May 15, 2014: We lost a good friend yesterday, when Doug Mims passed away in Atlanta at the age of 75. Doug had been sick for quite some time.
Doug was a tireless activist and a leader of the TDU movement and of the Teamsters Union.
Doug started his union activity when he was a road driver in South Carolina. Later he transferred to Atlanta Local 728, where he joined TDU in 1984 and helped form an Atlanta TDU Chapter.
Doug and his wife Joyce were an organizing team. Joyce brought organizational and leadership skills to complement Doug’s ability to inspire and involve Teamster members.
TDU began to reach out and grow in Georgia.
The TDUers put together a slate to run in Local 728, but the election was stolen. To my surprise, the US Department of Labor did a very thorough investigation and proved that hundreds of ballots had been marked with the same pen on extra ballots that were secretly printed.
Facing defeat in a supervised election, the Mathis family, which ran Local 728 for years, had the IBT divide the local in two to maintain control of half of it. But the Labor Department then forced the phony new Local 928 to reunify back into Local 728. The TDU group swept the election in the spring of 1990, with Doug Mims elected vice president
“I'm now vice president of the Mathis family business," a fired-up Mims told the 1990 TDU Convention.
At that very convention, some of us suggested that Doug be on the Carey Slate. It was an easy sell, and Doug was one of the first running mates selected.
Joyce became the southern coordinator of the Carey campaign, and at various times over the years both Doug and Joyce served on the TDU Steering Committee. Both have been TDU members for 30 years; in fact, just days ago I wrote a short note to Doug on his membership renewal notice.
Joyce was appropriately honored in early 1992 when she was asked by Ron Carey to give his introduction at the big inauguration of Ron, along with Doug and the whole Carey Slate, on the steps of the Marble Palace.
I became friends with them and several times enjoyed warm visits at their home, and hosted them in Detroit. Many Teamsters could say something similar.
Doug served as an International VP until 1999. He ran on the Leedham Slate in 1998 for Southern VP, and then returned to work for Local 728 for a short while after that. Doug then retired from the Teamsters, but remained active in other work and in their community.
Doug Mims was a Teamster with guts and principles, who did his part in making labor history. We miss him and we honor his life’s work as we carry it on.
-- Ken Paff, TDU Organizer
April 2, 2014: Had enough of Hoffa, Hall and contract givebacks? It’s time to take back our union.
Teamsters members Voted No against concessions at UPS, UPS Freight and YRC. The Vote No movement armed James Hoffa and Ken Hall with leverage to go back to the table and negotiate contract improvements.
Instead, Hoffa and Hall have worked hand-in-glove with management to re-vote weak contracts and push through concessions.
Fed up with Hoffa, Hall and their contract givebacks, Teamster members are building a movement to take back our union.
From Vote No to Take Back Our Union
During the Vote No movement, thousands of Teamsters networked on Facebook pages like “Vote No On UPS Contract” and “No Freight Concessions.” Now these Teamsters are uniting their efforts.
“We’ve got the numbers and we’ve got the power to vote out Hoffa and Hall,” said Mark Timlin of New Jersey Local 177. “But we’ve got to get organized.”
Timlin started the 5000-member Facebook page Vote No on the UPS Contract.
Now he’s organizing with his eye on the 2016 Teamster election. Freight and UPS Freight Teamsters are also joining forces.
“Freight Teamsters are fed up with Hoffa and we are all in on an effort to dump him for good, elect new leadership and save our union,” said Bret Subsits, an ABF road driver in Chicago Local 710.
The first elections for IBT Convention Delegate will be held in 18 months. Delegates vote to officially nominate candidates for IBT office and get them on the ballot.
“When Hoffa and Hall sold out the members in our contract, they woke up a lot of people. Now we’re going to take back our union,” said Rob Atkinson, a UPS driver in Local 538 in Worthington, Pa.
Contact TDU to get involved in the movement to Take Back Our Union in 2016.
April 2, 2014: TDU members across the country have hit the ground running in 2014, holding seminars, organizing to defend pensions, and holding education conferences to inform members and build the reform movement.
St. Louis Teamsters Protecting Safety Rights
Paul Taylor, lead attorney for the Truckers Justice Center and author of a book on the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), spoke to a packed house in the St. Louis area on February 15.
UPS feeder drivers, UPS Freight and YRC road drivers and other Teamsters heard Taylor lay out issues regarding truck safety and their impact on drivers.
Taylor raised a number of safety scenarios and provided explanations of how the STAA does or does not address these concerns.
Taylor recently won two decisions against UPS when he represented St. Louis area UPS feeder drivers. You can order The STAA Handbook here.
Minnesota Teamsters Unite to Defend Pensions
Over 80 retired and active Teamsters filled the chapel at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota to learn about the move afoot in Congress to weaken pension protections, and what is being done to stop it.
The meeting was organized by TDU and a committee of Twin Cities Teamsters who are organizing to defend their retirement security. The committee hosted Ann Curry Thompson, a pension rights attorney, and Pete Landon from TDU.
Teamsters and spouses attending the meeting signed a petition opposing any cuts to pensions. Volunteers from Locals 120, 638 and 1145 joined the Twin Cities Pension Action Committee. They are planning further outreach to local meetings, retiree clubs and meetings, and visits to local congressional offices.
NY TDU Teamster Power Conference
More than 150 Teamsters turned out for a Teamster Power Conference organized by the New York Chapter of TDU.
Workshops included: Beating the Boss in Disciplinary Cases, How to Think Like an Arbitrator, Dealing with Difficult Supervisors, How to Win Your Case at a UPS Grievance Panel, and Labor Law and Union Rights.
The conference drew Teamsters from over a dozen locals in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
Thirty new members joined TDU.
Next up for NY TDU...a bowling tournament on Sat, May 3. Raffle prizes include a big-screen TV, Yankee tickets, and Visa gift cards. For more information, contact NY TDU at 718-287-3283 or email nytdu [at] tdu.org
April 8, 2014: An interview with Brooke Reeves a Local 251 Steward at Rhode Island Hospital.
You backed the incumbent officials who lost the Local 251 election. What’s it been like since then?
The biggest change is the new leadership is totally up front with the members. The old Business Agent made deals that were kept totally secret from us.
We just found a Memorandum of Understanding that cut starting pay for new hires. I wanted to throw up. The old BA signed that in the middle of the contract and didn’t even tell us.
With the new officers, everything is out in the open.
What’s the biggest difference that stands out about the new local leadership?
They’re not here to make deals with H.R. or try to make H.R. happy; they’re here to help the members.
They don’t play favorites. They knew I didn’t support them in the election, but they reached out to work with me. They said the election’s over, it’s time to come together.
The old BAs played favorites. If they didn’t like you, they didn’t return your call.
It may sound corny, but these guys are sincere about representing every member.
We’ve got a lot more grievances now, but that’s because members are getting results, instead of getting ignored, so more people are coming forward to ask for help.
How has this experienced changed your view of TDU?
Before, I didn’t really know what TDU was. I only heard what the officials told me: that TDU sucks and they’re out to destroy the union.
I didn’t have anything negative to say about TDU really. Well… I think I posted TDU Sucks once on my Facebook page (laughs).
I went to a TDU Education Conference and that’s where I saw for myself what TDU is really about. The training there blew me away. I’ve been a steward for years and the old local officials never gave us any training the whole time. We were on our own.
I like that TDU wants members to know what can be done and how to do it the right way. TDU gives you the tools to defend members and enforce the contract. That’s what union is all about. I joined TDU myself right then and there.
The Rhode Island Hospital contract covering over 2,500 members expires later this year….
Yeah, and I think it’s going to be the toughest contract fight we’ve ever had. Contract negotiations have always been behind closed doors. It’s always been, “Here’s the new contract. Now vote on it.”
This time, we’re really going to talk with all the members and bring people together.
The Hospital wants to take a lot away. It’s up to us to stick together and protect what we have.
April 2, 2014: Local 745 members held a TDU meeting in El Paso, Texas to talk about enforcing their contracts, the future of the union and rebuilding Teamster Power.
Teamsters in El Paso are members of Local 745 in Dallas which is 635 miles away!
That kind of distance takes the “local” right out of local union. So members decided to cook up some Teamster Unity of their own and organized a TDU meeting in El Paso.
The meeting was organized by Teamsters at UPS and UPS Freight. Different generations of Teamsters came together with the common goal of building a stronger union for the future.
Members shared strategies for dealing with contract violations, including seniority,
supervisors working, excessive overtime and production harassment.
How to stop concessions at UPS and UPS Freight was another hot topic.
“When we spoke up at the contract vote here in El Paso, they told us, ‘If you don’t like it, get out of the union,’” one UPS Freight Teamster said. “No way are we getting out of the Union. We’re getting even more involved.”
Rebuilding Teamster Power by informing and involving members. That’s what TDU is all about.
April 2, 2014: Hoffa and his number two Ken Hall raked in more than $300,000 a piece in total compensation last year according to the IBT LM-2 financial report reviewed by TDU.
Hoffa gave himself a Cost of Living increase of $4,000. Most Teamsters don’t see anything resembling that.
Hoffa’s “housing allowance” ballooned to $67,358, bringing his total compensation to $381,409. Ken Hall also gets that outsized perk. They work in the Marble Palace; do they live in one too?
Hall’s total compensation was $301,519.
Our union remained the same size as the year previous: 1.258 million.
The Teamster Rank & File Education and Legal Defense Foundation (TRF) will research all Teamster LM-2 (and LM-3 and IRS 990) forms and will publish the results later this year.
If you have questions, comments, or want to help change our union’s financial priorities, contact TDU.
April 18, 2014: Thinking like an arbitrator will help you win your contract language grievances—even if you don’t go to arbitration.
When a member, steward, or union rep prepares a contract language grievance, a useful skill is learning to “think like an arbitrator.”
Almost all local Teamster contracts, and some national ones, have arbitration as the final step in the grievance procedure. So just as an attorney has to think like a judge, you need to put yourselves in the arbitrator’s shoes.
Thinking like an arbitrator will help you get the facts and evidence you need to win your case—hopefully without having to go to arbitration.
What do Arbitrators Look For?
Arbitration hearings are different than grievance hearings between the union and employers, and require different kinds of preparation. Here are some important tips on what arbitrator’s think about when considering your case.
Clear contract language. The first thing arbitrators will consider is whether the case can be resolved on the basis of clear and specific contract language. An arbitrator is
not interested in what seems fair or just, but primarily what the contract says.
The more clear the contract language the better. General language such as the employer “will assign work by seniority” is subject to interpretation. Specific language regarding daily overtime, weekly overtime, bidding, vacations, etc is more useful.
- Taking the contract as a whole. Arbitrators don’t consider just one contract section, but they consider the contract as whole. You may think you have a slam-dunk based on one clause but come to find out it’s contradicted by language in another article or a separate Memorandum of Understanding. You can’t cherry-pick the most favorable contract clause. And where there are conflicts in language, clear specific language will trump general or ambiguous.
- Bargaining history of the contract. Arbitrators sometimes look at the bargaining history of contract language. More recent language often trumps older or original language that has been amended or added to. The “intent” of the bargainers—and not just the contract language itself—can also come into play where the union and employer cannot come to terms on interpreting contract language. Good bargaining notes and the use of information requests will help you develop a fuller interpretation of the contract.
- Past practice. Arbitrators will generally look at past practices, particularly if they have been consistently recognized by both parties and consistently applied. For example, a contract may not mention paid breaks, but if workers have been allowed a 15-minute break every shift for years, and the company suddenly cuts the break to 10 minutes, an arbitrator would likely consider that a violation, absent language to the contrary. The longer a practice has been going on and the more consistently it has been applied, the better it is for your case.
- Laws and Regulations. Arbitrators will also consider the case on contract language in dispute in light of state and federal laws: wage and hour laws, EEOC, OSHA, etc.
Preparing for Arbitration
Arbitrators have a stricter standard for evidence than employers at a lower-level grievance hearing usually do. Preparing your grievance from the very beginning as if you’re going to an arbitrator will help you build a stronger case.
You might get away with hearsay evidence in a local grievance hearing if management knows you can back it up. Not in arbitration. Witnesses need to be prepped so you can directly establish the facts.
Use information requests to obtain info related to the case. Anticipate the arguments from the employer. What are the background facts and contract language supporting your case and what facts and language support the bosses? Make a list of the employer’s strongest arguments, and your best refutation. Use the Arbitration Checklist and keep a grievance file to assemble your evidence and build your case.
Finally, the pros and cons of even going to arbitration have to be weighed. An unfavorable ruling might establish a bad precedent for you and your co-workers. If you think an arbitrator will likely rule against you, is there another way—bargaining, or organizing a campaign—to win what you want?
Use this checklist to prepare a grievance file with evidence, arguments and background material that support your case.
- Issue and remedy sought
- Contract language. All the relevant contract articles that apply to my case, history of the language from contract to contract, and any letters of understanding.
- Background facts supporting our case
- Background facts supporting the company’s side
- Relevant points the union and the company can likely agree on
- Company’s argument and our refutation of it
- Our argument and the company’s refutation of it
- Exhibits. Records, documents, disciplinary files, etc. from information requests.
- Witnesses. Are witnesses prepped to provide direct testimony?
Have a question about your grievance or arbitration case? Contact TDU to get educational materials or for specific questions.
April 8, 2014: Three Teamsters who helped blaze the trail for Teamster reform have passed away. They had vision, courage and determination and put solidarity ahead of self-advancement.
They, and Teamsters like them, built Teamsters for a Democratic Union. It’s up to us to carry on their legacy of organizing Teamster-to-Teamster to build a powerful, democratic union.
Steve Kindred 1944 - 2013
Founding TDU Member and Hell-raiser
Steve was a founder of TDU in 1976 and one of the initial spark plugs and builders of this movement.
In 1975, Teamsters took up a collection, bought a pass on a Greyhound bus, and sent Steve across the country to recruit freight stewards and activists to a national meeting of Teamsters for a Decent Contract.
One year later, TDU was born.
Steve remained active in TDU for the rest of his life as a carhauler, a TDU staff organizer, a business agent and later as a retiree.
Steve passed away in December, 2013 from cancer.
"Steve was an educator, a radical, and a hell-raiser. He believed ordinary people could make history and he helped make that happen. He inspired so many of us to carry on, because he was never discouraged and never defeated.”
Ken Paff, co-founder of TDU and friend of Steve’s ever since.
Les Cadman 1930-2014
Fighting Concessions & Building TDU
A Teamster steel-hauler out of locals in Youngstown, Gary and Detroit, Les was active in an earlier movement, the Fraternal Association of Steel Haulers.
In 1979, Les joined TDU during a month-long wildcat strike of steelhaulers that shut down steel transport across the Midwest and won a better contract than the International Union had signed.
He remained active with TDU for the rest of his life, and in retirement he did volunteer work in the TDU Detroit office with his wife, Lorene. Les was struck down by a hit-and-run driver, and passed away in March 2014 in Detroit.
"The steelhaul strike changed my life. I saw what an inspiration that Teamster power could be, and the commitment of working Teamsters like Les Cadman. They convinced me that this was what I wanted to do with my life. As unionized steel haul collapsed in the 1980s, we were fortunate that Les stayed in the movement and continued to build TDU.”
Sandy Pope was a young volunteer organizer in the 1979 steel haul strike and went on to be a truck driver, organizer, International Rep and Local 805 President.
Pete Camarata 1946 - 2014
Standing Up to the Mob & Winning the Right to Vote
Pete was a young protégé of James R Hoffa in Local 299, but no friend of Hoffa’s successor as Teamster president, Frank Fitzsimmons, also from Detroit Local 299.
When Fitzsimmons called a “blow off steam” strike for two days in the freight industry in 1976, Pete led a brief wildcat strike in Local 299 in defiance of the sell-out deal.
In 1976, Pete Camarata rose as the only delegate at the Las Vegas IBT Convention to vote against Frank Fitzsimmons for Teamster General President. Later that day, he was beaten unconscious by Teamster goons.
Pete was a founding member of TDU and was TDU’s candidate for General President at the 1981 IBT Convention. His protest candidacy at the 1981 IBT Convention helped pave the way to TDU winning one-member, one-vote election for International Union officers
Pete served on the Steering Committee of TDU for many years and remained active in TDU and the labor movement after he retired. He died of cancer in February 2014 in Chicago.
"When Fitz’s goons beat Pete, they figured they wouldn’t see Pete or TDU again. Wrong. Five years later, Pete was again elected a convention delegate and accepted the nomination for Teamster General President. TDU kept building rank and file power, won the Right to Vote in 1989 and we’re still here in 2014 and we ain’t going away. Pete never stopped fighting the good fight, and the planet is a better place because of him. Pete, with your inspiration we’re keeping the faith. Solidarity Forever.”
Dave Robbins, a member of Providence Local 251 and Pete’s friend for over 30 years, spoke at a packed memorial event at the Chicago Local 705 hall.