Do you want to find out more about your local union's finances? You can find out how much your local spent on salaries, benefits, and representation last year by looking at its LM-2 report at the Department of Labor website.
May 1, 2008: Nearly 10,000 new Teamsters have joined our union this year at UPS Freight. That’s an important step forward for our union’s power in freight and at UPS.
“I would like to welcome the UPS Freight workers to our union. Please do not stop at just joining. Our union power does not come only by signing a card. As members of the rank and file, you must stay involved in your union. Educate yourself on your contract and also how our union works. Hold our leaders accountable for decisions they make. Together we are the union.”
Nichele Fulmore, UPS Package Car
Local 391, Lumberton, N.C.
“It took a lot of effort and commitment by many freight Teamsters, but we finally got UPS Freight workers into our union. I applaud all my fellow Teamsters who, like me, worked to get this done. I also hold out a hardy handshake to all our new brothers and sisters from UPS Freight. We need each other if we’re going to bring our union back to the power and prestige we once knew. Let’s work together and make it happen.”
Jimmy Rickert, Roadway Road Driver
Local 429, Reading, Penn.
May 1, 2008: Freight and UPS Teamsters don't even have copies of their new contracts. But that isn't stopping management from trying to use the new contract language to their advantage.
UPS has failed to comply with new rules on excessive overtime. Elsewhere the company is undermining full-time jobs with a new program to accept ground packages in drop boxes.
At UPS, the language in these cases is on our side. It’s up to our union to hold the company to its commitments under the contract.
The stakes are even higher in freight—and the language is much muddier.
Change of Operations
Freight employers are seizing on a new contract clause to restructure the industry and gut the rights of freight Teamsters.
If the employers have their way, hundreds of Teamsters will be forced to relocate and enter the new “utility employee” classification.
When the International Union sold the freight contract, they promised that current jobs would not be lost to the new utility employee language.
TDU warned that the language gave wide latitude to employers.
Now, Yellow, Roadway and Holland have proposed changes of operations that will put this language to the test for the first time and set a precedent for the future.
Hearing Is Opportunity to Secure Protections
At an upcoming hearing, the International Union has the power to approve, deny or modify the proposed Change of Operations.
This gives our union leverage to compel the corporation to negotiate reasonable written guidelines on utility employees.
Freight Teamsters were promised protections when they were voting on the contract.
The carriers and our union need to sit down and hammer out those protections now.
Working Teamsters live up to our contracts. Employers and our own International Union need to live up to their contract promises too.
Read more at:
May 1, 2008: Roadway, Yellow and Holland have all submitted changes of operations that mark the beginning of the new “utility driver” model. Hundreds of road and city jobs would be eliminated and converted to the utility employee classification. No doubt more will follow this initial change.
Each of the three changes establishes 12 “velocity centers” throughout the East, South, and Midwest aimed at reducing transit time for up to 25 percent of all shipments.
Reportedly, ABF will submit a utility employee change soon.
The hearings will be held in mid-May, where the union can approve, deny, or approve with modifications. The time to get reasonable protections for Teamster jobs is now.
Many Teamsters have reacted with anger, since the International Union sold the contract proposal by arguing this kind of change could not happen. The January 15 Teamster Freight Update states that: “The UE will handle next-day and second-day freight exclusively, in a designated part of the terminal.”
But now the carriers seem to want no restriction on what is UE freight.
“The UE will not replace ‘meet-and-turn’ runs or existing long haul turn runs.” But now this change would replace turn runs with UEs.
“The UE will not be used to replace or eliminate employees in the existing LTL operations.” But this change calls for many existing employees to move or take a layoff.
Other contract bulletins issued by the International Union repeated these same claims.
Unfortunately, the actual UE contract language in Article 3, Section 7 gives wide latitude to the employers. Now is the time, with the first of such changes, to get the language clarified in a way that gives some protection to Teamsters and local unions.
If the companies get complete freedom to designate any and all freight to be UE freight, any contract protections may be impossible to enforce.
Time to Push for Limits
Dock workers at breakbulks could be sitting at home while UE employees are working the dock. Locals could be played against one another.
What does it mean for foreign power courtesy, when road drivers may be in bed where UEs are dispatched to run into the road driver’s home terminal?
Without any limit on what is UE freight, in the future road drivers could be an endangered species.
There are many issues to address. It’s time for the union leadership to take a hard look at our ability to enforce the contract and protect jobs in the future. By sitting down the carriers now, and getting some written guidelines Teamsters can live with, we can go a long way to protect our members and contract, while allowing the carriers to implement their changes.
If YRC doesn’t want to negotiate reasonable guidelines, there is no reason to rush to approve their proposed changes. They’ve wanted to break down Teamster classifications for many years. They can wait another month if that is what it takes for our union to get reasonable guarantees that freight Teamsters need.
May 1, 2008: New Teamster members at UPS Freight are looking at how to negotiate on work rules and “existing practices.” Under the newly ratified contract, there’s a 60-day window to put pen to paper and agree on how Teamsters will exercise their rights when it comes to day-to-day issues. The clock is ticking.
Members have heard a mix of news on how Article 41 will be sorted out. Many see the effort as negotiating work rules that are intended as local supplements or riders. Some locals and BAs are collecting suggestions and working with members and temporary stewards to put proposals together. Others say it will really be worked out when officers meet in Washington and negotiate rules by region. Still others have had no word on how their issues will be addressed.
UPS Freight Teamsters can use this time to make their voices heard and get proposals to their locals. That’s part of being a Teamster member. Article 41 bargaining can help protect Teamsters’ rights and conditions. Members deserve the right to vote on any new language under Article 41.
May 1, 2008: Two months after their fund froze working members’ pension accrual, the movement to protect Teamster pensions is growing in Baltimore Local 355.
On March 1, the Local 355 plan cut the accrual rate to zero. That means that members’ pensions are frozen and working Teamsters are earning zero additional retirement benefits for any of their hours worked since March.
In April, Local 355 members launched a petition campaign to demand more information from the fund about the freeze—and a timeline for improving benefits.
“Members have been taking petitions from me and returning them full of signatures,” reports Ron Reinhardt, a full-time inside worker at the main UPS hub in Baltimore. “We want information about what’s going on with our pensions and we’re willing to do what it takes to get that info.”
The petition drive started at UPS but it has now moved to other companies in the local. “I’ve met Teamsters at Sysco and DHL who are just as angry about the pension freeze as I am,” says Gary Payne, a UPS feeder driver and one of the rank-and-file leaders of the petition campaign.
Members Get Answers
The petition campaign is already getting more information into members’ hands.
When the cuts were announced in February, Local 355 President Denis Taylor told members that the cuts could last three years or more. He refused to give members a timeline for when benefits would be improved.
But at the April meeting, Taylor announced that he personally expected to improve benefits in one year.
Using new language in the Pension Protection Act, Baltimore UPS feeder driver Gary Payne has obtained the Actuarial Valuation of the Local 355 fund.
In this document, independent actuaries warned that the fund would be in the Red Zone by the end of March 2008 if the fund did not take action.
This report was produced months before the pension freeze, but the Local 355 fund made it available only after members requested it under the terms of the new pension law, which gives members the right to receive copies of certain plan documents.
No Freeze Under Red Zone?
Local 355 trustees say they froze benefits to avoid putting the fund into the Red Zone.
But the Red Zone would have stopped cutting the accrual rate down to zero.
Under the new pension law, plans in the Red Zone cannot cut the accrual below one percent of annual employer contributions. Funds in the Yellow or Green Zone can cut the accrual rate down to zero, though.
“Taylor kept us in the dark about what was going on with our pension,” Reinhardt said. “Our local had a tough decision to make, and we deserved to have a say.”
Taylor has said the fund is now in the Green Zone. But as Convoy goes to press, Local 355 members have still not seen the notice from the fund announcing if it is in the Green, Yellow, or Red Zone. Under the PPA, this announcement is due by April 30.
May 1, 2008: Hundreds of thousands of working Teamsters and retirees received a startling letter from the Central States Pension Fund in early April saying that the fund is in critical status.
That's also called the Red Zone. The notice is written in legalese and discusses a potential reduction in benefits.
Given the history of benefit cuts in Central States, it’s no wonder that thousands of Teamsters are calling the fund, their local unions, and Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) for info.
Even UPS Teamsters, who exited the fund at the beginning of the year, got the letter because their retirement after age 65 will in part come from Central States.
The letter—or funding certification notice—was required by the Pension Protection Act, and the wording about “possible benefit reductions” was required by the law. But the Fund could have done a better job of explaining it so that so many Teamsters didn’t assume the worst.
No New Cuts
The good news is that Central States Teamsters and retirees will not face any new benefit cuts.
Those cuts were made four years ago. As a result, the fund has lowered its future benefit obligations. The cuts have driven the average retirement age up from 59 to 61. The fund has increased future income by requiring all new Teamster contracts to increase employer pension contributions by at least eight percent a year.
These measures mean more money will be coming in and less flowing out, so the fund’s balance sheet is expected to improve in the coming years, moving gradually toward being fully funded.
Small Pension Increases
Pension benefits will actually increase over the next several years—even with the fund in the Red Zone. That’s because the amount of retirement benefits that Teamsters earn each year (called “pension accrual”) is tied to employer contributions, which go up each year.
By August 2012, a freight Teamster will accrue nearly $200 a month in pension for a year of work.
Unfortunately being in the Red Zone means that this is the only pension improvement on the horizon in the Central States.
The April letter explains that if a company busts the union, or refuses to sign a contract with the eight percent increases, then cuts will be made in the affected members early-retirement (25- and 30-and-out) benefits.
Our union needs do whatever it takes to ensure that doesn’t happen to any Teamster. Most Central States Teamsters are already under contracts that include the eight percent pension contribution improvement.
The Long Run
No letter from the fund or anyone else can guarantee our pension fund will be secure for decades to come. Our only guarantee is a strong Teamsters Union and labor movement that can stand up to corporations who try to weaken or cut our pensions.
That’s what TDU stands for. We work to inform and unite Teamsters to defend and strengthen our benefit funds.
That’s why we opposed the International Union allowing UPS to buy their way out of the Central States Fund. In that case, corporate greed got its way, and our union leaders didn’t even put up a fight.
Elsewhere, TDU members have successfully mobilized Teamsters to defeat benefit cuts and win improvements.
We need to build our pension fund on the strongest and broadest base. We intend to make that happen.
May 1, 2008: The New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund has put members on notice that the fund will be in critical status (the “Red Zone”) when its funding classification is officially certified later this year.
The fund also announced strict new rules that will make it tougher for local unions in contract negotiations.
The new rules are part of the fund’s Rehabilitation Plan—a plan required by the Pension Protection Act for improving its funding within a 10-year period.
The New England Fund has until Dec. 29 to officially certify its status under the Pension Protection Act—and a year after that to formally adopt a Rehabilitation Plan. But in a March 27 notice to members, the fund announced it is taking action now.
No Cuts—For Now
The good news is no pension cuts are being implemented—at least for now. Instead of reducing benefits, the fund is focusing on increasing revenue by requiring all new contracts that are negotiated to include a 10 percent increase in hourly pension contributions each year.
The 10 percent rule applies to all contracts negotiated after March 4. If a local union is unable to bargain a 10 percent annual increase in pension contributions, then Teamsters covered under the contract will suffer pension cuts.
The 10 percent Maintenance of Benefits (MOB) requirement is the highest in the Teamsters. It doubles the five percent MOB that the New England Fund implemented in 2005. The Central States Fund requires an eight percent increase in pension contributions each year.
The new requirement is so steep that the recently completed UPS and Freight contracts don’t meet the 10 percent standard—despite record pension contribution increases of 65 cents a year.
The New England Fund took this into account and allows any new contracts that include increases of 65¢ an hour over and above a current pension rate of $5.26 an hour to meet the new requirements.
Challenges in Bargaining
The new rules will create serious challenges for Teamsters in contract talks.
Healthcare costs are on the rise, and fuel prices are skyrocketing. At the bargaining table, we will face the triple challenge of negotiating record pension contributions, higher health and welfare contributions and wage increases to keep up with the rising cost of living.
All this, in the context of a recession.
Teamsters in New England need to get ready for tough bargaining and be prepared to get involved in contract campaigns if we’re going to protect our pensions and healthcare and win the wage increases we need to keep up with the cost of living.
May 1, 2008: Is the company trying to water down the new 9.5/Excessive Overtime language it just negotiated? The new Article 37 language has been in effect since January 1. But with the exception of a few areas, the company did not post the “9.5 Opt-In/Opt-Out” lists required by the language.
The issue has reportedly been under discussion by Teamster and company officials at the highest levels.
What’s to discuss? The new language is crystal clear. The company tried to win restrictions that would prohibit some Teamsters from “opting-in,” which means they would lose their right to file 9.5 grievances.
Our union negotiators said No to these restrictions. Now management is reportedly trying to rewrite the rules.
The new Article 37 language creates a 9.5 Committee that “shall also have the authority to adopt guidelines to ensure that this Section is implemented in such a way as to balance the Employer’s need to protect the integrity of its operations with an employee’s legitimate need to avoid excessive overtime.”
Many UPS Teamsters are worried this language creates a loophole that could further weaken our right to grieve excessive overtime. The Parcel Division needs to hold UPS to the contract they negotiated.
The deadline for posting the Opt-In/Opt-Out lists covering June to October is May 2. As we go to press, there is still no word on whether the lists will go up on time.
As it currently stands, members who have not signed an “Opt-Out” list have retained their right to file 9.5 grievances. The penalty for violations is now triple time pay for hours worked in excess of 9.5 hours.
You can find more UPS coverage by going to the following links:
May 21, 2008: Stewards and other UPS Teamsters in North Carolina are getting together on conference calls to deal with contract issues and help each other enforce members’ rights on the job.
“It can be really hard dealing with all the problems management throws at us when you feel like you’re on your own,” says Scott Weaver, a Local 61 package car steward out of Shelby, N.C. “These meetings give me a chance to learn from other stewards and members.”
Once a month, North Carolina UPSers meet by conference call to talk about an issue they’re dealing with at work, and share strategies for solving the problem. The meetings are pulling together members from all three North Carolina locals—61, 71, and 391.
The last call dealt with production harassment at work. Members talked about the different ways UPS management uses harassment to speed up the work, and members talked about strategies for dealing with harassment, including using the daily log book for package car drivers (available from TDU).
Another call dealt with excessive overtime. Members discussed strategies for dealing with excessive overtime and heard how several centers have reduced over-dispatch issues.
Turning the Tables
“These calls have already helped me deal with grievances,” Weaver reports. “I found out one of our issues was covered under company policy. When I brought that up in a grievance meeting, I turned the tables on management, and they dropped the issue.”
“I think UPS has a plan to put more pressure on the young guys,” says James McLeod, a feeder driver in Local 71 from Florence, S.C. “Our job is to communicate with them and share information and experience about how to put up with management’s games. My goal in Florence is to get more folks onto these calls—and get the other South Carolina centers in the loop too.”
If you’re interested in participating in a call in your area, contact Teamsters for a Democratic Union at (313) 842-2600.