I am an active member in a local with do-nothing officials. There is no steward in my area for over 200 workers! I’ve decided to run for steward, but when I contacted the union about setting up an election, they won’t set one up. I am willing to serve as steward and many workers in my area already come to me with their problems. How can we get an election?
– Shut Out in Chicago
Martin Luther King Holiday : Why not now?
On Jan. 15, Local 728 proudly joined in the Martin Luther King Day march here in Atlanta, Dr. King’s home and also the headquarters of UPS.
It’s time for UPS to recognize the Martin Luther King holiday that our country celebrates, but too many corporations ignore. If we win this at UPS, we can take that win to lots of other Teamster employers.
One of UPS’s two big competitors, the Postal Service, already observes this holiday. If UPS were to come on board, pressure could then be put on FedEx to do the same. There would be no competitive disadvantage at all to UPS.
It’s time to recognize Dr. King and the nonviolent struggle for equality for all Americans. Furthermore, how long has it been since we won a single new holiday in our contract?
To our union negotiators: this is an easy one. Please do the right thing, and insist on the holiday in the UPS contract.
Local 728 Business Representative
Inspired to Join TDU
I am a member of Local 96. Our former President Bill Gibson was a great inspiration to me and taught me a lot about the labor movement. I decided to take a look at TDU’s words and the fight they took on—and I decided to join.
My friends and I believe in the ideas of TDU. But we’re worried that our new officers won’t give us the representation we need. We are hoping to get further insight and help in our struggle.
Again, thank you for standing for democracy the way it was meant to be. It is bad enough we have to fight the companies with their enormous pockets. We should not have to fight with our union officers to bring justice and democracy to our members.
Local 96, Washington Gas
Thank God for Unions
Thank God for unions and our union pension. I retired eight years ago, and it would be impossible to live on just social security.
We need to build our union stronger. This means we need to get more young people involved and understanding our union.
The Hoffa re-election with only 13 percent of Teamsters voting for him is a warning sign. Get involved.
Local 612, Retired
James Hoffa removed Michigan Joint Council President Larry Brennan from his International position effective Jan. 1. Brennan lost a $50,000 salary but will continue to head the Michigan Joint Council and Detroit Local 337.
The firing, along with that of Brennan’s assistant Dennis Hands, shocked Teamster insiders, because it was Brennan who gave Hoffa a no-show job as an assistant for two years to make him eligible to run for office in the Teamsters Union. Prior to that Hoffa was an employer, as a partner in a law firm. Hoffa and Brennan also grew up together, the sons of Bert Brennan and Jimmy Hoffa, who were so close that they were indicted together for taking payoffs from Commercial Carriers, a carhaul employer, to open a trucking company in their wives’ names.
Brennan and Hands, who endorsed Hoffa and donated to his campaign, apparently didn’t kiss enough butt for Hoffa’s taste; in fact, Brennan and many Michigan Teamster officials are fed up with Hoffa. Hands filed a protest with the Election Officer over his firing. Rumors fly that Brennan may repay Hoffa by airing some dirty laundry. Time will tell.
The IBT Freight Division has signed contracts with USF Bestway, a division of Yellow Roadway, in Missouri and Texas that put Teamsters there into the Western Conference Pension Fund. Missouri and Texas are in the heart of the territory of the Central States Fund, so what gives?
Apparently the corporation prefers the Western Fund, because it doesn’t have to carry unfunded liability on its books. What about protecting our Central States Fund by putting Teamsters into it, not stealing them out of it?
Yellow Roadway recently dissolved Bestway into its Reddaway and Holland subsidiaries, so now this problem passes to those carriers.
Subcontracting Layoffs At Ohio Yellow Terminal
Back on Nov. 8, 2006, Yellow management decided to start using a local nonunion cartage company to deliver commercial and residential shipments to customers who required lift-gate and straight truck equipment. When Local 407 members found out about it, they immediately filed grievances under Article 32 of the NMFA (subcontracting), and objected because seven city drivers had been laid off on Nov. 5. Two layoffs later, 14 were out of work.
It took two months for the city and clerical grievances just to be heard at the local level. The clerical grievances for the subcontracting of setting the appointments were settled, but the drivers’ grievances were deadlocked to the Cleveland City panel. Rumor has it that they will deadlock them to the Ohio state panel.
Let’s hope that these panels put a stop to the subcontracting of Teamster jobs to nonunion companies just because management won’t provide the equipment to make deliveries.
Yellow Making Changes
Management at YRC has been busy as 2007 rolls in. First, they announced they were folding USF Bestway operations into USF Holland and Reddaway. Holland is taking over terminals in Little Rock, Wichita, and Jackson, Miss. Two weeks later, they announced that Yellow and Roadway would operate under a united management: YRC National Transportation. In commenting on the realignment, CEO Bill Zollars said, “Creating a single management team will allow the company to go after the next round of cost reductions.”
Meanwhile, new changes of operation will probably be implemented at both Roadway and Yellow following January hearings.
DHL Plans Border Expansion; IBT Needs Organizing Success Now
DHL will spend $100 million over the next five years to expand cross-border services. The company plans to establish terminals in the Mexican border cities of Tijuana, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros, as well as expand U.S.-Canada operations. This is in addition to previously announced plans for a $1.2 billion expansion of their U.S. ground delivery network. All this investment occurs as the IBT attempts to organize nonunion DHL terminals and DHL’s contractors. We need a muscular organizing plan that will organize DHL before their nonunion expansion makes it harder. We’ve had the PR, now we need results.
Black Boxes on the Way
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed a new rule regarding electronic on-board recorders (EOBR) that would encourage industry-wide use. The FMCSA would provide incentives to carriers for voluntary use, though specifics were not reported. The proposal would require EOBRs to record basic information needed to track driver identity, duty status, date, time and location of the commercial vehicle. Most importantly, it would record distance traveled. It would also include a GPS function as a means to enforce hours of service regulations. Truck and bus companies with a history of serious hours-of-service violations may be required to install the EOBRs in their fleets.
Court Hears Arguments on Hours-of-Service
Last December saw another day in court over hours-of-service rules. Public Citizen and other safety groups presented arguments for rejecting the January 2006 rewrite of the regs. At stake is whether issues of driver health and road safety have really been addressed by the recent rule changes. A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals is expected to rule within months.
They say charity begins at home. But sometimes it begins with your dues. Hundreds of Teamster officials will each put down $1,300 in fees for the James R. Hoffa charity golf tourney in Las Vegas, to be held May 1-3 at the Paiute golf resort. And now, they can also put down another $1,300 for a poker tournament as well. They golf, gamble and mix with various Teamster employers.
That’s some nice charity, but it turns out the vacationing players won’t actually pay a dime. The charity will come from members’ dues, none of whom will be invited to join the fun.
Many Teamsters are exceptionally generous in lending a helping hand. But charity that takes dues money for gambling and golfing vacations somehow misses the point.
Railroad engineers and trainmen from two unions are out to win greater solidarity and union democracy on the rails. On Jan. 1, Railroad Operating Crafts United (ROCU) officially launched its campaign to unite the two unions: the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the United Transportation Union (UTU).
If ROCU is successful in bringing about a merger, it will mean over 100,000 rail workers would be in the same union, a big step for rail labor unity and transportation worker solidarity. In the past few years, two rail unions—the BLET and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWED)—have joined the Teamsters. If the UTU-BLET merger is consummated, ROCU expects the merged union will be part of the IBT as well.
The initial focus of the ROCU campaign is to get resolutions in favor of merger passed by BLET divisions and UTU locals. “ROCU supporters are going to take this issue straight to the members,” said Ed Michael from BLET Div. 724. “The goal of our resolution campaign is to spread the word about the need for a democratic merger of the BLET and the UTU.”
ROCU has built a network of rank-and-file supporters across the nation totaling nearly 400 members, drawn from both the UTU and the BLET, from all the major carriers, at nearly 100 different terminals.
Division on the Rails
Rail carriers have historically taken advantage of the old craft union divisions on the rails to push through concessionary agreements that reduce crew size: “Right now we’re in a race to the bottom,” said Hugh Sawyer, the newly-elected Local Chairman of BLET Div. 316 in Atlanta.
“The carriers keep us at each other’s throats,” Sawyer said. “When I started out 18 years ago, I worked on a train crew with five other union members. Now that’s down to two because we haven’t united. We need all rail labor under one banner.”
Fighting Remote Control
In 2002, the UTU national leadership made an agreement with the carriers that allowed remote control operation (RCO) of locomotives in switching yards. In a number of rail yards around the country, most switching operations are now performed by RCO, with no engineer in the cab of the locomotive. Out on the road, the current national labor agreements require two-person crews. But this standard is now under attack. The carriers—encouraged by their divide-and-conquer victory on the RCO issue—propose single employee operation of freight trains.
Since its founding in the spring of 2005, ROCU has campaigned against Remote Control Operations of locomotives and single employee operation of freight trains. In January last year, the BLET and the UTU finally agreed to a truce in the war between the two unions in order to fight single employee operation, but it is unclear how long this truce will last.
ROCU has put forward a proposed constitution and merger agreement for the merged union. Over 18 months in the making, the draft document is a composite of the ideas and vision of hundreds of BLET and UTU members. According to Ed Michael: “Our proposed constitution draws on the best democratic principles in the constitutions of the UTU, the BLET, and the Teamsters: one-member one vote, direct election of officers, and initiative and recall.” In fact, BLET members—with support from ROCU—have already won direct election of their top officers through a rank-and-file membership initiative last year.
“One thing we’ve left out of our proposal is any mention of protections for officers,” said Hugh Sawyer. “There won’t be any golden parachutes like so many other mergers. This merger is about protecting the members, not officers.”
The rail carriers have dropped their demands for single-person crews in this round of bargaining. But this summer, Union Pacific will begin testing new technology that could allow for train operation with only a single crew person, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Right now union contracts require operation by a two-person crew: a conductor and an engineer. UP will test two new technologies that might reduce the amount of crew control necessary to run a train, Positive Train Control and LEADER.
This summer the UP will test this new technology on the run between North Platte and South Morrill in Nebraska. It will run a second test in the fall on the run between Spokane, Wash. and Eastport, Idaho.
The first technology, Positive Train Control, uses satellites to track trains, and it allows a remote operator to alter or stop a train’s travel. Under the second technology, LEADER (Locomotive Engineer Assist/Display Event Recorder) a computer will give the engineer instructions on how to run the train.
Thanks to the joint opposition of the UTU and the BLET, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee has dropped its insistence on single person crews in this round of bargaining. But even as it backs off on this round, the UP is laying its plans for eliminating two-person crews in the future.
Leaders of Teamsters for a Democratic Union met on Sat., Jan. 6 to discuss Teamster reform goals for 2007. Local union reform and winning strong contracts were at the top of their list.
At the meeting, TDU’s International Steering Committee (ISC) decided to support the Make UPS Deliver campaign, building a movement of freight Teamsters for a stronger NMFA, and helping groups run for local office on a reform platform.
“UPS wants to keep members in the dark about bargaining. Our job is to make our members aware of the issues that are at stake in bargaining,” said Michael Savwoir, a member of the ISC.
“UPS wants these negotiations wrapped up before Founder’s Day,” Savwoir said. “We’ve got the leverage we need to make UPS deliver.” Savwoir is a 37-year UPSer from Local 41 in Kansas City.
The International Steering Committee is an elected committee of TDU members that oversees the work of the organization. ISC members are elected at each TDU Convention, and the committee meets four times a year.
The leaders highlighted the need to continue educating Teamster members about their rights, especially in Teamster shops that are not covered by a national contract. This kind of outreach will be discussed again at the next committee meeting in the spring.
The steering committee launched a recruitment campaign to encourage Teamsters who want a new direction for our union to join Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
The next TDU Rank & File Convention will be Nov. 2-4 in Chicago. The committee is soliciting ideas and input for educational programs that should be a part of that big event.
When your union president writes to you that “it may or may not be that some modifications to the contract are necessary,” then sit on your wallet, because someone may be reaching for it. On Jan. 9, Teamster President James Hoffa wrote that to 3,700 U.S. carhaulers who work for Allied. Many more Canadian Teamsters work for Allied, where it is not in bankruptcy.
Any possible concessions agreed to by the IBT would have to be approved by carhaulers in a referendum vote, per our union constitution.
At the same time, the investment group Yucaipa and investor Ron Burkle have been playing an active role in developing a plan for Allied’s future, and also purchased much of PTS’s debt. PTS (Performance Transportation Services) owns three carhaul carriers: Leaseway, E&L, and Hadley. If Yucaipa acquires both companies, the combined operations would include some 70 percent of the unionized carhaul industry.
With Yucaipa possibly ready to take on hauling the majority of all cars in North America, it seems the wrong time to be offering concessions to Allied, which has been struggling for years and operating in bankruptcy for the past 18 months.
Allied is asking the bankruptcy court for an extension of time for its plan to emerge from bankruptcy.
We asked a number of Allied Teamsters why they thought that the IBT leadership might be ready to give concessions at this time. Detroit Allied driver J. D. Jackson summed it up: “The IBT election is over, and the next one is five years away.” Jackson was formerly an International rep and once headed the IBT Carhaul Division. Several other Allied Teamsters told us pretty much the same thing.
Last month, Forbes magazine’s online edition reported: “This spring Yucaipa paid $100 million to buy a controlling stake in Allied Holdings, a trucking outfit in bankruptcy proceedings. ‘(Former President) Clinton got it to the point where Hoffa actually helped us with that deal, something I couldn’t have gotten on my own,’ Burkle says.”
Why would Hoffa help Ron Burkle take over Allied at a bargain price, only to turn around and give Burkle concessions?
Members in the Dark
The International Union is keeping the rank and file in the dark about plans. In Hoffa’s letter, he gives a website address for members to get “the latest information.” Unfortunately, it’s a wrong website address that leads nowhere. When you do find the right address, the latest posting on it is from last June.
We need a plan to save our union in carhaul and organizing to defend this strong union sector, and we need membership involvement to make it work.
January 26, 2007: In 2002 UPS made record after tax profits of $2.4 billion, the most of any transport corporation in the world. That was when the “Best Contract Ever” was signed between Hoffa and management. But by 2005 those after-tax profits jumped 62 percent to $3.9 billion, and in 2006, UPS’s after-tax profit exceeded $4 billion for the first time ever.
An increase of over 70 percent during this contract in profits. During that same time Teamsters in the Western Conference, Central States, New England, New York City and elsewhere didn’t see a 70 percent pension increase, instead they saw their pension accrual cut. In the Central States Fund, retiree health care is practically gone. An increase in corporate contributions could fix that, and restore our good benefits.
During that same time, the base wage for UPS part-timers remained $8.50. That wage was frozen in the 2002 contract, and has gone up just 50 cents in 25 years! Some 29 states have minimum wages above the federal level, and some of them could soon pass up our base part-time wage.
Net profits of $4 billion. That’s about $20,000 per year for each part-time and full-time Teamster. That’s more than many part-timers make in a year. A small fraction of that $20,000 could fix a lot of contract problems.