April 2, 2007: After a late-winter blizzard pounded the Midwest, Feeder Drivers in the Kansas City area are asking UPS management to institute an emergency road plan for winter weather conditions. Road drivers are fed-up with a policy that intimidates and coerces operations in impossible or hazardous winter storm conditions.
UPS drivers are routinely forced into winter storms, even blizzard conditions, under threat of firing (for job abandonment). Then, if there is an accident, the driver could be fired as well. You’re “damned if ya’ do and damned if ya’ don’t”! We call for a policy to protect the safety of our employees as well as the motoring public.
Emergency plans for building operations, i.e. fire, tornado, earthquake, etc. are an acceptable and necessary requirement (OSHA-mandated) of business operations. Why should we who work our nation’s highways accept anything less?
We’re asking for a reasonable policy that gives discretion to drivers to pull off the road in dangerous conditions. Presently drivers have to rely on outside help (such as Paul Taylor of the Truckers Justice Center, and TDU), or collective self-help (if many drivers refuse to operate in unsafe conditions, they are a lot more protected). UPS has professional drivers; they should treat them accordingly when it comes to highway safety in dangerous conditions.
To get a copy of Paul Taylor’s article on your rights in snowy weather, contact TDU: (313) 842-2600 or click here to send a message.
—Michael Savwoir is a UPS feeder driver in Local 41 in Kansas City, Mo.
April 2, 2007: Mexican truckers may not be running U.S. highways in greater numbers any time soon. Funding for the Department of Transportation pilot program that would monitor this traffic was delayed by a vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The IBT claimed victory after a major lobbying effort to scuttle the program.
The Bush administration decision to open up limited cross-border truck traffic raised concerns over drivers with lesser qualifications and potentially unsafe equipment, and the possibility of lowering the wage level in the United States. Teamsters should be concerned, especially about the long-term implications.
Short-Term and Long-Term Issues
First, this is primarily about U.S. corporations opening up shop in Mexico. In fact, Mexican truck companies are skeptical of the border opening, because they see U.S. truckload companies, such as Celadon, opening up south of the border to run cross-border freight into the U.S. Some U.S. companies already have 49 percent ownership in Mexican fleets.
Second, this is, at least for now, about truckload freight—highly nonunionized and something the IBT gave up on decades ago. Truckload drivers are already a highly exploited group.
Third, this opening only applies to international freight. Once delivery is made in the U.S., the Mexican-domiciled driver cannot pick up and deliver within the U.S. Analysts expect, at least in the short term, traffic will be near the border, such as to Dallas and Phoenix.
Analysts assert most current Mexican fleets are not ready to meet U.S. safety and environmental standards. The watchdog organization Public Citizen filed suit in early March on safety grounds.
So who really benefits? U.S. based nonunion companies in the TL sector. Instead of paying about 40¢ per mile (including benefits), Mexican-domiciled drivers will be paid about half that rate.
In the future the largest carriers will be interested in an expanded cross-border program, and that is where we need to be focused. UPS, FedEx, YRC, DHL are making long-term plans. Our Teamsters Union needs to think long run, as the industry does. We need to build ties and joint organizing programs with legitimate Mexican unions and organizations to build international solidarity.
April 2, 2007: Coca-Cola has been stepping on Teamsters’ rights—attacking members’ healthcare and pensions and threatening to eliminate union jobs. Now our union is stepping up a corporate campaign against Coke.
Teamsters have rallied at NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games through the March Madness playoffs to pressure the NCAA to drop Coke as an advertising partner. Teamsters have leafleted fans to inform them about Coca-Cola’s labor, environmental, and human rights violations here and abroad.
- Coke’s possible contamination of water and farmland in India;
- A current lawsuit that alleges the company allows death squads to murder pro-union employees in Colombia;
- The record-breaking $192 million Coke paid to settle a case involving widespread racial discrimination.
In Southern California, Coca-Cola Enterprises is threatening to go nonunion at its new distribution facility in Oceanside.
The company is refusing to let long-time Teamster employees transfer to the new facility and is forcing them to reapply for their own jobs.
As Convoy goes to press, Teamsters are gearing up for a demonstration in New York’s Times Square on April 2.
The Teamster Brewery and Soft Drink Conference has reportedly talked with local unions about possible coordinated strike action.
We urge all Teamsters to be prepared to lend solidarity and support to build Teamster action to win at Coca-Cola.
April 2, 2007: On March 21, it was no normal monthly meeting at Chicago Local 726. The hall was packed with hundreds of members, with many people in the hallway. They wanted to change their local union bylaws to have the right to elect working Teamsters to their bargaining committees.
Fighting for the Future, the grassroots movement in Local 726, put forward three bylaws changes and encouraged members to attend.
The union leadership brought people too, but they couldn’t match the outpouring of rank and file desire for change. So they refused to allow an honest vote.
Mario DiFoggio summed it up. “It was clear that the ‘ayes’ had it on the voice vote but (President) John Falzone ruled the ‘nays’ won. The packed room erupted. Everyone couldn’t believe what was happening. They wouldn’t even allow a hand vote. It was their way or no way.”
John Fasso, who works for the City of Chicago Aviation Department, said, “I’ve been a member for over 30 years and it was the most incredible meeting I can remember. They simply wouldn’t allow an honest vote. We need change in our union. We have to vote these guys out.”
Mary Koglin, from the City Aviation Department agrees. “A lot of members who went in on the fence got a real wake up call seeing how this meeting was run.”
Fighting for the Future has issued a leaflet thanking the members of Local 726 for coming out to take part in their union. They are putting together a team to run for office this fall, and bring a new day to Local 726 members.
Local 726 represents over 5,000 Teamsters who are all in public service, working for the city of Chicago, the county, the turnpike, the state and other public agencies.
Fighting for the future has a website: www.fightingforthefuture.com
April 2, 2007: Last month’s strike on the Canadian National shows why we need to have unity on the rails—and why having a democratic union is so important.
Over 2,800 trainmen, members of the United Transportation Union, went out on strike Feb. 10. They stayed out for two weeks, and their strike had a huge impact on the Canadian economy. With support from the UTU International and solidarity from other rail unions, they may have won their strike.
Unfortunately, Canadian labor law says that the engineers, who are members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, had to stay on the job for the duration of the strike. If the trainmen and the engineers were members of the same union, the engineers could have legally honored the trainmen’s picket line and shut down the line completely.
Even worse, the UTU International refused to support the strike, and removed the elected Canadian leadership in the middle of the fight. In hearings before the Canadian Industrial Relations Board, the UTU International sided with the company against the strikers.
After canning the local leaders, the UTU International forced a tentative deal identical to the company’s last offer before the strike. We will know on April 10 if the UTU members accept or reject the deal.
With the strike called off, many members of the UTU in Canada are proposing to leave the UTU and to sign up with the Teamsters. They are collecting cards to force a certification election.
I can understand why conductors in Canada are fed up with the UTU International. Their own International officers pulled the plug on the strike and are now trying to force through a tentative agreement which appears to be a bad deal for the membership.
But unity on the rails can’t start with one union raiding another. In the past few years, the UTU tried to force a “winner-take-all” election on the Union Pacific, while the BLET led an A-card drive on the Norfolk Southern. Thankfully, both campaigns have now been called off. But they have left behind division and bitterness.
I understand why some railroaders would like to leave one union and try out another. But are we really going to win more power for railroaders that way? I don’t think so.
That’s why I’m working to build Railroad Operating Crafts United (ROCU). We are a group of engineers and conductors nationwide from both unions who are working together for a democratic, rank-and-file merger of the BLET and the UTU. We believe in unity from the bottom-up, a complete and total merger of equals, and a union that empowers the membership to fight against our one true adversary—the carriers.
And that’s why I am also working with Teamsters for a Democratic Union. TDU has 30 years experience in the fight to further democracy and membership control of the Teamsters, which my union—the BLET—is now affiliated.
Either way the certification fight winds up in Canada, the trainmen up there have my support. Now’s the time for rank-and-file conductors and engineers to put the past behind us and to start working together to put our unions on the right track.
—Ron Kaminkow is a member of BLET Div. 51 at Amtrak in Reno, Nev.
April 2, 2007: It can be hard for small locals to survive these days—especially when we are going up against big multinational corporations.
But when two small GCC locals with the same employer tried to merge, the GCC national leadership stood in the way and instead sent some of the members into an entirely different local—even though the membership of both locals and the GCC National Convention voted to approve their merger.
It started in September 2005 when the members of two small Denver locals, 440-M and 22-N, voted to merge. Both locals represent members at the Denver Post.
Instead of allowing the merger, the GCC General Board decided to transfer 440-M members into a third local, part of GCC District Council 2.
District Council 2 has been gobbling up smaller GCC locals across the western half of the United States. By the end of 2005, the last time reports were available, DC 2 reported a membership of nearly 9,000 members.
District Council 2 has multiple seats on the GCC General Board. Five DC 2 officers were in the $100,000 Club last year. The officers of Local 440-M are working members.
Last June, 440-M appealed to the GCC Convention. That body—the supreme authority of the GCC—rejected the General Board’s decision. The Convention voted by a 2-1 margin to let the members of the two independent locals merge.
Unfortunately, the story does not end there. This March, the General Board imposed a new administrative transfer. The Board moved about half of 440-M’s members and put them into DC 2 again—the very move the Convention, the GCC’s highest body, rejected.
The Board allowed the rest of 440-M to join 22-N.
When the GCC Board is willing to ignore a membership vote and a Convention vote, these administrative transfers put all small locals at risk of losing members.
Is it a coincidence that the General Board waited until after the IBT election to pull this trick? GCC national elections are next year. Now is the time to find out how candidates stand on local mergers.
April 2, 2007: President James Hoffa has been briefed by the different Teamster benefit funds on what we need to win in the UPS and freight contracts to increase our benefits. This information needs to be shared with Teamster members.
In 2002 and 2003, Teamsters were promised that our benefits would be secure for the life of the UPS, freight and carhaul contracts.
Later, court documents revealed that the Central States Pension Fund repeatedly warned President Hoffa during the UPS negotiations that Teamsters would face severe cuts if sufficient benefit contributions were not negotiated.
Members were never told about these warnings or what we needed to negotiate to avoid the cuts. This year members need to be informed.
Hoffa knows what we need to win in bargaining to pay for benefit improvements in the different funds that cover Teamsters at UPS and in freight. Management has the same information.
The only possible reason to keep members in the dark is to give our negotiators room to settle short again.
This is our contract and these are our benefits. It's time for Hoffa to tell us what benefit contribution levels we need to win in our 2008 contracts.
April 2, 2007: After three years of working without a national contract, the BLET announced a deal with the National Carriers’ Conference on March 5. The new deal eliminates COLA and allows the carriers to pass along health care costs to Teamster engineers.
The BLET has not released the full proposed agreement—only a two-page summary.
Here’s what we know so far:
Wages: Engineers will get a 3 percent wage increase when the deal goes into effect on July 1. That’s on top of a 5.5 percent retroactive wage increase for 2005 and 2006. Wages will go up 4 percent in 2008, and 4.5 percent in 2009.
COLA: The new deal eliminates the cost-of-living adjustments completely.
Health and welfare: Co-pays go up from $15 to $20 for family doctor visits and from $15 to $35 for specialists. Engineers will pay 15 percent of their monthly health-care premiums, up from 14.2 percent. The carriers will adjust these premiums each January of the agreement.
Single-crew operation squashed: The carriers withdrew their requests for single-crew operation and other work rule changes.
“Cost of living—that’s the real sleeper issue,” said Ed Michael, an engineer on the Union Pacific. “If inflation stays low, we won’t feel it too bad. But if anything goes wrong, it’s going to eat our lunch.”
The new contract also fails to control health care costs, a big issue for engineers. In 2006, the average cost of employer health care premiums increased by 7.7 percent—double the rate of inflation. Under the old contract, engineers went from paying $100 a month in 2004 to $148 a month this year.
Under the new contract, the carriers will pass along 15 percent of their total health care cost to employees, and they can raise their rates each January. The contract caps the amount at $200, but only in 2010. There are no other caps. And the rate can go above $200 if the rates in 2009 are higher than that amount.
“Most engineers won’t find out the details of this contract until they get their ratification ballots,” said Harvey Evans of BLET Division 724. “But we need real answers about COLA and health care. Why did the union give up COLA? We’ve been bargaining for three years—can’t we do better than this?”
April 2, 2007
The Members Come Before Politics
I was a delegate to the 2006 Teamster Convention. It was made perfectly clear by Brother Dan Virtue, candidate for Eastern Region VP, of his independence from any candidate during the IBT convention this past June.
After listening to this candidate speak, and learning what he stood for, it was simple for me to understand why his members elected him and why Brother Hoffa made him an IBT representative.
Diversity can best be supported when those with differences of opinion, but with the same goal—the betterment of our membership—work together.
The “do as I say,” or “go along to get along” ideology may have worked in the past. But today that will not work.
The decision to eliminate Brother Virtue from his IBT position is not a case of putting the membership first, but an attempt at political preservation.
Local 264, C&S Wholesale
$100,000 Club: Give Members More Facts
The next time you run the $100,000 Club in Convoy, you should inform the members of the increase from the last LM-2 reports to new one. That way members can see how much more the officers are making.
Local 179, Retired
Stand Up to Corporate Greed
Through deregulation and the courts this administration in Washington has destroyed what union labor has bargained for with employers such as job security, pension, and welfare as well as workers’ rights under legal contracts.
As union workers, we must unite to fight for our preservation, our dignity, and our livelihood. Our goal is simple: a March on Washington on Labor Day this Sept. 3, 2007. Imagine the power of one million union members in a peaceful but determined demonstration demanding what has been stolen by corporate greed.
Let’s send a strong message to Washington and the corporate leaders to end this insanity and return this great country to the citizens who worked and labored to create the slogan “Made in the USA.”
Local 701, Retired
Toms River, N.J.
April 2, 2007: This year is shaping up to be a truly exciting time for TDU and the Teamster reform movement. With the Make UPS Deliver campaign, a nation-wide tour of pension workshops, bylaws reform and local union elections, TDU members are hard at work pushing for change in our union (check out page ___ for an exciting bylaws victory in Boston).
We need more resources to do it. We rely on Teamsters and retirees for our support. As the elected trustees of TDU, it’s our job to make sure we have the money we need to carry on the fight.
This April, we will be asking TDU members, through the mail, for financial support to expand our efforts. We need your financial support to keep TDU going and growing.
That’s why I hope you’ll join us in making a generous financial contribution to TDU. Every penny you donate will be put to good use.
And if you’re not already a member of TDU, the best thing you can to do to support our work is to join today. Thanks for your support!
Willie Hardy, Local 667, Memphis
Rick Sather, Local 638, Minneapolis
Joe Sexauer, Local 743, Chicago