January 10, 2009: Minnesota waste workers are using a new city law to help join our union.
Workers at Minnesota Refuse Inc. have been nonunion for years. Now they’ll get a chance to join the Teamsters without the threats and intimidation most workers face from their boss when they try to organize.
MRI is a consortium of private waste companies that haul the trash for 52,000 Minneapolis households.
In 2007, Minneapolis passed a “labor peace” ordinance that requires some city contractors to remain neutral when their workers try to unionize.
The law also requires the company to recognize a union after a majority of their workers sign cards saying they want union representation—that’s similar to how the proposed Employee Free Choice Act work.
When MRI’s contract with the city was up in December, the city insisted that the company agree to labor peace.
There is a compromise, though. The Teamsters had to agree to no strikes or picketing for the life of MRI’s five-year contract with the city.
Waste Management and Allied Waste—two major Teamster employers—refused to agree to the labor peace rule and quit MRI.
Now the other companies will take over their routes—and wastehaul workers will get the opportunity to join our union in peace.
January 10, 2009: Teamster pressmen are raising the alarm about a plan to outsource good union jobs at the San Francisco Chronicle.
In 2006, the Chronicle signed a 15-year, $1 billion deal to out source printing of their newspaper to Transcontinental, a large Canadian printer.
On July 1, the Chronicle will stop production at its San Francisco and Union City printing facilities. More than 200 Teamsters, members of GCC Local 4-N, will lose their jobs. Local 4-N is part of District Council 2 of the Teamsters Graphic Communications Conference.
Transcontinental will move production to a new printing facility in Fremont, Calif. The new pressroom will be nonunion.
Teamsters who want to move to the new facility can’t apply directly with Transcontinental—they’ve outsourced hiring to Manpower, Inc., the temporary agency and union-buster.
“I know of at least ten other pressmen who went for a group interview,” said Local 4-N member Tom Wibberley.
“Only two people got called back for a second interview. It seems pretty clear to me that Transcontinental and Manpower are trying to weed out potential union supporters.”
According to union reports, Transcontinental will pay new hires between $15 and $18 an hour. Senior pressmen at the Chronicle make between $28 and $31 an hour right now.
The Transcontinental facility will employ about 300 workers, and the company is already angling for other printing business in the Bay Area.
The new facility could print and deliver papers for morning delivery up to 100 miles away. That means pressmen are at risk as far away as Sacramento, Modesto, and Santa Rosa.
Petitioning for Action
“The Chronicle wants to replace good jobs that help our community with throwaway jobs,” Wibberley said. “They’re out to bust our union. But they won’t get away with it without a fight.”
In December, a majority of Local 4-N members signed a petition that was sent to leaders of the GCC and the International Union, demanding action to push for card check neutrality at the new plant, and to help displaced Teamsters get new jobs at the facility.
GCC President George Tedeschi responded to the petition and promised his support to the pressmen.
The GCC already has one good example of what can be done: Quebecor, another Canadian printing company that tried to run nonunion in the U.S.
The GCC launched a massive corporate campaign. They leafleted the printers’ customers like Ikea and Victoria’s Secret.
The union and Jobs with Justice held a Workers’ Rights Board hearing that brought together community leaders and workers to expose conditions at the nonunion plants, and then took a delegation of workers and community supporters to Quebecor’s headquarters.
The GCC campaign at Quebecor won card-check neutrality, and now many Quebecor workers are Teamsters.
It’s time for our union to put that same strategy to work at Transcontinental.
Don’t Let the Chronicle Throw Away Our Jobs
“The Chronicle wants to replace good union jobs that help our community with throwaway jobs.
“They’re out to bust our union. But they won’t get away with it without a fight.”
Tom Wibberley, GCC Local 4-N
San Francisco Chronicle
January 10, 2009: Teamsters at the Star Tribune are joining forces with other union members to oppose cuts as the paper’s owner threatens bankruptcy.
Unions at the Minneapolis Star Tribune have been given the royal brush-off by the company.
The company is refusing to negotiate seriously with the unions, setting the stage for Avista, the newspaper owner, to file for bankruptcy.
Demands Avista made were so draconian, it was a virtual certainty the union bargaining committees would be obligated to reject them. The newspaper is making profits, but Avista says it cannot take in enough revenue to make payments on money it borrowed to buy the paper in 2007.
The proposals are so outrageous, members feel they stand a better chance bargaining after bankruptcy is filed.Bargaining committee members from several unions indicated it appeared the company was not serious about reaching an agreement with the unions, but was going through the motions in an attempt to persuade a bankruptcy judge that it tried to reach an agreement.
Union members know better. Here are details of the proposed cuts:
- Teamster pressmen: Avista proposed 13 percent wage cuts. Pressmen health benefits, which are 80 percent company-paid, 20 percent member-paid, would have dropped to nearly a 50/50 split. The company also wanted to cut the pressmen’s work force by 16 members to 76.
- Teamster mailers: Pay would have been cut to nonunion levels, from $25 to $15 an hour. Many members call it an outrage.
- Newspaper Guild: Avista wanted to eliminate overtime pay to assistant city editors. By eliminating overtime, it would make it easier for Avista to argue to the National Labor Relations Board that they are supervisors who don’t belong in the union.
- Teamster drivers: Annual pay would be cut 32 percent, from $53,700 to $36,500. “You can’t expect working families to live on such a drastic cut in income,” said 30-year Teamster Rick Sather. The company also wants a huge reduction in full-time drivers. “It breaks the union when those jobs are replaced by $13-an-hour, part-time workers who get no benefits,” Sather said.
- Electricians, Machinists, SEIU custodians: The company also sought major concessions from these unions.
“It shows the company sees its workers as more of a liability than an asset,” said Doug Rzeszutek, a 30-year pressman. “I’d like to see every union come together to support union and nonunion employees and reach out to the general public for support.”
Said Greg Kujawa, a 30-year Teamster driver, “What they are asking for is unconscionable. Avista does not care about the worker, the worker’s family or the community the family lives in. They are making profits of nine or ten percent from what I understand. They want the workers to pick up the tab on their bad investment decisions.”
“We all realize the company is in trouble, but they don’t give us a reason to vote for this thing,” said Bradley Hassel, a 36-year pressmen, referring to Avista’s demands.
“I think it is outrageous that the company is asking that I give up a third of my vacation time and that my medical insurance would be severely cut,” added Steve Pietrizak, a 42-year pressman.
“I’d like to encourage retirees from all the unions to step up and help their brothers and sisters who are still working,” said recent pressman retiree Dan Ganley. “The company is trying to destabilize the unions with unilateral, unnecessary demands.”
“Not only are all the union bargaining committees hanging together and not caving in to the company’s concessions, the members are also standing strong against the concessions,” said Sather. Some 400 “no concessions” buttons and stickers have been distributed.
Members are ready if the company files for bankruptcy. “We believe there is a lot of community support out there, a lot of labor support in the Twin Cities and we’ll need to harness it, working with all the unions at the paper to stand up for our rights,” said Chris Serres, a Guild member and reporter at the Star Tribune.
Are you concerned about the direction our union is headed in 2009? You’re not alone.
Teamsters across our union are concerned and angry about pension cuts, givebacks, and Teamster leaders who are missing in action.
Let’s make 2009 our year to set our union on a positive course. You can help. Here’s how:
Join Teamsters for a Democratic Union. We’re a grassroots group made up of members like you. Click here to join and become a part of our movement.
Get the word out. Convoy can help you keep members informed about what's going on in our union. Click here to get a bundle of each issue, or call TDU at (313) 842-2600.
Set up a TDU meeting. Get together with a TDU organizer and members in your area to talk about what we can do strengthen our union. Click here to contact TDU about meetings in your area.
Time to Get Organized in Freight
“Freight Teamsters have seen nothing but decline in our wages and working conditions over the past 25 years. 2009 could mean more of the same if we don’t turn this union around.
“Let’s use this crisis as an opportunity to fight for what we deserve. It’s time to stop belly aching and get organized. Call TDU and set up a meeting in your area. That’s what I plan to do.”
Frank Rogers, Yellow Roadway
Local 41, Kansas City
We’re Turning Our Local Around
“We used to have officials who kept us in the dark. Now our members are out on the front lines, taking on management and winning stronger contracts.
“I’m proud to be getting involved in turning my local around. Our members have made enormous progress in the last year.
“TDU can give you the tools to turn around your local too—get involved.”
Katherine DeSantiago, RotaDyne
Local 743, Chicago
Organizing to Beat Pension Cuts
“My local union is dealing with a serious crisis. Our pensions are frozen. Our officials are missing in action. And members feel forgotten.
“Last year another TDU member asked me to get involved in turning my local around. I found out that TDU is a great source of information and education. TDU members helped me learn what’s going on in our union—and how we can enforce our contract and fight for new pension rights.
“We’re making that happen here.”
Norman Garbarino, UPS
Local 355, Baltimore
January: Time to Act on Bylaws
I want to remind members that January is the month to make proposals on amending local bylaws.
We’ve done this at various times over the years in our local. It’s a great way to raise issues important to the membership. It can be anything from proposing a change of the time and day of the monthly meeting so more members can attend to changing the language to get elected—rather than appointed—stewards.
Every member has a right to a copy of their local bylaws and should review them to see what might be changed. Start planning for next year.
Local 705, UPS
Editor’s Note: You can read an article about changing your bylaws at www.tdu.org/bylaws.
A Bailout for Central States?
Since the Teamsters put our union’s weight behind Barack Obama, I believe our leaders, be it Hoffa or leaders from the Central States Pension Fund, should meet with the president, explain the situation and ask for immediate help.
My wife and I are totally dependent upon my pension. I hope I didn’t waste the best 30 years of my life missing Christmas programs, Little League ball games and such to make sure every package got delivered.
Local 795, UPS, Retired
Casa Grande, Ariz.
Standing Up to UPS Freight
I’d like to thank TDU for breaking the news about UPS Freight trying to steal Christmas. I’m proud that we stood our ground and didn’t let UPS weasel out of delivering our holiday pay.
I’d also like to let other concerned UPS Freight Teamsters know that they’ve got another place to go to stay informed and leave their two cents. I’ve started a website, UPGF United (www.upgfunited.net), where UPS Freight Teamsters can network and keep each other up to date.
Local 41, UPS Freight
January 6, 2009: In December, Congress passed a new law to help multi-employer pension plans ride out the financial crisis.
Most Teamster pension plans were hit hard by the meltdown on Wall Street. Teamster leaders and members demanded relief.
The Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 loosens some of the strictest requirements of the Pension Protection Act and may prevent new cuts. But it gives no relief for Teamster members who are already dealing with cuts.
What’s changed, and what’s stayed the same? Teamsters for a Democratic Union consulted with pension experts to answer these questions.
What does the new law passed last month do?
The goal of the new law is to provide temporary relief to pension funds that are struggling to meet the funding requirements of the Pension Protection Act (PPA).
When the PPA went into affect on Jan. 1, 2008, many pension experts warned that its requirements were too strict—and that was before the meltdown on Wall Street.
The new law amends the PPA to loosen two restrictions:
- Funds can “freeze” their funding status from the previous year.
- Funds can extend their funding improvement plan by three years.
Under the PPA, pension funds must certify their funding level in three categories.
A fund is in the Green Zone if it is funded above 80 percent.
A fund in the Yellow Zone, or endangered status, is less than 80 percent funded.
The Red Zone, or critical status, means that the fund is seriously under-funded and also has a short-term credit balance deficiency (a technical calculation that indicates a more short-term problem than the funding level). Being under 65 percent funded will not automatically place a fund in the Red Zone.
The new changes means that a fund that was in the Green Zone last year can stay in the Green Zone even if its funding level has dropped below 80 percent.
What does a fund have to do if it’s in the Yellow or the Red Zone?
If a plan is in the Yellow or Red Zone, the plan trustees must approve a funding improvement plan to get the funding level up to 80 percent.
An improvement plan can include increasing employer contributions and decreasing future pension accruals.
Under the PPA, funds had ten to 15 years to get above 80 percent. The new law gives these funds three extra years to get to 80 percent.
Will the new law mean an end to some of the cuts that were made?
No. The purpose of this change is to give funds an extra year to make up their losses from 2008—not to end pension cuts that are already in place.
In 2008, some funds, like the Local 355 pension fund, cut benefits in order to stay in the Green Zone. These funds can stay in the Green Zone for an additional year—and the trustees of these funds can vote to eliminate the pension cuts at any time.
When will I know if my fund is making any changes this year?
Funds have until 120 days after the start of their plan year to announce their funding status. Most plans start their plan year on Jan. 1.
We expect most funds to keep their funding status from last year.
How can I find out more about how my fund is doing?
Each year, your pension fund must release a Form 5500 document that shows its assets, liabilities, and funding level. You have the right to request this document from your pension fund.
TDU members lobbied for and won access to new information from our funds under the PPA, including actuarial reports, financial reports from investment managers and fiduciaries, and certain other information.
The PPA gives members access to this information to encourage members and retirees to watch dog our funds. TDU members have already obtained this information for many Teamster funds. Contact TDU to help gain access to the information from your fund.
Are more changes needed?
The freeze in funding status in the new law only applies for one year. Funds will need additional protection if the recovery is as slow as many economists predict.
Congress spent $700 billion to bail out Wall Street. None of that money went to help protect the pension funds that provide benefits for millions of workers and their families. Teamster members still need change to restore the cuts made after 9/11.
Change is most likely to come when Teamsters members are organized and speak out. You can help by joining TDU and getting involved in our work to protect our pensions. Call or email TDU to find out how you can help.
Do you have a question about how the new pension law will affect your fund? Click here to send your question to TDU and an organizer will contact you.
Stay in the loop about pension and benefits issues. Click here to sign up for updates from Teamsters for a Democratic Union.