Georgia Teamsters Elect New Leaders
Georgia has a long tradition in the history of Teamster reform. Teamsters here have also been deeply involved in the effort to stop pension and health benefit cuts.
While continuing to move ahead with positive changes, members in both locals may now also face what is becoming a worn-out routine under the Hoffa administration: re-run elections. The losing slates in both locals have filed protests.
Local 528 members will also be demanding that the International end its trusteeship of the local, imposed over 20 months ago, and install their duly elected officers as quickly as possible.
Reformers Stand Up for Pensions, Sweep Election in Metro New York Local
January 28, 2005: New York Local 805 members elected the Sandy Pope Leadership Action Team in balloting on Dec. 7. Pope, a long-time leader in the Teamster reform movement and a member of the TDU International Steering Committee, defeated the incumbent president by a wide margin. All seven members of her slate were elected.
Cuts to the Local 805 pension were a major issue in the campaign. Pope opposed them and said the union should launch a campaign to preserve benefits. Incumbent President Gerry Whelan said that stock market losses in 2001 and 2002 made pension cuts inevitable even though the Local 805 pension fund is 90% funded—making it much stronger than other funds that have cut benefits.
Members backed Pope by a 58% to 42% margin with 55% of the local’s 1,200 members voting. But Whelan was not about to let the voice of the members get in the way of his plan to cut members’ pension.
In an 11th-hour move before leaving office, Whelan struck a deal with employers to cut the pension accrual rate to zero—meaning that members will earn no pension credit beginning in 2005. At the same fund meeting, employer trustees and an alternate designated by Whelan’s defeated executive board voted to hire Whelan as the fund manager.
As we go to press, the new Local 805 executive board is making plans for a campaign to defeat the pension cuts and job grab pushed through by Whelan and the employers—including possible litigation.
“Gerry took care of himself and hung the members out to dry,” said Ralph Vomaro, the newly elected secretary-treasurer on the Leadership Action Slate. “We’re not going to let him or the employers undermine our benefits.”
Pope and the Leadership Action Team have a track record of defeating employer demands for benefit cuts. In the last round of negotiations, multiple Local 805 employers demanded that members start paying for a portion of their medical benefits.
Instead, Pope, with the backing of strong rank and file negotiating committees, bargained record contribution increases that preserved members’ medical benefits without cuts or cost-sharing on the monthly premium.
“Local 805 members elected the Leadership Action Team to strengthen union representation and fight to protect our benefits—and that’s what we’re going to do,” Pope said.
Federal Judge to Central States Trustees: Open More Info to Members!
January 28, 2005: On December 9 Judge James B Moran directed the trustees of the Teamster Central States Pension Fund to turn more documents over to participants in the fund. The decision expands an October 21 victory won by Teamster members in Locals 638, 391 and 20.
Central States has now been ordered to reveal quarterly reports, along with financial and actuarial supplementary attachments, from August of 2000 up till the present, and into the future. The information will help members see just what should have been done, and what can be done now, and who is responsible for the drastic cuts the trustees imposed on members and retirees.
“It’s a great victory. Hopefully when we get these documents we can get an expert evaluation of the situation,” commented Tommy Burke, a UPS driver in Local 391 who is one of the intervenors in court. “I want to thank our attorney, Paul Levy, for his good work.”
The trustees are apparently considering whether to appeal, to try to continue to hide from the Teamster membership.
Teamster Website False
The Teamster website, in a “Central States Update” contains false information on the situation. First, it states the court only ordered that two reports be revealed. The truth is that the court ordered that many reports be turned over, along with additional separate financial attachments. Central States is stalling on many of them. Second, the International claims that Public Citizen Litigation Group took the action; in truth, Public Citizen represents Teamster members who are long time fund participants. Third, the International says the reports contain “little new information.” This statement is interesting, and was immediately reported to Judge Moran by the members’ attorney, because in court the International’s trustees claim the exact opposite: that vital secret information will be revealed. The same false statements are posted on the Central States site.
TDU, the Central States Pension Improvement Committee and concerned members and local officers will continue the fight for pension justice. This is one more victory in a long march toward that goal.
Contract Language and the Fight Against Forced Overtime
January 5, 2005: Some Teamster contracts address the issue of excessive overtime. Here are two examples.
Forced overtime is a huge problem in grocery warehousing. Oregon Local 206 has fought for strong contract language limiting overtime in their grocery contracts. Local 206 Secretary-Treasurer Tom Leedham knows about forced overtime from back when he was a rank-and-file member working at United Grocers (now Unified Western Grocers) in the 1970s. “They would work us from 5 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.,” says Leedham.
“In 1977 we struck to get overtime language in our area grocery agreement and won. The language limited forced overtime to two hours a shift and ten hours total a week. To this day, in every contract negotiation, we’ve had to fight to keep this.”
The National Master UPS contract also contains language regarding overtime, though somewhat weaker than what is found in the Local 206 grocery contracts. UPS Teamsters can use this language to pressure management to limit forced overtime.
Some years ago, when UPS drivers at the Bluegrass center in Louisville were being given excessive pieces to deliver, drivers got together to fight the problem using the “9.5 hours” language in the master UPS agreement. Article 37, Section 1 gives the right to grieve if drivers have to work more than 9.5 hours a day for any three days in a workweek. “About 20 of us started consistently filing 9.5 grievances for every period in which there was a violation,” says Local 89 member David Thornsberry, who was the union steward. “We filed almost 200 grievances total. On each of them, we asked that as a remedy UPS hire more drivers. They were inundated with 9.5 grievances, which were taking up about 90% of grievance hearings. As a consequence, they hired about 20 additional drivers at our center over a period of about a year.”
GCIU Merges with the Teamsters
January 30, 2005: The Graphic Communications International Union’s (GCIU) 60,000 US members voted by a narrow margin to merge into the Teamsters. Most Canadian locals, which voted separately, have rejected the proposal. One local inToronto and all three locals in Quebec have decided to affiliate with the IBT.
TDU welcomes our new brothers and sisters across North America into the Teamsters. GCIU will now be an autonomous printing trades conference within our union.
Those in favor of the merger have expressed hope that the Teamsters will help them in their fight against the giant antiunion corporation Quebecor World, and will provide political clout. Support came especially from GCIU members who work alongside Teamsters at newspapers. In addition, one large California district council voted heavily for the merger. In the other regions of the country, the vote was fairly evenly split. Overall, 35,000 members voted, with 52% voting yes.
Throughout the process many leaders at all levels of the GCIU voiced strong opposition to the merger, citing concerns about the Teamsters’ ability to protect pensions or help the GCIU stabilize its membership. The Committee to Save GCIU, a union-wide group of members and leaders, also noted that the Teamster structure is more centralized and “top-down” than what they have now in the GCIU.The GCIU carries a proud tradition of standing up to employers. Moreover, the members traditionally have a distaste for closed-door meetings and backroom deals. We invite all GCIU members to meet like-minded Teamsters by joining TDU to work for democracy and the very highest trade union principles within the IBT.
Reform Victory in Atlanta: Members First Slate Wins
The Members First Slate, headed by president-elect Randy Brown, won the Local 728 election on November 19.
The election marks a victory for all the members of Local 728, and the Teamster reform movement. Georgia Local 728, which has statewide jurisdiction in the UPS and trucking industries, has over 6000 members and is the second largest local in the Southern Region of the IBT.
Members First won five positions. The Experienced Slate, consisting mainly of the current business agents, came in second, and narrowly won the vice president position and one trustee. It was a close race between those two slates, with the PQR and Cornerstone slates finishing third and fourth.
Engineer Urges Railroad Teamsters to Join TDU
November 4, 2004: I am a Locomotive Engineer on the Union Pacific Railroad with 34 years of service, and am on my third term as president of Division 724 of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET). Before our merger this past January into the Teamsters, we were the International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE)—the oldest existing union in America. Our members enjoyed one of the most democratic union constitutions in existence. We had the powers of recall, referendum and initiative: By a vote of the membership, we could remove International officers or change our Constitution.
It was not easy to relinquish that democracy and join the Teamsters. With the merger, we lost recall and referendum, and made rank and file initiatives subject to veto by the president of the IBT.
Nevertheless, I supported the merger for two reasons. First, we were a small union with only about 35,000 members. Federal laws and agencies that govern railroads make it extremely difficult, with such small numbers, to represent your members’ interests in today’s world of state and national politics. We desperately needed the Teamster influence when supporting our members’ needs.
A House Divided
Second, the union house of railroad operating crafts had been divided for decades. The BLE bargained contracts for engineers and the United Transportation Union (UTU) bargained for trainmen (conductors, firemen and brakemen).
Train crews once were five people, and the UTU gave away three of those positions with almost no fight. They also worked with the carriers to establish a two-tier pay system that set a substandard wage for trainees and set a lower pay rate for new hires.
A pattern had been set. The railroads would negotiate with the UTU to eliminate jobs and work rules, and then, using provisions of the Railway Labor Act, force the same contracts on the BLE.
Eventually, the UTU withdrew from the AFL-CIO in order to avoid heavy fines resulting from attempted raids on the BLE.
We felt that by joining the Teamsters we would get sorely needed help in our struggle with the carriers and the UTU. Our leaders told us we would get that help, but as of yet we have not seen it.
I searched for a way to get the help we needed. In my search, I heard about the TDU. Teamsters for a Democratic Union? Could it be real? I cruised the TDU website. I read the Convoy Dispatch. With a little glimmer of hope, I sent off a check for membership. To see for myself, I decided to attend their annual convention.
It wasn’t an easy thing to do. I had only been a Teamster for ten months. I was driving 500 miles by myself to meet with people I didn’t know. Would I be welcome as a Teamster? Would they care about our problems on the railroad? It seemed I had a thousand questions!
They’re for Real!
From the first handshake and introduction, I was home! I found a group of enthusiastic people who are working hard to bring reform and democracy to a union they love in spite of its own internal problems. They weren’t abandoning their union; they were effectively struggling inside the system, leading a movement to improve the lives of rank and file Teamsters. They are united in their efforts!
They are educating and supporting rank and file members who are resisting the legacy of corruption, and instead promoting member involvement and democracy.
Before TDU, I was a member of the BLET who just happened to belong to the Teamsters Rail Conference. TDU has given me the pride and knowledge to look anyone in the eye and say, “I am a Teamster!” An active TDU membership within the BLET can bring about positive changes, the same as TDU has been doing for thirty years in the IBT.
I urge not only every BLET member, but also all Teamsters everywhere, to join TDU, distribute copies of Convoy Dispatch to other Teamsters and let them know there is a way for each of us to bring a positive change to our jobs.
Ed Michael, Union Pacific Railroad
BLET Division 724
Teamsters Rail Conference
Yellow Goes for "Premium Service" in the Midwest
November 4, 2004: Yellow Freight has proposed to add Premium Service boards at 33 terminals in Pennsylvania and across the Midwest, in a change of operations slated to be heard on Dec. 7 in Chicago. At the same time a separate proposed change of operations will be heard, to establishe sort-hubs in Coldwater, Mich., and Cincinnati and Richfield, Ohio.
The new Article 18 (and a “Letter of Understanding”) of the 2002 NMFA allows management to open a new board of combination employees (road-city-dock) to do “Premium Service” work only.
The letter of understanding states that this is “not intended to divert other traffic from the present method of operation and deprive employees of premium day work opportunities or reduce the present Monday-Friday work weeks.”
The contract provides that only new business in same-day, next-day and second-day market will be moved by a Premium Service board, with the goal of expanding service and jobs. The proposed change does not specify what this freight may be.
Most of the 33 affected terminals will start with just one Premium Service driver, with the largest ones (Chicago, Detroit) adding four or five.
This is a foot-in-the-door, to start up the operation in the Midwest and then expand it.
Will road boards like Cleveland lose their turn-around runs, as premium service drivers get based in scattered terminals around the Midwest?
Who will police this operation? If one premium service pallet is on a trailer, can the trailer be loaded with regular freight?
Yellow has proposed that only local cartage workers can bid on the jobs; the contract states, however, that CDL-qualified Teamsters can bid on the jobs, as determined by the Change of Operations Committee.
Because this operation has the potential to undercut existing jobs, classifications and conditions, our union needs to establish clear guidelines and police it carefully.
Note: Check your contract book—the four-page “Letter of Understanding” in Article 18 that allows Premium Service combination workers is not included in the book! If you need a copy, contact your local or TDU. You’ll need the language to enforce it.
Non-Union Labor at Charlotte ABF
November 4, 2004: A non-union operator seems to be taking over the ABF cartage operation in Charlotte, N.C.
Millenium Express, a non-union cartage company, now actually rents part of the ABF dock. They use ABF’s pallet jacks and forklifts, load ABF freight onto six non-union trucks, and make deliveries and pick-ups. This has been going on for eight months and is expanding!
The excuse is “overflow freight.” Eight months of sudden overflow?
ABF is apparently exploiting Article 40, Section 4, of the Carolina Supplement to the NMFA, and the fact that Local 71 seems to allow union freight jobs to go non-union.
There are too many Teamster jobs contracted out in the freight industry. It’s time for our union, at the highest level, to just say no and enforce the contract.
Gate Gourmet Tries to Break Union
November 4, 2004: Gate Gourmet, whose 10,500 employees provide food services to airlines and railroads, is trying to break our union. The current contract expired June 1. Management is demanding big wage and benefit cuts that they know workers will not accept.
Under the company proposal, wages would be cut by as much as $5.02 an hour. Members’ pension and 401(k) would be eliminated. The company contribution to members’ health insurance would be capped at $100 a month. High seniority workers would lose two weeks of vacation a year.
Gate Gourmet workers are jointly represented nationwide by the Teamsters and another union, UNITE HERE. IBT Western Region Warehouse Director Steve Vairma has led negotiations.
Gate Gourmet tried to weaken workers’ bargaining position earlier this year by creating a spin-off company, Gate Serve. They voluntarily agreed to recognize the IBT and UNITE HERE.
The unions, in turn, agreed to a contract with much lower wages and benefits than Gate Gourmet.
Demands Were Predicted
When our union made this bad deal, TDU predicted that management would demand these same concessions from Gate Gourmet Teamsters. Now they are. The concessionary contract Gate Gourmet is proposing is almost exactly the same as the one our union already agreed to at Gate Serve.
Concessions won’t stop a ruthless employer. The IBT and UNITE HERE need a coordinated plan to take on Gate Gourmet. Members are willing to fight.
“They are taking the food off of our families’ tables,” says Los Angeles Gate Gourmet worker Ana Miranda. “We need to stop them. Local 572 organized a rally here recently, and it’s a start. We need more action.”