When I put in for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, the company told me that I have to use all my vacation time and personal days. Can they really do that? I thought the whole point of FMLA is that it’s extra, unpaid leave.
– Ticked off in Tennessee
I put in for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. The company told me that I have to use all my vacation time and personal days. Can they really do that? I thought the whole point of FMLA is that it’s extra, unpaid leave.
Ticked Off in Tennessee
Why They Fear Teamsters for a Democratic Union
Our union officials badger Teamsters for a Democratic Union because they are afraid of the membership finding out what they are doing.
Those who fear TDU must have something to hide from the membership, like multiple salaries and pensions and nepotism, not to mention weak contracts, failure to organize core industries, and a shrinking labor movement. When members realize how much they are paying their union officials in contrast to what the average union member makes, they wonder if they are getting their money’s worth. This is especially so when members’ pensions are cut, health costs go up, and wages do not keep up with inflation.
No wonder union officials try to make TDU a campaign issue. If it were not for Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the members would be left in the dark. It’s not TDU that “sucks,” it’s arrogant, over-paid union officials.
Bob Leslie, Local 120, Cemstone, St. Paul, Minn.
Get Out the Vote
Having lost a close vote for delegate, I urge all of you to help get out the vote for Tom Leedham. Make those phone calls I did not make. Remind your co-workers to vote. All Teamsters need to be aware of the issues and vote. That’s the only way to truly “restore the power.”
Al Hildestad, Local 90, UPS, Des Moines, Iowa
TDU Convention Makes You Proud to Be a Teamster
This past TDU Convention was my first, but definitely will not be my last. The experience was one that I will never forget. The brothers, sisters and activists who attended the convention seek knowledge to effect change and to create a better way of life for themselves and their fellow union brothers and sisters.
I met people from different crafts, working at UPS or Kroger’s, with the exact same problems I face in the rail industry. This convention clearly is a place to learn and share ideas with fellow Teamsters.
I also learned at the convention that through our new affiliation with the Teamsters, the BLET can hold our national officers accountable for the decisions they make and the actions they take. I am proud to be a Teamster, I am proud to be a member of TDU, and most of all I am proud to join my brothers and sisters in the fight for what is right.
Chris Woods, BLET Div. 22, Vice Local Chair, El Paso, Texas
The Teamsters’ Last Chance?
Please take a minute to think about how important your decision in this election will be and how it will affect you and your family’s lives forever. This could very well be the absolute last chance we will ever have in our lifetime to return our union, not theirs, back into the hands of the members. Hoffa’s name is in our union’s history and that is exactly where it belongs! But our future is in serious jeopardy of returning to the Old Guard days of the past, where the members have no say, and the fat cats play at our expense. Example: record dues increase without a member vote; record health increases; major pension cuts; and working longer for less. It’s now or never for positive new leadership. Let’s give the Tom Leedham Slate the opportunity we deserve to prove themselves as leaders for a brighter and more prosperous future for us all.
Wayne Sharp, Local 89, Retired, Louisville, Ky.
Health & Welfare Is the Issue
I am a proud Teamster. The health and welfare issue is a potential election buster for Mr. Hoffa. Being a package car driver is wearing out my body. I fervently pray that I can retire at age 57 with 25 years in if I make it. I’m 44 years old with a bad back from my job. I hope the powers that be realize that we need to retire after 25 years as this is a physical, debilitating career and we deserve a decent retirement package. I point no fingers as I realize the trouble the fund was in so please resolve this issue regardless of who our next elected leader is. Remember, it’s not the situation itself but how we react to it that counts!
Rob Shulin, Local 407, DHL, Cleveland, Ohio
Member Won’t Retire from TDU
I retired from UPS in 1999, but I did not retire from TDU. I need TDU now more than when I was working. I urge everyone who retires to stay in TDU. We need protection in our retirement years for our pensions now more than ever.
Charles R. Miller, Local 79, Retired, Tampa, Fla.
October 18, 2006. “This is my first experience at the TDU convention and it was great for me. For 27 years I’ve been in the dark about a lot of things about the Teamsters. It’s a shame that you pay your money to these people who are supposed to work for you, and you hear messages like, ‘You should be glad you got a job.’ When I think about the things that I know now, that I didn’t know for 27 years, I feel good to be here. And for every time y’all have a convention, I’m going to try to be there, because I learned a lot. And I’d just like to say, I’m glad to be part of this family.”
John Williams, Local 237, New York
“Let me thank you for being in existence. My first real dealing with the Teamsters—our union just merged into the Teamsters two years ago—was when Hoffa’s special assistant Rome Aloise told us, ‘If you guys throw up a picket line, we’ll cross it.’ Then, before we could even get strike sanction, they took it away from us. You can’t get guys in my shop to wear Teamster T-shirts while they’re working. I’ll go back and tell them of your existence. Without TDU there is no hope for the Teamsters.”
Kerry Garza, GCC Local 4N, San Francisco
“This is my first convention. I enjoyed it, I felt the love. I have obtained a lot of information, a lot of useful things for me to take back to Chicago and get out the Leedham vote. I will let them know that the TDU stands for ‘Teamsters for a Democratic Union,’ but what I felt in this hall these last couple of days have been ‘Teamsters Dedicated and United.’ Thank you.”
Delores Bowden, Local 726, Chicago
October 18, 2006. On Friday night, Tommy Burke (right) of Local 391 in North Carolina was inducted into the Rank and File Hall of Fame for 30 years of dedication to the movement, and 20 years of work on pension justice. He was presented the award by Frank Bryant (left) of Local 391.
Burke told the crowd, “I have been fighting the fight a long time. We members in North Carolina formed a Pension Improvement Committee in 1986, back when I had never heard of TDU. In 1989 I got hold of a Convoy Dispatch and read that another pension improvement committee was trying to do the same thing we were.
“I called TDU and arranged a meeting in North Carolina and I think it was one of the biggest meetings that TDU had ever had. From there on we fought the fight through our committees, through TDU, and it resulted in all the benefit improvements of the nineties.
“That did not happen without TDU. Everybody needs to recognize that. I didn’t expect this award tonight, but I do appreciate it.”
October 18, 2006. Every year, hundreds of Teamsters travel across the country to attend TDU’s Rank and File Convention. They come for the educational workshops. They come to learn more about what is happening in our union. But most of all, they come to build an organization that speaks the truth and fights for a stronger union.
Tommy Burke and Dolores Bowden (see articles below) appear to be two very different types of Teamsters. Burke is a truck driver from rural North Carolina who joined TDU in 1989 to fight for pension reform.
Halfway across the country, Dolores Bowden works in the public sector for the City of Chicago. She joined TDU two months ago to work on battling corruption and poor representation in her local union.
But maybe Burke and Bowden aren’t so different. They both are committed not just to changing their own little slice of the world, but to building a network of Teamsters for a Democratic Union that brings the best of activists all across North America together to be a resource for all Teamsters. They know that, as one union brother told Rick Sather (see opposite page), “We are TDU.”
Local 638, Star Tribune
I first heard about TDU in the mid-80s, through a newspaper article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and through some of the guys at work. But it wasn’t until 1989 that I became a member.
I had recently been elected to the bargaining committee, and we were facing a no-strike clause similar to the one that the San Francisco Teamsters have faced [see Convoy #236]. Before we could even get a leaflet to vote it down, Teamsters and other union members from around the city appeared at the gate with petitions urging us to vote this clause down.
They didn’t want a no-strike clause in our contract to be appearing in their contracts when their negotiations came around.
This experience proved to me that there was a whole lot more out there than what I’d been doing on the bargaining committee. I didn’t want to just make decisions and then tell members how to vote, which was how it worked in my local.
I pulled a union brother aside. I didn’t know him too well, but I asked “How do I get in touch with TDU?” He smiled at me and said, “We are TDU.” I’ve been an active member ever since.
I decided to run for the ISC this year because we have a lot of work left to do, in the Teamsters and the rest of the union movement. I went to my first TDU Convention in 1991, two years after becoming a member. When it was over, I came back to members on the floor and told them, “I learned more about our union and the labor movement in this one weekend with TDU than I have in the past 15 years as a Teamster.” TDU has the kind of energy and education that we need to change things.
Local 743, University of Chicago
I got involved in TDU because of the local reform movement in 743, the New Leadership Slate. Without TDU, we would not have caught the corrupt officers stealing our local elections, or have the hope to turn our union around.
I decided to run for the ISC because it helps us to be connected to the national movement. In Local 743, we have over 100 local contracts; we are not part of the Master Freight Agreement or anything that would naturally tie us to other workers and locals. Our local administration isn’t interested in connecting us to national and international issues.
Being a part of TDU makes being a Teamster mean something. It’s the difference between action and words, winning and losing. I’m looking forward to being on the ISC, working in solidarity with Teamsters across the country to make our union a strong and democratic one.
For the complete listing of the International Steering Committee elected at the 2006 TDU Convention, see page two. The Steering Committee has 15 members and three alternates.To get in touch with one of the Steering Committee members, contact the TDU office.
At the September 21 Multi-Region Change of Operations meeting in Chicago, Yellow Transportation’s VP of Labor Relations announced that the Yellow clerical Change of Operations was “withdrawn without prejudice” and that it would be “resubmitted before the end of the year.”
This was in response to a barrage of questions from Yellow’s Teamster clerical members at terminals across the country. They demanded more information from the company about the change, how it was calculated, and how their jobs would be protected from future layoffs. Teamsters from Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, and Kansas City led the way, and attended the hearing to make sure this was not a done deal. Earlier reports were that the IBT Freight Division supported the change, but rank and file members and stewards asked for clarifications. As a result, the company is reworking the change.
ABF Premium Service Change of Ops Approved
ABF got the green light in September to institute “premium service” bids throughout the Eastern, Southern and Central regions (NMFA Article 18). Their goal is to capture a bite of the lucrative one- and two-day express freight market. Some concerns were raised over details of how the new service will work. Local 728 in Atlanta won the right to have PSE freight staged in a designated area within the terminal. However, there was no agreement on how this freight would be marked so that members and stewards can monitor it to make sure the service is being used, and not abused. Presumably, there will be specific bar codes or labels that allow for daily or weekly reports. Hopefully the ABF change will actually create new work, as called for under the contract (Article 20, Section 4). That was how premium service was pitched at ratification meetings in 2003: to help grow the company and Teamster work.
Graveyard Shift for Road Drivers?
Men who alternate between daytime and nighttime shift work, rather than working a fixed schedule, have triple the normal rate of prostate cancer, according to a Japanese nationwide study, as reported in the Sept. 23 Science News. A variable shift schedule, such as some nurses work, had previously been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer in women. The new finding supports a longstanding expectation that disrupting the 24-hour biological rhythm can cause tumors in men, too.
October 18, 2006: "Our last contract was terrible. Can we get the right to elect our bargaining committee?"
"Our local officers keep raising their salaries. Can we put limits on them?"
"Our local elections are a joke. Can we get some protections that will make them more fair?"
Yes, there is a way to gain new rights and protections like these. Over the years Teamsters in many locals have organized to change the bylaws of their local unions, winning valuable new rights that help members protect contracts, benefits and working conditions.
Bylaws are the constitution of your local union and they define your rights and responsibilities as a local member. In many locals bylaw changes can only be proposed in January, so the fall is a good time of the year to start putting together a plan and a campaign.
Many members are probably not aware that the local even has bylaws. Even when they do understand, they may not feel that strongly about some legalistic document.
So you’ve got to focus on issues that matter.
“Seeing what other locals did was instrumental for us,” Local 82 member Joe Wright explained after they won a bylaw change vote in 2006. “We sat down and started going through the bylaws but just got bogged down. Then we found out from TDU what members in other locals had done and that made it easier to focus in.”
Local 82 members succeeded in reforming their local bylaws after a campaign for positive changes.
Voting on a Bylaws Amendment
Most local bylaws have a similar procedure for amendments: after a proposal is properly submitted (often this must be in January), it is read at three union meetings and then voted at the third one. So you will need an organized plan for turning out supporters at that third meeting. Some local bylaws state that changes have to be approved by a two-thirds majority of those voting.
Pick Your Issues
If members are fired up about an issue your chances of getting their support will be greater. So timing can help. Rather than focus on issues that members haven’t cared about for a while, zone in on the one that packs the most meaning for members at this time.
Promote Changes with Good Materials
“The way we presented the changes helped a lot,” Joe Wright pointed out. “There was a guy before in our local who proposed a bylaw change and handed out a mimeo sheet that just looked like a lot of chicken scratches. We made our flyers as professional as we could and put everything in layman’s terms, as well as technical, so it would be clear. Otherwise you would lose a lot of guys.”
Get the Language Right
Since bylaws are legally binding documents, it’s important to get the language in your proposal right. In some cases, Hoffa has vetoed reforms approved by local union members because of language technicalities.
TDU can help on this front. We have copies of bylaws language that has been approved by the IBT and lawyers who can review your bylaws proposals before you run into a legal challenge.
For legal and organizing advice on bylaws reform campaigns, info [at] tdu.org (contact TDU) today.