Free Speech and My Contract?
A couple of us couldn’t support it and put out a flier opposing the contract. My BA said I couldn’t oppose the agreement because the boss was claiming we had bargained in bad faith. Is that right?
— No in Northridge
Thousands Sign Petition to Protect Full-Time Jobs
May 26, 2009: Thousands of UPS Teamsters have signed a petition calling on the International Union to take up a national grievance on the company’s elimination of Article 22.3 full-time jobs at the next national grievance panel in Philadelphia, June 8 to 11.
Our 1997 UPS strike victory won contract language that requires UPS to maintain a minimum of 20,000 combo jobs—full-time jobs that are created by combining 40,000 part-time jobs. Management is violating this language and eliminating full-time combo jobs through layoffs and by not filling vacant positions.
Enforcing the contract would make UPS create thousands of more good full-time jobs.
UPS stewards have contacted Package Division Director Ken Hall to request a meeting before the national grievance panel to deliver the petitions, provide information about full-time job elimination in more than 25 local unions, and discuss what union action can be taken to enforce the contract.
Click here to read the letter to Ken Hall.
TDU will inform members of Brother Hall’s response and continue to monitor UPS full-time job elimination.
Stand Up For a Union That Will Stand Up for Us
Union action is needed to defend our contracts, jobs and pensions. Hoffa can’t and won’t deliver. It’s time to work together for change.
The economic crisis is putting the squeeze on working Teamsters in every industry and local.
At UPS, management is using new technology to harass and discipline drivers in a production push.
Freight and carhaul Teamsters have seen their job security go up in smoke. Teamsters in many industries face layoffs and concessions. Our pension funds are threatening a new round of benefit cuts.
Members don’t expect our union to have all the answers to an economic crisis. But we deserve information on where we stand and a plan of action for defending our jobs, our contracts, our benefits, and our future. We’re not getting that from our International Union.
It was never realistic to expect Hoffa to be his father. Times have changed and we can’t look to the past. The bigger problem is that Hoffa is providing no leadership today and no plan for the future.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union brings Teamsters together to work for change. We’re Teamsters educating Teamsters—sharing information we’re not getting from our union. We’re Teamsters uniting Teamsters—working together to defend our contracts, our pensions, and our rights.
We’re Teamsters coming together to work for new leadership and a new direction.
We can make it happen. Winning change won’t take everyone, but no one can do it alone. It takes a critical mass of members who will step forward and work to make it happen.
Our union’s crisis is also an opportunity for a new direction. Be a part of it. Join TDU today.
Hoffa Appointee's Boston Goon Squad
May 22, 2009: Hoffa’s Trade Show Director John Perry is in court on charges of assaulting a Teamster member for filing a grievance.
Will Hoffa take a stand against violence and for seniority rights in the Trade Show industry?
As an IBT Division Director, John Perry is supposed to coordinate our International Union’s efforts to defend Teamster members’ rights in the Trade Show industry.
Instead, Perry faces criminal charges for assaulting a Teamster who filed a grievance to enforce members’ seniority rights. The assault is part of a wider pattern of violent intimidation in Boston Local 82.
Critics charge that Perry has made a devil’s pact with a group of thugs with violent criminal records who provide Perry with muscle to control Local 82 and intimidate Teamster members in exchange for lucrative jobs at Boston trade shows.
At the center of the controversy is Joseph “JoJo” Burhoe, whose extensive rap sheet includes a conviction for armed bank robbery. Court documents reveal that Burhoe has served as an informant to the FBI since his release from prison.
Perry brought Burhoe into the local after a rank-and-file insurgency in the local union passed bylaws changes that transferred power from Perry to the union’s membership and nearly toppled Perry in a local union election.
Burhoe is once again a criminal defendant, this time on charges that he assaulted Local 82 member Eddie Flaherty—a rank-and-file critic of John Perry’s. The violent beating left Flaherty unconscious and hospitalized. Flaherty has left the Trade Show industry in fear of his personal safety.
Perry continues to appoint Burhoe as the contact person that Local 82 members must call to get work at trade show exhibitions.
The seniority rights of long-time Local 82 Teamster members get in the way of Perry’s scheme to get access to Trade Show jobs for thugs and their cronies. Perry’s solution has been to gut members’ seniority rights.
Local 82’s contracts have strong language that requires employers to give preferential hiring to workers who have experience in the Trade Show industry prior to 2003. The language is legal and the traditional mechanism used by unions to help make sure that senior employees don’t get passed over for work.
For years, Perry has refused to enforce the seniority provisions in the contract—called the “2003 language.” Now, Perry is trying to bargain away the seniority language altogether. But Local 82 members are fighting back.
Members Stand Up For Seniority
Members at Freeman Decorating Company voted to reject contracts negotiated by Perry that eliminated the 2003 seniority language.
Following that vote, Perry took no chances on the contract vote at Greyhound Exposition Services (GES), another major Trade Show employer. Perry stationed JoJo Burhoe, Jimmy “The Bull” Deamicis and a police officer outside the door of the union hall. Only members approved by Burhoe or Deamicis were allowed to enter the hall to vote on their contract. With the vote stacked, the GES contract passed—minus the 2003 seniority language.
But Local 82 members aren’t giving up. On May 20, Trade Show Teamsters voted to reject the proposed contract at Champion Exposition Services because the 2003 seniority language has been removed.
Perry Faces Assault Charges
Meanwhile, Perry faces charges that he assaulted Local 82 member Jimmy Lee in retaliation for filing a grievance on a violation of the 2003 seniority language.
According to the complaint against Perry, he assaulted Lee the day after a seniority grievance was turned in.
Perry has been arraigned for assault and has a pretrial hearing scheduled for June 11. Public documents reveal that Boston police have rescinded the licenses to carry firearms from Perry and Local 82 President Pat Geary and confiscated their guns.
Hoffa Needs To Act
The Independent Review Board (IRB), the panel set up to investigate Teamster corruption, is interviewing members. Their investigation is long overdue. The assault against Flaherty took place more than a year and a half ago. Lee charged Perry with assault more than six months ago.
If the Hoffa administration is serious about acting against corruption and protecting Teamster contracts, they will not wait on the IRB to take action.
It is hard for our International Union to credibly make the case that the government is no longer needed in our union when our union takes no action to investigate charges of violent intimidation of Teamster members by a top Hoffa appointee.
Perry is on Hoffa’s payroll to the tune of $59,955 last year as the IBT Trade Show Director. He bagged a total of $186,963 in Teamster salaries last year.
By failing to act, the Hoffa administration is helping anti-union forces who would love to take advantage of the scandal to undermine Teamster organizing drives or use the allegations of violence in Local 82 to weaken Teamster members’ rights in the Boston Trade Show industry. Our union cannot allow that to happen.
The Hoffa administration needs to take action to preserve seniority language in our trade show contracts and decisively put an end to cronyism, violence and intimidation in Boston Local 82.
YRCW Pension Deal Still in the Wind
May 22, 2009: YRCW plans to put up real estate instead of pension contributions.
There’s no deal yet.
YRC’s proposal to put up real estate in lieu of payments to Teamster pension funds is still not finalized, as of late May, but the company, the International Union and at least one major pension fund are acting as if it’s a done deal.
YRC has made it clear they do not intend to make pension payments for the rest of 2009, and instead will put up real estate (terminal properties) as collateral. The International Union has green lighted the plan, as have YRC’s big lenders.
The pension funds, which have a fiduciary responsibility to their participants, continue to chew on the details and legality of the deal. YRC would avoid payments of approximately $40 million per month; over the next seven months that would be about $280 million, plus interest.
The Central States Pension Fund has convened a “Pension Fund Review Committee” of Teamster funds to analyze information and advise the funds.
At least one fund, the Central Pennsylvania Pension Fund, has already taken protective action: they have frozen pension accruals for YRCW Teamsters for the rest of 2008.
Temporary Help for Pension Funds
May 22, 2009: Most members covered by Teamster pension plans recently received an Annual Funding Notice in the mail, and some of those letters have been pretty scary.
Many of them contain terms like endangered, underfunded, or critical status. References are made to rehabilitation plans, and members are told that early retirement plans could be cut or eliminated.
The good news is that in the short run, pension plans received a reprieve via the Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act (WRERA) of 2008. Most Teamsters, including those in the Central States Plan, probably won’t experience any further pension cuts.
But in the longer run, many of our pension plans need help.
The WRERA, passed in December, amended the misnamed Pension Protection Act of 2006 to give multi-employer pension plans more breathing room to recover from the financial crisis.
First, it allows pension plans to stay in the same status that they were in last year, even if the funding level has gone down.
Second, funds can extend their funding improvement plans by up to three additional years.
Funds that are in the Yellow Zone (endangered status) or Red Zone (critical status) are not required to make any changes if they have a funding improvement plan in place from 2008.
Relief from some of the strict terms of the Pension Protection Act is welcome, and more such relief is needed. But we also need a plan to strengthen and improve our Teamster pension funds. Click here to see how we can make improvements.
Freight Teamsters Speak Out
Freight Teamsters are speaking out about what we can do to rebuild Teamster Power.
Back to Basics
“Teamsters are running scared. We need to get back to basics. Running legal, driving safe and giving up on our greed. That will preserve our work for the long haul. That’s real Teamster unity.”
Barry Strohl, YRC
Local 509, Greenville, S.C.
We Can Make a Difference With TDU
“When my local refused to listen to me and my calls to the International were never answered, TDU was there to answer my questions and help me out. But that information doesn’t come for free. Show your support today and join TDU.”
Steve Walski, USF Holland
Local 179, Joliet, Ill.
YRCW Pensions Frozen in Central Pennsylvania
May 22, 2009: “This [real estate in lieu of pension payments] approach would have no effect on pension benefits for employees.” — Bill Zollars, April 14, 2009
“This means that, for YRCW participants, pension benefits will not increase as a result of service during the Freeze Period.” — Central Pennsylvania Pension Fund, May 14, 2009
The Central Pennsylvania Pension Fund has frozen pension accruals for all YRCW Teamsters from June 1 through the end of 2009. This means they will get no credit for their service in that period. But, if the payments are later made, pension credits will be retroactively awarded to all affected Teamsters.
This amendment to the pension plan will not affect pension credits already earned, or eligibility for benefits.
It is not known at this point if other funds will follow this lead.
On the Move to Build TDU
June 03, 2009: Across the country, Teamsters are holding TDU meetings, setting up educational workshops, and getting out Convoy.
They’re concerned about where our union is going and doing something about it. TDU is giving them the tools to make it happen.
Here’s what TDU members have been doing in April and May to build the movement to take back our union.
Carhaulers from Local 89 and Local 651 in Kentucky and Local 327 in Tennessee discussed the state of the carhaul industry and how it is affecting our union.
Members formed a Kentucky-Tennessee TDU Carhaul Committee that will meet regularly on the phone to share information on grievances and contract issues and make plans for the 2011 election.
“If we don’t all stick together and start doing something now, we’re not going to have much of a union left,” said Tim Krueger, a Local 89 Allied driver from Bowling Green and one of the organizers of the meeting.
Teamsters joined labor activists from other unions for a day of education at the Chicago Troublemakers School, sponsored by Labor Notes Magazine.
TDU members organized four workshops at the conference: Defending Our Contracts in Hard Times; Preparing Your Grievances to Win at Arbitration; Understanding the Union and Your Contract (in Spanish); and Changing Your Local Union.
“It was a great learning experience,” said Duke Clark, a member of Local 726. “TDU and Labor Notes always put together the best workshops for Teamsters. I’ll see you at the TDU Convention in Cleveland.”
UPS package car drivers and pre-loaders met before and after their shifts ended to talk about how to deal with UPS’s production squeeze and supervisors working.
“Management gets together to meet and talk about what they can do to undermine our union. We’ve got to meet too,” said Tate McMillan, a feeder driver in Local 71. “We talked about what we can do to stop supervisors working and production harassment.”
Full-time UPS Teamsters from Local 236 held an informational workshop on the new UPS pension plan and the growing gap between their benefits and other Teamster funds.
“When I heard that our new UPS Pension Plan paid the worst benefits to any full-time Teamster in the company, I wanted to know what we could do about it,” said David Darnell, a package car driver in Local 236. “We pulled together a meeting here to get the facts and talk about how we can make change in our union.”
In early May, members of the Evergreen Chapter heard a report by TDU National Organizer Ken Paff on the state of the Teamsters Union ten years after Hoffa came into office. Discussion included how to build a Teamster movement that can replace the Hoffa administration in 2011.
Members also discussed some of the big problems facing members of Seattle Local 174, including deteriorating contracts and representation, the loss of the Oak Harbor strike, and the UPS full-time jobs fiasco.
Teamsters from New York and New Jersey locals met for their quarterly chapter meeting.
Members stayed after for a workshop on bargaining a strong contract for rank-and-file members who want to have a voice in their next contract.
TDU activists distributed hundreds of Convoys at the Louisville Air District, one of UPS’s largest facilities.
“How in the world would we know what’s going on without TDU and Convoy Dispatch? You get that information that no one else is going to get you,” said Wayne Sharp, a Local 89 retiree who helps distribute Convoy.
Active members and stewards from Local 355 and Local 639 came together for a two-hour workshop on Building Power to Win Grievances.
TDU International Steering Committee member Dan Campbell flew in from Milwaukee to lead the workshop. Members held a cookout after the workshop.
Get a Meeting in Your Area
Do you want to set up a TDU meeting in your local?
Call TDU at (313) 842-2600 and speak to an organizer.
Pension Crisis Calls for Teamster Action
May 22, 2009: Our union needs to mobilize Teamster members and retirees—in the halls of Congress and in the streets—to save our benefits. It’s time for decisive action.
Teamster members are facing the worst pension crisis in the history of our union.
This crisis is not the fault of Teamster members. We worked hard, played by the rules and saved for the future—sacrificing wage increases to fund good pensions.
Defined benefit pensions are the most secure retirement plans, now and for the future. We need to take action to protect them.
Our hard work and savings went up in smoke when Wall Street con artists torched the whole economy with their sub-prime mortgages, credit default swaps and get-rich-quick financial schemes.
The Central States Pension Fund lost $9.5 billion last year—more than a third of its assets—when the stock market tanked. The Wall Street schemers were inadvertently helped along by the ill-fated decision to let our union’s largest and most profitable employer, UPS, out of the fund.
Now, the Central States Fund is in big trouble. If another big employer fails, then the second largest pension fund in the Teamsters Union could be forced to cut benefits. Tens of thousands of working Teamsters could see their retirement endangered. And Teamster power would be weakened, because our pension plans are an important part of our strength.
The pension crisis goes far beyond the Central States. There’s not a single pension plan that has escaped the damage brought by the financial crisis. And it goes far beyond our Teamsters Union plans.
Pro-Worker Pension Reform
That’s the bad news. But there’s more to the story.
A number of different legislative reforms are being considered that would protect members’ benefits and strengthen our pension funds. We need to put our union’s political muscle to work to pass pro-worker pension reform and to defeat other proposals that would hurt Teamster members and retirees.
There is good reason for Congress to act. Union multi-employer pension plans work. For decades, multi-employer union pension funds have taken care of our participants on our own without any help from the government. The record of union pension funds is far superior to that of single-employer pension funds.
When a company goes out of business in a single-employer pension plan (like Enron), the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation gets stuck with the tab. But when a company goes out of business in a Teamster plan, the other participants pick up the tab. Tens of thousands of Teamsters from companies like CF or Red Star that have gone out of business still have their pensions. And the PBGC hasn’t had to pay a dime.
Union multi-employer pension plans have provided decent pensions to millions of Americans and can do the same for the next generation. Congress needs to invest in helping to strengthen pension funds that work. If not, we will all pay a much higher price.
Positive Proposals Put Forward
Some union leaders are supporting positive steps that Congress can take to strengthen Teamster pensions and other multi-employer pension plans.
- The PBGC should provide workers with real, not token protection. Unlike the FDIC, the PBGC insures only a fraction of your pension. The PBGC actually discriminates against multi-employer pension funds by guaranteeing a smaller percentage of participant’s pensions compared to single-employer plans. That’s wrong.
- The PBGC should help finance the pensions of retirees whose companies have gone out of business. For decades, our pension funds have picked up this tab all on their own. Today, that burden is becoming overwhelming on funds whose assets were devastated by the financial crisis.
If these funds go broke, it is lose-lose. The PBGC will have to pick up a massive tab but workers will only get a fraction of their pensions. A better solution is for the PBGC to keep pension funds healthy by helping them finance the pensions of retirees whose companies are out of business.
- The PBGC should make grants and emergency loans available to pension funds that need time and assistance to build up their assets as the stock market recovers.
- Congress should pass the Employee Free Choice Act. The financial crisis has weakened Teamster pension funds—but so has our union’s failure to bring new companies into the funds.
The Employee Free Choice Act will level the playing field so workers who want to join a union can. It’s up to our union to organize the nonunion competition and bring new companies into our pension funds.
No Backward Steps
Other changes to pension law are being considered that would hurt union members and retirees.
Some pension funds want more “flexibility” to cut benefits of those already retired.
The proposal is back to allow pension funds to cut your benefits even after you have already retired. Teamsters for a Democratic Union and the Pension Rights Center mobilized in 2006 to defeat this amendment and preserve the anti-cutback rule.
Teamster pensions are worth fighting for. And working Teamsters have shown time and again that they will stand up and fight for their benefits.
The Teamsters Union is well-positioned to lead the fight for retirement security.
It’s time for our union to tap the power of the tens of thousands of Teamsters who are concerned about our pensions—and join forces with other unions, pension funds, AARP and other allies.
The International Union has formed a high-level committee to look for ways to protect union pension funds. That’s a good step. But we need to move beyond committees and tap the power of Teamster members and retirees.
We need to be in the halls of Congress—and we need to be out in the streets—putting the responsibility for this pension crisis on Wall Street where it belongs and demanding government action to protect workers’ retirement security.
It’s a crisis. Let’s act like it, and take decisive action to save good pensions for our retirees, members and future members.
By Sandy Pope President, Local 805 New York City