July 21, 2009: The year was 1976. The Teamster president was Frank Fitzsimmons, who enjoyed golfing with President Nixon and trucking employers. It was a fateful year for reform in our union, as Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) was born.
It was also long before cell phones. Truck drivers had made CB radios part of the national culture, and the song “Convoy” became a #1 hit and by 1978 there was a movie of the same name.
The Teamsters who formed TDU, mostly at that time from the freight industry, called their new reform publication Convoy.
Another strand of Teamster reform was centered in Washington D.C., in the form of an organization called PROD. PROD was formed to promote drivers’ health and safety, but soon expanded its concerns to the democratic rights of Teamsters. They started a publication called The Dispatch.
The groups started to compete for members, but also started to learn from each other and work together. In November 1979, the groups merged together, and the Teamster reform publication took on the name Convoy Dispatch.
Over the years, the movement grew and helped bring the Teamsters Union into a modern era. TDU members took on corruption and fat cats, and stood up for good contracts and membership rights. Great victories were won. And Convoy Dispatch became the number one reliable source of information for concerned Teamsters.
TDU also expanded well beyond the truck drivers who formed it in the 1970s, to bring in Teamsters from every field. And so, the time has come to change the name of Convoy Dispatch.
After 30 years, Convoy Dispatch is getting a new name.
Help decide what it will be.
Thousands of Teamster members know Convoy is the most reliable source of information about our union. That same information will continue—under a new name to be nominated by Convoy readers and chosen by TDU members.
TDU started out largely as an organization of truck drivers. Today we’ve expanded to cover every field in the union. TDU’s newspaper needs a new name that reflects our entire union. Click here to read how Convoy Dispatch got its name.
At their last meeting, TDU’s International Steering Committee voted unanimously to change the name. Now we’re asking concerned Teamsters like you to help decide what it will be.
The winning entry will be picked at the 2009 TDU Convention, Nov. 6-8 at the Cleveland Airport Sheraton. The winning entry will be voted on by the ISC, then go to the TDU Convention for a final vote.
The winner will receive a TDU jacket and a three-year TDU membership, which includes a subscription to our newspaper.
Click here to enter the contest. Send in as many suggestions as you like.
July 21, 2009: Teamsters have a right to discuss union issues and exchange union-related literature at work.
TDU is at work defending and expanding that right.
Teamsters have the right to distribute Convoy Dispatch [now Teamster Voice] and other union-related materials at the workplace, during nonwork times and in nonwork areas. Most Teamsters take these rights for granted. But some employers need to be reminded of this fact, via legal action to protect the rights of all Teamsters.
Anheuser-Busch (InBev), at its Los Angeles brewery, needs a reminder that its Teamster workers do have rights. NLRB charges are pending after the company denied workers the right to distribute leaflets opposing a proposed merger to dissolve their Local 896. Workers successfully stopped that merger, but A-B management insists they have the right to “approve” literature that members distribute in the break room and other nonwork areas.
UPS management in Lumberton, North Carolina, illegally told steward Nichele Fulmore that she could not distribute Convoy Dispatch near the drivers’ counter, before work starts, when drivers are off the clock. The NLRB has issued a complaint against UPS and the case is set for trial soon.
The UPS case is important because it involves a so-called “mixed” area in the workplace, which may be a work area during work hours, but is also an area where workers can visit or drink coffee—and distribute TDU and other union-related materials—during nonwork times there, even though the same area becomes a work area at other times.
“We can not allow anyone or organization to control the flow of information,” said Fulmore, a package driver in Local 391. “Those in power—including UPS—would much rather keep you ignorant because they realize that ‘Knowledge Is Power.’”
TDU counsel Barbara Harvey has taken both cases, to ensure that all Teamsters retain the right to discuss union issues and distribute TDU and other union-related materials in nonwork areas during nonwork times.
Union action is needed to defend our contracts, jobs and pensions. Hoffa can’t and won’t deliver. It’s time to work together for change.
The economic crisis is putting the squeeze on working Teamsters in every industry and local.
At UPS, management is using new technology to harass and discipline drivers in a production push.
Freight and carhaul Teamsters have seen their job security go up in smoke. Teamsters in many industries face layoffs and concessions. Our pension funds are threatening a new round of benefit cuts.
Members don’t expect our union to have all the answers to an economic crisis. But we deserve information on where we stand and a plan of action for defending our jobs, our contracts, our benefits, and our future. We’re not getting that from our International Union.
It was never realistic to expect Hoffa to be his father. Times have changed and we can’t look to the past. The bigger problem is that Hoffa is providing no leadership today and no plan for the future.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union brings Teamsters together to work for change. We’re Teamsters educating Teamsters—sharing information we’re not getting from our union. We’re Teamsters uniting Teamsters—working together to defend our contracts, our pensions, and our rights.
We’re Teamsters coming together to work for new leadership and a new direction.
We can make it happen. Winning change won’t take everyone, but no one can do it alone. It takes a critical mass of members who will step forward and work to make it happen.
Our union’s crisis is also an opportunity for a new direction. Be a part of it. Join TDU today.
June 03, 2009: Across the country, Teamsters are holding TDU meetings, setting up educational workshops, and getting out Convoy.
They’re concerned about where our union is going and doing something about it. TDU is giving them the tools to make it happen.
Here’s what TDU members have been doing in April and May to build the movement to take back our union.
Carhaulers from Local 89 and Local 651 in Kentucky and Local 327 in Tennessee discussed the state of the carhaul industry and how it is affecting our union.
Members formed a Kentucky-Tennessee TDU Carhaul Committee that will meet regularly on the phone to share information on grievances and contract issues and make plans for the 2011 election.
“If we don’t all stick together and start doing something now, we’re not going to have much of a union left,” said Tim Krueger, a Local 89 Allied driver from Bowling Green and one of the organizers of the meeting.
Teamsters joined labor activists from other unions for a day of education at the Chicago Troublemakers School, sponsored by Labor Notes Magazine.
TDU members organized four workshops at the conference: Defending Our Contracts in Hard Times; Preparing Your Grievances to Win at Arbitration; Understanding the Union and Your Contract (in Spanish); and Changing Your Local Union.
“It was a great learning experience,” said Duke Clark, a member of Local 726. “TDU and Labor Notes always put together the best workshops for Teamsters. I’ll see you at the TDU Convention in Cleveland.”
UPS package car drivers and pre-loaders met before and after their shifts ended to talk about how to deal with UPS’s production squeeze and supervisors working.
“Management gets together to meet and talk about what they can do to undermine our union. We’ve got to meet too,” said Tate McMillan, a feeder driver in Local 71. “We talked about what we can do to stop supervisors working and production harassment.”
Full-time UPS Teamsters from Local 236 held an informational workshop on the new UPS pension plan and the growing gap between their benefits and other Teamster funds.
“When I heard that our new UPS Pension Plan paid the worst benefits to any full-time Teamster in the company, I wanted to know what we could do about it,” said David Darnell, a package car driver in Local 236. “We pulled together a meeting here to get the facts and talk about how we can make change in our union.”
In early May, members of the Evergreen Chapter heard a report by TDU National Organizer Ken Paff on the state of the Teamsters Union ten years after Hoffa came into office. Discussion included how to build a Teamster movement that can replace the Hoffa administration in 2011.
Members also discussed some of the big problems facing members of Seattle Local 174, including deteriorating contracts and representation, the loss of the Oak Harbor strike, and the UPS full-time jobs fiasco.
Teamsters from New York and New Jersey locals met for their quarterly chapter meeting.
Members stayed after for a workshop on bargaining a strong contract for rank-and-file members who want to have a voice in their next contract.
TDU activists distributed hundreds of Convoys at the Louisville Air District, one of UPS’s largest facilities.
“How in the world would we know what’s going on without TDU and Convoy Dispatch? You get that information that no one else is going to get you,” said Wayne Sharp, a Local 89 retiree who helps distribute Convoy.
Active members and stewards from Local 355 and Local 639 came together for a two-hour workshop on Building Power to Win Grievances.
TDU International Steering Committee member Dan Campbell flew in from Milwaukee to lead the workshop. Members held a cookout after the workshop.
Get a Meeting in Your Area
Do you want to set up a TDU meeting in your local?
Call TDU at (313) 842-2600 and speak to an organizer.
May 15, 2009: This May TDU is bringing Teamsters together for educational events on winning grievances, bargaining better contracts, and improving our union.
Last Saturday in Chicago, Teamsters joined labor activists from other unions for a one-day “Troublemakers School,” sponsored by Labor Notes magazine.
TDU leaders and members organized four workshops at the school, including Defending Our Contracts in Hard Times; Preparing Your Grievances to Win at Arbitration; Understanding the Union and Your Contract (in Spanish); and Changing Your Local Union.
“The classes were great. I went back to work and told other members how much I learned. I encouraged them to get to the next TDU meeting.”
Marlon Burlock Local 714, Cook County Dept. of Corrections
In Maryland, active members from Local 355 and Local 639 came together for a two-hour workshop on Building Power to Win Grievances.
TDU International Steering Committee Dan Campbell flew in from Milwaukee to lead the workshop. Members held a cookout after the workshop.
Are you interested in holding a workshop in your area? Click here to see a list of workshops available from Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
Good Teamster jobs on the line. Pension and benefit cuts. And a Teamster leadership that’s asleep at the wheel. Our union needs TDU more than ever.
It’s going to take a lot of inspiration, organization, and hard work for our union to make it through these tough times. That’s why we are stepping up TDU activity this year.
TDU members and organizers are hitting the road, getting Convoy out to new places, and meeting new Teamsters who want change in our union. We’ve got more educational conferences and workshops planned than ever this year. And Convoy circulation has risen 20 percent.
We’re making sure members get the information they need—and building the kind of organization working Teamsters need to stand up to Corporate America’s attacks and take back our union in 2011.
But TDU can’t step up its activity unless we all step up our support. That’s why we’re writing to you today.
If you’re a TDU member, we’ve asked for your support through the mail this month. At this critical time for our union and our movement, we urge you to consider making a donation. To make a donation or sign up for a monthly pledge, just click here.
Not a member of TDU? Stand together with other Teamsters fighting to get our union back on track. Join TDU today.
Willie Hardy, Local 667, Memphis
David Kremer, Local 320, Minneapolis
Joe Sexauer, Local 743, Chicago
Our union can protect us in tough times. But not when our leaders are out of touch with the problems members face.
TDU brings working Teamsters together to protect our contracts and benefits and move our union in a new direction.
804 Members United
“Our union leadership is not leading the members in the right direction. I got involved to try to make some positive change.
“We’re building a movement in my local called 804 Members United. Our motto is building a stronger Local 804 by informing and uniting the members.
“And that’s exactly what we’re doing.
“We recently held an Education Conference to share strategies for enforcing our contract and protecting members from harassment and unfair discipline.
“This is the kind of thing our local should be doing—but they’re not.
“So members are stepping up, asking questions and getting involved. It’s time for a change and we’re working together to make it happen.”
Larry McIver, UPS, Local 804 Shop Steward, New York
Spreading the Word with Convoy
“I’ve been going to freight and UPS facilities all across western North Carolina to distribute Convoy and let members know that we can make our union leaders work for us again.
“More and more members here want to get rid of Hoffa and they’re ready to do something about it. We have a voice thanks to TDU.
“Do you want to get rid of Hoffa? Now’s the time to get started. Join TDU and start spreading the word today.”
Jerry Fisher, Roadway, Retired, Local 61, North Carolina
“The Big Three are in deep trouble and carhaulers are paying the price. It’s times like these that we need strong leadership at the top of our union—but we’re not getting it.
“No wonder we see so much apathy and hopelessness in our union. But when members come together, we can make a difference.
“We’re holding a TDU meeting in May so that carhaulers can come together and talk about what we can do to get our union back in shape. Together we can turn our union around.”
Tim Krueger, Allied, Local 89, Bowling Green, Ky.
When you join TDU, you help make positive change in our union.
Help make a difference. Click here and join TDU today.
March 16, 2009: TDU members and other Teamsters met this weekend in Sacramento and Tracy, Calif. to talk about how to beat apathy and get members involved in building a stronger union.
“I learned a lot and came away from the meeting inspired—and so did the other members I came with,” said Richard Andazola, a shop steward at Safeway. “We’re taking the information we got back to the warehouse,” Andazola said.
UPS Teamsters from Sacramento Local 150 also met last weekend to talk about what they can do to enforce their contract—from excessive overtime violations to the destruction of full-time combo jobs that were won through the 1997 UPS strike.
TDU organizer David Levin was a guest speaker at both meetings.
Enforcing the UPS Contract in Sacramento
UPS has eliminated more than 60 full-time combo jobs in Local 150’s jurisdiction in violation of the national contract. More full-time jobs may be on the chopping block soon. Management reportedly plans to shut down the day sort at the West Sacramento hub.
At the TDU meeting, members got an update on the national petition drive to make UPS create all 20,000 full-time jobs required by the contract. Click here to read more about the national petition drive.
Local 150 members have already collected 200 petition signatures as part of this campaign. At the meeting, they made plans to distribute Convoy Dispatch, TDU’s newspaper, and collect petition signatures at all four UPS buildings in Sacramento.
| “I’ll be there to leaflet on Saturday. I want to show support. It’s good to see our union mobilizing members and reaching out to the public to protect good jobs. That’s what we need to be doing, especially in this economy.”
Bob Ream, Young’s
Local 150, Sacramento
Local 150 Teamsters who work at C&S came to the TDU meeting and rallied support for Local 439 Teamster grocery drivers in Sacramento, who are being told that they will be replaced by nonunion drivers on March 28.
Some TDU members will be turning out to leaflet a Foods Co. in Sacramento as part of a campaign organized by Local 439 to defend these jobs. Click here to read more about this story.
“I’ll be there to leaflet on Saturday,” said TDU member Bob Ream, a Local 150 shop steward Teamster at Young’s Market. “I want to show support. It’s good to see our union mobilizing members and reaching out to the public to protect good jobs. That’s what we need to be doing, especially in this economy.”
Several Local 150 Teamsters signed up to join TDU. Members in Sacramento formed a rank-and-file committee to coordinate the UPS petition drive, information distribution and solidarity actions.
Informing and uniting Teamster members to enforce our contracts and defend good Teamster jobs. That’s what TDU is all about.
If you’re interested in finding out more about setting up a TDU meeting in your local, call TDU at 313-842-2600 or click here to send us a message. A TDU Organizer will get back in touch with you.