In 1976, Frank Fitzsimmons, president of the Teamsters, struck a defiant note in a speech at the union’s convention in Las Vegas. “To those who say it is time to reform this organization, and it’s time officers stopped selling out the members,” he said, “I say to them, ‘Go to hell.’ ”
The next day, Pete Camarata, a rank-and-file Teamster dedicated to reform, rose to say he opposed Mr. Fitzsimmons’s re-election as well as a pay raise for him. He said Mr. Fitzsimmons and his lieutenants had stifled democracy in the union and ignored workers’ concerns. He called for a rule that would automatically expel any Teamster officer who accepted a bribe from an employer.
Boos and catcalls drowned out his remarks.
Afterward, Mr. Camarata — who died last Sunday in Chicago at 67 — attended a cocktail party in the hotel ballroom, but felt unwelcome and excused himself. Several beefy sergeants-at-arms offered to escort him outside. (Mr. Camarata himself was a hefty man, at one point weighing 400 pounds.) Suddenly, one of them punched him. Others kicked him in the head with their pointed cowboy boots. His face was left purple and swollen, his right eye closed.
The police were sympathetic, until they conferred with Teamster officials. According to Lester Velie’s 1977 book about the Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, “Desperate Bargain: Why Jimmy Hoffa Had to Die,” one officer then said, “Get out of town, buddy, and get out fast.”
Mr. Camarata left Las Vegas, but he did not abandon his fight to reform the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. In 1981, as head of a dissident group, he ran for president of the union, the first outsider to challenge its leadership. He lost badly.
The campaign was one of many fights his group, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, picked with a union that the federal government regarded as corrupt. Some were successful. In 1989, the Teamsters leadership accepted the group’s proposals for electoral reform. By agreeing to the direct election of international officers, the union avoided a federal trial on racketeering charges but was subjected to government supervision.
The dissident group grew to more than 8,000 members, and though it comprised just a tiny fraction of the union’s total membership of two million, it was a major force in the election of Ron Carey as a reform candidate for Teamsters president in 1991. Mr. Carey included group members in his leadership coalition. (He was later forced out by the federal government, accused of receiving illegal campaign contributions.)
Mr. Camarata retired from the work force in 1995 but continued to fight for union reforms until his death of renal cancer, his wife, Robin Potter, said.
His first marriage ended in divorce. Besides his wife, he is survived by a stepdaughter, Aimee Potter, and a stepson, Jackson Potter.
Peter Joseph Camarata was born in Detroit on Sept. 7, 1946. His father, Caspar, worked at the Packard Motor Car Company for 36 years, where he helped the United Automobile Workers organize. His mother, Mary, cooked in restaurants and at union meetings.
Pete attended Roman Catholic schools and sang in a choir. As a high school student he helped collect day-old bread for a shelter for the homeless. He enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit and got a job on the loading dock of a trucking company to help with expenses. He ended up dropping out to work full time on the dock and began to think of himself more as a Teamster than as a worker. He became active in Local 299 — the local of both Mr. Hoffa and Mr. Fitzsimmons — and was elected steward.
He was a Hoffa ally. After Mr. Hoffa was released from prison in 1971 — pardoned by President Richard M. Nixon after serving time since 1967 on jury-tampering and fraud charges — Mr. Camarata worked unsuccessfully for his return to the union.
Mr. Fitzsimmons was acting president during Mr. Hoffa’s imprisonment and became president in 1971 when the pardon barred Mr. Hoffa from further union activity. Mr. Hoffa disappeared in Detroit in 1975 and was declared dead in 1982.
At Local 299, Mr. Camarata joined with other young leftist Teamsters to press for more local autonomy. They became affiliated with an organization on college campuses called International Socialists.
In 1976, to win a better contract in Detroit, Mr. Camarata helped lead a wildcat strike in which 300 Teamsters managed to cripple the city. “There wasn’t a truck that moved,” he said in “Detroit Lives,” a 1994 book compiled and edited by Robert H. Mast. “The union bureaucrats were against us, and we had to fight them, too.”
One result of the strike was his election as a delegate to the national convention in Las Vegas. After his open defiance there, he was expelled from the union twice but successfully fought to be reinstated both times. He told Mr. Mast that he had been threatened physically many times.
A flier, signed by a Local 299 member, alleged that the dissident group was financed by illegal drug trafficking. The group denied this. The flier also referred to Mr. Camarata’s weight, explaining his rise to leadership with the phrase “Fat floats.” (He eventually lost 200 pounds and was featured in weight-loss publications, his wife said.)
When Mr. Fitzsimmons consigned Mr. Camarata and other dissidents to hell in 1976, Mr. Camarata had a ready reply: “We’ll meet him wherever he wants.”Issues: TDU
On Feb. 10, Mobile Rail Solutions—a small railroad servicing company based in Illinois—decided to settle out of court for $159,791. As part of the settlement Mobile Rail admitted that the IWW members were unfair labor practice strikers and not economic strikers. The workers went public with the IWW on July 8, 2013. Click here to read more about the Mobile Rail Workers Union, and find out more about the settlement on Facebook.
Teamsters mourn the passing of brother Pete Camarata, one of the founders of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, who died at his home in Chicago on February 9th.
Pete was the real deal—a Teamster who stood for principle at a time when few others would dare to.
Camarata attended a meeting of Teamsters for a Decent Contract in 1975, and quickly became a leader and inspiration to many Teamsters. He went home from that meeting to his own Detroit Local 299, where the young man was a steward who had been mentored by Jimmy Hoffa Sr., to spread the movement.
Members of Local 299 liked what Pete stood for. When Teamster President Frank Fitzsimmons called a national freight strike the next spring to let members blow off steam for 2 days, Camarata led Detroit freight Teamsters on a wildcat afterward, a demonstration of defiance against Fitzsimmons’ sellout leadership.
The IBT leadership struck back by expelling Camarata from the union, but it was one of many times they underestimated TDU and Camarata. TDU attorneys quickly obtained a federal injunction to immediately reinstate Pete.
That same spring of 1976, Pete was elected a delegate to the Teamster Convention in Las Vegas, where he would rise to the mic to announce that Frank Fitzsimmons had not been elected unanimously, as he dramatically stated.
“I have to say right now, for an old friend of mine that you know I haven’t seen for almost a year now [Hoffa Sr.] that he wouldn't like it if there wasn't at least one dissenting vote at this Convention, and I would like to go on record now to say that you have it.” (Delegate Pete Camarata, from the 1976 IBT Convention)
His reference to Hoffa Sr. stung. That evening, IBT goons beat him on the sidewalk while Fitzsimmons was nearby—another mistake on their part. Lester Velie’s book Desperate Bargain: Why Jimmy Hoffa Had to Die documented their cowardice and Pete’s courage. That chapter of the book was reprinted by the readers Digest as well.
Pete became a leader of TDU, often traveling on his own time to encourage rank and file Teamsters to get involved and become leaders.
Over the years, TDU would grow and win many new rights for Teamsters: the right to vote for International officers, majority rule on contract votes, the right to vote on contract supplements and riders, and more. The TDU movement rocked the labor movement in 1991 with the election of Ron Carey which ushered in a new opening in our union and changes in the AFL-CIO.
Pete Camarata was a pioneer who helped pave the way to make those kinds of wins possible.
After Pete’s retirement, he moved to Chicago, where he was married to labor attorney Robin Potter. Pete remained active until the end, always willing to lend a hand to a strike, a struggle or to mentor a young new leader. The 2012 TDU Convention presented Pete with an award for his lifetime of service to Teamsters and to the movement for justice.
Our union is better because of Pete Camarata’s work and example. Pete, we miss you and will work hard to carry forward your ideals.
A federal judge in Chicago Feb. 11 ruled that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can pursue its claim challenging United Parcel Service Inc.'s policy of discharging employees who can't return to work after 12 months of leave, finding that the rule may be an unlawful qualification standard under the Americans with Disabilities Act (EEOC v. UPS, Inc., 2014 BL 35887, N.D. Ill., No. 1:09-cv-05291, 2/11/14).
Judge Sara L. Ellis of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois rejected UPS's contention that the requirement is an attendance policy permissible under the ADA because regular attendance is an essential job function for its workforce.
The EEOC didn't plead its claim under Section 102(b)(6) of the ADA--42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(6)--in terms of essential job functions, but rather contended that UPS's return-to-work rule is a “100-percent healed policy” and thus an impermissible selection criteria or qualification standard because it screens out or tends to screen out individuals with disabilities, Ellis said.
“Framed as such, the twelve-month policy can be considered a qualification standard--a medical requirement that an individual must meet in order to maintain his or her position with UPS--and not an essential job function,” the judge wrote.Agency Sued on Behalf of Class
The EEOC initially sued UPS in August 2009 on behalf of Trudi Momsen and an unidentified class of similarly situated former UPS employees. The lawsuit alleged that the company's policy of terminating injured employees following 12-month leaves of absence, without providing reasonable accommodations for their disabilities, violates several sections of the ADA.
Momsen, who joined UPS in 1990, took a 12-month leave of absence in February 2006 when she first began to experience symptoms of multiple sclerosis. She returned to work for a brief period, but experienced further medical problems.
According to the EEOC, UPS denied Momsen's request to use a hand cart when she first returned to work, and later refused her request for additional time off to receive therapeutic treatment when her MS flared up after she returned to the workplace.
In a Jan. 15, 2014, second amended complaint, the commission asserted that UPS, since at least 2002, has maintained an inflexible, 12-month leave policy that calls for employees to be “administratively separated from employment” after 12 months of leave.
In addition to ADA Section 102(b)(6), the EEOC alleged that the policy also violates Sections 102(a) and 102(b)(3)(A) of the statute--42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a) and 12112(b)(3)(A)--because it acts as a qualification standard, employment test or other selection criteria that screens out or tends to screen out a class of individuals with a disability and isn't job-related or consistent with business necessity.
Another class member, Mavis Luvert, in summer 2006 was transferred to a different area within her UPS facility, which was warmer and had limited ventilation, exacerbating her emphysema, according to the EEOC. With the support of her doctor, Luvert asked to be moved back to her original work area, where the ventilation was better, but UPS denied her request, placed her on a disability leave, and later fired her under its return-to-work policy, the agency alleged.
According to the commission, each class member is a qualified individual with a disability who could have performed the essential functions of his or her position with or without accommodation. By firing Momsen, Luvert and the others pursuant to its inflexible, 12-month leave policy, the company imposed a job retention standard made illegal by the ADA, the EEOC asserted.“The key to avoiding trouble under the Americans with Disabilities Act, is to be constantly asking the question 'Can we get this employee back on the job with a reasonable accommodation?' and certainly not to be asking only 'Has this employee been on leave long enough for us to get rid of him?' ” the EEOC's John Hendrickson said.
Prior Rulings and New Decision.
The EEOC's second amended complaint was filed following previous rulings in which the court first dismissed the agency's class allegations--but found that it could pursue individual claims on behalf of Momsen and Luvert (2011 BL 249100, 25 AD Cases 484 (N.D. Ill. 2011), and then reversed course and held that the commission sufficiently raised the possibility of relief above a speculative level with respect to the unidentified class members (2013 BL 7679, 27 AD Cases 590 (N.D. Ill. 2013); .
In the new decision, Ellis ruled on the company's motion to dismiss the second amended complaint for failure to state a claim for relief. According to UPS, the judge noted, “the ability to regularly attend work and not miss multiple months is an essential job function and not a qualification standard, employment test or other selection criteria” prohibited by ADA Section 102(b)(6).
But the court found that the EEOC's ADA regulations define qualification standards as “the personal and professional attributes including the skill, experience, education, physical, medical, safety and other requirements established by a covered entity as requirements which an individual must meet in order to be eligible for the position held or desired.” An essential job function, on the other hand, is defined as “the fundamental job duties of the employment position the individual with a disability holds or desires,” the court said.
The company was correct that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has held that regular attendance can be an essential job requirement, Ellis said. However, the EEOC's ADA Section 102(b)(6) claim isn't “premised on attendance but rather on UPS's imposition of a 100% healed requirement on those seeking to return to work,” she wrote.
“Because such a requirement falls within the definition of a 'qualification standard,' and the EEOC has alleged that the policy applies to qualified individuals with disabilities, the EEOC may proceed on its § 12112(b)(6) claim,” the court decided, denying UPS's motion to dismiss.EEOC Applauds Ruling
“We are happy to see that, once again, the federal court has confirmed our ability to challenge United Parcel's mandatory leave policy,” John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago district office, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 12.
He added that, “It can't be said too many times: The key to avoiding trouble under the Americans with Disabilities Act, is to be constantly asking the question 'Can we get this employee back on the job with a reasonable accommodation?' and certainly not to be asking only 'Has this employee been on leave long enough for us to get rid of him?' ”
“In this case,” Hendrickson said, the “EEOC's underlying allegation is that United Parcel made a practice of focusing on the wrong question.”
The company was still reviewing the decision and was unable to provide comment Feb. 12.
Diane I. Smason, Jeanne B. Szromba, Aaron R. DeCamp and Deborah L. Hamilton of the EEOC in Chicago also represented the commission. Gary R. Clark, John Klages and Ellen M.G. Georgiadis of Quarles & Brady in Chicago represented UPS.Issues: UPS
Join Teamsters from across the country who are organizing to protect our jobs, win stronger contracts and take back our union.
2014 TDU Convention
Cleveland Airport Sheraton
"Our union needs to be rebuilt if we're to have any chance of winning better contracts and working conditions. The latest round of concessions and negotiations have shown thousands of working Teamsters the sorry state of our leadership. We need change and the 2014 TDU Convention is a great place to lay the groundwork for the effort we need going forward. I plan to be there and I encourage all those Teamsters who are ready to dig in and remake our union to join me in Cleveland in November."
Local 728, Atlanta
More information on workshops, industry meetings and speakers will be available soon.Issues: TDU
A veteran state safety inspector says top government officials are weakening California’s workplace protection agency – leaving the state’s 18.6 million workers exposed to unnecessary illness, injuries and fatalities. The problems plaguing California’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) include:
- Systematic and continuing understaffing.
- Failure to meet federal inspection benchmarks.
- Failure to investigate accidents in a timely manner
- Failure to inspect California’s most dangerous workplaces.
A report detailing these and other problems was authored and made available in February to The Dispatcher by Garrett Brown, a recently-retired 20-year Cal/OSHA veteran employee with an impressive resume of safety and health expertise. Brown is a Certified Industrial Hygienist with decades of field experience plus policy skills honed in health and safety projects around the world. For more than two years, he was Special Assistant to former Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. Like Brown, Widess was a strong advocate for worker safety rights, but became the target of California corporate interests who successfully lobbied Governor Jerry Brown’s administration to remove her in late 2013. Garrett Brown’s report is impressively documented with official public records, making the dismal state of Cal/OSHA immediately apparent from key statistics. Severe understaffing Neglect from the Governor’s office has left Cal/OSHA with only 170 enforcement field inspectors as of December 2013, to protect the state’s 18.6 million workers. These “Compliance Safety and Health Officers” (CSHOs) are the front-line inspectors responsible for ensuring that California employers are complying with worker safety laws. Worse than Republicans While Democratic Party candidates often promise to help workers, and often criticize Republicans for turning their backs on workers, the statistics reveal that that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fielded significantly more CSHO enforcement officers at Cal/OSHA (190) than the Brown administration is allowing (170). Worse than Fed OSHA When the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970 – thanks to work by union activist and dissident Tony Mazzocchi, occupational health expert Eula Bingham, and consumer advocate Ralph Nader – it was envisioned that many states would create their own OSHA programs and exceed the enforcement and policy standards governing federal OSHA. California, Oregon Washington and other states organized their own safety programs and were once recognized as leaders in enforcement and policy. But Cal/OSHA’s standing has failed in recent years due to political attacks from corporations and budget neglect from the Brown administration. Official records show that only one Cal/OSHA inspector is now available for every 109,000 workers – compared to Fed OSHA’s ratio 1 to 66,000. California looks even worse when compared to Washington State where one inspector is available for every 33,000 workers, or in Oregon where the ratio is 1 for 28,000 workers. Fish & Game has more The Brown administration’s neglect has allowed the Department of Fish & Game to field 33% more enforcement officers than Cal/OSHA does to protect workers. While outdoor advocates agree that the Department of Fish & Game is understaffed at 253 wardens – the situation effecting workers is far worse with only 170 Cal/OSHA’s inspectors for 18.6 million workers. Flunking key tests The Brown administration’s enforcement cuts has caused Cal/OSHA to fail meeting federal benchmarks in key areas, including response to worker complaints, closing inspections in a timely manner, and investigating non-fatal accidents in a timely manner Cal/OSHA cutbacks have caused the agency to conduct fewer planned inspections at the state’s most dangerous workplaces with higher-than-average injury rates. Staffing cuts have also hit workplaces where low-wage, non-union and immigrant workers are concentrated, and the agency hasn’t been able to hire enforcement inspectors who speak languages other than English. Another critical failure is the agency’s inability to conduct “follow-up” inspections –as required by state law – at workplaces where “Serious” citations have been issued. Unused funds neglected The cuts at Cal/OSHA under the Brown administration can’t be explained only by years of budget cuts and austerity from politicians who are afraid to raise taxes. That’s because Cal/OSHA does not receive any funding from California’s General Budget – half it’s budget comes from annual federal grants provided by Fed-OSHA. The other half of the Cal/OSHA budget comes from money directly collected from employers through fees directed to special state funds, including the “Occupational Safety and Health Fund,” which has shown a positive balance of over $20 million in every year for the last three years. These funds could have been used to protect California workers, but the money has been left untouched. The Fund will receive an extra $8 million this year from the ending balance of a related state fund that is being merged into the OSH Fund. Who’s to blame? Former Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess was constantly pressing the administration for sufficient funding to protect workers, but she was unable to secure additional funding and was ultimately removed from office. Cal/OSHA’s demise is best explained by Governor Brown’s philosophy of “small government” and “austerity budgeting” – views that happen to fit nicely with the interests of big business and corporations. Business friendly philosophy Similar “business-friendly” views have been expressed by Christine Baker, Governor Brown’s Director of California’s Department of Industrial Relations, who oversees Cal/OSHA. Baker has spoken candidly about the need for a “new paradigm” that emphasizes “partnerships” with employers and relatively less emphasis on aggressive enforcement of health and safety regulations. “The vast majority of employers either do the right thing, or would do the right thing if they knew how,” Baker has frequently told stakeholders and Cal/OSHA staff. Cal/OSHA’s primary role is to “provide compliance assistance, partnerships and consultations with these employers.” The “new paradigm” views expressed by Baker are virtually identical to arguments made by the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests. More austerity ahead Putting a “business friendly” philosophy into practice explains why the Brown administration has proposed a 2014-2015 Cal/OSHA budget that falls below enforcement staffing levels that existed 14 years ago, in the year 2000. How low can you go? Brown’s business-friendly Cal/OSHA cuts are worse than those imposed by Republican Governor George Deukmejian, who defunded the entire agency in 1987 but state funding was restored by a voter-backed ballot measure in 1988. In 1989, when the agency was fully re-established, there were 185 CSHO’s protecting 14.6 million workers – roughly 15% more enforcement officers than Governor Brown is funding 25 years later. Staffing like OR & WA Correcting Cal/OSHA’s decline and neglect could be cured – with sufficient staffing and a serious commitment at the top to tough enforcement. Using the programs in Oregon and Washington State as a guide, Cal/OSHA would require a total of 556 enforcement officers to match staffing levels found in Washington State where there’s one inspector for every 33,000 workers. Matching Oregon’s ratio would require 658 enforcement officers at Cal/OSHA instead of the current 170. If the Brown administration refuses to let Cal/OSHA hire enough inspectors, then the agency is certain to continue falling short – and California workers will continue to suffer. “Understaffing and weak enforcement at Cal/OSHA threaten all workers in California,” said ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe. “ILWU and other union members have protections and rights on the job that most workers don’t, which is why we’re standing up for 18 million California workers who need more protection than they’re getting now from Cal/OSHA.”
February 11, 2014: Recent YRCW SEC filings reveal a payment of $5.5 million to MAEVA Group. See Item 16 in the link for the SEC filings. MAEVA is Harry Wilson’s company. Wilson, you may recall, is the Hoffa appointed trustee to the YRC Board. His firm aided YRC in getting the new refinance terms from the banks.
So while working Teamsters at YRC, Holland and New Penn entered 2014 giving up even more concessions in wages and benefits to keep the company afloat, Harry Wilson – a board trustee - kicked off the new year with a belated Christmas present of millions.
It’s time for Hoffa to explain the point of Harry Wilson and what good he does for Teamster members.Issues: Freight
On November 14, IWW member Jason Freedman was attacked, punched, grabbed by the throat, thrown on the trunk of a car and then on the ground by the Cambridge Police as he participated in a legal and peaceful picket of Insomnia Cookies*. Jason was also arrested & faces charges including assaulting a cop, although the only assault that took place was by the police on Jason. Please come show your support at a court appearance Jason has to make, tomorrow, Tuesday February 11, at 9 am, Cambridge District Court, 4040 Mystic Valley Parkway in Medford, a ten minute walk from the Wellington MBTA stop on the Orange Line. The Facebook event is here.
Today, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reintroduced a proposed rule to ensure a more streamlined and fairer union election process for workers. In response, Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta issued the following statement:
“We applaud the Board’s decision to reintroduce this commonsense rule. This modest reform would streamline the drawn-out union election system, reducing a number of obstacles faced by men and women trying to form a union to better their workplaces.
“Currently, workers who petition for a union election encounter delays of months and even years before an election is held, and some never get to vote at all. The current protracted election process sacrifices workers’ rights to an election and, instead, incentivizes coercive and often illegal activity by employers. This rule would cut back on senseless procedural delays, closing the loopholes employers have exploited for decades.
“Let’s be clear, this rule will only address employers’ cynical procedural maneuvers and not their anti-union conduct or communications with employees. There are countless examples of major corporations—like Walmart, Home Depot and Target—that subject employees to preemptive, intimidating anti-union campaigns, starting as early as their first day of work.
“In today’s upside-down economy, any attempt to restore some balance for working people is a good thing. While the agency’s proposed rule is a basic step toward protecting workers’ rights, much more needs to be done to fully address the significant challenges people face when they try to come together for a voice on the job.”
United Parcel Service Inc. and a union representing about 2,600 pilots who fly for the shipping company said they have moved their contract talks into mediation.
In a joint statement by UPS and the Independent Pilots Association, the two parties said they have requested mediation by the National Mediation Board for their continuing negotiations.
The two groups said they have been negotiating for 21/2 years but haven't yet reached an agreement on scheduling, compensation, pension, scope and benefits.
Corporate shippers are often spooked by labor negotiations because they think it could result in possible slowdowns or interruptions that might delay their packages.
But as last year showed, even when labor talks have gone smoothly, UPS customers hedge their bets. The company's volume growth in the second quarter was a little less than UPS expected, and the company said labor negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters hindered growth.
United Parcel Service Inc. and its pilot union on Wednesday said they are jointly asking for federal mediation for contract negotiations, which have already lasted more than two years.
The Independent Pilots Association, which represents about 2,600 UPS pilots, and the company said in a joint statement that they have "utilized their best efforts over the past two and a half years of negotiations," but are still at odds on issues including scheduling, compensation, pension, and benefits.
The National Mediation Board will handle negotiations going forward, according to the statement. The board has successfully helped the two parties to come to an agreement on all three contracts between UPS and the IPA since the union was formed at UPS in 1990. The last contract took about two years of federal mediation before it was signed in 2006.
The contract, which became amendable on Dec. 31, 2011, is governed by the Railway Labor Act, which keeps contracts from expiring and workers from striking, until all negotiation processes--including mediation--are exhausted.
UPS is also currently working to wrap up labor negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. While a master contract was passed in June by the company's domestic package-delivery employees, several local groups have rejected supplemental agreements that must be reached before the master contract can take effect.Issues: UPS
The 2014 TDU Convention will be held the weekend of November 7 - 8 at the Cleveland Airport Sheraton, a recently remodeled hotel conveniently near the Cleveland Airport.
Make your plans now to be there!Issues: TDU
Join Teamster Sisters and Brothers at this inspiring gathering of grassroots union activists, dynamic union leaders, and all-around troublemakers. Registration is just $95 if you register by February 15.
The conference is held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, near Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
Meet Teamster reform leaders and activists working for change in our union. A Teamster meeting will be held on Saturday.
More than 100 meetings and workshops include secrets of a successful organizer, beating apathy, running for union office, winning contract campaigns, bargaining over technology, assertive grievance handling, and inside campaigns.
Learn how some unions are working with their communities to fight privatization, tax the rich, run ballot initiatives, bargain around the ACA health care reform, organize without collective bargaining rights, and organize along the global supply chain.
Schedule: Workshops and meetings begin 1 p.m. Friday, April 4, and end at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 6.
Registration: $130. Early bird special: $95 if registered by February 15! Includes Saturday banquet. Also, get a discounted subscription to the monthly print edition of Labor Notes, just $20 when you register.
Location: Crowne Plaza Hotel at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Near Rosemont CTA train station (Blue Line).
Hotel Booking: Single/Double/Triple/Quad: $115 per night. Book at labornotes.org/2014/hotel or call the hotel at 877-337-5793. Mention "Labor Notes Conference" to get the conference room rate (guaranteed until March 12).
Air Travel: Fly to Chicago O'Hare (ORD). There is a free shuttle to the hotel.
Childcare: Available for a donation for children over 1 year old. Request by March 12.
Year after year, up and down the coast, ILWU members, pensioners and auxiliary clubs organize toy drives and donate their time and money to local charity groups who are helping to brighten the holiday for those who have fallen on tough times. Thousands of families along the coast had a happier Christmas because of the generosity of ILWU members and their spirit of solidarity.
Southern California ‘Feed the Community Day’ and Children’s Christmas Party
On November 25 and 26 Southern California ILWU members and their families distributed 1,500 Thanksgiving baskets to families in need. “We had volunteers from every ILWU local in Southern California, as well as pensioners and Auxiliary 8 members. Local 26 members provided the security and Local 65 Port Police provided traffic control,” said Lisa Tonson, Chariman for the Holiday Events Committee
Then in December, the 2013 Southern California ILWU Children’s Christmas Party helped approximately 3,000 kids have a happy holiday season. Over 100 volunteers helped to make this year’s event possible. The committee reached out to local non-profits to identify families in the area who may be in need of some assistance. Volunteers began preparations in the early morning of December 16. ILWU volunteers set out rows of toys and sports equipment. By 9am the hall was filled with Christmas music and children and their families began filing into the ILWU Memorial Hall. Children were allowed to pick a toy of their choice and were treated to cookies, punch, face painting and a visit from Santa.
Locals 13, 26, 63, 94, the Federated Auxiliary 8, Southern California Pensioners, Longshoremen Memorial Association and the Local 63 Memorial Association all made this year’s holiday party possible. The Holiday Events Committee works year round to plan and organize the annual charity events.
Bay Area toy drive
Local 10 hosted a Christmas Party that helped a multitude of families and hundreds of children celebrate the holidays. There were generous servings of food, sweet treats, face-painters, caricature portraits, and balloon artists. Santa Claus was the most popular attraction, with children lining up to tell him their Christmas wishes. A large team of volunteers made the event possible, coordinated by Frank Cresci, and Chris Christensen of the Bay Area Longshoreman’s Memorial Association (BALMA).
Toys for Tots donations were gathered at Local 10’s hall during the month of December. The success of the event was made possible by the many contributions from the members of Local 10, 34, 75, 91 and Bay Area Pensioners. Beth Susim coordinated the Toy Drive again this year which raised several thousand dollars to purchase toys that were used to brighten the holidays for Bay Area families.
“This was a fantastic job by ILWU members. Every year we ask members to step up and they did once again. Thanks to the generosity of Local 10, 34 and 91,” Cressi said. Local 10 and BALMA also donated money and toiletries to Toolworks Working Essentials, a non-profit that helps people with disabilities and those who have fallen on hard times achieve independence. Local 10 members donated several boxes of toothpaste, tooth brushes, shampoo, deodorant which will be distributed to women’s shelters and homeless shelters serving veterans and others in the Bay Area in need.
Local 34 Marine Clerks 2014 Toy and Bike Drive was a great success. Toys and bikes were donated to the San Francisco and Oakland Salvation Army Children’s’ Toy Drive. Many thanks go out to Lea Brocchini, Lance Brocchini, Julie Fisher, John Fisher, Allen Fung, Dave Hill, Ed Kachmarik, Craig Lauderdale, Julie Mavromatis, Jacqueline Peralta, Deborah Sedasey, and Jacqueline Singleton for their donations and support.
Local 19’s Christmas for Kids
Thanks to the generous contributions from Local 19 members, the 2013 Christmas for Kids committee raised nearly $10,000 to benefit several area charities and families. This year, $5,342 was donated to Teen Feed, a program that helps street kids. Donations included backpacks filled with toiletries, sleeping bags, money for bus passes and turkeys for their annual Christmas dinner party.
In addition, $2,011 was donated to the Harborview Hospital burn unit and once again Santa (played by Local 19 member Robert MacDonald) went to the hospital and gave gifts to the kids in the burn unit. A $6,000 donaion was made to TreeHouse, an organization that helps foster kids. Steve Wintermute and Carol Brogdon went to the KIRO radio telethon for Tree House and challenged others to donate and match Local 19’s donation.
By the end of the hour a total of $22,000 was raised for Treehouse. In addition to the charity organizations, the Christmas for Kids committee donated $1,500 in food and toys to three families from the community. The Local 19 Christmas for Kids committee members and volunteers included: Carol Brogdon, Jeannine Lofton, Robert Mac- Donald, and Steve Wintermute.
Tacoma Toy Drive
During the 2013 Local 23 Toy Drive in Tacoma, members donated $28,089 which helped over 650 local children in need who were able to choose two presents a piece. Charities Director, Dragan Butorac, and the toy drive committee of Mandy Peterson, Amy James, Kim Boespflug, Dana Braach and Holly Hulscher, did most of the toy shopping at a local union store for the gifts. Local 98 also donated $1,000 toward the drive. Local 23 also donated $200 gift cards to grade school students in need who try hard in school. Local 23 members Dragan Butorac and Dana Braach delivered gift cards to all 161 grade schools Pierce County which totaled $32,200.
Together with the toy drive donations ($28,089) and gift card donations to local schools ($32,200) the generous contributions of Local 23 members totaled $62,689. Local 23 members also donated $12,000 dollars to the Food Connection food bank during the holiday season.
Volunteers from Local 23 helped with both Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners that fed over 400 at each setting. Local 23 members volunteer there throughout the year. Once every month they prepare lunches that feed around 300 people a day. They also bring in monthly in donations of toiletries and clothing for the homeless of Tacoma. “Our volunteers are grateful for the opportunity for to help serve our community,” said Local 23 member Byron Baydo.
Locals 8, 40 and 92 joined forces with the Local 8 Federal Credit Union to collect bikes and toys for two local charities. One set of donated gifts went to the “Toy N Joy Makers,” an organization with a 95-year history that works with Portland Firefighters to help children in the community. The other group of toys were contributed to the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, who sponsored a luncheon for families in need and allowed them to choose gifts contributed by ILWU and other union members. The drive could not have happened without the work of Don Mehner, Chris Scheffel, Bill Underwood Sr, Mattew Forman, and the credit union staff.
San Diego food drive
Local 29 members in San Diego participated in a successful toy and food drive. They collected over 500 pounds of food for the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank that helps 320,000 people every month. The toy and food drives were organized by Henry Dominguez, Cameron Pate and Priscilla Perry.
International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI) – the rogue employer responsible for flagrant contract violations at the Port of Portland – is now expanding operations in Central America where murder, military repression, death threats and anti-union attacks are accompanying the firm’s expansion.
Labor leader attacked
The family of Honduran dockworker union leader, Victor Crespo, became the latest assassination target on January 27 when an armed assailant murdered Crespo’s father and injured his mother by running them over with a stolen truck in an attack outside the family home. Other Crespo family members narrowly escaped death and injury. Victor Crespo and his family have faced death threats because of his efforts to help workers at Puerto Cortés, a newly privatized operation container terminal that was recently taken-over by ICTSI.
Thugs & threats
An October 2013 article in The Dispatcher explained how members of the Honduran labor union (SGTM) encountered violent thugs, military forces and death threats after seeking union rights for workers. ICTSI secured a lucrative 30-year contract last February to operate the port through their OPC subsidiary. The company expects volumes could reach 600,000 containers, shipped to and from Honduras and neighboring countries.
Brush with death squads
By last September, SGTM General Secretary Victor Crespo had made no progress reaching a contract but he did begin receiving death threats. He narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by armed thugs who broke into his home during the early morning hours. The attack was foiled at the last minute by concerned neighbors who sounded the alarm, allowing Crespo to slip away with his life. After the foiled attack, Crespo received critical help from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), who made arrangements to try and protect him from the death squads.
ICTSI’s privatization play
ICTSI is a player in the growing effort to privatize formerly-public ports in the developing world. Privatization efforts across the globe are being aided by the World Bank, wealthy investors, and “free trade” agreements that undermine public ownership and ease private takeovers. Countries wishing to invest and improve their public ports quickly discover that access to investment capital is difficult to secure – but easy to get if government officials agree to privatize.
When public assets are sold to private owners, workers and their unions are usually left behind. The new private employers promote “yellow” or “company” unions that don’t challenge the new owners and prevent workers from creating democratic trade unions.
Super profits for privatizers
Outside investors and terminal operators stand to make fortunes when ports and other public assets are privatized. Investors who make these deals spend time courting officials in countries they target – often with support and assistance from the U.S. State and Commerce Departments – and they are usually willing and expected to share some of their windfall profits with local politicians, business leaders, police and military officials who facilitate the privatization process.
Who wants to be a billionaire?
The privatization frenzy that took place in Mexico during the 1990’s serves as an example – and powerful motivator – for those wishing to make similar fortunes today in countries like Honduras. When Mexico’s public-owned telephone system and other public assets were sold to private investors as part of the “reforms” surrounding the NAFTA free trade agreement, it created new millionaires and billionaires, including one of the world’s richest men – Carlos Slim – who now commands a fortune worth $72 billion dollars, putting him on par with Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates.
Layoffs & lower pay for workers
When ICTSI was celebrating their new deal giving them 30-year control over Puerto Cortés, the Honduran state-owned port operator (Empresa Nacional Portuaria or “ENP”) began dismissing hundreds of public port workers without advance notice. Reaction to the terminations angered other port workers and union members across the country who responded with solidarity actions, marches and strikes. In December 2013, the government sent armed troops to threaten port workers who declared they would resist the intimidation until the nation’s president or officials agreed to help their union secure jobs at ICTSI.
Military confronts workers
As The Dispatcher was going to press in January, armed forces continued to occupy Puerto Cortés. ITF’s Honduran affiliate that represents public port workers, Sindicatos de Trabajadores de la Empresa Nacional Portuaria (SITRAENP) has been promised by the government to expect more productive negotiations with ENP, the nation’s public port agency. Victor Crespo and SGTM union members have also heard from Honduran government officials that ICTSI made a similar commitment to meaningful negotiations with their union. But neither union has been able to secure a fair contract and the sincerity of negotiations remains in doubt.
U.S. military involvement
Honduras has been heavily influenced during the past century by U.S. corporations, military forces, CIA operatives and State Department officials. Puerto Cortés, now run by ICTSI, was originally built to serve U.S. banana corporations, including the United Fruit Company (branded as “Chaquita”) that controlled Honduras for nearly a century, giving rise to the term “Banana Republic.” The U.S. installed several right-wing, anti-union governments and engaged in a massive military buildup during Ronald Reagan’s secret and illegal war during the 1980’s that was waged against pro-union rebels in neighboring Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Massacre feared possible
The ITF is concerned that the Honduran government’s latest military intervention at Puerto Cortés and their refusal to address worker concerns could result in a massacre, and has called for solidarity actions worldwide to protect workers in case negotiations fail. On December 4, 2013, the ITF sent a letter to Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, protesting the violation of port workers’ rights and urging him to help facilitate a prompt and fair settlement. Following the assassination of Crespo’s father, the ITF took other diplomatic and solidarity initiatives to help.
Similar conflicts in Costa Rica
Dispatcher readers may recall a similar struggle by dockworkers in Costa Rica that also involved privatization (see articles in March, June and August of 2010). Costa Rica’s public ports of Limón and Moin were privatization targets, following a $72 million loan from the World Bank to “modernize” both sites. When the SINTRAJAP dockworkers union refused to go along, the government ordered police to break into the union headquarters at 4:30 am on May 28, 2010, and take over the building.
When the union continued to resist, the government orchestrated a sham election in January 2011 to replace the democratically-elected union leadership with a new team of government puppets. Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court later reversed the government’s illegal ouster of SINTRAJAP union officials in August of 2011.
The ILWU supported SINTRAJAP with letters from International President McEllrath to President Obama and encouraged 25 members of Congress to express concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The ILWU hosted a SINTRAJAP delegation at the April, 2010 Longshore Caucus in Long Beach, and placed several full-page advertisements in major Costa Rican newspapers to educate citizens about the undemocratic actions taken by their government leaders.
Resistance by SINTRAJAP workers and international solidarity put government officials on the defensive; by mid-2011 press reports noted the government had “back-tracked” on the privatization scheme which had been put “on hold indefinitely.” However, as of 2014, the project appears to be moving forward after the government quickly granted a monopoly container concession to APM, which is slated to begin operations in three years, which will doom the public port.
Port workers and their union leaders continue to receive threats – and worse – from those advocating Costa Rica’s privatization scheme. Last year, a former union leader was murdered after he actively opposed the new private terminal location because it would destroy a sea turtle sanctuary. Police have not arrested or charged anyone for the crime.
ICTSI moves into El Salvador
In December of 2013, El Salvador’s port authority (CEPA) announced they had pre-selected ICTSI and three other companies to submit bids in April, 2014 for a 30-year private concession agreement to manage the country’s newest port of La Unión on the Pacific coast.
The modern, multi-use container terminal was just completed in 2009. The public agency initially operated the port with four, second-hand rubber-tire gantry cranes that cost $4.4 million, and planned to purchase more equipment to boost capacity to 300,000 containers a year. The privatization plan asks ICTSI and other bidders to invest $30 million in the first ten years of operations, enabling the terminal to handle 1 million containers a year.
El Salvador is the smallest, most densely populated and a highly industrialized country in Central America. During the 1980’s, the nation was torn apart by a bitter civil war that killed 75,000 residents, sparked by inequality between a handful of wealthy elites (backed by the U.S. military) who controlled the government and business, while the vast majority of Salvadorians lived then and now, in poverty. El Salvador has one of the world’s highest murder rates, a distinction they share with Honduras.
“Corporations that privatize often act like modern-day pirates who attack workers and communities for profit,” said ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe. “Companies like ICTSI have an agenda of plunder and profit that seems to spawn violence and repression. That has to be challenged in Central America, Portland or wherever they try to take advantage.”
February 4, 2014: Teamsters in the IBT-UPS Pension Plan were promised a $200 pension increase. But disinformation from the Pension Plan is stranding Teamsters who want to retire in pension limbo.
One of the selling points of the UPS contract was that 50,000 full-time UPSers who get a substandard pension from the IBT-UPS Pension Plan were promised a $200 pension increase.
The IBT’s “Contract Facts” website says that “Once all supplements and riders are approved, negotiated wage and pension increases will be paid retroactively to August 1.”
But UPS Teamsters who call the IBT- UPS Pension Plan about retiring are being told a different story.
Pension Plan reps are telling members they need to wait to submit their pension papers until after the contract is ratified to be guaranteed the pension increase. That will be months from now! In the meantime, Teamsters who want to retire are stuck working at UPS and waiting for a straight answer.
An Information Brownout is bad enough. Now Teamsters are getting disinformation from their own pension plan.
The IBT-UPS Pension Plan covers 50,000 full-time UPSers from locals in the Central and Southern Regions, and the Carolinas, who were formerly covered by the Central States Pension Fund.
It’s time for the Hoffa-Hall administration and the IBT-UPS plan to stop holding these UPS Teamsters hostage.
The IBT and the Pension Plan needs to come out with a clear guarantee that members who retire now will receive their pension increase retroactive to Aug. 1 as soon as the contract is ratified.
Members have earned their retirement and their pension increase. They don’t deserve to be stranded in pension limbo because of disinformation from the IBT-UPS Pension Plan.Issues: UPSPension and Benefits
February 3, 2014: Eight months after it was first rejected by UPS Teamsters, the Indianapolis Local 135 Rider was approved by a vote of 551 to 357. Approval came after several changes were made to the rider in bargaining after the rejection.
The International Union did multiple mailings to members to encourage a yes vote. The mailings advertised the improvements made in TeamCare benefits since the first rejection, the changes made to the Rider, and played up the retroactive pay building up.
You can access the language in the rider here.
There is no end in sight to the UPS bargaining. The Western Pa and Philadelphia supplements were defeated by a 3-1 margin in the second vote, and the Louisville Air Rider is still not bargained. The Ohio Rider has also been rejected twice. It’s time for the International to step up to the plate, admit their mistakes and deal with the contract issues of concern to members.
Ken Hall is apparently going to step up the pressure on locals and members in supplemental areas which have not yet settled, as he hints about in a letter he sent to locals today.Issues: UPS
YRC Worldwide Inc. said it has moved forward in the refinancing of its debt by completing a multi-step transaction worth about $300 million.
A total of $250 million of common and preferred stock was issued to retire convertible notes that were outstanding. In addition, the company late in Jan. 31 said $50 million in convertible notes were exchanged or converted into stock. In addition, pension fund obligations have been extended to 2019.
YRC’s total debt, including the latest transaction, was $1.35 billion as of its latest earnings report. The refinancing moved forward following last month’s approval by the Teamsters union of a contract extension into 2019. Lenders insisted on that extension to provide more financial certainty as debt matured over the intervening period.
“Beginning in late 2011, this management team set a very deliberate course to stabilize the company. While we are not yet done with our operational turnaround at YRC Freight, today’s equity investment and subsequent reduction of approximately $300 million in debt is an incredible validation of the hard work and commitment of every single YRCW employee,” Jamie Pierson, chief financial officer of YRC Worldwide, said in a statement.
Pierson said the company expects to refinance the rest of its debt in mid to late February.
The contract extension continued a 15% pay cut and lower pension contributions for 26,000 workers at the company that ranks No. 5 on Transport Topics Top 100 For Hire Carriers in the U.S. and Canada.Issues: Freight