message: the Red Zone Amendment, which would allow pension funds to cut benefits already earned, must go.
“The Bible says ‘confront the devil and he will flee from you,’” North Carolina retiree Frank Bryant said of the delegation’s meetings with senators and staffers. “Well, we are confronting the Red Zone and will keep doing so until it is swept out of this legislation.”
Congress has been working for over a year to adopt pension reform legislation. There are a number of negative provisions in the bill. The Red Zone Amendment would let pension funds cut earned, early retirement benefits if funding levels fall below a certain level.
The International Union at first supported the Red Zone Amendment, but shifted gears after a grassroots campaign was launched, and the recent IBT Convention passed a resolution against it. But the International hasn’t done anything to stop it, so members and locals have taken on the hard battle themselves, combating UPS management on the issue. Petitions with thousands of signatures have been delivered to key senators and representatives by pension activists like Bryant, Local 1035 Principal Officer Chris Roos, and many others across the country. Currently, the pension bill is still before a Conference Committee of senators and Congressional reps.
“The average worker is paying more and more of the cost of doing business and the corporations are getting more of the cream,” Frank Bryant said. “To add insult to injury, they try to take away the benefits we have earned. This is a fight for all workers.”
The Michigan Fund reported that the Hoffa freight leadership diverted money from health coverage over “emphatic objections” of the health plan. For the third year in a row, all contractual health and welfare increases in employer contributions under the NMFA were diverted from health to the Central States Pension Fund.
Cuts include basic medical going from 100 percent coverage in network to 80 percent; annual out-of-pocket maximum jumps to $750 per individual and $1,500 per family in network, while out of network will be $1,500 and $3,000. Co-pays are increased; outpatient cancer rider is eliminated; weekly accident and sickness benefits and death benefits reduced; and numerous other cuts will increase expenses to affected Teamsters. The Fund has set up a two-tier arrangement, with freight going down to a new “TIF 2” level, while others will remain at “TIF 1.”
Hoffa asserts that he has the right to change the NMFA without a vote of the affected members, and has done that to divert contractual money from health to pension for three straight years. The Central States Health and Welfare Fund has dealt with this diversion by serious cuts, essentially killing retiree health care. A 56-year-old Teamster retiring with 30-and-out on Central States Health and Welfare now must pay $1,220 per month for medical coverage for the Teamster and spouse.
The diversion by the Hoffa administration hurts 2,000 Michigan cartage Teamsters and also may eventually hurt the 900 freight Teamsters in the Wisconsin Health Fund. Milwaukee Local 200 has held educational meetings with affected members and retirees and has taken a vote on what members think should be done with the 60 cents per hour increase in employer contributions due on Aug. 1. The Wisconsin Fund could maintain benefits if the 60 cents would at least be split between health and pension. The Central States employers want all of it diverted to the pension fund to reduce the employers’ unfunded liability.
July 17, 2006: Hoffa is playing politics with UPS Bargaining and Overnite/UPS Freight.
“We won it—card check, neutrality. UPS Freight. Wow!”
Hoffa kicked off his reelection drive at the Teamster Convention by announcing that our union had won a card check agreement to organize UPS Freight (Overnite).
Hoffa waved a document to the crowd and declared, “This agreement between the Teamsters and UPS Freight is a letter for card check and neutrality at Overnite.”
The delegates at the Convention cheered, and rightly so. Organizing UPS Freight must be a top priority of our union. An agreement that protects the right of UPS Freight employees to freely join the Teamsters without union-busting harassment would be something to celebrate.
Hoffa wasn’t telling the full story about his deal with UPS management.
Hoffa did not reveal that the card check and neutrality agreement applies to only one out of more than 200 UPS Freight terminals.
That is not what most Teamsters understood when Hoffa stood on the Convention podium and puffed, “We won it—card check, neutrality. UPS Freight. Wow!”
Our union must win this organizing battle. It is critical to the future of Teamster bargaining power at UPS and in the freight industry. Failure is not an option. Every Teamster must pledge full support to this effort.
But to win, our leadership has to level with the membership. When it comes to organizing Overnite, Teamster members don’t need spin. We need the truth and a plan to win.
July 2006. Louisville Kroger management thought they had a bright idea when they forced workers from a five-day week to four ten-hour days. Their move, combined with other mistakes, only made matters worse.
Local 89 members are paying the price. Four ten-hour days quickly became five ten-hour days—and more. “Some guys have worked 60-70 days straight, ten or more hours per day,” Local 89 member Mark Horsley said. “We’ve had a guy get his foot crushed in a forklift accident and guys pulled over by the police after leaving work so tired that they can’t drive straight.”
Tensions and family problems are also on the rise. An argument between two employees recently resulted in one killing the other while at lunch at McDonalds. Divorced dads are getting hauled into court because they are not able to live up to visitation responsibilities.
One cause of the overtime problem was management foot-dragging over hiring much needed new workers. But the working conditions tend to drive new people away. About one-third of new hires actually stick with the job. The turnover means that experienced warehouse people need to spend time training, removing yet more experienced hands from the floor.
“There are serious problems overall in the industry,” Los Angeles warehouse Teamster Frank Halstead points out. “It may be better or worse in one or another location, but the drive to squeeze more work out of fewer and fewer workers is the big factor. Overtime, injuries, turnover are all problems that stem from this big push for more production.”
“From the company’s viewpoint, this was a great strategy, other than the fact that it was illegal.”
—Human Resource Expert
July 2006. The Ralphs Division of Kroger pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts in a case stemming from the 2004 lockout in Southern California. The company will pay $20 million in criminal fines and $50 million for a fund to provide back pay to locked-out workers and reimbursement to the union for strike benefits and other costs during the strike.
Ralphs and other Southern California chains locked out employees during 2004 contract bargaining over clerks in the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). When the stores couldn’t operate without experienced workers, Ralphs started bringing a select group of scabs back to work.
They gave the rehired employees false identities and social security numbers—thereby providing false information to state and federal agencies, including the IRS At the same time, they misled benefit funds and concealed the fact that they had rehired workers.
This scam helped Ralphs extend a lockout that kept tens of thousands out of work and ultimately forced on them a contract with benefit cuts that will have an impact for years to come.
Hopefully the fines and settlement will discourage these tactics in the future.