November 4, 2004: At the TDU Convention in October, pension activists in the Central States Fund discussed strategies for building the movement to win pension justice. Leaders and activists targeted initial goals for 2005:
An Independent Actuarial Study
Winning access to the Fund’s financial documents may make it possible to complete an independent study of the Central States Fund. We won an important victory on this front on October 21 (see story page 7) and are pressing to obtain more of the documents that are needed.
Stand up to the Employer Attack on Benefits
UPS and freight employers are stepping up attacks on our pension rights—including in Congress. At the same time UPS has revived its campaign to dump members into a UPS corporate plan. The IBT has done little to counter this attack. Teamsters and TDU will have to fill the void by launching a national campaign to inform members about what’s at risk.
Run and Win in Local Elections
By electing reform-minded leadership we put in place officials who will work with members, not against us, to win pension justice. Local officers should not be puppets of those who cut pensions, but should join the movement to protect pensions.
Elect Delegates to the IBT Convention
Every Teamster local union will have an election for delegates to the next Teamster Convention. The convention floor is where pension activists can propose changes to the Teamster Constitution to hold our pension trustees accountable to the members.
November 4, 2004: Round one in the fight to get the truth about the benefit cuts in the Central States Pension Fund goes to working and retired Teamsters. On October 21, federal judge James Moran ordered that the quarterly reports from the fund’s Special Counsel, including actuarial reports, be opened up to members.
The decision came in response to legal action filed in July by Teamsters Tommy Burke of North Carolina Local 391, Mike Brady of Toledo Local 20, and Brent Lindberg of Minnesota Local 638, who are represented by attorney Paul Alan Levy.
Tommy Burke, a leader of the Central States Pension Improvement Committee, explained the purpose behind the legal action. “We want our pension trustees to be accountable to members and retirees. We want to see the truth about the state of our pension fund, and what the trustees have been doing in the past few years. Most of all, we want the financial information that will let us hire an independent expert to review the situation, and report to all Teamsters and retirees. We hope this decision will let us do that.”
The pension movement’s goals are to restore pension benefits and retiree health care that have been slashed, and eliminate unfair restrictions that prevent retirees from working to supplement their pension.
Judge Moran, while granting the members’ motion, did not grant all of it. He ordered that quarterly reports from the fund’s Special Counsel dating from Aug. 5, 2003, and into the future, be made public. Teamsters may need earlier documents, however, to investigate what the Fund trustees were doing—or not doing —to safeguard the pension fund and protect pension benefits. That issue remains to be dealt with.
Judge Moran ordered that the documents be made public in the coming weeks.
It’s only round one. The Central States Trustees, on Nov. 5, requested the judge to limit what he makes available to the true owners of the Fund, while our movement fights for the opposite.
But it’s a great victory for Teamster members who want their Union Trustees and their pension fund to be accountable to the rightful owners—working and retired Teamsters.
November 4, 2004: Tom Leedham, Secretary Treasurer of Oregon Local 206, addressed the TDU Convention. Leedham headed the Rank & File Power Slate in the 2001 IBT Election, and won nearly 100 locals.
While campaigning Hoffa promised to “restore the power” but has presided over a huge dues hike, the first-ever pension cuts in our two largest pension plans, the demise of his anti-corruption program, and a shrinking Teamsters Union.
Here are some of Tom Leedham’s comments to the convention:
“It’s hard to believe, but Hoffa has now been in office for as long as Ron Carey was. Hoffa has had five and a half years and has very little to show for it...
“When union officers are living too far above their members, they don’t understand what those members live through.
“When it’s time to make those decisions on pensions, they haven’t got a clue what they are doing to the lives of those Teamster families. I make what a freight driver makes.
“I’ve never taken multiple salaries. I don’t have multiple pensions. That means I’m not eligible for early retirement, so Hoffa is stuck with me...
“I commit to you that I will continue to work hard to change this union and I know that you’ll be with me every step of the way...
“If we are going to win in 2006 or influence the direction of our union, we need to recruit and run candidates for delegate and for local union office.”
November 4, 2004: Teamster members have been pushing for trustees to protect pension benefits, and to win higher employer contributions to make up for the stock market downfall following September 11.
Finally, a group of pension trustees has heeded the call. The trustees of the New Jersey Joint Council 73 Pension Fund responded to their funding shortfall by forcing contributing employers to double their contributions to avert a benefit cut.
But the JC 73 Pension Fund is for local union officials and staff only. Doubling the size of the “employer” contributions means that local unions will be sending twice as much of the members’ dues money as before to fund their officials’ pensions.
The amount of members’ dues that local unions are now paying into this extra pension plan is equal to 20% of the total gross salaries of all employees and officials! That’s a lot of money that could be used for organizing or to build Teamster power.
For some local clerical staff, the JC 73 plan is their only pension. But for the vast majority of the fund’s participants—local union officials—the JC 73 pension is a second (or even third) pension. The plan also features a generous lump sum payment option.
It’s good to know that at least somewhere in our union, fund trustees are going the extra mile to avoid pension cuts. Now wouldn’t it be nice if some trustees would do the same for the rank and file—say out West and in the Central States?
Willie Hardy, TDU Steering Committee
Local 667, Roadway, retired
November 4, 2004: The AFL-CIO has a website which identifies companies in your community that are shipping jobs overseas. You can check it out here.
Another new website of interest: Shop Union-Made was recently launched as an online source for products and services by union workers, including cars, clothing, computers, greeting cards, musical instruments and telecommunications services.
November 4, 2004: Local 386 has signed a first contract for workers at Winco Foods, a growing wholesale distributor in Ceres, Cal. The contract undercuts Teamster grocery standards by keeping members out of Teamster pension and health and welfare plans.
The contract was negotiated by Local 386 Secretary-Treasurer John Souza, who just happens to be a trustee of the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust!
Instead of Teamster benefits, Winco workers will be in a company health plan and a company-run Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP). Winco will offer a 401(k), but will not match employees’ contributions. Under the company health insurance plan, the company will pay 85% of covered medical costs.
The union leadership’s initial bargaining position was that members get Teamster pensions and health and welfare. But they dropped this demand when management offered the ESOP and company health insurance.
With about 230 members eligible to vote, the six-year contract was ratified by 70 to 58.
This has come as a shock to Teamster members at the Ceres facility (just outside Modesto) who transferred there from the Winco facility in Salem, Oregon.
As described in the new Teamster magazine, they were leaders in the organizing drive at Ceres. They gathered signatures on union authorization cards and talked to workers about how the union worked for them in Oregon. There they had full Teamster pension and health and welfare benefits as members of Local 324.
They’re glad to be union again, but think the new agreement could have been a lot better. “The plus is that we got a contract,” says Winco driver Rick Denton. “The big negatives are that we did not get a Teamster pension or health insurance. And wages are way too low for new hires.”
New hires will actually make $1.28 an hour less under the new contract than they did before the contract was signed. Under the new agreement, newly hired drivers will be paid $11.72. Management sold members this concession by crediting current drivers with 3120 extra hours on the wage progression schedule.
These concessions came just months after Local 324 in Oregon won major improvements for Winco Teamsters there.
Where is the IBT?
Allowing Winco to operate without Teamster benefits will undercut grocery members throughout California. Major grocery contracts are coming up, and other locals are already being undercut, including nearby Stockton Local 439, which has Safeway, Unified Western Grocers and Ralphs to contend with.
So why was this contract approved by the IBT? All grocery distribution contracts are supposed to be approved by the Regional Warehouse Division Director (Steve Vairma of Denver Local 435), to preserve area standards. The contract also had to be approved by Joint Council 38. This contract should have been sent back to the bargaining table to protect the pension rights of the Winco workers and the standards of thousands of Western grocery Teamsters.
November 4, 2004: Milwaukee Local 200 has won a strong new contract for the 650 Teamsters employed as warehouse workers and drivers at the Roundys grocery warehouse in Wauwautosa, Wis.
The union beat back management demands that members pay for health care, and won model production standards language. It is a big victory for the Roundys members and for the reform leadership of Local 200 that took office less than one year ago.
Under the new agreement, Roundys Teamsters will continue to have zero co-pay for their health insurance. This goes against the trend in the grocery industry, sometimes supported by top Teamster officials, of shifting health care costs to workers. This was management’s number one bargaining demand.
The union also won model production standards language. The new agreement allows the union to have six members, trained by the union, who will function as internal auditors. These members will monitor the company’s use of production standards.
If there is a disagreement between the union and management over a standard, management’s standard cannot be implemented until the dispute is arbitrated. This is a major improvement at a facility where grueling production standards have been a long-term problem.
The four-year contract includes wage increases of $.40-$.40-$.40-$.45.
Preparation and Priorities
In preparation for negotiations, the new Local 200 leadership conducted a member survey to guide bargaining demands. Members identified preserving health benefits and managing production standards as their top priorities. In addition to the bargaining committee of elected shop stewards, the local set up separate member subcommittees to tackle issues like benefits and production standards. The contract was approved by an 85% yes vote.
“We were all expecting that health care would have gotten hit, but we preserved it,” said Don Janz, a warehouse worker at Roundys. “And we got good contract language. We would have liked more on raises, but given the state of the economy we did all right. The majority of the guys are really pleased. In the 26 years I’ve worked here, I’ve never seen a contract so easily voted in.”
November 4, 2004: Sue Mauren is in the Club. Minnesota Local 320 filed their Form 990 tax return late, so we were unable to include Sister Mauren in our $100,000 Club report. Mauren, the secretary treasurer of Minnesota Local 320, received $112,273 in salaries and $126,714 total in 2003. She gets salaries from Local 320, Joint Council 32, and the International Union. Mauren’s brother-in-law, Jeff Farmer, is the International’s Organizing Director.
Additional Scam in the Club: The International Union pays a special benefit—not included in the listed salaries of officials—which is virtually unheard of, even among corporate execs.
The Union pays the employee portion (as well as the employer portion) of FICA tax, meaning that each official’s salary is really about 7.65% higher than reported. This bonus paid to members of the $100,000 costs members an extra half-million dollars per year. Wouldn’t it be better to use it for organizing to build Teamster power?