April 10, 2009: Reckless Wall Street schemes have devastated Teamster pension plans. Can our union help lead the fight for retirement security for working families?
The Teamsters Union has formed a high-level committee to look for ways to protect union pension funds that have been devastated by the financial crisis. And not a moment too soon.
It’s no secret that many Teamster pension plans are in trouble. The Central States Pension Fund lost $9.5 billion in assets last year. The problem goes well beyond our union. Pension plans covering millions of American families are in danger.
Now the International Union is looking to legislation and policy changes that can increase workers’ retirement security.
Fix the Law
Three years ago, Congress passed the misnamed Pension Protection Act. This law may have been well-intentioned, but it has made a bad situation worse.
The PPA puts pressure on our pension funds to cut members’ benefits to meet strict funding timetables prescribed by the law.
In the wake of the stock market meltdown, our pension funds need time to recover and build up their assets—not unrealistic timetables that may lead to deep benefit cuts.
Even more importantly, we need programs to protect workers’ pensions. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) was set up to insure workers’ pensions, but unlike the FDIC it guarantees only a fraction of what you’re owed.
The PBGC needs to provide workers with real, not token, protection—and it needs to help keep pension funds from failing by helping to finance the pensions of retirees whose companies have gone out of business.
To win public support for these retirement security programs—which will cost federal money—our union needs to mobilize members and retirees. And we need to join forces with other unions, pension funds, AARP and other allies.
Protecting workers’ pensions is not as controversial as spending tax dollars on bonuses for Wall Street executives. Retirement security is a fight that can be won.
United Teamster Action
Let’s be honest. The Hoffa administration’s record on pensions has been an uninterrupted streak of broken promises and pension cuts.
But if they are serious about building a coalition for workers’ retirement security, Teamster members and retirees should join the fight.
What do you think? Click here to send your comments to Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
Good Teamster jobs on the line. Pension and benefit cuts. And a Teamster leadership that’s asleep at the wheel. Our union needs TDU more than ever.
It’s going to take a lot of inspiration, organization, and hard work for our union to make it through these tough times. That’s why we are stepping up TDU activity this year.
TDU members and organizers are hitting the road, getting Convoy out to new places, and meeting new Teamsters who want change in our union. We’ve got more educational conferences and workshops planned than ever this year. And Convoy circulation has risen 20 percent.
We’re making sure members get the information they need—and building the kind of organization working Teamsters need to stand up to Corporate America’s attacks and take back our union in 2011.
But TDU can’t step up its activity unless we all step up our support. That’s why we’re writing to you today.
If you’re a TDU member, we’ve asked for your support through the mail this month. At this critical time for our union and our movement, we urge you to consider making a donation. To make a donation or sign up for a monthly pledge, just click here.
Not a member of TDU? Stand together with other Teamsters fighting to get our union back on track. Join TDU today.
Willie Hardy, Local 667, Memphis
David Kremer, Local 320, Minneapolis
Joe Sexauer, Local 743, Chicago
April 16, 2009: The YRC merger is a fact of life now for 35,000 freight Teamsters.
By Chuck Deaver
Status reports on the merger are all over the drivers’ rooms, the trucking industry press, and our local unions.
The reviews are mixed.
Teamster employees have done their part, and more, to help YRC succeed. It’s now up to management to make it work in this difficult economic period.
Teamsters gave up 10 percent of their wages less than a year into a five-year contract, with little in return. Meanwhile, management has not imposed any cut on its nonunion drivers at USF Reddaway.
Teamsters have watched as 100 terminals have closed, and now management reports they want to downsize to 400 YRC terminals by the end of this year.
Layoffs and Closings
Thousands of Teamsters have endured layoffs, not just because of the deep recession, but now because of the merger. Many have relocated, only to be laid off upon arrival.
USF Holland Teamsters were just kicked to the curb at 11 terminals, many of them veterans of the same treatment five years ago at USF Red Star.
Teamsters—the great majority of them—are working hard and smart to give the merger a chance. Teamsters have done so even when their hard work has not kept up with management’s mistakes.
When companies get into trouble, why do the workers take the rap in the media and in Washington? The auto workers didn’t cause the recession, and the bank workers didn’t cause the credit debacle.
Teamsters have done their part. It’s up to management to do theirs.
April 10, 2009: After Teamsters in suburban Chicago voted down their contract twice, they won new language that protects their overtime and premium work.
Now management is trying to back out of the protections.
USF Holland Teamsters in Local 179 are challenging management over using part-time dockworkers (“supplements”) to take their overtime and premium work.
The members are covered under a local cartage agreement separate from the National Master Freight Agreement.
Cell Phone Call
The conflict boils down to a fight over a cell phone conversation between union and management representatives.
At a recent meeting in Joliet, Ill. members reported on the discussion and mood at their April 2008 ratification meeting, where their contract was voted on.
All agreed the proposed contract would have been rejected for a third time if the language on premium work stood. Members witnessed Rick Geirut, business agent for Local 179, agree from the front of the room that the language on premium work wasn’t right. Members insisted the language should read, “regular employees will not be denied overtime when the supplements are working.” As a solution, Geirut proposed calling Neil London, the USF labor man, in order to clarify the language.
City driver Steve Walski reported, “Geirut spoke by cell phone right there in the meeting. He said London agreed that the language in the proposed agreement was wrong on premium work, and agreed to fix it for the final agreement.” Only then did the contract pass.
Members got a written copy of the agreement in June 2008. The change to the premium work language was not there.
Rick Geirut, who has since become President of Local 179, has at various points assured Holland Teamsters that the issue would be resolved. “I was in on negotiations and I know that’s not what we agreed to,” reported former steward Joe Walczak. Grievances have been filed but management continues to make use of part-time dockworkers to eliminate overtime. At a recent grievance meeting on the issue, London claimed he never agreed to correct the language.
Teamsters want management to sign a side letter of understanding that corrects the contract language.
USF Holland Joliet may be cutting their costs on overtime but the dust hasn’t settled for Teamster members. They are prepared to press on to ensure they get what they were told they were voting for at the ratification meeting. They plan to protect their hard-won contractual rights.
We would suggest one lesson: get it in writing before you vote.
April 10, 2009: The 2008 Financial and Analytical Report on the Central States Pension Fund was finally issued in late March, and it’s not pretty.
There are no big surprises, but it reveals that the Fund will ask the IRS for a waiver because it cannot meet its funding target for this year.
The report, which was expected on February 1 but was not issued until late March, is available to members only through Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
Neither the Fund nor the IBT will provide this document to members; we had to go to federal court to compel the Fund to provide these documents each quarter.
Key points in the report include:
The Central States Fund had $17.3 billion at the end of 2008, down from $26.8 billion a year earlier. This was largely due to the stock market crash; Central States lost 29.8 percent on its investments. This was a little worse than most pension funds, because the CSPF has 64 percent of its assets in stocks.
The CPSF will have to make 11 percent on its investments just to break even in 2009; that is, to maintain its current level of assets. This is because employer contributions are drastically reduced, due to the Hoffa administration’s plan of allowing UPS to leave the fund a year ago for a UPS company plan.
While the number of retirees is holding steady at 212,000, the number of active participants went down sharply to 88,000. That again is due to the disastrous plan of allowing UPS out of the fund.
The bulk of employers have agreed to contracts that meet the CSPF rule of eight percent increases in contributions per year. However, contracts covering 9,700 Teamsters (11 percent of the total), are not yet in compliance and are paying a five percent surcharge as a result.
The report notes that the Central States Health & Welfare Fund is in much healthier shape. It finished the year in the black.
The Central States Financial and Analytical Report is available here.
A Plan for the Future of our Pension Funds
While no failure of the Central States Fund is imminent, it is clearly in trouble. So are a number of other pension funds. That’s why it is so important for our union to launch a campaign, along with other unions and allies, to win real federal protection for workers’ pensions.
The International Union has a committee of officers looking at this issue. We hope they move from talk to action.
Workers’ pensions are a mainstay of our economy and a bulwark against impoverishing millions of seniors. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) is supposed to protect pensions, like an insurance plan, but it is woefully underfunded. An infusion of federal funding could be used to shift some burden from union plans, especially for the pensions of retirees whose former employers are now out of business.
The other key to rebuilding and securing the Central States Fund is organizing new members, and bringing them into our pension plans. Again the Hoffa administration has led our union in the wrong direction, when they organized UPS Freight but failed to bring those Teamsters into our union pension plans.
We need to work to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would help level the playing field between unions and corporations. And we need a union leadership committed to organizing workers into our pension funds.
Get More Members into Our Fund
“The $6 billion that UPS paid to exit the Central States seemed like a real windfall but now it’s all gone in the stock market downturn. It’s a shame Hoffa Jr. gave UPS Freight a pass on Teamster pensions. Both of those decisions are coming back to haunt thousands of Teamster members and retirees.
“We need to get more Teamsters into the fund. I’m sure it took Hoffa Sr. some hard bargaining to get all those companies to sign on years ago. That’s the kind of negotiating power we need from our leaders today if we’re going to have any chance of turning things around.”
Tim Pagel, YRC, Local 988, Houston
What do you think? Click here to send your comments to Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
April 10, 2009: As the one Teamster carrier that has done some hiring, UPS Freight has attracted some experienced Teamster drivers.
Unfortunately, they are learning the bitter truth about a deal made by the Hoffa administration: you get no pension credits in any Teamster pension fund by working there. You start anew in a company fund.
Can this be corrected in the next contract? Not with the present IBT leadership.
April 10, 2009: YRCW has contacted some Teamster pension funds asking to defer for several months the company’s payment of pension contributions for Teamsters. This is according to IBT Freight Director Tyson Johnson, who says any deal like that must be negotiated with him.
The only good news here is that Teamster can rest assured it will not affect your pension credits. Thanks to court cases our members won years ago, all Teamster pension funds must give you credit for your time worked, even if the fund fails to collect employer payments required under the contract.
Our union can protect us in tough times. But not when our leaders are out of touch with the problems members face.
TDU brings working Teamsters together to protect our contracts and benefits and move our union in a new direction.
804 Members United
“Our union leadership is not leading the members in the right direction. I got involved to try to make some positive change.
“We’re building a movement in my local called 804 Members United. Our motto is building a stronger Local 804 by informing and uniting the members.
“And that’s exactly what we’re doing.
“We recently held an Education Conference to share strategies for enforcing our contract and protecting members from harassment and unfair discipline.
“This is the kind of thing our local should be doing—but they’re not.
“So members are stepping up, asking questions and getting involved. It’s time for a change and we’re working together to make it happen.”
Larry McIver, UPS, Local 804 Shop Steward, New York
Spreading the Word with Convoy
“I’ve been going to freight and UPS facilities all across western North Carolina to distribute Convoy and let members know that we can make our union leaders work for us again.
“More and more members here want to get rid of Hoffa and they’re ready to do something about it. We have a voice thanks to TDU.
“Do you want to get rid of Hoffa? Now’s the time to get started. Join TDU and start spreading the word today.”
Jerry Fisher, Roadway, Retired, Local 61, North Carolina
“The Big Three are in deep trouble and carhaulers are paying the price. It’s times like these that we need strong leadership at the top of our union—but we’re not getting it.
“No wonder we see so much apathy and hopelessness in our union. But when members come together, we can make a difference.
“We’re holding a TDU meeting in May so that carhaulers can come together and talk about what we can do to get our union back in shape. Together we can turn our union around.”
Tim Krueger, Allied, Local 89, Bowling Green, Ky.
When you join TDU, you help make positive change in our union.
Help make a difference. Click here and join TDU today.
May 1, 2009: If you are a UPS Teamster in the West or the East, then the problems in the Central States Pension Fund won’t affect you, right? Wrong.
UPS’s pullout has financially devastated the Central States Pension Fund. And the company plan that replaced it is a ticking time bomb of retirement insecurity for nearly 50,000 UPS Teamsters in the Central and Southern Regions.
This may not affect your pension directly, if you’re a UPS Teamster in the East or West. But it will affect your contract and your future. The new problems in the Central States gives the company leverage that management will use to try to win nationwide concessions in the next contract. Just like they did in the last one.
Ticking Time Bomb
One ticking time bomb is the expiring pension guarantee for UPS Teamsters in the Central and Southern Regions (the areas formerly covered by the Central States Fund). Right now, UPS guarantees members’ pensions if the Central States Pension Fund is unable to pay them.
But when the contract expires in 2013, UPS management will no longer have to guarantee these pensions. With the Central States Pension Fund in bad shape, our union will have to negotiate an extension of this protection so that UPS Teamsters won’t lose their pensions if the Central States Fund fails.
Management will surely demand concessions in 2013, and not just in the Central States, in return for renewing the pension guarantee.
Here’s a second ticking time bomb. The UPS company plan that Central and Southern Teamsters are now in pays the lowest pension benefits in the country. The tens of thousands of UPS Teamsters in this fund need, and deserve, to bring their benefits in line with pensions in the East and West. That will be a costly improvement. UPS is sure to demand concessions in return.
In the last contract, UPS used the problems in the Central States Pension Fund to extract concessions from every UPS Teamster. Management has a plan to do the same in 2013.
The Hoffa administration didn’t have a plan to stop concessions and protect our pensions when UPS was making record profits. Why should we believe they will do better next time?
The good news is that there is an International Union election in 2011. UPS Teamsters will be able to vote out the Hoffa administration and replace them with new leadership and a new direction before we get to the bargaining table.
April 10, 2009: Volume is down at UPS and layoffs are up. Our union can’t reverse the economic slowdown—but our union can protect Teamster jobs by holding UPS to the contract.
Contract Violations That Kill Teamster Jobs• New Overtime Guidelines Hurt Working Teamsters
UPS has responded to the economic slowdown with record layoffs and job cuts.
Drivers across the country are reporting an increase in OJS’s. In many areas, 9.5 violations (excessive overtime) are also up.
Full-time combo jobs are being eliminated in violation of the contract.
Supervisors working is an epidemic problem—and another Teamster job-killer.
Management’s plan is obvious: get more work out of fewer employees.
We need a Teamster plan to respond. We can’t stop every layoff or tell UPS how to run their business. But our union can and should be enforcing contract language that protects Teamster jobs.
In this special report, Convoy Dispatch puts a spotlight on contract violations that are destroying Teamster jobs—and what Teamster members are doing about it.