In mid January the Eastern Region freight grievance panel awarded over $230,000 to Pittsburgh DHL drivers, but the company continues to defy the decision. Incredibly, it appears that the Hoffa administration is in cahoots with the corporation in refusing to comply with a binding decision and in undermining the union’s own grievance procedure.
Thousands of DHL Teamsters are being used as pawns in a union power struggle, with control over the highest levels of the grievance procedure going to Tom Keegel and International Rep Brad Slawson of Minneapolis, away from the Freight Division of the IBT.
DHL management was not happy a few months back when they lost a grievance over their subcontracting of some Teamster work loading and unloading planes at the Pittsburgh airport. The company was ordered to pay some $90,000, split among several Teamsters who were deprived of overtime work by the contract violation.
Instead of paying up, the company went to Hoffa, who then allowed them to do an end run around the grievance procedure to get better deals. As a result, DHL will now be part of the MCLAC (Motor Carriers Labor Advisory Committee) grievance procedure, where management feels they will fare better. And at the national level, Slawson, the company’s favorite Teamster leader, will be in charge. The company claims that Slawson told them he would reduce the grievance award down to $16,000.
When DHL refused to pay the $90,000 awarded, Pittsburgh Local 249 filed under Article 7 for penalty pay, which led to the additional award of $230,000. That penalty pay increases every day the company refuses to comply.
Who are Hoffa and Slawson working for? The members and the local unions that filed the subcontracting grievances, or management?
Contract Reopener April 1
The union leadership in 2003 negotiated a reopener clause in the contract for April 1, 2006. Now union officials such as International Vice President Chuck Mack are trying to use this good clause as a scare tactic against members, telling them the company will somehow use it to gut the contract. Since we have the right to strike in a reopener, concessionary talk should be completely off the table. Instead of just giving up and not reopening the contract, the union should be bargaining over important issues such as the status of the independent contractors used to get around the union.
If the union and company don’t reopen the agreement, that will be a convenient excuse to not let the members vote on the change in the grievance procedure.
The DHL fiasco is one reason Hoffa has lost support not only from freight Teamsters but many officers and leaders within the Freight Division. A number of Teamster officers believe Hoffa has written off not only the Freight Division, but the future of the freight industry in our union.
Meanwhile, the Hoffa campaign ad in the February magazine boasts that he “restored the hammer” to the freight grievance procedure. This is from the man who is helping management undermine already-won grievances, and whose only freight strikes ever called were the disasters at Overnite and Red Star. Apparently the hammer is for use against Teamster members and leaders who stand up to the company.
Mergers and acquisitions are the name of the game in the new trucking industry as companies scramble to compete against one another in all sectors of the market: LTL freight, parcel delivery and global logistics.
DHL may be the next big player to buy a major freight carrier. Analysts agree that if they intend to grow and compete with UPS and FedEx, DHL cannot remain strictly an airfreight operation. Airfreight’s rapid expansion is over and shippers are moving to full-service carriers.
Meanwhile, our Teamster organizing drive at DHL is running into trouble. After some 1,500 workers who move DHL freight but work for “independent contractors” voted for the Teamsters, DHL is starting to dump those contractors.
Only a full-court press by the Teamsters against DHL will sustain our good organizing work here and bring 10,000 nonunion DHL workers into the fold.
USF Teamsters Still Fighting for Jobs
The national freight grievance panel ruled on April 28 that former Red Star employees are entitled to be hired at the new USF Holland terminals in the East. The workers learned in May that the company has to back-date their seniority to when they should have been hired, but not provide back pay.
Thanks to a grievance filed by members of Philadelphia Local 107, the panel ruled that USF Holland failed to hire the former USF Red Star employees in order of seniority. The right to preferential hiring was part of an earlier agreement worked out between the IBT and USF last July, following the shutdown of Red Star and USF Holland’s decision to open terminals in the northeast.
Angered by the fact that USF has not lived up to the agreement, and the IBT has done little about it, Philly Teamsters filed the grievance and also filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
These Teamsters lost their jobs in the USF Red Star fiasco and now have been denied even new-hire jobs at USF Holland. The decision also allows for yet more stalling. The panel established a subcommittee of Dan Virtue for the union, and Leonard Waldo for the company, “to review the applications.” After all these months, this should not be needed. Since there is no backpay in the decision, the company can stall all it wants if the IBT continues to allow it.
After the decision, USF Holland advertised for drivers and dock workers in an ad in the May 22 Buffalo News, apparently still intending to deny jobs to Teamsters.
It’s been many months, and it’s time for the union to stand behind the people the union put on strike. USF (and Yellow) need to understand that they will face consequences up to strike action if they don’t comply with the agreement.
Click on the stories below for more information about the UPS-Overnite deal:
UPS+Overnite = Danger Ahead
What Does it Mean for Freight Teamsters?
New Threats and Opportunities
Now's the Time to Organize Overnite
Teamster Pension Funds Could be Strengthened
DHL: The Next Move?
From coast to coast, DHL Teamsters feel the same way: Hoffa did the company’s bidding and didn’t even bother to consult the affected Teamsters. Much anger is focused on the union allowing DHL to leave the freight grievance panels for more pro-company panels, but a second issue also demands an answer: why did the union fail to exercise the option to reopen the contract?
The contract reopener was put in the contract for good reason. It would have given us leverage, right now, on critical issues like organizing all the DHL contractors. And it would have given members the right to vote on changes, including changes in the grievance procedure. Is that why the Hoffa administration allowed the reopener deadline to pass without taking action?
Some officials, including Chuck Mack in California, have tried to convince members that DHL management wanted the contract open. If that were true, why didn’t they reopen it? Either party had the right to reopen. Why would the company want to allow any possibility at all of a work stoppage at this time? The leverage belonged to the union, and the leadership instead collapsed.
Meanwhile, Local 249 continues to struggle to collect the grievance procedure award of over $200,000 for members who lost work due to subcontracting at the Pittsburgh airport. They have the right to strike over the issue, even though the International Union has refused to sanction one. (Joint Council 40 did grant sanction.) Reportedly they are considering legal action as well as a possible work stoppage.
The International Union, in the person of International rep Brad Slawson, tried to undercut the local union and cut a backroom deal with DHL, but DHL lost the issue a second time at the joint area committee and is legally bound to pay the affected Teamsters. Why does the Hoffa administration continue to do the company’s dirty work on this issue?
February 8, 2006. Local 249 has submitted a request for strike authorization from the IBT in response to DHL’s unwillingness to comply with a September 2005 grievance decision. Five months have passed since the National Review Committee for the NMFA (Tyson Johnson for the IBT and Jim Roberts for TMI) ordered DHL to pay $90,000 worth of back pay to Teamsters in Pittsburgh for subcontracting violations.
In January 2006 the Eastern Conference panel heard a second grievance and ruled DHL must pay a penalty of over $2,000 for each day the company fails to pay the original $90,000 ruling. They now owe over $200,000. Why won’t DHL comply with the contract and pay up?
The answer is Brad Slawson. Last October International Rep. Slawson, the right-hand man to General Secretary Treasurer Tom Keegel, went behind the back of the affected Teamsters to try to cut a deal with DHL and let the company to pay a measly $16,000. In a January 17, 2006 notarized statement, DHL vice president for Labor Relations, Patricia Ann Burke claims that Slawson approached her with the deal. This was after the Pittsburgh Teamsters had been duly awarded $90,000 for two years of giving away union work. This is the same Brad Slawson who was put in charge of DHL Teamsters for the International Union by James Hoffa.
Local 249 members continue to press for the acknowledgement of their victorious grievance and the money owed. The Eastern Region Joint Area Committee met on January 18, 2006 and found in favor of the Local 249 grievance calling for penalty pay from October 19, 2005 forward. Local 249 has received strike authorization from Joint Council 40. The request has been sent to the International.
It’s time for Hoffa to do right thing. Send Slawson back to Minnesota, and support the Pittsburgh Teamsters who are asking for nothing but what they are entitled to.