Local 814 and the employers of the Moving & Storage bargaining group were at loggerheads in contract talks and it was getting close to midnight. The employers were demanding huge concessions and telling the union to take it or leave it.
The Local 814 bargaining committee decided to leave it. They packed up their things, got up from the table and prepared to put their strike plan in motion.
“We had strike captains lined up. We had our picketing assignments. We had a list of all the pending jobs. We were ready to go. And they knew it,” said Walter Taylor, Local 814 union representative.
Management blinked. They asked the union bargaining committee to come back to the table. And several hours later, Local 814 came away with a tentative agreement that delivers on every one of their key issues.
The new contract:
Restores lost medical benefits. The old Local 814 leadership ran the union’s Health Fund into the ground and eliminated members’ dental, prescription and vision benefits. The new contract restores all of these benefits and lowers members’ co-pays too.
Saves Teamster pensions. The employers demanded the elimination of 25 & Out benefits and a 50 percent cut in the pension accrual rate. The new contract maintains members’ pensions and puts the fund on a path out of the Red Zone over time.
Narrows the wage gap. The new contract delivered higher wage increases for the lowest paid Teamster movers. Industry B employees (formerly called “apprentices”) got a $1.37 an hour wage increase in the first year. Casuals got a $1 per wage increase and contributions to the pension fund on their behalf—something that never happened before.
Increases job security. The new contract closes a loophole that allowed the companies to ice out higher-paid industry employees and use lower-paid workers instead.
The contract victory didn’t come overnight. Last year, members organized to elect a reform slate to lead their local and won. From day one, President Jason Ide and the New Directions leadership team mobilized the membership to prepare for the contract—holding meetings and rallies to build membership unity.
“We got a chance to get involved and we took it. The companies saw the membership was united like never before.” said Andrew DiClemente, a bargaining committee member. “They knew we were serious about not settling short.”
Now Local 814 is in the process of settling contracts with companies who aren’t in the employer association.
“If it takes a strike to hold the bosses to the standards we’ve won in this new contract, then we’re ready,” said Local 814 Secretary-Treasurer Richie Johnson. “We’re rebuilding union power in this industry. Bottom line.”
April 13, 2010: The newly reconstituted National Labor Relations Board under the Obama administration is eager to start resolving cases but is not likely to usher in any “radical” policy changes, NLRB Chairman Wilma B. Liebman said April 12.
Speaking at the annual Hunter College national conference on collective bargaining in higher education, Liebman noted that the four-member board had only met for the first time the week before. With the recess appointments by President Obama of two new members, the board has a Democratic majority for the first time since December 2001 (66 DLR AA-1, 4/8/10).
For 27 months, Liebman said, the board had operated with only two members, a function of “gridlock” over Bush and Obama administration nominees. The reconstituted board, she said, “will operate, I assume, under continuing scrutiny and controversy.”
Disavowing any lists or agenda of cases to be reversed, Liebman said that the board's members “are in agreement that we want to issue cases that have been languishing for too long” during the two-member board period.
But any suggestions of radical change are unfounded, she indicated.
While the board will seek a “more dynamic” reading of the National Labor Relations Act than the “static” approach of the Bush years, it would be unrealistic to expect “fundamental, wholesale, or radical change,” Liebman said.
As “real constraints,” she cited the language of a 1935 statute that has not been amended since 1947, 75 years of precedent, and the prospect of judicial review.
The courts, for example, have shown skepticism and even hostility toward the concept of collective bargaining in higher education in reviewing the board's application of the 1980 Supreme Court decision in NLRB v. Yeshiva University (444 US 672 ) on faculty organizing, Liebman said.
The board has had difficulty with the courts in applying the Yeshiva doctrine, which requires a fact-intensive inquiry into a university's structure to determine the bargaining unit status of faculty members, she said.
Graduate Assistant Issue
On another issue in higher education, Liebman noted that the employment status of graduate assistants has been an example of the board's policy “flip-flops,” after their right to organize was upheld during the Clinton administration and then reversed in the Bush administration.
The reconstituted board, she said, would not raise the issue on its own and has not been asked to rule on any graduate-student organizing disputes.
Liebman also raised the graduate assistant issue as one that might be addressed by board rulemaking, as part of a discussion of proposals by New York University Law School professor Samuel Estreicher to use rulemaking procedures to reduce the board's “policy oscillation,” which she called “a polite term for flip-flopping.”
She cautioned, however, that “comprehensive rulemaking would be an enormous undertaking.” So “even if we stick our toe” into rulemaking at the board, that would not eliminate the policy changes, she said.
She expressed hope for another approach, which she said would be for members to ultimately find a way to consensus on the issues that have gone back and forth over the years.
In administrative reforms, Liebman said, “there are modest but meaningful things we can do” without statutory change.
Commentators have suggested shortening the time for board elections, for example, she noted. She also pointed to the possibility of steps to strengthen remedies and reduce delays in board decisionmaking.
But Liebman hesitated to make any specific predictions, suggesting that they would be premature when the board had only been reconstituted five days earlier.
In general, Liebman said, the board has an opportunity to apply the law “in a way that reinvigorates collective bargaining,” especially in the conditions created by the economic downturn.
Decisions by the Obama board, she said, will seek “a more dynamic interpretation of the statute,” looking at real-world impacts, needs, and facts, “not just the words of the law.”
She added: “I would argue that an administrative agency has a duty to bring the statute to life.”
As examples, she pointed to the graduate assistant issue and also to issues involving contingent workers. Volatility in employment relationships and the shift to flexible working arrangements, she said, “has meant the destruction of many bargaining unit jobs and many bargaining units.”
The “static” approach in the Bush years, Liebman said, “had the effect of removing more and more employees from the protections of the law, especially vulnerable contingent workers.”
Organizing, Cooperating in Downturn
In a later panel discussion at the conference, Phil Kugler, director of organizing and membership services at the American Federation of Teachers, reported that the AFT in the last five years had organized 60 higher education bargaining units with nearly 27,000 people.
That growth was in the face of “one of the most anti-labor administrations in history,” as well as two years of recession and “enormous” budget cuts in education, Kugler said.
The trend, he added, goes against the theory that unions thrive in times of rising economic expectations but suffer in economic downturns. In the current climate, he said, interest in unions is driven by a “concern for security and a need for a voice” to complement other university governance structures.
Although higher education organizing rights in the public sector are on firmer ground than in the private sector, “there is still much to be done,” Kugler said.
After successful organizing campaigns at the universities of Vermont and Alaska, he added, a joint effort between AFT and the American Association of University Professors is now looking at organizing the faculties of large research universities. The AAUP/AFT combination began in September 2008, he said.
Some 60,000 faculty members at the universities of California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania are eligible for representation but not organized, Kugler said. “We're seeing plenty of interest out there,” he said.
Another member of the panel, Assistant Vice Chancellor Michael Mottola of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, pointed to labor-management cooperation efforts as particularly valuable in a time of financial strain. “We need to work together to fight shrinking budgets and competition from for-profit colleges,” he said.
By John Herzfeld for BNA Daily Labor Report
April 9, 2010: Baltimore Teamsters have suffered some of the worst pension cuts in the country.
Turning that around won’t be easy. But members are coming together to fight for their rights.
In 2008, pension trustees in the largest fund in the local, the Local 355 Fund, blindsided members and cut their pension accrual to zero, freezing their pensions.
Those cuts affected members at UPS, Sysco, U.S. Foods, and many smaller employers.
Earlier this year, Local 355 members found out that the Local 355 Fund was heading into the Red Zone this April.
They are not the only ones with problems. Last year, Local 355 freight Teamsters, who are in a separate fund, found out officials were drastically cutting early retirement benefits.
Members Come Together
TDU members at UPS, New Penn, YRC, and Sysco responded by organizing a pension workshop.
They flew in pension attorney Ann Curry Thompson to explain how being in the Red Zone will affect members in the Local 355 Fund.
She also gave an update on the new pension legislation before Congress, and how it could help Teamsters in the Baltimore freight pension plan.
“The Local 355 Fund is going into the Red Zone, but it’s not time to panic,” said Ron Reinhardt, a Local 355 retiree who helps coordinate the Maryland TDU chapter.
“It is time for members to get together, pay attention, and get informed. That’s what we’re helping members do.”
Baltimore Teamsters have already shown that organizing works.
After trustees froze their pensions, hundreds of Teamsters signed petitions. Local 355 officials responded and unfroze the pension, restoring a small accrual.
Now that the Local 355 Fund is going into the Red Zone, Local 355 officials are prevented by federal law from cutting the accrual rate again.
At the pension meeting, members made plans to go back to their worksites and educate members about what they learned, contact members of Congress about the new pension legislation, request new pension information from the Local 355 fund, and keep building the Local 355 TDU chapter.
“Local 355 members have had some of the worst pension cuts in the country, hands down,” said Kenny Walker, a UPS Teamster, during the meeting.
“Turning that around won’t happen overnight. It starts when members get informed and organized.”
Change Starts When Members Get Informed
“Turning our pensions around won’t happen overnight.
“It starts when members get informed and organized.”
Kenny Walker, UPS Local 355, Baltimore
Members Want Info
“Unfortunately, our local leaders think it’s OK to keep members in the dark and spoon feed us information only when they see fit.
“We’ve taken matters into our own hands. I’ve been getting the word out at ABF, YRC, and of course New Penn. And we just held a very successful TDU education event.”
Doug Foltz, New Penn Local 355, Baltimore
November 25, 2009: Local 805 President and TDU leader Sandy Pope was honored this week as a New York City local hero that makes a difference.
To celebrate Thanksgiving, Tom Robbins, the labor columnist for the Village Voice in New York City, published a Thanksgiving Honor Roll, lauding “the oft-overlooked people in a city of celebrity.”
Pope’s entry, “Not Your Average Teamster leader” is reprinted here.
Not Your Average Teamster Leader
By Tom Robbins
Sandy Pope is not your average Teamsters leader. A woman heading a blue-collar union local, she also holds a martial arts black belt. But her most important trait is a dedication to union democracy and organizing.
A former truck driver from Cleveland, Pope became the head of Local 805 in Queens in 1999, one of many Teamsters locals that had long been little more than playthings for the mob and its favored employers.
She ended lingering corrupt practices and had the 1,200 members—mostly warehouse, supply, and cafeteria workers—elect their own stewards. She won better contracts and also did what most union leaders are too fearful or too sluggish to attempt: She organized, winning elections at several vending shops.
She also targeted Fresh Direct, the big gourmet food company that boasts of community dedication but has resisted demands for higher pay for its workforce. The first Teamsters push was derailed when immigration agents raided the company's food-prep plant.
Pope says a new drive will begin next month: "Workers there keep asking us when we're coming back. Well, we're coming back."
Click here to read A Thanksgiving Honor Roll: NYC’s Unsung Heroes
October 16, 2009: Tens of thousands of Puerto Rican public workers protesting layoffs shut down the center of the capital San Juan on Thursday in a one-day strike that closed many government offices, businesses and schools.
Labor unions in the U.S. Caribbean island territory called the 24-hour stoppage to protest the firing of thousands of workers by the government, which is trying to shrink a $3.2 billion budget deficit.
Click here to read more at Reuters.
A half-dozen senators friendly to labor have decided to drop a central provision of a bill that would have made it easier to organize workers.
The so-called card-check provision — which senators decided to scrap to help secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes — would have required employers to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union. Currently, employers can insist on a secret-ballot election, a higher hurdle for unions.
Click here to read more at The New York Times.
July 7, 2009: A Bronx, N.Y., bakery whose 134 employees went on strike in August 2008 must reinstate them under the terms of their expired contract and pay them wages dating back to May 6, 2009, when they offered to return to work, a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge ruled June 30 (Stella D'Oro Biscuit Co., NLRB ALJ, No. 2-CA-38960, 6/30/09).
In his opinion, ALJ Steven Davis found that Stella D'Oro Biscuit Co. engaged in unfair labor practices within the meaning of Section 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to provide the workers' union with relevant financial documents during contract negotiations and by unilaterally imposing new employment terms after the strike began.
“What prevented progress in the negotiations was the Union's inability to present a copy of the Employer's financial statement to the Union's accountant and attorney for their examination,” the ALJ said. Because Stella D'Oro requested wage and benefit concessions on its claim “that its sales were declining and that it lost money in 2007,” Davis reasoned, “the Union was justified in seeking documentation in order to decide whether it should agree to those concessions.” If the union's experts determined that Stella D'Oro's financial situation justified the concessions, “the Union's bargaining position may have been altered, agreement reached and a strike avoided,” the ALJ said.
Stella D'Oro was owned by Brynwood Partners, an investment firm that specializes in acquiring companies and then selling them at a profit five to 10 years later. Brynwood invested $3.1 million in automated equipment to reduce labor costs at the bakery, whose employees were represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers.
At a series of contract bargaining sessions that began May 30, 2008, Stella D'Oro told the union that the company lost $1.5 million in fiscal year 2007 and that annual sales had declined by $5 million since Brynwood bought the company two years earlier. Company representatives told union officials that the company would “not be going forward with the business” unless it could reduce its labor costs. Stella D'Oro sought wage and benefit concessions for the new contract.
No Copies Allowed
When union representatives asked for financial documentation, company officials allowed them to read and take notes from Stella D'Oro's 19-page audited 2007 financial statement but not to keep it or photocopy it. The union representatives requested a copy so they could consult with their accountant, but the company would not give them a copy of the statement, expressing concern that information could leak to its competitors, vendors, and customers. The union representatives offered to sign a confidentiality agreement, but the company still refused to allow them to keep a copy.
The parties extended the collective bargaining agreement from June 29, 2008, to July 31, 2008, but failed to agree on a new contract. The employees went out on strike Aug. 14, 2008. On Aug. 27, 2008, the company notified the union and the employees that it was changing the terms of employment consistent with its last contract offer. The company later allowed the union's lawyer and accountant to view and take notes from its 2007 financial statement but not to keep or photocopy it.
On May 1, 2009, the union offered to have the employees return to work under the terms of the expired contract. On May 6, Stella D'Oro responded that an impasse had occurred in the negotiations and the contract had expired.
The ALJ began his analysis by explaining that when an employer claims an inability to pay the amounts demanded by a union during contract bargaining, “the duty to bargain in good faith requires it to provide requested financial information to substantiate its claim.”
ALJ Davis acknowledged that the bakery never explicitly expressed an inability to pay but he reasoned that Stella D'Oro's assertion that the union's rejection of its proposed concessions could lead to the closing of the business “effectively claimed a present inability to pay the wages and benefits that the Union was requesting.” Stella D'Oro therefore “made a direct connection between its need for significant labor-cost concessions and its immediate financial condition,” according to the ALJ.
Because Stella D'Oro made its financial condition a central issue in the negotiations, Davis said, it must produce the documents supporting that condition. “Financial documentation related to the economic condition of the company was relevant to the bargaining process.”
Long and Complex Financial Statement
The company should have furnished a copy of its 2007 audited financial statement to the union, the ALJ concluded. “The 19 pages of detailed, complex financial figures and closely written auditor's notes were not susceptible of such easy and quick comprehension.” He pointed out that the employer failed to present a reasonable explanation as to why it rejected the union officials' offer to sign a confidentiality agreement. The ALJ also rejected the company's argument that the union waived its request for the information by proceeding with bargaining despite its failure to receive a copy of the financial statement.
The ALJ found that “no valid impasse” in bargaining occurred because Stella D'Oro failed to provide a copy of the financial statement to the union. Therefore, the employer's unilateral implementation of changes in the employee's terms and conditions of employment, as set forth in its August 27 letter, was unlawful, the opinion said.
The court rejected Stella D'Oro's argument that the strike was not in response to an unfair labor practice because flyers distributed by the union after the strike began mentioned the concessions demanded by the employer rather than its refusal to provide financial documents.
The opinion ordered Stella D'Oro to reinstate the employees immediately. The ALJ explained that an employer must reinstate unfair labor practice strikers when they make an unconditional offer to return to work. He rejected the bakery's assertion that the employees' offer to return to work was conditional because the union insisted that the returning employees work under the same wages and working conditions that were in effect when the strike began.
Unfair labor practice strikers are entitled to reinstatement under their original terms of employment, Davis said, and therefore the union's offer to have the employees return to work under the terms and conditions in the expired contract was unconditional.
The NLRB general counsel was represented by Suzanne K. Sullivan in New York. Lawrence J. Baer and Mark A. Jacoby of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in New York represented Stella D'Oro. Louie Nikolaidis of Lewis, Clifton & Nikolaidis PC in New York represented the union.
Click here to read a text of the decision.
June 25, 2009: On Tuesday, workers and community supporters rallied in front of Wells Fargo banks in 20 cities across the country to stop the closing of Quad Cities Die-Casting in Moline, Ill.
Members of the United Electrical Workers union are fighting to save 80 good union jobs at the family-owned company.
Wells Fargo has cut off credit to the manufacturer, even though it’s not in bankruptcy and its business is fundamentally sound.
Last year, Wells Fargo got $25 billion in federal bailout money.
You can help support workers at Quad Cities. Click here to send a message to Wells Fargo.
Click here to see pictures and videos from the rallies at the UE Illinois website.
June 18, 2009: The assault on Local 82 members and their seniority rights continues.
John Perry is at it again. The principal officer of Boston Local 82 and the director of the International Union’s Trade Show Division has forced through another contract that guts the seniority rights of Boston trade show Teamsters, this time at Champion Exposition Services.
Critics charge that Perry is violating members’ seniority rights in order to funnel trade show jobs to a group of thugs with violent criminal records. In turn, the thugs provide Perry with muscle to control Local 82.
Perry is headed to court on July 22 for a hearing on charges that he assaulted a Teamster who filed a grievance to enforce members’ seniority rights. Local 82 enforcer Joseph “JoJo” Burhoe will face charges the same day for brutally assaulting a Local 82 member who criticized Perry.
New Attack on Seniority Rights
Perry is already under investigation by the Independent Review Board, the panel set up to investigate Teamster corruption. But that hasn’t slowed down his attack on members’ seniority rights.
Last month, Local 82 Teamsters at Champion voted to reject a proposed contract because it eliminated strong language that makes sure that senior employees don’t get passed over for work.
Instead of negotiating a new agreement that includes the seniority protections, Perry held a second vote on the same deal under circumstances that guaranteed the results Perry wanted.
Perry conducted his re-vote at an employer facility and played pick and choose with the balloting. Some supervisory personnel were given the green light to vote on the contract while other Local 82 members who work for Champion were denied their right to vote.
Perry’s Vote Till You Get It Right tactics worked and his contract passed. Members are challenging the vote and preparing internal union charges. Perry already faces internal union charges for negotiating a trade show agreement that gutted the seniority language at another company without even holding a proposal meeting.
In the meantime, Perry is now preparing to move against the seniority rights of Local 82 members at another trade show employer Freeman Decorating Company.
Hoffa Administration Must Act
As an IBT Division Director, Perry is supposed to coordinate our union’s efforts to defend members’ rights in the Trade Show industry—including seniority.
The “problem for Perry is that enforcing seniority rights would make it impossible for him to put his enforcers and friends to work while long-time Local 82 members sit at home. That’s why Perry has refused to process seniority grievances and is now moving to eliminate the language all together.
The Hoffa administration is more interested in protecting their political appointee, Perry, than in protecting Local 82 members and their rights. But the scandal has gone too far. Anti-union forces who would love to take advantage of this scandal to weaken Teamster members’ rights in the Boston trade show industry.
Media stories on Perry’s goon squad make it sound like all Local 82 trade show Teamsters are dangerous criminals who pose a threat to the public.
To try to defend himself, Perry has told the media, “What’s wrong with trying to provide jobs” to people with criminal records?
The answer is: nothing. The problem in the Boston trade show industry is not anyone’s past criminal record, but the criminal behavior that is happening right now—including Perry’s.
The goon tactics need to stop. Seniority needs to be maintained in Local 82 contracts. And members’ rights to a voice in bargaining and fair contract votes must be enforced.
None of this will happen while John Perry and his crew remain in power in Local 82. The International Union needs to act now.
June 10, 2009: The word bailout has gone from descriptive to derogatory. In a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign introduced Tuesday, FedEx objected to legislation that would make it easier to unionize the company by accusing its rival, United Parcel Service, of taking a government bailout.
Click here to read more at The New York Times.