These two recent events are part of a larger and more disturbing trend in a part of the country that was once a union stronghold for grocery warehouse workers.
Shutdowns have hit other area Teamsters, including Local 445 members at Wakefern, N.Y. (400 jobs lost, shifted to a non-union facility in Pennsylvania) and Local 730 and Local 639 members at Giant in the Washington, D.C. area.
Closings are not the only threat. Teamster employers shift part of their work to nonunion facilities or lose accounts to nonunion operators. Local 118 Teamsters at Wegmans in Rochester, N.Y. learned this first hand. Their local cut a deal with the company to let them shift work to a new nonunion facility in Pennsylvania. While they lost some work, the blow was eased somewhat by attrition and work gained elsewhere.
Teamsters at Topps in Buffalo, N.Y. lost fifty jobs when Ahold sold its Wilson Farms convenience store chain and the new owners switched to non-union McLane Foodservice Distribution. “Organizing these nonunion operators has got to be a priority,” Local 264 steward Darrin Ziemba said. “There was talk at the time about going after McLane, but nothing has come of it. We need a consistent, long-term commitment to bring non-union outfits under contract. “
You would think that the loss in recent years of nearly 2,000 good Teamster jobs in the northeast would get the attention of the Hoffa administration. Not so. The IBT has no plan of action, no organizing drives, no coordinated activity aimed at protecting these jobs or expanding the union’s presence in the jurisdiction. In terms of C&S, in the late 1990s Tom Leedham secured a neutrality agreement from C&S. Rather than build on that gain, Hoffa has let it expire and has failed to organize in this all-important jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, C&S is growing by leaps and bounds. It operates in 14 states now, including areas in the south and southeast, and has projected revenue of $18 billion for 2006.
April 22, 2006: Hoffa International Rep Rick Middleton, who also heads Los Angeles Local 572, has a little explaining to do. Middleton has invested $20,000 of members’ dues money in the notorious union-buster Wal-Mart.
Many members of Local 572 who work in the grocery warehousing and distribution industry have been hurt by Wal-Mart’s predatory practices and low wages. Why is Middleton putting their money into Wal-Mart?
Ironically, three years ago Middleton was named co-chair of a Teamster anti-Wal-Mart committee.
TDU uncovered this information on Local 572’s new LM-2 financial report, which includes a list of all investments over $5,000. Local 572 has put about $200,000 of members’ money roughly equally into the stocks of ten corporations, including J P Morgan, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and…Wal-Mart!
Hoffa and his campaign supporters like Middleton recently spread the ridiculous lie that Tom Leedham is funded by Wal-Mart. The Hoffa Campaign circulated smear materials, but did not even file an election protest let alone a complaint with the Department of Labor.
Why didn’t the Hoffa Campaign turn over its evidence? Because it doesn’t exist. The Hoffa smear about Leedham and Wal-Mart is just dirty politics—a big lie with no basis in fact.
The fact that a Hoffa International Rep is signing over members’ money to Wal-Mart is indisputable. Middletown’s own financial report with his signature on it proves it. You can review it yourself by doing a search on the DOL website for Local 572’s LM-2 (or contact TDU).
If someone tries to tell you that Middleton was just buying a share so he could get the stockholders’ report or participate in stockholders actions, let them know that one share would do the trick. Wal-Mart shares are trading at $46, not $20,000!
How about it, Hoffa. Could you ask your staff to pull Teamster members’ money out of Wal-Mart?
The data for this article come from forms filed with the Department of Labor. You can view them on the DOL website or call TDU for a copy.
April 22, 2006: The United Teamsters Against Hoffa Slate swept all six positions in the convention delegate race in Pontiac, Mich. Local 614—the home local of General President James Hoffa.
Hoffa hand-picked Local 614 and transferred his membership there because he considered it safe territory. But Teamsters have turned against Hoffa in his adopted home local.
“It’s time for Jimmy to get out of there. We need a union man running our International, not a lawyer who’s never made a living driving a truck or working on a dock or doing other Teamster work,” said Robert Tibbals, a USF Holland road driver and elected delegate on the UTAH Slate.
Hoffa’s defeated slate was led by International Representative Earl Walker and Karen Lankford, the Hoffa 2006 Campaign Treasurer.
Key issues on the UTAH platform were pension cuts and the dues increase. But this is one race where the slate name defined what was at stake in the race.
Hoffa’s own local is carried by a slate called United Teamsters Against Hoffa. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
Check out the Tom Leedham Strong Contracts, Good Pensions Website at www.leedham2006.org.
The Teamsters and UNITE HERE jointly represent about 8,000 Gate Gourmet workers nationally, with individual locations represented by one union or split (drivers as Teamsters). The IBT represents 3,500 members in cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Memphis.
The notice of a strike vote came as a surprise to many members. There had been little information coming from the IBT about the status of negotiations, which are being led by IBT Western Region Warehouse Director Steve Vairma.
Gate Gourmet is demanding huge concessions, including:
- Big wage cuts with top wages for some workers as low as $8 an hour,
- Company health insurance contributions cut to $100 a month maximum,
- Eliminating pension and 401(k) plans,
- Making 15% of workers part-time employees with no benefits.
To resist this attack, the national leadership of the IBT and UNITE HERE need a plan to put pressure on Gate Gourmet and its owners, the Texas Pacific Group (TPG). TPG is a private investment company with over $13 billion in assets. It owns Burger King, Motorola, and the clothing store J. Crew, so it has deep pockets.
Reportedly the new CEO is behind the union-busting approach the company is taking.
What Is the Plan?
The union leadership has demanded that health premiums be no more that $40 per month for each worker and that important on-the-job protections be instated, along with wage increases.
What is the plan to win? That is what is needed from the IBT/UNITE HERE Council.
The Gate Gourmet Teamsters appear headed for a battle. All of labor should stand with them.
Meatpacking is dangerous work—especially at Tyson’s plant in Pasco, Wash., where Teamster members are injured at three times the national average for comparable meatpacking plants. Tyson Teamsters know they can’t beat a multinational corporation on their own. Since electing a reform leadership in 2000, Local 556 members have built alliances with unions, community groups, and human rights organizations to work together to promote workers’ rights and consumer safety at Tyson.
Working with these allies, Local 556 members have exposed corporate wage and hour violations and won a $7.3 million court settlement in unpaid wages—with another $8 million victory anticipated in state court. When a Local 556 Teamster lost his arm in a grisly accident, a union investigation revealed that the company had knowingly removed a safety mechanism from the machine.
Tyson management has responded to this stand-up local by trying to destroy it. In April 2004 management tried to get workers to decertify the Teamsters. Tyson failed and workers voted to remain Teamsters and begin contract negotiations. But instead of respecting the workers’ vote and bargaining in good faith, Tyson stalled at the bargaining table, cancelled dues check-off, and demanded a new decertification vote.
In November, Tyson threatened to impose a five-year contract that would freeze workers’ wages and eliminate workers’ union rights like dues check-off and union security—effectively ending union representation at the plant. Tyson workers responded by overwhelmingly signing a petition rejecting the company’s offer. Tyson has now agreed to meet with the union and a federal mediator on Jan. 11-13.
Local 556 Teamsters are not asking for the moon. But Tyson is trying to force Teamsters to accept an agreement that is vastly inferior to what they agreed to in numerous recent contract settlements.
In their struggle for justice at Tyson Foods, Local 556 has received solidarity from Teamster locals as well as community groups and labor organizations across the U.S., Japan, Korea and Mexico—Tyson’s largest markets. With our support, these brave Teamsters can beat the union-busters and win a contract at Tyson Foods.
Local 556 is asking members to fax and mail a letter demanding a fair contract settlement in 2005. Letters cards can be sent to Mr. John Tyson, CEO Tyson Foods, Inc., 2210 West Oaklawn Drive, P.O. Box 2020, Springdale, Ark. 72762 and faxed to (479) 290-4028.
The overwhelming Yes vote came over the strong opposition of Secretary-Treasurer John Perry. It was the second rank-and-file victory for Local 82 members in a week and the second major set back for Perry, a multiple-salaried Teamster official who serves as Hoffa’s Trade Show Director.
Earlier in the week, Perry’s slate failed to carry the vote in the local’s Convention Delegate election, managing only a split with the Teamsters for Change Slate. Perry won the delegate slot. But the alternate delegate position was won by shop steward and TDU member Kevin McNiff.
In the 2001 International election, Perry delivered 95 percent of the Local 82 vote to Hoffa. But the tide has clearly turned. Close to 100 members of the local have joined TDU in the last year and they are working together to elect Tom Leedham and to reform their local.
The bylaws changes establish sweeping new rights for Local 82 members, including:
• The right to elect shop stewards
• The right to elect rank-and-file representatives to contract negotiating committees
• The right to an informed vote on contracts, including the chance to review all proposed contract changes in writing before any vote
• The right to fair local union elections that are conducted by mail ballot and supervised by an impartial outside agency
• The right to a membership vote to approve proposed officers’ salaries
• The right to veto who the local executive board names as trustee to the union’s benefit funds
“We want to put more decisions in the hands of the members,” said Joe Wright, a commercial mover who helped introduce the bylaws reforms. “When people feel like they’re just being dictated to, they stop coming to union meetings. We want members to feel like their voice counts so they get involved and our union gets stronger."
The bylaws changes will now be submitted to General President Hoffa for approval.
"So why did Hoffa's negotiating committee settle the Central Region contract supplement, the largest in the UPS contract, without any significant gains and even with some give-backs?!
The union put fifty (50) proposals on the bargaining table in the Central Region, but came back empty handed. These proposals included more sick days (some regions have more than the Central), proposals to deal with excessive overtime, to improve the grievance procedure, and lots more.
Nothing was won.
Why would our union officials allow the probation period for full-time employees to be extended five days? Why would they allow a take-away of seniority to deny laid off feeder drivers the right to bump the junior employee?
Instead of eliminating the terrible clause in this supplement that allows UPS to immediately fire any employee at any time for "other serious offenses," why did our union leaders allow the company to add more language, so they can suspend or fire?
The scorecard on 14 (mostly very minor) changes agreed to: 11 were company proposals or counter proposals; 2 were company and union proposals; 1 (!) was a union counter proposal. Is the company writing our contract?
The good news: Teamsters in the Central Region, and in all supplements and riders, have the right to accept or reject the supplement, in secret ballot voting. This is not a final deal, but a "tentative agreement."
[Click here for the UPS Central Region Supplement Tentative Agreement] (Acrobat file, 462Kb)
Management appeared more concerned about keeping stewards from investigating the situation than about resolving the serious health risk. Both the full time and part time stewards were “taken out of service” the day following the discovery. Management claimed they had everything under control and there was no reason for the stewards to play a role in the situation.
“I was told that UPS had a response plan developed by a corporate committee for mercury spills,” explained Bucalo.
Supervisors may have already known of the mercury spill. Bucalo explained, “I was told that there was no need to shut down the belts because they didn’t know if the leaking package was there that night [when the spill was discovered] or the week before.”
UPS hazardous spill personnel just happened to be in the Sharonville building on May 2.
Following the company’s investigation, and a couple visits from OSHA, the package containing mercury remained unfound. Thus UPS could not determine where the package originated, where it was going, or which belts in the facility could have been contaminated.
Mercury vaporizes at room temperature. Breathing mercury vapors can cause severe damage to the brain, kidneys, liver and nervous system.
UPS Teamsters need to be prepared to deal with a range of hazardous materials turning up at work. Stewards need access to investigate and better assist members. Safety committees with union representation remain our best method for addressing UPS procedures.
Local 100 has filed concerns with the EPA and OSHA. Those investigations are pending. Both the local and the IBT Health & Safety Department are monitoring the Sharonville investigations.
Sam Bucalo, who was off the clock during his investigation as a steward, was terminated for what UPS refers to as “failure to follow instructions.” His reinstatement will be addressed at the UPS State Panel Hearings on June 7.
If you have suggestions for correcting UPS procedures, or if you have observed UPS management covering over hazardous spills or failing to follow “safety first” rules, please contact TDU.
Could UPS be applying the same secrecy to incidents involving hazardous materials in an effort to skirt federal reporting requirements?
An investigation indicates that UPS in 2004 failed to properly report a number of incidents, including one involving a serious fire:
On June 22, 2004, a mercury spill resulted in the evacuation of 429 workers at the Hunt Valley UPS facility near Baltimore.
On Nov. 9, 2004, numerous UPS workers at the Greenville, S.C. facility were sent to the hospital after an unknown chemical caused severe skin irritation. At the hospital they were put in quarantine. Part of the center was shut down. The substance was later determined to be a commercial dye.
On Dec. 16, 2004, a fire broke out at the CACH UPS facility near Chicago. Numerous trailers caught fire and over 1,000 employees were evacuated. Some workers were taken to the hospital.
During 2004 UPS did report numerous other incidents. The Department of Transportation, however, does little to determine the accuracy of reporting overall.
Reporting Is RequiredFederal regulations under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act require that carriers give notice by telephone and then by written report of certain hazardous material incidents. Incidents must be reported that involve a fatality or hospitalization, property damage exceeding $50,000, evacuation of the general public for an hour or more, or the shutdown of a traffic artery for an hour or more.
The same regulations require that a carrier submit a detailed written report whenever there is “any unintentional release of a hazardous material during transportation.” Even if a hazardous material is not the cause of a fire, there inevitably will be unintentional releases during fires as a result of damage to packages containing dangerous substances.
Legal ActionUPS management’s inclination to hide, rather than reveal, the truth about incidents has been the subject of recent legal action.
In early 2004 UPS was found guilty of retaliating against a former manager, George T. Luckie, over his insistence that UPS properly investigate and report a serious fire at the Montgomery, Ala., hub. In 2003 OSHA hit UPS with a $70,000 fine for having “deliberately and knowingly removed and/or altered equipment, materials or other evidence” at the scene of a worker fatality in Utah.
All of these incidents indicate that members, stewards and local unions should do everything possible to ensure that UPS is complying with the law. The underreporting of hazardous material incidents can be a means by which corporations can shield themselves from scrutiny. Failure to know about and learn from past incidents can result in even more serious accidents taking place in the future.
The New Trucking IndustryThe UPS-Overnite combination is the face of the new trucking industry. The boundaries are blurring between the small parcel, freight, and logistics sectors. The future belongs to integrated transportation companies that are players in all aspects of the market and can offer shippers a variety of options on a one-stop-shopping basis. That’s why FedEx already has successfully integrated a less-than-truckload carrier, American Freight, and built it into a $3 billion a year company—twice as large as Overnite.
Now UPS has acquired Overnite as part of its transformation from a parcel delivery company to an integrated shipping and logistics operation with global reach.
Industry experts predict further consolidations. Many say the next company to acquire a less-than-truckload freight operation will be DHL, the third largest parcel and air freight shipper in the U.S., and a subsidiary of the German post office, Deutsche Post.
All Teamsters need to understand what lies ahead in the new trucking industry—both the threats and the opportunities.
ThreatsUPS’ acquisition of Overnite poses a threat to UPSers, freight Teamsters, and to the retirement security of all members covered by Teamster benefit plans.
The Threat to UPS Teamster Jobs: UPS reportedly told the IBT that its acquisition of Overnite won’t affect Teamster jobs. But management is telling investors a different story—namely that the company will be looking to integrate products and operations. UPS Chief Financial Officer Scott Davis told Traffic World that UPS “…will be looking for bundled solutions.” In the past, UPS tried to get shippers to break down shipments into small parcels rather than combining them into palletized loads. Soon the UPS sales force will be promoting the exact opposite, which will divert business from UPS operations into its nonunion Overnite division.
The Threat to Freight Teamsters: Overnite, a vicious union buster and our number one organizing target in freight, is now backed by the deepest pockets in the transportation industry. UPS will look to double Overnite in size, and will have the power to undercut unionized freight companies in the process.
The Threat to Our Teamster Pension Funds: UPS already got the Hoffa administration to play ball and cut benefits in our union’s largest funds. Now management is aiming to break out of our pension plans altogether in 2008. Our union needs to have the opposite goal of drawing UPS 10,000 new Overnite employees into union benefit funds. The outcome of this battle will be key to the pension security for hundreds of thousands of Teamsters.
OpportunitiesThese threats are very real. But the UPS-Overnite combination also presents the Teamsters with the opportunity to reassert ourselves as a major force in the transportation industry.
At one time, the Teamsters moved America with two million members, most of them in freight, warehousing and at UPS. A Teamster strike then had the potential of stopping the flow of goods and paralyzing the economy. That power is how we won the wages and benefits we enjoy today.
Deregulation changed the rules of the game. Nonunion companies flourished, especially in the truckload sector of freight. Our union membership declined.
Now, consolidation is the watchword of the new trucking industry. And with it, the pendulum can swing back in our union’s direction if we act decisively.
Within a few years, the trucking industry will be dominated by a small number of huge, integrated companies all competing for market share. With the exception of FedEx, our union already has a presence in each of these trucking giants: Yellow-Roadway, DHL and UPS.
But it will not be enough to represent a fraction of the employees at these integrated trucking giants. Our ability to maintain our wages and benefits—and win new gains—will depend on our union’s power to organize these companies wall to wall.
To have leverage at the bargaining table, our union must have the power to shut down a company’s operations—not a fraction of their operations.
That is why our union’s actions at UPS-Overnite are so critical. Our power to tackle this challenge will never be greater than it is right now. Our union represents more than 200,000 UPS Teamsters. The Overnite division has just 10,000 employees. UPS Logistics coupled with Overnite already diminish the power of a strike weapon. But the threat they represent is nothing compared to what they will become if they are allowed to expand as nonunion entities inside UPS. We need to act decisively now.
Organizing Overnite will protect UPS and freight Teamsters from nonunion competition, and protect our retirement security by bringing 10,000 to 20,000 new Teamsters into our pension plans. And it will do more.
Organizing Overnite will demonstrate that the Teamsters can and will organize integrated transportation companies wall to wall. Organizing the nonunion divisions of Yellow-Roadway and DHL is also critical.
UPS management understands the stakes. In conference calls, UPS’ chief financial officer referred to any possible union at the Overnite subsidiary as “third-party representation”—union busters’ favorite code for unions.
‘Hopeful’?In response, the Hoffa administration issued a limp statement saying, “We are hopeful that UPS’ long history as a company with Teamster representation will create new opportunities for Overnite workers to achieve their goals in the workplace.”
Sunny press releases won’t diminish the challenges we face. They won’t organize Overnite. And they won’t position the Teamsters to reestablish ourselves as a major force in the new trucking industry.
If the IBT leadership takes a wait-and-see attitude, the changes in the industry will pass us by and further undermine our union’s power and the wages and benefits of Teamsters in our core industries.
We can’t let that happen. Teamsters need to demand that our leadership rise to the occasion with a plan to organize, grow and win. “Teamster Power” is not a label for our union’s past. It can be our future if we’re bold enough to fight for it.