Drivers misclassification lawsuit ruling is a win for Teamsters

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 02/02/2015 - 12:21
Peter TirschwellThe Journal of CommerceFebruary 2, 2015A Superior Court judge on Thursday ruled that seven drivers working for Pacer Cartage at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are employees and are owed a total of more than $2 million in damages. The ruling was a victory for  labor activists and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who see misclassification of drivers as their latest opportunity to unionize the port drayage labor force. But the ruling, coming after two years of legal maneuvering, underscored the expensive and time-consuming nature of the Teamsters’ strategy, under which trucking companies have to be challenged individually in court. Thus, there should be caution in assessing the implications of this particular victory for the broader Teamsters strategy. Yet that is the strategy the union is resorting to after earlier efforts, such as a Port of Los Angeles plan to require that truckers calling at its terminals be employees as part of an overall environmental initiative, proved unsuccessful. That is why some see the Teamsters as waging an uphill battle to unionize the U.S. drayage labor force, at least in union friendly states such as California, and thus potentially be in a position to exercise the type of powerful leverage over trade enjoyed by highly paid longshore labor workers such as members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. According to a report in the Torrance, California, Daily Breeze, Judge Jay M. Bloom ruled Pacer had an employer-employee relationship with the truckers and thus owned them the same benefits and protections as it offers to employees, including health care, overtime pay and sick leave. He ordered Pacer to pay the seven drivers damages ranging from $85,632 to $387,936. The key determinant in an employment relationship is whether the worker has control over his or her activities. “This case sets the stage for all the other cases that are pending,” the drivers’ attorney, Alvin Gomez, said at a news conference Thursday, as reported by the Breeze. “Now, every truck company is put on notice that if they have a similar scheme in place, (they) are in willing violation of California law.” “From the evidence, it appears that Pacer had the control,” the judge’s decision stated. XPO Logistics, the parent company of Pacer Cartage, and Harbor Rail Transport, another local drayage unit, said they would appeal the ruling, the Breeze reported. “We believe the drivers in question are properly classified as contractors, and that this case is without merit,” the company said in an e-mailed statement to the Breeze.Issues: Freight
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Report: IWW Picket Leicester Square School of English

IWW - Mon, 02/02/2015 - 10:17

From Trade Onion

London’s busy Leicester Square was the scene on Saturday, January 17th, for a picket organised by the IWW London general membership branch with the support of the Angry Language Brigade. The Leicester Square School of English (LSSE) was closed down over the Christmas period leaving workers out of work and out of pocket.

Workers decided to occupy the workplace in the hope of getting the money that they’re owed in unpaid wages, holiday pay and redundancy. Whilst they were there a group of students arrived expecting to be taught English only to find that the school had closed. The bosses had taken their money and not told them they were closing the school down. The workers have helpfully provided information for any students that turn up in future.

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Categories: Unions

Retirements reduced by the stroke of a pen in D.C.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 02/02/2015 - 08:25
Rick KarlinAlbany Times UnionFebruary 2, 2015

Anyone who thinks that congressional votes, federal regulations and the machinations of Wall Street have no bearing on their day-to-day lives should talk to John Raffiani Sr.

The Greene County resident is getting a hard lesson in what could be called the downside of deregulation, the decline of unions and the lingering effects of the 2008 recession.

He's one of at least 50 retired Capital Region truck drivers facing a deep cut in their monthly retirement checks due to looming shortfalls in their union pension funds.

The cuts will be allowed thanks to an amendment that was tucked into the most recent federal budget, which was approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in December.

About 100,000 New Yorkers who depend on a variety of private-sector union pensions could be facing lowered payments in coming years.

And while the pension fund that Raffiani relies on, the Teamsters' Central States Pension Fund, is the most prominent and most threatened pension fund right now, the amendment opens the door for potential future cuts to an estimated 10 million retirees nationwide who are enrolled in "multi-employer" pension plans.

Raffiani and others want to know how such a measure was folded into the larger budget rather than debated on its own. "I worked hard for 35 years," said the 68-year-old. "I paid a lot of money over time into that fund."

Raffiani was a Teamster "car hauler," a truck driver who specialized in transporting new cars to dealerships around the Northeast. 

Everyone has seen them — the big rigs with double-decker trailers laden with shiny new vehicles.

In the trucking world, this is an elite group: Drivers not only deliver the valuable cars, but they need to get them on and off their trailers without a scratch. Raffiani and his fellow drivers transported cars from the vast rail yards in Selkirk to dealerships across the region.

He was enrolled in the Teamsters' Central States Pension Fund, which has more than $17 billion in assets. Despite that, a confluence of trends threatens the fund's long-term solvency.

Since the trucking industry was deregulated in 1980, there have been fewer big companies paying into the plan, and even fewer union drivers contributing to the fund. Add in the lingering hit from the 2008 financial crash and the plan, which now pays $4 in retirement funds for every dollar it's collecting, is facing long-term peril.

As a result, the fund's managers sought and got permission from Congress to make the cuts if needed.

Raffiani says his approximately $3,000 monthly pension could be cut almost in half.

It should be a while before that occurs, according to the union, but most expect it to happen by 2016.

Raffiani got into the car hauling business almost by chance, and he stuck with it as he gained experience and seniority.

He began driving concrete trucks after high school, but that was seasonal. When he got the chance to haul cars, he jumped.

In his best years, Raffiani earned more than $50,000 with benefits. Some drivers made twice that if they were willing to drive all the time and spend weeks away from home.

It was never easy, though. As well as driving for 10 hours at a stretch, car haulers have to load the new vehicles on their trailers, then chain them securely in place. It can take a few minutes or few hours, said Raffiani, depending on the vehicles. The job also requires clambering around a double-decker trailer in all kinds of weather, day and night, using heavy steel rods or tie-down bars to secure the chains holding the cars.

"The bars do a number on you," Raffiani said, adding that all the fellow car haulers he knows have chronic shoulder problems. "That bar could slip and knock out your teeth."

He remembers the time another hauler lost four fingers when a rod slipped in a particularly bad way. 

Another driver died after he was pinned between two cars he was unloading in Newburgh. A Canadian hauler slipped off his trailer one frigid night near the border and landed on his head.

Raffiani considers himself lucky: He got out with the usual shoulder pain and only three hernia operations.

He traveled mostly in New York and New England, although some trips took him as far as Montana and Oklahoma.

Shortly after he started in the business, he noticed an odd phenomenon to which he didn't give much thought at the time.

The companies that had contracts to haul cars seemed to be endlessly changing, especially after deregulation. 

They were being taken private or public. Or going bankrupt and reorganizing under different names or owners.

Raffiani has a hard time keeping all his employers straight — many don't exist any more, or have gone through numerous iterations.

He started his career with Anchor Motor Freight and then went to Leaseway. Then it was NuCar. After that he was at M&G Convoy, Automobile Transport and Ryder, and so on.

Some of the firms didn't seem well-managed. He recalls one that got a contract with an unusually low bid — it turned out the Georgia-based owners didn't realize there are road tolls in New York and New England. "Right away, they were in serious trouble," he said.

In retrospect, the game of musical trucks resulted from deregulation. Prior to the 1980s, car hauling was governed by strict federal rules about where trucks could or couldn't go. That limited the competition. Deregulation, especially the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, meant more and more people could enter the business. That may have helped lower shipping costs, but with an ever-expanding list of companies, the pay for the drivers fell and union shops became less competitive.

"Pretty much anybody could haul what they wanted when they wanted to,'' said Raffiani.

For pension funds like the Central States, which has 411,000 members, one result was that fewer and fewer drivers are paying into the plan. Currently, Central States has just one active employee for every five retirees.

Raffiani isn't sure how many fellow retirees know about the looming cuts. He's been trying to get the word out and has spoken with groups like Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which has criticized the union's leadership on this issue.

The Washington, D.C.-based Pension Rights Center is keeping track of the possible cuts and they are pushing the union to keep searching for alternatives.

AARP has sounded the alarm as well, saying they are worried about the precedent it could set.

Some criticize the way the amendment, which was pushed through by Republican Rep. John Kline of Minnesota and Democrat George Miller of California, was inserted into the larger budget bill. They say that had it been a stand-alone measure, there would have at least been more debate.

"Because it was attached to what many viewed as 'must-pass' legislation, many believe there was no choice," said Joellen Leavelle, outreach manager for the Pension Rights Center.

"Whether or not they even knew what they were voting for is another story," Raffiani said of the lawmakers who voted for the overall budget package.

In the aftermath, Raffiani is considering his options. He has renewed his hazardous materials license, which would allow him to drive a fuel truck — at his age, he doesn't want to climb around on car hauler trailers. He drives a school bus part time and refurbishes vacuum cleaners on the side, and thinks about ramping up that business.

He's also looking at opening a small cafe with his wife, who he says is a top-notch cook.

Raffiani has two children in the area, including a son who joined the Air Force years ago. He's already retired with a secure government pension in Georgia, where heating costs and taxes are fraction of what Raffiani pays.

"I've been sick ever since this happened," Raffiani said.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Pension Justice Campaign Is on the Move

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 10:12

January 30, 2015: TDU's Pension Justice Campaign is on the move. Our voices are getting into the media and Teamster members and retirees are organizing to fight cuts and protect our pensions.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution featured leaders of the Local 728 Retirees Club who are fighting the pension cuts. 

“We worked all our lives to earn a decent pension,” said Waymon Stroud, 61, who retired four years ago from Yellow Freight and is now president of the retirees club at Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta. If his $2,800-a-month benefit got cut 30 percent, he added, “I’d have to go back to work.”

The article also exposed the big Brown corporate loophole that will save UPS $2 billion on the back of Teamster retirees.  

A report in the Washington Post lists the Teamster and other union funds that are eligible to cut retiree benefits under the new law.

Teamster members and retirees are coming together to make our voices heard.

TDU pension activists spoke at a recent Memphis Local 667 retirees meeting attended by over 100 Teamsters. Others hosted a meeting in Milwaukee that formed the Wisconsin Committee to Protect Pensions. The Wisconsin committee is planning a larger meeting for February. In Ohio, Mike Walden—chair of the Northeast Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions will speak in March with other pension activists at retiree meetings in Columbus and Cincinnati. Plans are percolating for other meetings across the South and Midwest and beyond.

We are reaching out to allies, like the Pension Rights Center, AARP, sympathetic political leaders, and other unions. But to build a strong coalition to protect our pensions, we need to bring concerned Teamsters to the table.

That means reaching out to members and retirees in our areas. Contact TDU if you’re interested in helping organize a pension meeting in your area. We can help, including with guest speakers who can help explain pension issues and what’s next for the pension protection campaign.

Click here to get involved.

Follow us at www.facebook.org/teamstersforademocraticunion

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Victory! Citizens Co-op in Gainesville, FL rehires fired IWW workers

IWW - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 19:53

By Carla Vianna, Alligator Staff Writer

The controversial dismissal of several Citizens Co-op employees last year led to an almost yearlong labor dispute, but a much-anticipated settlement is now on the horizon.

An agreement to rehire four of the five workers who were fired last year has been reached between the co-op’s new board of directors and the Gainesville Industrial Workers of the World — the union representing the employees — said Thomas Hawkins, board chairman.

The tentative agreement would rehire four of the five workers, pay them a collective $10,000 and recognize Gainesville Industrial Workers of the World as their union.

Read more from The Independent Florida Alligator.

Categories: Unions

Put an End to Jimmy John's Retaliation: Picket and call-in to support fired IWW organizer!

IWW - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 09:23

Picket: Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at 11:45 AM
Jimmy John's, 401 W Pratt St, Baltimore, Maryland
RSVP on Facebook!

Nothing scares the bosses more than workers standing up for dignity and a better life on the job. From day one the bosses have conducted a campaign of retaliation against union members at the shop.

On Friday, January 23rd, Jimmy Johns fired one of the IWW organizers in the shop.

We need your help to show the bosses that such action against our members is unacceptable! Join the picket line with us and let your voice be heard! We won't let management silence our voices and attack our members.

Our picket will take place during Orioles FanFest, and you can help us hit the boss where it hurts the most: his wallet!

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Categories: Unions

First Issue of the Incarcerated Worker

IWW - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 15:02

Introducing a new publication from the Industrial Workers of the World, the Incarcerated Worker! Over the last year or so, some prisoners in the U.S. and outside supporters have gotten together and formed the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee to address concerns such as prison labor and conditions.

Click here to download the PDF!

Categories: Unions

#Caravana43 – Friends and Family of the Ayotzinapa 43 Plan U.S. Tour

IWW - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 18:16

By Greg Rodriguez
Rio Grande Valley, South Texas IWW

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Categories: Unions

PSR Fleet Memo for January 24 2015

IBU - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 15:40
Categories: Unions

CALLOUT: 24-Hour Email Campaign to Target Wage-Stealing Boss

IWW - Sun, 01/25/2015 - 10:18

What: 24-hour email campaign to the Smallford Residents Association

When: Monday 26th January

Action: Send an email to smallford.res@btinternet.com and info@smallford.org
Complete the contact form here: http://smallford.org/contact-us/

NOTES (Please read!): The Smallford Residents' Association is not the enemy. Keep it polite. One email per person is fine. DO NOT make any phone calls, ONLY send emails to the email addresses listed above.

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Categories: Unions

Rail Workers and Environmentalists to Teach Each Other

IWW - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 15:18

By Ron Kaminkow - Labor Notes, January 21, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. Several IWW branches have, however, endorsed this effort.

With public attention focused on the railroads in a way it hasn’t been for decades, the cross-craft solidarity group Railroad Workers United is seizing the opportunity to teach the general public “railroading 101”—and teach rail workers “environmental politics 101.”

Both those workshops, among others, will be offered at one-day conferences on “The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community, and Environment,” March 14 in Richmond, California, and March 21 in Olympia, Washington. (See below) for details.)

“My excitement about the conference is having railroaders, who on a daily basis are moving these really dangerous, volatile, flammable materials, having a dialogue with communities who want it to be made safe,” says activist Gifford Hartman.

“To my knowledge it’s never been done,” says Seattle switchman-conductor Jen Wallis. “Rail labor hasn’t worked with environmentalists to the degree that steelworkers and longshoremen and Teamsters have. It’s all very new.”

RWU is partnering with the Backbone Campaign and other groups to organize both events. The idea is to bring together rank-and-filers, environmentalists, and the general public.

Just as important as learning each other’s issues, Wallis says, is that “we get to know each other… So we have people we can call on when we have an issue on the table, and they can do the same with us.”

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Categories: Unions

IWW Insomnia Cookies Worker in Cambridge Needs Your Support!

IWW - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 13:48

The Cambridge, MA Police are persecuting a union activist merely for picketing. Click here to donate to his legal & living expenses

On November 14, 2013, Cambridge cops, aided by the HUPD*, attacked a peaceful picket of union-busting Insomnia Cookies, where workers had gone on strike for $15/hr, paid health care, and a union. The cops grabbed IWW member Jason by the throat, threw him on the ground and pinned him partially under a car. Jason was cuffed and dragged away, charged with with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and assaulting a cop, even though the only assault committed was by the police against him.

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Categories: Unions

Tentative Deal to Avert Strike at Produce Market in Hunts Point

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 07:31
Winnie HuNew York TimesJanuary 19, 2015View the original piece

The Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market reached a tentative contract agreement on Saturday with more than 1,200 workers, averting a potential strike that could have disrupted the region’s supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The three-year agreement would give workers a raise of $20 a week the first year, $22 the second year and $24 the third year. The increases represented a compromise between the union’s earlier push for a raise of $25 a week each year, and the merchants’ counteroffer of $16 in the first year and $22 thereafter.

Another sticking point had been the merchants’ demand that more workers begin contributing $20 a week to their health plan; employees hired in the past three years already make such contributions. Under the tentative agreement, the health care contributions would be extended to some higher paid workers such as supervisors and salespeople.

The workers will vote on the agreement on Wednesday, according to their union, Teamsters Local 202, which announced the tentative deal. Daniel Kane Jr., president of Teamsters Local 202, said the union’s bargaining committee recommended that the agreement be approved.

“We’re not too far from our demands, so we feel confident that it will be ratified by the rank and file,” said Mr. Kane, who noted that “it’s the largest wages and benefits package we’ve received in the last 20 years.”

If union workers were to reject the agreement, there could still be a strike, Mr. Kane said.

Robert Leonard, a spokesman for the market, said that its merchants were happy that both sides were able to come together. “At the end of the day, discussions resulted in a fair package, which goes a long way towards addressing the issues raised by management and labor,” he said.

Union workers had been prepared to carry out the first strike at the Hunts Point market in nearly 30 years after contract negotiations stalled in recent days. They had initially planned to strike as early as Friday morning, but union leaders said that, at the request of a federal mediator, they had agreed to postpone any action until at least Sunday.

The market, made up of about 40 independent merchants but run as a cooperative, is the region’s largest supplier of fresh produce to wholesale and retail businesses, including grocers, bodegas and produce stands. While warehouse workers and drivers typically earn $38,000 to $53,000 a year, a smaller number of supervisors and others can earn more than $75,000, Mr. Kane said.

The two sides had already reached an agreement that calls for the market to increase its own contributions to workers’ health insurance and pension plans.

“We were boosted by the support of our elected officials and everyday New Yorkers,” Mr. Kane said. “It’s getting harder and harder to get by in this city. People really rallied around these workers demanding a wage that their families can live on.”

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Tentative Deal to Avert Strike at Produce Market in Hunts Point

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 07:31
Winnie HuThe New York TimesJanuary 19, 2015View the original piece

The Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market reached a tentative contract agreement on Saturday with more than 1,200 workers, averting a potential strike that could have disrupted the region’s supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The three-year agreement would give workers a raise of $20 a week the first year, $22 the second year and $24 the third year. The increases represented a compromise between the union’s earlier push for a raise of $25 a week each year, and the merchants’ counteroffer of $16 in the first year and $22 thereafter.

Click here to read more at The New York Times.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

London IWW: Picket the Leicester Square School of English this Saturday!

IWW - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 17:54

The London IWW branch and the Angry Language Brigade will be holding a protest picket at Leicester square School of English:

When: 11:30am until 2:00pm on Saturday 17th Jan
Where: 22 Leicester Square, WC2H 7LE (map - https://goo.gl/maps/JeBKl )

Click here for Facebook Event Page


Having already occupied their school, staff at the Leicester Square School of English are organising a picket this Saturday, 17th of January. Here's why.

Since the Christmas holidays, workers at the Leicester Square School of English have been in a major wage theft dispute with the school and its owner, Craig Tallents. Both the Angry Language Brigade and the IWW have been organising the dispute.

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Categories: Unions

It’s time to fight back

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 14:03

"I hauled cars out of Selkirk, New York for 31 years. I worked for a number of different companies – Automobile Transport, Nu-Car Carriers, Anchor Motor Freight, M&G Convoy, Leaseway, Ryder and finally, Allied. I retired in 2002.

I worked extremely hard in 35 below zero weather and 110 degrees in the shade. I went through lay offs, mergers, loss of seniority, company closings and now they want to cut my pension. That just isn’t right.

Welcome to the new U.S.A. It’s time to fight back."

John Raffiani Sr.Local 294 Retiree Click here to join our Campaign for Pension Justice. Sign up for email updates at www.tdu.org and like us on facebook.Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

What Hoffa Tried to Do to Your Right to Vote – and the Results

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 09:55

January 15, 2015: Hoffa went to court to try to destroy our Right to Vote. Teamsters fought back. Get the detailed run-down on the rights that Hoffa tried to gut -- and the outcome.

The Consent Order of 1989 is likely to soon be replaced by a Final Order issued by federal judge Loretta Preska, who will hold a hearing on February 11.

What does it mean for Teamsters?

Hoffa tried to destroy our right to vote. You can see that for yourself in what the IBT attorneys filed with the court last June. The US Attorney filed a reply to that, and TDU filed a reply also. You be the judge: who was standing up for you?

Now, the matter is being settled, and a permanent settlement agreement, enforced by the order of the court, is before judge Preska. Thanks go out to our TDU counsel Barbara Harvey, and to the thousands of Teamsters who petitioned the court in defense of Teamsters’ rights.

Here are some key rights that Hoffa tried to destroy, and the outcome: 

  • HOFFA TRIED TO END the consent order, with NO permanent settlement in the form of a Final Order issued by the judge, to protect the right to vote or monitor corruption. This would mean any Teamster leadership which had the majority of delegates at the Convention could end the right to vote, and also have no check on corruption.
  • RESULT: A permanent settlement order which protects the Right to Vote for IBT officers and delegates, with an election supervisor, and the election rules; and the present injunctions on corruption are permanent also (Paragraphs 1-10 and 12-16 of the order)
  • HOFFA TRIED TO RAISE THE 5% BAR FOR NOMINATION to make it difficult or impossible for opposition candidates to be nominated at the IBT Convention. They could raise the percent of delegates needed to whatever it would take to eliminate opposition candidates.
  • RESULT: The 5% threshold is guaranteed by the Final Order for the 2016 and 2021 elections (Paragraph 11 of the order). It’s time to vote out those who want to steal or weaken your right to vote!
  • HOFFA TRIED TO GET SOLE POWER to appoint the Election Supervisor, so he may be able to appoint a weak one. 
  • RESULT: He will NOT have that appointment power for our 2016 election. After that, the GEB will have appointment power (Paragraph 15). It’s time to vote out those who want to steal or weaken your right to vote!
  • RESULT: We won two new improvements. First, the IBT will have to mail a packet with campaign materials from all IBT candidates – not just in the magazines but a separate mailing – one week prior to mailing the ballots. (Paragraph 19). Second, candidates have expanded rights to use IBT emails and digital media to reach Teamster members on line (Exhibit C of the order).
  • RESULT: The Independent Review Board (IRB) shall continue as-is for one year, then be replaced by an Independent Investigations Officer and Independent Review Officer. After five years, appointment power of these Officers will go to the GEB (Paragraphs 24-42).

Sign up for email updates at www.tdu.org and like us on facebook.

Issues: Hoffa Watch
Categories: Labor News, Unions

With end of Teamsters supervision, an era passes

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 08:24
Marianne Levine and Brian MahoneyPoliticoJanuary 15, 2015View the original piece

The U.S. government is ushering in a new era for the Teamsters, ending its 25-year supervision of a union once infamous for its ties to organized crime.

Teamster corruption has held the federal government’s attention since the late 1950s, when Robert F. Kennedy first pursued the matter as counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management, also known as the McClellan committee. Kennedy continued to investigate the Teamsters after he became attorney general in 1961, and those investigations continued in one form or another through the 1980s.

Click here to read more at Politico.


Issues: Hoffa Watch
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Teamsters’ 25 Years of Federal Oversight to End

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 08:04
Kris MaherThe Wall Street JournalJanuary 15, 2015View the original piece

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the federal government said Wednesday they had reached an agreement to end 25 years of strict oversight designed to root out corruption and alleged Mafia influence in the union’s highest ranks.

The proposed deal, which was reached with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in Manhattan, would end a 1989 consent decree stemming from a landmark racketeering lawsuit brought a year earlier by the Justice Department. Prosecutors alleged that organized crime members had seized “an interest in and control of” the 1.3 million-member union.

The agreement calls for government oversight to be phased out over five years. Eventually, the union will appoint independent officers to probe corruption allegations, a task currently handled by a three-member independent review board that includes a government appointee.

The Teamsters also agreed to maintain an election process for top officers mandated by the consent decree in which all union members can vote. At many other unions, only convention delegates cast ballots.

Union officials said they expect a federal judge to approve the agreement at a Feb. 11 hearing.

Mr. Bharara said that while the Teamsters have made significant progress in ridding its ranks of corruption, the threat of wrongdoing by organized crime still exists and the government would continue to monitor the union’s handling of disciplinary matters.

“While threats persist, the organized crime influence the government found to have reached the highest echelons of IBT leadership in 1988 has long been expunged,” Mr. Bharara and the union wrote in a joint statement to the judge.

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, who fought the consent decree for years, said it was a historic day for the union.

“After decades of hard work and millions of dollars spent, we can finally say that corrupt elements have been driven from the Teamsters and that the government oversight can come to an end,” Mr. Hoffa said.

Ken Paff, national organizer with a rank-and-file group called Teamsters for a Democratic Union and a Hoffa critic, praised the continuation of election rules.

He said a new requirement that the union pay for one mailing of campaign materials to all members before elections would help level the playing field for challengers to Mr. Hoffa.

“We’re pleased because we have protected and even enhanced the supervised right to vote for all members,” Mr. Paff said.

The Teamsters originally agreed to government oversight to settle the broad racketeering lawsuit. At the time, then-U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani alleged the union had made a “devil’s pact” with the Mafia by allowing it to control officer elections.

The suit named as defendants 18 members of the union’s executive board and 26 alleged organized-crime members, 25 of whom had been convicted of crimes such as extortion, embezzlement and illegal union payoffs.

On Wednesday, Mr. Giuliani said he believed the consent decree had been a success, noting that oversight continued across Republican and Democratic administrations. He said he believed the union had cleaned up corruption, but noted that the Mafia is far weaker today.

“The Teamsters is now free to operate as a very legitimate union. There’s no burden placed on it to operate as a subsidiary of organized crime,” he said.

Before reaching the agreement under the Obama administration, union officials had lobbied unsuccessfully in the past for an end to the decree, including through negotiations with the Clinton administration.

The current deal was the result of years of settlement negotiations, the union and prosecutors said in their memorandum to the judge.

Last summer, the Teamsters asked a federal judge for the first time to end the consent decree.

At that time, prosecutors responded that they would support scaling back government control over the union but not eliminating the measures, saying that “corrupt and undemocratic practices persist at all levels of the union.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment Wednesday on the earlier statement.

The union wrote in a court filing last year that charges of corruption had dropped precipitously. Cases that involved alleged racketeering or other activity that prompted the consent decree fell to 33 in the past decade, from 144 in the first five years of the consent decree, the union wrote.

Issues: Hoffa Watch
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Teamsters Save Their Right to Vote

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 11:29

January 14, 2015: Teamster members’ Right to Vote will be protected under fair rules and independent supervision under a motion filed in court today on the future of government supervision in the Teamsters Union.

After months of negotiations, the International Union and the US Attorney have agreed on a joint proposal for a transition to a new system for monitoring and investigating internal union corruption and electing International Union officers.

In a victory for Teamster members, the 2016 and 2021 IBT elections will be conducted under the same rules, independent supervision and procedures as the 2011 election. Members’ right to vote under fair rules in supervised elections will be protected.

Last June, the Hoffa administration filed court papers to end the Independent Review Board and fair elections for International Union officers.

TDU and Teamster members launched a national campaign and petition drive to protect members’ Right to Vote for International Union officers in elections governed by fair rules and monitored by an independent election supervisor.

The Settlement Agreement summary filed in court today preserves these rights. The settlement will be reviewed by Judge Loretta Preska and a hearing will be held on February 11.

TDU proposed important improvements to the Election Rules that are included in the proposed agreement, including the right of candidates to a free mailing to the entire Teamster membership one week prior to the mailing of the International Union election ballots.

In the past, only Hoffa and incumbent officers could afford a union-wide mailing. Now the members will get a mailing from all candidates.

General President Hoffa announced that today is a new day for the Teamsters Union, but thanks to Teamster members and TDU, Hoffa cannot go back to the old days when corruption was ignored and members were denied the right to vote for our International Union leaders.

If approved, the settlement agreement will replace the Consent Order with a permanent settlement agreement and permanent injunction that protects important fundamental rights.

Under the agreement:

  • The 2016 and 2021 IBT elections will be conducted under the same rules, independent supervision and procedures as 2011, with the improvement that all candidates will be entitled to a free mailing to the entire membership. 
  • Through 2021 a candidate for International Union office can be nominated by a vote of five percent of Convention delegates. Beginning in 2026, the threshold for nominating candidates can be changed by a vote of the delegates at the Teamster Convention.
  • The Independent Review Board will continue for one more year. Following that, the IRB’s anti-corruption functions will be assumed by an Independent Investigations Officer and Independent Review Officer who are jointly-appointed by the US Attorney and the Union. Five years after that, the IBT will have the sole authority to appoint these officers.
  • The government will retain the power to enforce the settlement agreement if it shows by a preponderance of evidence the agreement has been violated. The anti-corruption injunctions of the consent order are made permanent.

TDU Counsel Barbara Harvey is reviewing the full 133-page settlement to examine the details.

TDU fought to protect the Right to Vote and we plan to use it.

Click here to be part of the nationwide effort to elect new International Union leadership in 2016.  

Issues: TDUHoffa Watch
Categories: Labor News, Unions


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