My business agent is never prepared for our local level grievance hearings. He doesn't talk to us beforehand. He doesn't do any interviews or request any information.
Management knows it and they walk all over him. Then the agent tells us we have to take a bad deal, or send our grievance to rot at the panel. What can we do to make him do his job?
— Tired of Losing
April 4, 2011: Local 320 represents over 11,000 public sector workers across Minnesota.
The Anyone But Hoffa Slate just swept the Local 320 delegate election.
We asked elected Teamster Convention Delegate Erik Jensen about the attacks on public sector Teamsters and what our union can do to meet the challenge.
Q: What are the challenges that public sector workers in Minnesota are facing?
Erik Jensen: Our governor has said he will veto any Wisconsin-style legislation, but we still are facing calls to slash the public sector.
In the 1990s, when the economy was booming, the state cut the taxes on the highest income people. Now we have a budget deficit.
Our other problem is that private sector unions are so much weaker, including our own Teamsters Union. Fewer and fewer voters are in unions. So it becomes easier for politicians to target us.
Here in Minnesota, we get a defined-benefit pension. But it’s pretty modest. And we pay half the contribution.
Corporate America has been working for years to convince the general public that public employees get much better wages and benefits than we actually do. It’s not true, but that hasn’t stopped them.
Q: What is Local 320’s response?
EJ: Our local leaders are taking a very inside strategy, working their relationship with the governor.
Our Joint Council lobbyist is also getting a paycheck from the governor. That’s a conflict of interest! We need someone who can speak up when we don’t agree with what the governor is doing.
We need more than just an inside strategy. Look at Wisconsin. That did more than all the lobbying in the last 12 years to win public support for state workers.
Q: What about Hoffa?
EJ: Hoffa hasn’t done anything to help. The IBT has very little staff dedicated to help 200,000 Teamster public sector workers.
Their money isn’t going to help members organize to fight these attacks. It’s going to multiple salaries for officials.
Q: What should the IBT be doing to defend good jobs and benefits in the public sector?
EJ: First of all, we need to strengthen the private sector. We can’t survive on our own.
Second, we need to be willing to criticize the politicians that we endorse, and work to hold them accountable. Right now we’re just writing them a blank check.
And finally, we need to win back public support. A lot of times when we’re bargaining, we’re just talking inside baseball. Wisconsin shows that the public still does support basic fairness for public workers.
Q: Your team, the Anyone But Hoffa slate, just won your delegate race. Why did you win?
EJ: The fundamental issue for us was multiple salaries for officials.
Our members are taking mandatory furloughs, benefit cuts, and wage freezes almost everywhere. But the head of our local union is pulling down three salaries. She made over $200,000 last year.
The same with Hoffa. Our members were really angry when they saw what he took home. They were ready to look at someone new. They want to have an election.
Officials Need to Sacrifice
“Our members are taking mandatory furloughs, benefit cuts, and wage freezes almost everywhere.
“But the head of our local is pulling down three salaries.
“Our members were angry when they saw what she and Hoffa were taking home. They are ready to look at someone new. They want to have an election.”
Erik Jensen, Elected Convention Delegate Local 320, Minnesota Public Sector
April 4, 2011: TDU interviewed TDU members who are mobilizing against the anti-union attack.
Our Labor Movement Is Reignited!
“I never thought I’d be part of this kind of labor history in my lifetime.
“It was great to see public workers, Green Bay Packers, purple haired punks, management people, firefighters and cops on the same picket line, along with Teamsters (old guard and TDU) from all over the country.
“When even EMTs and police take a pay cut, guess who’s next. Now you’ll see how trickle down really works and you won’t have to wait long.”
Paul Host, ABF, Local 200, Milwaukee
Public and Private Sector Workers Come Together
Public and private workers came together for a rally in North Carolina for workers’ rights to organize, including Local 391 UPSer Nichele Fulmore (above, left).
“Collective bargaining is completely against the law for public sector workers here in North Carolina,” said Nichele Fulmore. “But that anti-worker law hasn’t stopped them from organizing on the jobs and sticking up for their rights. They deserve to have a voice on the job.”
We Stopped Anti-Union Law
“Corporate America has a plan to destroy our union movement and not just in Wisconsin or the public sector.
“Here in Missouri they’re trying to pass a ‘right to work’ law that would undermine every union in the state.
“Our Local 688 leadership has worked closely with other unions and supportive state Senators and Representatives to counter this attack for now. Teamsters around the state need to be organized and at the ready should this legislation come to a vote again.”
John Youngermann, UPS, Local 688, St. Louis
March 25, 2011: Corporate America is after our contracts, our benefits, even our right to bargain.
Is Hoffa up to the challenge?
Employers and corporate politicians are taking advantage of the recession to come after union members like never before.
Good jobs with good benefits that generations of union members fought to win are under attack.
As North America’s most powerful union, the Teamsters needs to take the lead in fighting back.
As we go to press, new attacks are hitting working Teamsters.
Freight Teamsters are being hit with the worst pension cuts in our union’s history.
Two-thirds of YRC Teamsters have just lost their already-earned pension credits for 25- and 30-and-out, pensions they worked hard for, thanks to Hoffa’s blunders in the freight industry. Teamsters in other funds will also be affected.
Even corporations that are highly profitable are taking advantage of the recession to come after working Teamsters. The largest third-party warehouse distribution employer in the country, C&S, is axing 2,000 Teamster jobs and taking their work nonunion.
UPS made $5.8 billion in profit last year. They’ve quadrupled the CEO’s salary. But UPS Teamsters face record production harassment and job cuts.
This War Can Be Won
The War on Workers can be won. But we need a rank-and-file army—and we need a general who is willing to fight. Hoffa hasn’t done anything in his 12 years in office to show that he’s prepared for the challenges ahead of us. We need new leadership and a new direction.
Workers in Wisconsin showed that rebuilding union power starts at the grassroots. If we want to win, we’ve got to act. It’s time to fight for a Teamsters Union that will fight for us.
March 25, 2011: Hoffa turned his back on grocery Teamsters fighting the nonunion competition and 1,300 members in New Jersey have lost their jobs.
Now hundreds more jobs are on the chopping block in Maryland/D.C.
The time to fight is now.
For more than a decade, the Hoffa administration has turned a blind eye to the growing nonunion threat in the warehouse distribution industry.
Now Teamster members are paying the price.
As we go to press, C&S, the largest third-party warehouse distribution company in the country, has announced it will close the Giant Foods warehouse distribution center in the Washington D.C. area unless they get $26 million in concessions per year. That’s $40,000 in concessions per union employee.
If C&S isn’t stopped, 650 more union members will lose their jobs.
Last month, C&S closed its A&P/Pathmark operations in New Jersey and 1,300 Teamsters lost their jobs.
C&S first announced its plans to eliminate these Teamster jobs and move the work to nonunion facilities in Pennsylvania and Chester, N.Y. in April, 2010.
While local unions mobilized to take on the nonunion threat, the Hoffa administration dragged its feet for a year. New Jersey Teamsters Local 863 got little support.
In Washington, the International Union has launched a website called “Justice at Giant”—promising a Labor/Community campaign to save these Teamster jobs.
However last-minute, this campaign deserves the support of every Teamster member—and the full backing of our International Union.
Local Action, IBT Inaction
Teamster local unions have been asking the IBT to help organize Labor/Community action for a year.
A coalition of local unions came together last year to take on the nonunion C&S threat. Teamsters began leafleting A&P, Pathmark and other stores to put pressure on C&S by reaching out to customers.
The campaign started to work. Store managers complained to the chains to do something about the C&S problem that was costing them customers.
The International Union undermined the local unions at every turn. Hoffa administration officials told local officials to stop fighting to save Teamster jobs and to settle for a severance package instead.
The IBT instructed local officers to call off their campaign and stop leafleting stores. Local officers refused and demanded International Union support.
As the crisis reached a peak, Hoffa administration officials agreed to hold conference calls, but never moved a plan of action.
The Threat Continues
If C&S isn’t stopped, 2,000 good jobs will be lost to the company’s nonunion operations. And C&S isn’t done. Next, the company plans to eliminate Teamster jobs in warehouses in Boston Local 25 and Buffalo Local 264.
“We’re already losing work,” said Jim York, a Local 25 member at Stop n Shop. “We have members willing to fight and get involved. But there’s no plan for dealing with C&S coming out of the IBT.”
The threat facing grocery Teamsters in the East is dire. But it’s not too late.
Our union needs a decisive plan of action backed by the full resources and commitment of the International.
C&S is serious about eliminating Teamster jobs. Is our union as serious about saving them?Click here to read more about Taking on the Nonunion Competition. Click here to read more about Automated Warehouses.
Michigan Teamsters Protest Anti-Union Legislation
If we do not protest when they come for our neighbors’ union, no one will be left to protest when they come for our union.
About 30 Local 299 members and retirees went to the state capital, Lansing, to protest the anti-union legislation on the agenda, joining up with about 1,500 other union members.
We need more. Our union rights are under attack. Michigan and across the nation, no member will be left unchanged.
You can no longer sit on the fence and let someone else protest for you. If you think it’s a waste to use a vacation day to protest then you have forgotten how you came to have those vacation days.
The time is now. If your local isn’t marching in D.C. or your state capital ask them why. Regardless of whom you support, we must come together and change the current course.
By Joe Medrano, Holland, Local 299, Detroit
March 25, 2011: Sandy Pope took on C&S and saved Teamster jobs by winning a groundbreaking neutrality agreement.
Hoffa let that agreement expire—and Teamsters are paying the price.
C&S has always been a threat to Teamster jobs. The difference is our union leadership used to fight this threat.
When C&S first took over A&P’s distribution work in New Jersey in the 1990s, the International Union sent in Sandy Pope to deal with the threat.
At that time, C&S was an entirely nonunion operation. As an International Representative with the Warehouse Division, Sandy Pope worked with Local 863 leaders and stewards to launch a corporate campaign. C&S backed down.
Local 863 members’ jobs were saved. And Sandy Pope negotiated a groundbreaking neutrality agreement with C&S.
The new agreement gave our union the power to unionize more jobs at C&S without management interference. Under the agreement, C&S’s unionized operations grew.
March 25, 2011: Central States is totally eliminating early retirement for YRC Teamsters and dropping them into the rock bottom plan.
Hoffa told YRC Teamsters to take givebacks. He never told them they would lose their already-earned pension credits.
On March 22 the Central States Pension Fund made it official: they slashed the pensions of YRCW Teamsters. YRC Teamsters still working or who retired after Sept. 24, 2010, will be put on the Central States “default schedule” of benefits. This means no more 25- or 30-and-out, no more $100 per year accrual for pre-2004 years. The only pension earned will be the 1%/2% accrual, and it will be payable at age 65.
Those who retired prior to Sept. 24 will be unaffected and retain their current benefit level.
Those retiring under age 65 will be hit with a six percent per year reduction if they retire before July 1. After July 1, the penalty for retiring under 65 will be worse: for example, retirement at age 62 will mean a 26 percent reduction from a pension that has been already reduced.
There is a “grandfather clause” to partially protect Teamsters who reached age 55 by July 9, 2009, and who had 25 or more years credit as of that date. They can retain their 25- and 30-and-out benefits, but only if they wait till age 62 to retire. Those who retired after September 24, 2010 at less than age 62, will be allowed to stop their payments till age 62, losing years of pension benefits if they retired early.
Teamsters have asked Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) to explore any possible legal remedies, which TDU will do. But Central States is good at covering their rear when it comes to litigation.
The Western Conference Fund
Some 64 percent of the YRCW Teamsters are covered by the Central States Fund. But others will be affected in various ways by actions of the other Teamster pension funds.
Reportedly the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust is not going to accept the reduced payments from YRC.
This will have an especially bad impact on those Western YRC Teamsters who had less than 25 years credit prior to July 2009, as the Western Fund will not allow early retirement for those with less than 25 years unless they earn 1,000 hours of credit in their last 24 months of employment.
Hoffa: Pension Protection or P.R.
These Teamsters have been led down a path of concessions, and never told that this path would lead them to have their already-earned pension credits taken away.
Hoffa came into office promising to “restore the power.” Instead he has consistently backpedaled, failed to organize, failed to protect the national contract or standards, and sold-out the pension fund to UPS management for his own political gain.
The loss of 44,000 UPS full-time Teamsters from the Central States Fund was the sell-out that put the Fund on the brink, and makes it harder for the fund to cut any slack to YRC Teamsters who have worked long and hard and earned a good pension.
Now many will not get that good pension, thanks to the sorry record of the Hoffa administration.
Will Hoffa fight to get this reversed? Will the IBT demand that YRC and Holland agree to allow recently retired workers to come back with their seniority, if their pensions have been stripped from them? We hope so.
As for Hoffa’s own pension, he will be able to retire with over a million in hand, paid by a special pension plan that is funded by members’ dues.
Hoffa Gets a Golden Parachute.
We Get the Rock Bottom Plan.
“Here’s the payoff Hoffa delivered for all the Teamsters at YRC and Holland—a reduced pension, and we have to work longer to get it.
“Bill Zollars, Hoffa and Tyson Johnson get golden parachute pensions. We get the rock bottom default package.
“Teamster members have every right to be steaming mad. It’s time to get rid of Hoffa and vote him out.”
Rusty Monahon, Holland, Local 100, Cincinnati
March 25, 2011: The warehouse where C&S is moving Teamster work from across the East is not just a nonunion warehouse. It’s an automated warehouse.
In this multi-million dollar facility, work normally performed by a thousand Teamsters can be done by around 150 employees.
Automated technology is used to select cases, prepare orders, and wrap pallets. This technology is a scary job-killer. But C&S has an Achilles heel.
C&S is a third-party provider. Grocery chains hire C&S to run their warehouse distribution work on the cheap. But grocery chains can also drop C&S if it becomes a liability to their stores.
The stores are the weak link in the chain and have to be the focus of any successful campaign.
Store managers responded to leafleting by Teamster locals by calling their chains and demanding that something be done to solve the C&S problem so Teamster leafleters would get out of their parking lots and away from their customers.
To be fully effective, leafleting has to be chain-wide, sustainable and linked with an effective corporate campaign that threatens the chain’s brand name—whether that’s A&P, Pathmark, Giant, Tops, or Stop n Shop.
That means the International Union has to lead the charge and back up local Teamsters, not leave them hanging in the breeze.
Our union can fight back and win against C&S. But local union mobilization has to be backed by real resources, not lip service, from the IBT.
March 30, 2011: Judge Kenneth Conboy held a third hearing on March 24 to consider the appropriate punishment for a scheme in which James Hoffa and three International vice presidents were caught using union funds to try to buy-off political rivals.
The hearing was the result of appeals filed by TDU co-chair Frank Halstead and by Fred Gegare that the Election Supervisor’s remedy was inadequate given the seriousness of the violations.
Hoffa Offered Extra Salaries, Pensions
Election Supervisor Richard Mark in late 2010 conducted a six-month investigation in this matter.
It found that Hoffa and International Vice Presidents Ken Hall, Rome Aloise and Tyson Johnson offered no-show jobs, and in one case an extra pension, to try to patch up a split in the Hoffa camp. The split led to the formation of a slate headed by Fred Gegare.
According to Mark, the investigation revealed “a culture, or mind-set where elected union officials do not clearly distinguish between their fiduciary responsibility to the union and their separate political objective of getting elected.”
Judge Conboy has twice ruled that the Election Supervisor took insufficient action in response to the Hoffa bribery scandal.
After the first hearing, Judge Conboy ordered the Election Supervisor to conduct a complete investigation. The Election Supervisor conducted the investigation but ruled that no remedy was called for because the bribes had been turned down.
Conboy reversed the Election Supervisor on appeal and ordered him to devise a remedy.
Weak Remedy Appealed
In response, the Election Supervisor ordered that a notice informing members of Hoffa’s violations appear in the April issue of the Teamster magazine and on the Teamster website and that the notice be posted inside local union halls.
Halstead and Gegare are appealing the remedy as inadequate.
Hoffa’s campaign attorney, his son David Hoffa, submitted a brief applauding the Election Supervisor’s remedy, while still claiming his dad’s innocence.
“When the guilty party is happy with the judge’s sentence, that’s a sign that the sentence is too light,” Halstead said.
TDU attorney Barbara Harvey, representing Halstead, has submitted briefs outlining why this remedy is inadequate to deal with such a serious violation.
Harvey argued that a candidate debate, with DVD distribution to all members, would force Hoffa to answer directly to the members for the scheme and to explain what action his administration would take to insure that members’ dues are never again used to try to buy political support for an incumbent General President.
Judge Conboy, who serves as the Election Appeals Master, rarely overturns the remedies chosen by the Election Supervisor.
You can find updated information on this issue at www.TDU.org as well as a link to the Election Supervisor’s 30-page report on the attempted bribery scheme.