May 16, 2007: Jim Hoffa and Ken Hall promised that early negotiations would send a message to every Teamster employer not to mess with our pension funds.
With UPS and other employers trying to break out of the Central States, what message will we send now? See Ken Hall’s pledge to the Teamster Convention.
May 16, 2007: Ten years after the 1997 UPS strike, former General President Ron Carey spoke in New York about some of the keys to the union's contract victory. "You don't keep members in the dark, you don't have secret negotiations," Carey said.
Carey’s advice for members? "You have the right to get answers from your leadership. Responding in a very activist way is the way to go."Carey Looks Back: Ex-Teamster Head Still Driving Hard
By MEREDITH KOLODNER, The Chief—Public Employees Weekly
Nine years after he was deposed as President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Ron Carey was all fire and no remorse last week when he spoke about the legacy of the successful national strike a decade ago against United Parcel Service.
The room that Mr. Carey spoke to May 7 was full of labor advocates but devoid of Teamsters, since he is barred for life from contact with them. The occasion was the book launch of "Outside the Box," which chronicles media coverage of the UPS strike and explains how the Teamsters were able to capture the national imagination in August of 1997 with the claim that "part-time America doesn't work."
Out But Still Outspoken
Mr. Carey was removed as president by the IBT's Federal Internal Review Board two days after the strike ended due to an illegal money swap scheme carried out by his political advisors, but his time in exile does not seem to have dulled his penchant for speaking out. He argued that successful strikes were still possible if the membership was informed and prepared, defended his 1993 role in removing Barry Feinstein as president of Local 237, and criticized the growing salaries of union leaders.
"I think we're at a crossroads right now, and I think it can be very difficult," he said. "I look at the dim picture coming out of the labor movement and I wonder, are we just heading backwards?"
But Mr. Carey argued that the prescriptions for labor's ills were little changed from when he was in power, indicating that problems with some recent strikes, including the 2003 United Food and Commercial Workers grocery strike in California and the 2005 city transit strike, stemmed from lack of preparation on the part of the leaderships.
Must Clue In Members
"We were thinking for two years about what we had to do before we ever went on strike," he said. "You don't keep members in the dark, you don't have secret negotiations and then tell people, 'It didn't work out, so get behind us and follow us.'"
The former UPS driver argued that member involvement in the process was key. "We put rank-and-file members on the committees, we educated our members, and we told them don't be afraid to talk to the press," he told the crowd at Stony Brook University's Manhattan offices.
Mr. Carey acknowledged that the state's Taylor Law, which imposes massive financial penalties on public workers for striking, made the situation more difficult, but he held to the conviction that labor could win if it kept the upper hand.
"What [management] wanted was to push us into the street, not having all the t's crossed and the i's dotted," he said, "and the end result was the members would have suffered. Their last and best offer came 25 times."
'Have Right to Answers'
He also had advice for members in unions where the leadership seems unresponsive. "You have the right to get answers from your leadership," he said. "The local leadership will turn their back on the international leadership if you push. Responding in a very activist way is the way to go."
And some leaders, Mr. Carey argued, need to be challenged. In response to a query about Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern's decision to appear with Wal-Mart management to advocate for expanding health-care insurance, the former president's voice jumped an octave: "What, did he just fall off a turnip truck?" he asked.
Mr. Carey, like many of his supporters, still believes that the government targeted him because of the success of the UPS strike, and stands by his claim that while his advisors broke the law, he had no knowledge of their actions. After serving as the president of Local 804 in the city, Mr. Carey was elected general president of the Teamsters in 1991 in the first secret-ballot rank and file election in the history of the union. He was removed because of a scheme in which $885,000 in Teamsters funds was donated to progressive political organizations in 1996 in return for $221,000 in contributions to the then-Teamsters president's re-election campaign.
Beat Perjury Rap
Mr. Carey was never accused of participating in the plot, but was charged with perjury for proclaiming his innocence and lack of knowledge about the plan in front of a Federal grand jury and other court-appointed bodies that monitored the Teamsters. In 2001, a Manhattan Federal court jury found Mr. Carey not guilty of seven counts of perjury.
He maintains that having government involvement and oversight inside labor unions is damaging.
"I think it's a joke," he said of government monitoring. "One of the issues I had with the so-called Internal Review Board, I had a problem with how much money they were making and I said to Judge [Frederick] Lacey [the outside monitor], 'This is ridiculous; I'm not going to sign this check.' That was the first month I was in office, so we had a very bad relationship. They just gouged the union."
His experience with the law, however, has not shaken his conviction about his push to have Judge Lacey remove former Local 237 President Barry Feinstein after he was accused by then-Federal Investigator Charles M. Carberry of improperly spending $500,000 of members' dues money on personal expenses, including a penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side. Mr. Feinstein, who had protested that all the expenditures were approved by the Local 237 board, agreed to step down and repay the local $104,000. "I removed Barry," Mr. Carey said. "I personally thought Barry was a very decent human being, he was a good labor unionist, and it was very difficult for me to do. But he broke the rules, and when you break the rules, there's a price to pay; there's no exceptions."
Not Losing Hope
Mr. Carey said he continued to believe that some current union leaders were helping themselves to too much of members' dues money. "I took a decrease in pay when I first got into office," he said. "I don't think anyone should be making a quarter of a million dollars. The treasury is the members' money; it isn't the union officers' money."
Mr. Carey is no longer directly involved in union politics, and said he is working with some retirees' groups and concentrating on being a good grandfather. But he said he still closely follows the developments in the labor movement.
"I'm not going to lose hope," he said. "Somebody's going to come along who's going to put the fire up the unions in this country."
May 9, 2007: Management has put a proposal on the table to pull UPS Teamsters out of the Central States Pension Plan – the plan that covers 42,000 full-timers in 25 states.
UPS wants to create new pension plan to be run jointly by trustees from UPS and the Teamsters—similar to the Local 804 plan where the company recently forced through a 30 percent pension cut over the opposition of Teamster trustees.
Management knows what they want and they’ll throw money at us to get it. To pull out of Central States, UPS would be legally required to pay some $4 billion to the fund in withdrawal liability. The company sees this is as an investment in weakening our union, dividing UPSers from other Teamsters, and busting up Teamster pension plans.
According to the CEO of ABF, another company that wants to break out of Teamster pension plans, the withdrawal penalty can easily be made up over time in company savings on future benefit costs.
The Hoffa administration is considering accepting the proposal, calling it “a serious proposal that must be seriously evaluated.” Many Teamsters believe it is a done deal.
UPS’s pension grab would hurt our union in the long run—in exchange for not much benefit in the short run.
Under the company’s proposal, the UPS-only fund would pay a 25-and-out benefit of $2,500, a 30-and-out benefit of $3000, and a 35-and-out benefit of $3,500. Benefits would be capped at a maximum of $3,500 a month no matter how many years you work.
At $100 per year of service, the proposed UPS pension would actually pay less than Central States which pays $123 per year of service. The main improvement is that the UPS-only plan would restore early retirement by eliminating the 6 percent per year penalty for retiring before 62.
Of course, UPS can sweeten the pot and improve their initial offer. We fully expect that to happen, and we understand that many UPS Teamsters may be open to company proposals that restore cut benefits.
UPS Teamsters shouldn’t have to be pulled out of Central States in a company scheme to get the benefits they deserve. It’s our union’s job to win full 25 and 30-and-out benefit at any age and affordable retiree healthcare in a Central States plan.
In 1997 when UPS management tried a similar pension grab, Ron Carey backed UPS off and won enough benefit contributions to increase our Teamster pensions. That’s a positive example to follow.
Long Term Problems
Employers often sweeten their offer in an effort to weaken our union. That’s what’s happening here. The implications for our pension funds and the future of our union are huge.
If UPS is allowed to bust out of Central States, which fund is next? Other employers will want to follow. ABF’s CEO says busting out of the Teamster pension plans in the NMFA bargaining is his top goal.
The Central States Fund would lose its largest and youngest group of participants. We should be building our pension plans, not managing their decline or demise. That’s not union leadership.
Our union needs to organize. The multi-employer pension plans are a key selling point to bringing in members and building our union for the future.
Our union needs to think long term. Not just this year or this contract. A UPS worker who is 35 right now could well be drawing a pension 50 years from now. Sure, UPS is the big dog today. Will it be 30 to 40 years down the road?
Think 30-40 years ago about General Motors, United Airlines, or IBM. Who knew then they would shrink and slash pensions and possibly go into bankruptcy. That’s why the multi-employer plans are so much safer for the long run.
What do you think?
What do you think of the company’s proposal? We want to hear from you. Post a comment online for other Teamsters to read. Or send us your opinion confidentially.
UPS’s proposal will affect all Teamsters. Have your say.
May 9, 2007: See what UPS workers say they want out of contract negotiations.
No Early Contract Unless Our Issues Are Addressed
“UPS made $4 billion last year. They are getting fatter while we get the shaft. The Teamsters need to take a stand and look out for our future. That means us. The union isn’t the executive board. We are the union—the rank and file. Without us, there is no Teamsters. We have the power of the vote. We shouldn’t ratify an early contract unless we’re taken care of.”
Local 804, New York
Package Car Driver
Real Protection from Excessive Overtime
“The 9.5 language we have now doesn’t have the substance or the teeth we need. The same with the 8 hour request: a member requests an 8-hour day for some important reason, and the company works him 10 hours. What’s the penalty? Nothing. If a member grieves excessive overtime, the company will back off for awhile, but that’s about it. We need hard and fast language that is enforceable to let members limit unwanted, excessive overtime.”
Local 162, Portland, Ore.
Package Car Driver
More Full-Time Jobs; Rights for Combo Workers
“The company is trying to make Article 22.3 jobs as unattractive as possible to try to make us feel like second-class citizens. We need to increase the rate of pay and strengthen seniority and bidding rights. A full-time job is a full-time job and we need to win 10,000 more of these in this contract. But there needs to be reform and strong universal rules that govern these jobs and protect our rights as Teamsters.”
Local 90, Des Moines, Iowa
Raise Part-Time Wages; Stop Supervisors Working
“The starting rate has to go up. $8.50 an hour doesn’t cut it. We work hard and deserve real union wages. Supervisors working is out of control. When a supervisor tells me as a steward ‘Go ahead file your grievance, we’ll just pay,’ then you know we’ve got a serious problem. We need stiffer language, stronger penalties and tough enforcement by our union across the board. Right now, it’s just a joke.”
Local 396, Los Angeles
May 9, 2007: “Teamsters at UPS have been kept in the dark about bargaining. But our right to vote gives us the power to reject an early deal if Hoffa and Hall settle short.
“TDU will get the details of any early settlement out to members fast so UPS Teamsters can make an informed decision. Be in the loop. Stand up for our contract. Join TDU today.”
Dianne Bolton, Local 174
Seattle, Feeder Driver
Co-chair TDU Steering Committee
May 9, 2007: The IBT has the power to keep Teamsters in the dark about UPS bargaining—and they’re doing it.
But the final say on early negotiations lies in the hands of working Teamster.
UPS Teamsters have more power than many of us realize. We have the power to Vote No and reject an early contract if Hoffa and Hall settle short.
In 2002, they sold us a weak agreement as the Best Contract Ever and we’re still paying the price. We can’t let that happen again.
There’s no reason to accept an early deal if it’s a weak one. Our bargaining power will only increase with time, because management is under pressure from shippers and stockholders to settle early.
With the pressure on UPS, why should we vote to give them an early deal unless we get the better benefits and stronger contract protections we need?
Organized Members Have the Power
We have the power to vote down a weak contract. And we have the power to vote down regional supplements too if they don’t adequately deal with working condition issues.
To effectively use this power, we need to be informed and organized. TDU is building a national network so that UPS Teamsters can share information if and when an early deal is reached.
Our IBT negotiators are keeping us in the dark. But working together, we have the power to win the contract we deserve. Be a part of it. Visit www.makeupsdeliver.org and contact TDU today.
May 9, 2007: Ken Hall has promised that the UPS contract will improve pensions and send a message to all employers that our union won’t stand for pension and benefit cuts.
“Pensions are the number one issue for our members. We’re going to focus on improving their pension. Because after all, it’s the members that drive these negotiations, it’s their issues and that’s what we’re going to be guided by.”
- Ken Hall, IBT Parcel Director
“Once we’re finished with these negotiations, the message to other employers where our members are represented should be, ‘If you mess with our members’ pension and benefits, you’re going to get the shit kicked out of you by the Teamsters.’”
Ken Hall, IBT Parcel Director
Is it real, or is it just talk?
Members are hoping for the best. But we’ve heard big talk before. In 2002, we were promised that the UPS and freight contracts would protect our benefits. Then we were hit with the worst cuts in Teamster history. We were lied to.
It’s Up to Us
It’s up to Teamster members to make sure we don’t settle short again.
At the recent Teamster “Unity Conference” in Las Vegas, Hall announced that our union will reach an agreement with UPS “soon.”
Management wants an early agreement, to reassure shippers and stockholders. Will our union use this bargaining leverage to win the pension and benefit improvements we’ve been promised?
Hoffa has promised that this UPS contract will be the richest one ever—and that’s one promise he will keep. The company’s record profits and new pension rules mean UPS will set a new record for benefit contributions.
But what will these record contributions mean to working Teamsters? What cuts will be restored and what improvements will be won?
May 1, 2007: Nichele Fulmore has been a package car driver at UPS in Lumberton, North Carolina for over 12 years. She is a member of Teamsters Local 391 and has been a full-time steward for two years. She began organizing to reform the Teamsters when she realized that “things weren’t right, especially when members are kept in the dark.”
As part of our ongoing “Women Leaders in Our Unions” series, read more about how Nichele is standing up for the women, and men, in her local.
Labor Notes: How many other women in your local do the kind of challenging physical work you do?
Nichele Fulmore: There are only two other women drivers in my building, out of about 40 drivers. I was the only woman for at least five years.
The work is really tough physically—we have to be able to lift up to 70 pounds and the older trucks don’t have power steering. The job just wears you out when you’re out driving and lifting all day long, sometimes for 10-12 hours at a stretch. I think the fact that this is such a challenging job physically deters a lot of women from taking this job. I grew up working, so I was pretty sure I could manage it.
LN: UPS is pretty demanding when it comes to the physical requirements, isn’t it?
NF: Yes. When I was pregnant my doctor put me on a 20-pound weight restriction and UPS just treated me as if I had an off-the-job injury. So the best I could get was short-term disability through the union while I was off work, but when that ran out, I spent all my time trying to figure out how to keep my head above water financially. I filed a grievance with the union, but we lost it.
TDU (Teamsters for a Democratic Union) put me in touch with other women at UPS who had the same problem. We tried to build a campaign around this issue because it’s happening to pregnant women everywhere—except in California, where the law says that you are allowed to request light duty while you are pregnant. It’s tough to get women organized around this issue because we are such a minority in the trucking industry and we’re all afraid for our jobs, especially in the South.
It’s good we raised this issue though, because it made people more aware of this injustice. Anytime you try to change something that is wrong, there is going to be a struggle. We have to continue to get more members involved—including men—so that we can tackle this issue, and others, more effectively.
When I talked with my male co-workers about it, I asked them, “Would you want your mom, wife, or sister put out of work just because they are pregnant?” It’s an issue for everyone.
LN: How do you and your women co-workers deal with the male-dominated culture at UPS?
NF: We’ll talk amongst each other as much as we can, to give each other support. I’m the steward also, so if they have problems then they take it up with me. We definitely started to stick together more once we got so we would trust each other.
In the beginning you want to see if someone will respond to favoritism from management, by accepting easier routes and stuff like that. So even among women you need to prove yourself. It does make it harder for women though, because we are also having to prove to the men that we can do “their” jobs as well as they can. So you’re working harder, making sure you follow the book, and not complaining about your job.
LN: I know that you also spend a fair amount of time connecting with workers in other unions. Why?
NF: That’s right. I’ve been trying to make contact with different unions in my area. We’re—organized labor, that is—a minority here in North Carolina and so it’s important to try to build some solidarity between us. So I did some picket line support with the striking Goodyear workers recently together with some other rank-and-file Teamsters. We bought a hog and cooked it on their line and also donated some turkeys for Christmas.
Lately I’ve also been going out to meet meatpacking workers at Smithfield. I was just there a few weekends ago. Some Spanish-speaking guy came up and hugged me. I don’t speak Spanish, but we understood each other. I never felt so much inner joy as at that contact. The only difference among people that exists in the world is between men and women; all the other differences we create and we need to work to break those walls down.
LN: If a woman asks you for advice on becoming active in her workplace and union, what would you tell her?
NF: Know your stuff, and educate yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you know is right. Take leadership positions, run for steward and such, when you can, as that will encourage other women and will start to focus the labor movement on issues that are important to women.
And look for role models and try to learn from them. I did a lot of reading on Dr. King. I’m still amazed at the kind of stand a woman like Viola Liuzzo took during the civil rights movement—she was a white woman from Detroit whose husband was a Teamster and who traveled down to Selma, Alabama to join Dr. King on his march to Montgomery, only to be shot by KKK men soon after the march ended. She wanted to come and make a difference and that really inspires me.
by Marsha Niemeijer for Labor Notes magazine
Read more at Labornotes.org.