Teamsters for a Democratic Union

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Updated: 11 hours 44 min ago

Hoffa Escalates Attack on the Right to Vote

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:12

july 30, 2014: The Hoffa administration is escalating its attack on Teamster voting rights. Hoffa administration lawyers are filing new papers with Judge Loretta Preska in a bid to end fair, independently supervised elections in the Teamsters. The case could be decided as early as September.

Judge Preska can’t just hear from Hoffa. She needs to hear from us.

More than 3,000 Teamsters have signed an Open Letter to Judge Preska, including 1,744 who have signed online.

We’ve set a goal of delivering 10,000 petition signatures to Judge Loretta Preska by Labor Day.

Can you help us reach our goal and save the right to vote by:

Clicking here to sign the petition?

Emailing a link to the petition to your friends and asking them to sign and sharing it on your Facebook wall?

If you’d like copies of the petition form and a leaflet explaining the issue to distribute, please contact TDU at 313-842-2600 or info [at] tdu [dot] org and we’ll be happy to mail you a packet immediately.

You can click here to read more background on this campaign and on the importance of independent oversight in protecting members’ rights.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Take Back Our Union Meetings Ohio and Kentucky

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 11:24

Members are holding Take Back Our Union meetings in Ohio and Louisville to reach out to concerned Teamsters and organize for change.

Teamster are tired of Hoffa, Hall and contract concessions. Members have launched Take Back Our Union to organize for change. 

Two Take Back Our Union meetings are organized for Saturday, August 9. Invited guest speakers include Teamster local leaders Sandy Pope, Fred Zuckerman, Tim Sylvester, and Tony Jones.

For more information on these meetings, email takebackourunion2016 [at] gmail [dot] com

Take Back Our Union—Dayton

Saturday, Aug.99:30 AMHilton Garden Inn3520 Pentagon Park Blvd. Beavercreek, Ohio Click here to download a flyer with Ohio meeting details.Take Back Our Union—Louisville Saturday, Aug. 93:30 PM—5:30 PMCrowne PlazaLouisville AirportCrowne C Room830 Phillips Lane, Louisville Click here to download a flyer with Louisville meeting details.

 

Categories: Labor News, Unions

FedEx indicted for drug dealing. Not a delivery guy — the whole company

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 07:56
Justin MoyerThe Washington PostJuly 30, 2014View the original piece

There might be something more interesting than a tennis ball in that FedEx package.

File that illicit drug revenue under “miscellaneous.”

That’s more or less the policy the shipping giant FedEx followed starting in the mid-aughts, according to a 15-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court in California on Thursday. According to prosecutors, the company knew the shipping services it provided to two Internet pharmacies ran afoul of the law.

Click here to read more at The Washington Post.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Big Brown Gets Busy in 2nd Quarter

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 08:53

July 29, 2014: UPS made $454 million in after-tax profits and transferred liability for future retiree healthcare costs to Teamcare.

UPS announced $454 million in profits for the 2nd quarter today. That’s down from $1.07 billion for the same period last year.

But don’t cry for Big Brown just yet. The company’s 54% drop in profits is explained by a one-time charge. 

UPS posted a one-time $665 million after-tax charge on its books related to the company’s transfer of retiree healthcare benefits to Teamcare for all Teamsters who retire January 1 this year or after.

That Teamcare transfer aside, UPS made $1.2 billion for the quarter, an increase over last year. U.S. revenue rose by 5.2 percent to $8.67 billion. Daily package volume grew by 7.4 percent. 

UPS Freight and supply chain revenue rose by 7 percent to $2.35 billion.

Volume is expected to grow. UPS is investing $175 million in peak operations to avoid a repeat of last year when the online sales boom caught the company flatfooted and humiliated executives in Atlanta. 

In one negative, profit per package is actually down. The rapid growth in UPS SurePost was the primary cause of the reduction, Nasdaq reports.

The contract includes new language on SurePost that Hoffa and Hall claim will mean fewer packages diverted to the Post Office and more fulltime Teamster driving jobs. But will they enforce it? Click here for tips on documenting violations and pressing Hoffa and Hall to deliver on their Surepost promises.

For more press coverage on UPS profits, check out:

UPS invests $175 million in peak operations

UPS 2nd qt profits improve, excluding pension charge

 

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

UPS invests $175 million in peak operations

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 08:23
Hadley MalcolmUSA TodayJuly 29, 2014View the original piece

After a holiday shipping fiasco that left thousands of customers without packages in time for Christmas last year, United Parcel Service will invest $175 million in peak operations for the rest of 2014, the company announced Tuesday as part of its second quarter earnings statement.

UPS said it will increase operating expenses for "capacity and peak related projects," including for operations on Black Friday and software that optimizes delivery routes.

Click here to read more at USA Today.

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Fast-Food Workers Intensify Fight for $15 an Hour

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 05:39
Steven GreenhouseThe New York TimesJuly 29, 2014View the original pieceAs labor gatherings go, this one was highly unusual — 68 workers arrived on charter buses from St. Louis, 100 from New York City and 180 from Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. Fifty flew in from Los Angeles and two dozen from Seattle. These were not well-paid carpenters or autoworkers heading to their annual convention, hoping to sneak in a round of golf. Rather they were fast-food workers — 1,200 of them — from McDonald’s, Burger King and other chains, eager to pursue their ambitious goal of creating a $15-an-hour wage floor for the nation’s four million fast-food workers. Click here to read more at The New York Times.Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Counting on Members’ Frustration, Rivers Opposes Local 237’s Floyd

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 05:33
Dan RosenbaumThe Chief-LeaderJuly 29, 2014

IDENTIFYING WITH STRUGGLING MEMBERS: Jakwan Rivers is challenging Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd in the union's October election. Speaking during a July 23 campaign event, he said that the union’s leadership was unresponsive to the members’ needs and that raises expected for members would not meet the cost of living. ‘You struggle every day,’ he said. ‘You work in, and for, a city that you can hardly afford to live in.’

During a July 23 meeting held by a dissident slate fighting to oust Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, as many as 125 people filled the room and crowded the doorway of the Jackie Gleason Room of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Brooklyn as presidential candidate Jakwan Rivers kicked off his campaign.

He is challenging Mr. Floyd in an October election, contending the labor leader has run a union that is unresponsive to members’ needs while he and other board members receive six-figure salaries but many rank-and-file members suffer economically.

‘Not Getting Leadership’

“The circumstances that we’re working under and the conditions that we’re working under have brought you here today,” he said. “You look for guidance and the leadership from your union and get nothing.”

The local is currently working to secure a contract with the de Blasio administration. If it matches the pattern sustained by District Council 37, announced last month, workers would get a $1,000 ratification bonus, a 1.5-percent raise this year as well as subsequent raises of 2.5 percent in 2015 and 3 percent the following year, plus three retroactive 1-percent raises. Mr. Rivers said that would not be enough to pay for increasing rents, but predicted the local would use a new pact as a political tool.

“They’re going to lie, they’re going to drag it on, because this is what they do,” he said. “Desperate times call for desperate measures and they know we’re hungry, so they’re going to dangle money.”

Mr. Floyd, speaking to this newspaper after the meeting, said that most of Mr. Rivers’s contentions were untrue, noting executives hadn’t gotten pay raises in four years and salaries have been publicized in the union’s newspaper since 1993.

‘Raises Tied to Members’

“We get increases as the members get increases,” he said. “And that’s a policy.”

He also said that Mr. Rivers hasn’t seen the contract, and shouldn’t complain about any hypothetical bargain.

“I understand that people always want more and the union would always like to get more for its members,” he said. “However, we’re negotiating a contract for Local 237. Mr. Rivers has no idea what that contract is because it hasn’t been revealed yet.”

The meeting was originally scheduled at Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’s office, but was moved after Local 237 protested the venue because it looked like an official endorsement from Mr. Adams. Mr. Rivers said that his slate, All Members For Change, wouldn’t change the neighborhood and instead “brought it to a better place.”

With more than 20,000 members, the local covers Housing Authority and Health and Hospitals Corporation employees as well as School Safety Agents and peace officers. It also includes non-city workers in Long Island and at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

Perennial Challengers

Mr. Rivers and his running mate, Eunice Rodriguez, have challenged the leadership going back a decade. Ms. Rodriguez ran for president against the late Carl Haynes in 2005 and Mr. Floyd—who was appointed after Mr. Haynes stepped down in 2007—in 2009. Mr. Rivers, originally aligned with Mr. Haynes, switched allegiances to run for vice president with Ms. Rodriguez five years ago.

“...when he went into that union and became a business agent, he saw the same thing up there,” Ms. Rodriguez said of Mr. Rivers’s time working for the union. “He saw the complacency, the do-nothingness, he saw all of that. And he decided, ‘I’m out of here.’’’

Mr. Floyd contended that he personally fired Mr. Rivers in 2009 because he had an agenda counter to the local’s.

The 2009 fight, as in this cycle, focused on allegations that the union’s leadership failed to properly advocate for the members. It turned uglier in its final weeks as a flyer appeared falsely accusing Mr. Floyd of sexual harassment. Mr. Floyd ultimately took 3,647 votes to Ms. Rodriguez’s 3,325. The incumbent vice president, Richard Hendershot, narrowly defeated Mr. Rivers by 282 votes.

Reconsidered Retiring

“I was going to retire this year, but when I saw the plight of my members, you kept drawing me back in,” she told her supporters.

Mr. Rivers took questions from the audience, which included a mix of supporters and members curious about the slate. Some said they were angered that the local’s business agents, who enforce contracts and grievances, often speak first to managers before reaching out to the union members. Mr. Rivers said if elected he wouldn’t tolerate agents who did that.

Ms. Rodriguez said the union should let members borrow from an annuity fund in emergencies.

“It’s not like it’s going to be a free-for-all, but if you have a problem, you should be able to come to your union and take care of it,” she said.

In an interview, Martin Lockwood, a slate ally and Exterminator at the Housing Authority, said the leadership is more concerned with “going through the motions” and expressed similar complaints with the business agents.

‘In Bed With Boss’

“We don’t want a union that’s in bed with management,” he said.

Jocelyn Walton, a School Safety Agent in the 108th Precinct in Queens, was annoyed members hadn’t seen raises in years—a problem shared by all city workers during Michael Bloomberg’s third term as Mayor—and was dissatisfied with a lack of resolution for a lawsuit regarding SSAs. The union sued on behalf of 5,000 SSAs in a gender-equity lawsuit. SSAs, 70 percent of whom are women, make $7,000 less than comparable peace officers.

“I know that they’ve been at it for quite some time and nothing’s really coming from it,” she said. “So, it seems like it’s just been in deliberation forever. And no one’s making any moves.”

Mr. Rivers pointed out the lawsuit hadn’t been settled, but when pressed about it by a member, he said he wasn’t briefed on the details and declined to criticize the pace.

“The way I feel about it, if you get it, you get it and you run and move on,” adding he supported elevating blue-collar workers and peace officers to uniformed status, making them eligible for better equipment, injury pay and other benefits.

Mr. Floyd pointed to the SSA lawsuit, filed a year after the last election, as proof that the leadership was working for its members outside of the campaign cycle, and said it was “relatively quick compared to most lawsuits.”

“The fact that we’re at the point where we are now, is nothing short of hard work,” he said. “And the fact that the city recognizes that we have a valid point is hard work.”

A Rivers spokesman said the slate is planning borough-wide meetings in The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island and hoped its challenge would spur encourage reforms within the union.

Issues: Local Union Reform
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Sikorsky union chief accused of embezzlement

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 07:56
Frank JulianoConnecticut PostJuly 28, 2014View the original piece

The top official of the union representing Sikorsky Aircraft Co. employees has been accused by an independent review board of embezzling at least $13,000 in union funds.

Harvey Jackson, the president and business agent of Teamsters Union Local 1150, charged his family's cellphone bills to his union credit card and used it to buy cameras, stereo speakers, a high-end DVD player, projector and other electronics for his personal use, the report states.

Rocco Calo, the secretary-treasurer of the Stratford-based union local, said he doesn't have the authority to remove Jackson from the union's board of directors.

The independent review board, which includes former FBI Director William H. Webster, issued a report July 17 that recommends internal charges be brought against Jackson for violating Teamsters bylaws, obstructing the board's investigation and "bringing reproach upon the IBT (International Brotherhood of Teamsters)."

Embezzlement "is an act of racketeering all members are enjoined from committing under the consent order in United States v. IBT," the report states.

"I'm extremely disappointed,'' Calo said. "We have internal processes to deal with this, and we'll recommend that (Jackson) contact the (review board) and discuss a resolution."

Calo said he has not been contacted by federal prosecutors or anyone else about possible criminal charges against Jackson. Criminal charges are outside the review board's authority, but its report could become the basis for federal charges.

Thomas Carson, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Deidre M. Daly, said federal prosecutors had no comment.

During hearings held in May, Jackson claimed that purchases he made at a Best Buy in Orange or online were for the union local's conference hall and meeting room. But investigators could not find the items when they visited the Stratford facility, and Jackson in some cases gave vague or conflicting explanations for the purchases, the report states.

Cellphone bills subpoenaed from Sprint show the charges Jackson used his union credit card to pay were for phones used by his wife and daughter, investigators said.

Phone calls to Jackson's home, cellphone and his union hall office were not returned.

Jackson, a Bridgeport resident, was paid $141,744 by the union in 2013, according to Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a Detroit-based group that is challenging current International Brotherhood of Teamsters leadership.

Local 1150 represents more than 4,400 employees at Sikorsky plants in Stratford, Alabama and Florida.

Issues: Local Union Reform
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Shares Of A Major US Trucker Are Crashing After Management Says It Can't Find Drivers For Its Trucks

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 07:50
Rob WileBusiness InsiderJuly 28, 2014View the original piece

Shares in Swift Transportation, the largest truckload carrier in North America, were down 14% Friday after management warned it was going to have to invest more to address a driver shortage.

The New Jersey-based firm now says it's going to have to spend more on wages and training to hold onto and attract ore drivers.

...We were constrained in the truckload and (central refrigerated systems)  segments by the challenging driver market. Our driver turnover and unseated truck count were higher than anticipated. Therefore, we sold more trucks in the second quarter to offset the impact of idle equipment, which drove additional gains on sale of equipment this period. After assessing the current and expected environment, we believe the best investment we can make at this time, for all of our stakeholders, is in our drivers. Our goal is to clear the path for our drivers by helping them overcome challenges, eliminate wait times and take home more money.

It now sees "cost headwinds" going into the second half of the year.

The American Trucking Association has warned the country is short 30,000 drivers, and that the gap could climb to 200,000 in the next decade.

Issues: Freight
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Destroying a Local Union in Order to Save It?

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 12:47

July 25, 2014: Less than 90 days from their election, Hoffa is threatening to trustee and merge a New York City local to try to stop members from voting incompetent officials out of office.

The International Union is threatening to merge or trustee New York Local 584, to try to prevent an election that a reform team, Local 584 Members First, is poised to win.

Local 584 represents “milk men”— drivers and production workers who deliver milk to supermarkets, corner stores and public schools—as well as other food and beverage Teamsters.

For years, being a dairy Teamster has been a route to the middle class with members making $25 to $30 an hour with union pensions. Now, the largest employer in the industry is trying to make that a thing of the past.

Elmhurst Dairy has gobbled up competitors, kicked long-timer Teamsters to the curb and replaced them with low-wage workers who start at under $10 an hour with no pension.

Two hundred fifty good dairy Teamster jobs have been destroyed.

Local 584 members turned to the International Union for help—including blowing the whistle on side deals and financial improprieties by Local 584 officials. But the local is run by Hoffa loyalists and the IBT turned a deaf ear.

So Local 584 members started to organize. They opposed the layoffs of senior members and the destruction of good middle class jobs. This summer they formed Local 584 Members First and formed a reform team to run for local union office this fall.

Support for Members First has grown quickly. Dairy Teamsters united with other food and beverage Teamsters in the local at Tropicana, Norris Foods, and Staten Island College. The majority of the local’s shop stewards have gotten behind the movement. So has Willie Whelan, the retired long-time leader of the local. 

Now the International Union has stepped in—not to help members defend their jobs but to try to stop members from taking back their union.

Hoffa has appointed a personal representative to be his point man on this operation. Thom Conelius, an International Rep on Hoffa’s payroll, is no stranger to the dirty work of fighting union reformers. Last year, he teamed up with another Hoffa International Rep Kevin Currie to try to defeat reform leader Sandy Pope in the Local 805 election. They failed.

In Local 584, Hoffa and company don’t want to risk another election. Officials have talked openly about preventing “another TDU local in New York City” by merging Local 584 out of existence.

It’s been done before. Another New York City local with a growing reform movement, Local 854, was secretly merged into Local 553 before its local election last year. 

Local 854 members voted against Hoffa in the last International Union election and the Joint Council leaders feared a TDU slate in the local union race. So they pushed through a quickie merger during the summer when many of the local’s membership of school bus workers are out of work.

Hoffa and Joint Council 16’s message is clear: “destroy Local 584 in order to save it.”

Local 584 members are saying not so fast. They’ve organizing to defend their right to vote, to run for office and to win.

Issues: Local Union Reform
Categories: Labor News, Unions

U.S. DOT: YRC fleet nears federal intervention level

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 07:37
Austin AlonzoKansas City Business JournalJuly 25, 2014View the original piece

YRC Freight's fleet is in a worse state of repair than most of its main competitors' fleets, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In fact, the state of the YRC Freight fleet's vehicle maintenance is close to a threshold requiring federal intervention according to statistics from the DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Click here to read more at the Kansas City Business Journal.

Issues: Freight
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Corruption-Free? Not so Fast

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 11:06

July 24, 2014: Hoffa claims there’s no need for an anti-corruption body in our union because corruption is a thing of the past. Meanwhile, two Hoffa campaign donors have been busted this week on charges of stealing members’ dues and taking employer payoffs.

The Hoffa administration has retained two attorneys who formerly worked for President George W. Bush to try to end the members Right to Vote, and also the Independent Review Board (IRB). 

The IRB independently investigates corruption in the Teamsters. The Hoffa administration says the IRB should be eliminated because Teamster corruption is a thing of the past.

That is news to Teamster members in Connecticut Local 1150 where the IRB has charged the top official with embezzling union funds and in St. Louis area construction locals where the IRB has caught a union representative taking payoffs in exchange for sweetheart contracts.

When TDU was founded organized crime dominated the Teamsters Union at its highest levels. There’s no doubt that Teamster corruption is down since then, but that is precisely because members have the Right to Vote and an independent anti-corruption watchdog.

TDU is organizing members to defend the Right to Vote and root out corruption in the union. If you share these goals, you can say so by signing this petition.

More coverage:

IRB Charges Connecticut Local 1150 President

IRB Charges St. Louis Bad Apple

Petition: Don’t Let Hoffa End Fair Elections in the Teamsters

Issues: Local Union ReformHoffa Watch
Categories: Labor News, Unions

IRB Charges Connecticut Local 1150 President with Embezzlement

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 10:59

July 24, 2014: The Independent Review Board (IRB) has brought embezzlement charges against Harvey Jackson, the president of Local 1150, which represents Sikorsky Aircraft Teamsters at plants in Connecticut, Alabama, and Florida.

The charges and investigative report are available here.

Jackson is charged with using the union credit card to buy at least $13,000 worth of electronics for his personal use, including: expensive projectors, speakers, cameras, cell phones, DVD player, Blu-ray player, a laptop, Bose headphones, and more.

Jackson was paid $141,744 in salary in 2013 by Local 1150. He should buy his own electronics. 

Issues: Local Union Reform
Categories: Labor News, Unions

St Louis: IRB Charges St. Louis Bad Apple

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 10:56

July 24, 2014: The Independent Review Board (IRB) has brought serious charges against Timothy Ryan, a former construction industry union rep for employer payoffs, diverting jobs to his friends, and conducting a bogus contract vote.  

Fortunately, Ryan is no longer a union rep, as his activities were exposed within the union.  

The IRB charges and report are available here.

Ryan served as the construction industry BA starting in 2009, until he was fired in 2012 by Local 525 principal officer Thomas Pelot, who became aware of his shameful betrayal of Teamster principles. Unfortunately, he was again hired as a BA, by St Louis Local 682 in 2013 and served until he resigned last month, with IRB charges coming.

Ryan is charged with payoff from a construction company, Stutz Excavating, in the form of free construction work at his home, and free automobiles supplied by a dealership owned by the Stutz family. He approved a substandard contract with Stutz without a secret ballot vote of the members, and even tried to extend concessions to other locals, including Local 50, for Stutz. He is also charged with manipulating the union referral list to get jobs improperly for his brother, sister, uncle, and several friends   

When the IRB questioned him, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights in response to key questions involving alleged gifts from the employer.

Thankfully, his Teamster career of misdeeds appears to be over.

Issues: Local Union Reform
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Workers vote to unionize at three Hostess cake plants

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 07:50
Josh SoslandBaking BusinessJuly 24, 2014View the original piece

Workers at three of the four snack cake plants operated by Hostess Brands L.L.C. have voted to unionize, according to the union representing the bakery workers.

The three plants are located in Indianapolis; Schiller Park, Ill.; and Columbus, Ga. The votes to unionize at the plants were confirmed by a spokesperson for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers International Union July 17. The spokesperson declined to elaborate further on the vote.

Click here to read more.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Historic 1934 Minneapolis Teamster Strike Commemorated

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 07:36

July 24, 2014: A series of events – a march, rally, concert, and picnic – were held July 19-20 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the historic 1934 Minneapolis Teamster strike. Hundreds of people turned out to honor this historic labor victory.

Picnic goers heard speakers who talked about current labor struggles and organizing drives. The program was chaired by TDU activist and Local 120 retiree Bob McNattin as well as SEIU member Linda Leighton – a granddaughter of V.R. Dunne, one of the 1934 Teamster leaders. A couple of Teamster officials spoke, including Paul Slattery, the political and organizing representative of Teamsters Local 120.

Music was coordinated by Larry Long, a pro-labor singer. A solidarity chorus from Wisconsin pitched in as well.

The weekend kicked off with a march, sponsored by Teamsters Local 120, which included a brass band playing the labor anthem, “Which Side Are You On?”

Labor’s Turning Point

The 1934 Minneapolis Teamster strike grew into a broad workers struggle. Their slogan was “Make Minneapolis a Union Town” and they did it. The strike leaders – with no help initially from the International union – went to organize trucking across the Midwest and beyond.

A young Teamster from Detroit named James R. Hoffa joined in that organizing effort. In Hoffa’s autobiography, he stated that Minneapolis leader Farrell Dobbs was his greatest teacher.

The Teamsters union grew in the next decade from a small craft union to a mighty industrial force, and the Minneapolis strikers provided much of the inspiration and the leadership. 

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Daimler Demonstrates a Self-Driving Truck

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 09:36
Melissa EddyThe New York TimesJuly 18, 2014View the original piece

For Daimler, the truck driver of the future looks something like this: He is seated in the cab of a semi, eyes on a tablet and hands resting in his lap.

Daimler demonstrated its vision Thursday along a stretch of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg in eastern Germany, the culmination of years of innovation. It says the vehicle — called the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, a nod to the year the carmaker hopes it will be introduced — is capable of responding to traffic while driving completely autonomously down a freeway at speeds of up to 85 kilometers per hour, or 52 miles per hour.

Click here to read more at The New York Times.

Issues: Freight
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Hoffa Threatens Teamster Democracy

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 07:43
Ken PaffLabor NotesJuly 17, 2014View the original piece

Facing fresh member dissatisfaction, Teamster President James Hoffa and his Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall are headed to court to try to make contested Teamster elections a thing of the past.

Whether they succeed will determine the future of one of North America’s most powerful unions. Will it continue to manage decline and concessions, or tap the power of organized transport and distribution workers to reverse them?

The 1.25 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) is unique among the largest North American unions in that every five years it has a hotly contested rank-and-file election for the top leadership.

The right to vote is protected by a 1989 consent order, a court-approved agreement that Teamster officers reluctantly accepted to avoid a racketeering trial.

In that landmark legal case, the reform movement Teamsters for a Democratic Union intervened to oppose court-imposed government oversight of the union’s operations. Instead, to root out systemic corruption, TDU proposed that members directly elect top officers.

Previously, Teamster presidents were elected at conventions. The 1986 “election” gave incumbent Jackie Presser 99 percent of the vote.

USING THE VOTE

TDU’s blueprint was largely adopted, and 1991 saw the first-ever election. Members used their new vote to elect a whole new leadership slate, headed by Ron Carey. The candidate who’d gotten 1 percent under the old system, Sam Theodus, easily won the rank-and-file vote for vice president.

The election rocked not only the Teamsters, but the labor movement. The first-ever contested election in the AFL-CIO quickly followed.

After Carey won again in 1996, defeating Hoffa, he led UPS workers out on strike in 1997. With bold demands such as 10,000 more full-time jobs (with the rallying cry, “Part-Time America Won’t Work”) and innovative tactics that evolved over the year of rank-and-file organizing leading up it, this strike started to put labor on the offensive.

That success was tragically cut short later that year when aides to Carey were found engaging in illegal campaign fundraising. The scandal paved the way for Hoffa’s rise and the old guard’s return to power.

Now the Hoffa administration has taken the first step to try to end the consent order by submitting a letter to federal judge Loretta Preska. The IBT claims the consent order is no longer needed because the union is reformed.

The U.S. Attorney and TDU have submitted letters opposing the change . TDU is also intervening in the court proceedings and has launched a campaign  to defend the right to vote.

TDU agrees that mob control of the union has diminished—precisely because the right to vote has given members a tool to tackle corruption and hold leaders accountable.

Other unions have membership elections in their constitution, but what makes the Teamsters unique is independently supervised elections, coupled with an organized national reform movement of leaders, activists, and members. It’s TDU that gives life to members’ right to vote.

‘GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT’

Hoffa and Hall claim their goal is to end government oversight. But their real target is the one-member, one-vote elections.

To be clear, there is no “government oversight” of any of the union’s operations—not bargaining, political action, organizing, contract campaigns, budgets, salaries, or hiring and firing.

Instead, the consent order provides for an Independent Review Board, selected by IBT leadership and the U.S. Attorney, to bring corruption charges against individual officials. And it provides for the right to vote for international officers under fair election rules.

Both are important to members, but the right to vote is the most critical.

Without these rules, the current leaders will be free to change nomination requirements to make it impossible for opposition candidates to get on the ballot.

Currently, nominations for top offices require 5 percent of elected convention delegates. But the incumbents want to raise that bar.

Every challenger to Hoffa has met the 5 percent requirement, but none would have been nominated if 10 percent were required—though each, once nominated, ran a competitive race and forced national debates on the union’s direction.

Teamster leaders have already amended the IBT constitution so the board can write its own rules for any election and pick the election supervisor. For now, these amendments are trumped by the provisions of the consent order.

But if the consent order were lifted, these safeguards would go out the window.

So would election rules that partially level the playing field by providing opposition campaigners’ access to employer parking lots, “battle pages” of campaign material in the Teamster magazine, and fair rules for delegate elections.

WHY NOW?

Hoffa and Hall have good reason to make this move now. Hoffa, who won reelection in 2011 with 59 percent of the vote, faces a different political outlook as the 2015-2016 campaign approaches.

Over the past year, the majority of members in the freight industry, UPS Freight, and UPS have all voted to reject concessions in their contracts—only to have them imposed by Hoffa and Hall.

The Vote No movement helped launch a new formation, Take Back Our Union, that’s already organizing meetings to plan for the 2016 election.

Hoffa won most of the UPS locals in 2011. But his prospects among that group of 250,000 Teamsters look much dimmer today. And dissatisfaction is not limited to just UPS and trucking Teamsters: Hoffa’s policy of retreat has led to defeats and lackluster organizing in warehousing, delivery, public service, airlines, and other Teamster fields.

Take Back Our Union has started to forge a coalition of the opposition forces in the union, bringing together TDU, which backed New York Local 805 President Sandy Pope in the 2011 election, and other local officials who ran on a separate slate.

Combined, these contenders won 41 percent last time—and that was before this wave of membership anger at concessions.

Once again, members are gearing up to take the wheel of the union.

Issues: Hoffa Watch
Categories: Labor News, Unions

PBGC Chief to Re-join Private Sector

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 09:17
Elizabeth PfeutiAsset InternationalJuly 15, 2014View the original piece

The director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is to leave his post in August after four years in the role.

In a letter to colleagues on Friday, Josh Gotbaum said, as he had three children in college, he had promised his wife he would return to the private sector, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

Click here to read more at Asset International.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Amazon Seeks FAA Permission to Test Delivery Drones Outdoors

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 07:13
Bloomberg NewsJuly 15, 2014View the original piece

Amazon.com Inc., which wants to deliver packages by drone, asked aviation regulators for permission to expand testing outside its research laboratory.

“We are rapidly experimenting and iterating on Prime Air inside our next generation research and development lab in Seattle,” the company said in a letter posted on a government website yesterday. Amazon is based in that city.

Click here to read more at Transport Topics.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

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