Monday, March 19, 2018
“After my company nominated me, I read the impressive bios of the previous winners and I did not think I belonged in that group,” said Evans. “I feel extremely honored to be selected.”
Launched in 2015, IDEA recognizes commercial motor vehicle drivers who distinguish themselves conspicuously and beyond the normal call of duty through the achievement of safe operation and compliance carried out with evident distinction for an extended period of time.
Like many commercial motor vehicle drivers, Evans truly loves what he does. “It is never the same day twice,” he said. “There is nothing boring about driving for a living. You get to see the inner workings of many different places. All of the places that make your community run are kept running by us drivers delivering what they need. Every day has a sense of doing something that is necessary.”
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It’s not a moment too soon. There are about 1.5 million retirees in desperate need of quick action to save the retirement nest eggs they spent decades contributing to, on the premise they would be financial secure in their golden years. There also are hundreds of thousands of workers who are enrolled in these pension plans who deserve assistance, too.
As it stands, there are about 200 multiemployer plans across the country — including the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund — that are in danger of failing. The House-Senate Joint Select Committee, chaired by pension reform advocate Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), needs to find a vehicle that will deliver for these hard-working Americans who are paying, or have paid, into the pension pool and have played by the rules all their lives.
Luckily, the panel’s 16 members don’t have to look far to find a vehicle that would fit the bill. This union supports the passage of the Butch Lewis Act of 2017 (H.R. 4444/S. 2147), which has gained bipartisan support since its introduction in Congress late last year by Sen. Brown and Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.).
Republicans such as Reps. Peter King and Dan Donovan of New York, Chris Smith, Frank LoBiondo, and Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, Brian Fitzpatrick and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Don Young of Alaska understand the value of the bill and should be lauded for supporting this legislation. The measure would boost financially-troubled multiemployer pensions so they don’t fail. It would create an agency under the Treasury Department that would sell bonds in the open market to large investors such as financial firms.
The agency, the Pension Rehabilitation Administration (PRA), would then lend money from the sale of the bonds to the financially-troubled pension plans. Plans that are deemed “critical and declining,” as well as recently insolvent but non-terminated plans and those that have suspended benefits, would be eligible to apply for the program.
Pension plans borrowing from PRA would be required to set aside the loan proceeds in separate, safe investments such as annuities or bonds that match the pension payments for retirees. For those plans needing additional help to meet retiree obligations, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation would be available to make up the difference. Those applying for loans to the PRA — which would be charged with approving all loans before they could be issued — would have to submit detailed financial projections. And, pension plans that have borrowed money would have to submit reports every three years to the PRA to show that the loans are working.
Last December, Teamsters were among the hundreds of union members who came to Capitol Hill to rally in support of the Butch Lewis Act. There, they joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Sen. Brown, Rep. Neal and others to push for the legislation. Retirees were on hand to share their stories.
Mike Walden, a former truck driver and Teamster retiree from Akron, Ohio, recognized years ago that pensions such as the one he receives from the Central States were in dire straits. Now he is president of the National United Committee to Protect Pensions and chairman of the Northeast Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions.
He told those on hand that day that any cut in pensions would devastate the well-being of retirees and force many out of their homes and into a life that, at their advanced age, they cannot handle. “Many of us are old; we can’t go back to work because we’ve had joint replacements, or some of us have lost our eyesight. We have medications that wouldn’t allow us to drive the trucks or work in warehouses like we used to,” Walden said. “Many can’t afford their medications if you reduce their pensions. They’ll die.”
That is what is at stake in this battle for justice. These workers aren’t asking for a handout; they just want what is rightfully theirs. It’s time for the joint committee to get to work and endorse this legislation that will make retirees whole. They’ve waited long enough.
The current 2013-2018 contract expires at the end of this month. After several weeks of progress on language issues, the inevitable topic of pay and benefits has now been formally opened. As expected at this stage, the parties appear far apart, but the union is committed to fighting hard to maintain the current structure of health care and retirement benefits that are extremely important to the membership. The union also made clear to the company that it believes the robust economic environment for trucking services that has improved over the past year, along with the demand for seasoned drivers and the valued services of all ABF Teamsters, should be reflected in any economic settlement.
The company did not provide an immediate counter offer and instead is taking time to study the union’s economic proposal. Nevertheless, the parties continued working to address some outstanding language issues as well as some supplemental issues.
“I would have liked more back and forth this week in terms of economic discussions but I hope the company takes the next several days to appreciate the important contributions that all Teamsters make to the long-term success of this company,” said Ernie Soehl, Co-Chairman of TNFINC and the union’s lead negotiator. “We will have small group meetings next week to better analyze each party’s positions, and then fully resume talks on March 26 with the goal of reaching a new agreement by the month’s end.”
Members of the National Negotiating Committee also took time this week to visit the ABF Kansas City terminal and speak directly with members.
“Our ABF membership is an outstanding group of freight Teamsters who value both the company’s historic success and the Teamster’s role in making that happen,” Soehl said. “One thing was made clear: they really expect ABF to step up and do the right thing during these difficult contract negotiations.
We are now in the most difficult phase of these important talks but remain united and committed as a bargaining team to reaching a tentative agreement that meets both the goals of the membership while also allowing the company to maintain and grow its successful position in the trucking industry. The continued support of the membership over the next couple of weeks will be absolutely critical toward the positive and successful resolution of these talks,” Soehl said.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Members of the 2018-2019 ABF Freight Road Team and their service centers are: Scotty Davis, Kansas City, Missouri; Scott Scheuffele, Ontario, Oregon; Brian Petrovcic, North Lima, Ohio; Todd Wilemon, Tupelo, Mississippi; Matt Meadows, Charleston, West Virginia; Allen McNeely, Charlotte, North Carolina; Jimmy Smith, Roanoke, Virginia; Sammy Brewster, Atlanta, Georgia; Eric Patterson, Phoenix, Arizona; Don Wood, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Jon Herman, Kansas City, Missouri; and Russ Lauver, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
“We are proud to have these exceptional representatives among the ranks of ABF Freight’s professional drivers,” said Mark McMinn, ABF Freight senior vice president of Operations and Safety. “Each Road Team member has superb driving skills and an outstanding safety record. Their commitment to our customers’ goods, as well as their commitment to the safety of the driving public, makes them excellent ambassadors to represent ABF Freight and the trucking industry.”
To be eligible for the ABF Freight Road Team, candidates must have at least 10 years of driving experience and an exemplary driving record. Road Team membership is one of the highest honors an ABF Freight driver can achieve.
“With drivers like these, it’s no wonder why ABF Freight has been a trusted partner our customers have depended on for over 95 years,” McMinn said.
During two-year terms, ABF Freight Road Team members serve as ambassadors for ABF Freight as well as the trucking industry at large. They are available for speaking engagements at civic and fraternal organizations, school events, career days and other events around the country. When called upon, Road Team members speak about driving safety, the image of the truck driver, sharing the road with trucks, or other subjects of community or industry interest.
In honor of Elrod's achievement, he will be welcomed into the company's five-million miler Driver Hall of Fame. YRC Freight will also donate 50 children's car seats to the Tennessee Highway Patrol--one for every 100,000 miles he has driven without a single accident.
"Bobby is a true professional with a genuine dedication to the safety of the motoring public. Each day he demonstrates self-discipline, constant focus and commitment," says T.J. O'Connor, YRC Freight president. "We are introducing a new trailer wrapped in his honor to showcase his great safety accomplishment. Here at YRC Freight, we couldn't be prouder of his five-million miles driven over four and a half decades without a single accident."
Elrod observed, "I've driven out of Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga at different times for the company. I was proud to be the first Smith System instructor in Nashville and train our drivers. I always put safety first. I came from a family of truck drivers--my dad, two uncles, a brother, and a brother-in-law--they were all truck drivers. It's in my blood. I was only nine or ten when my dad passed away. Not that long ago, I went out to the cemetery. I told my dad, ‘I've reached five million miles without an accident, Dad. Can you imagine?' It was a good moment. I've been blessed. I was able to put both my boys through college, and see them graduate without owing a penny. The company has been really good to me and my family."
"To put those miles in perspective, five million miles is like driving to the moon and back over ten times or driving around the equator 200 times--all without a single accident. I tip my safety hat to him, and I send my heartfelt thanks to his family for sharing Bobby with us," says Terry Budimlija, YRC Freight Safety Director.
A resident of Chickamauga, Ga., Elrod averages over 2,000 miles a week. He will be presented with a celebratory watch, die cast YRC Freight truck, plaque and a five-million miles accident-free commemorative jacket at the celebration.
Tuesday, March 06, 2018
Brown was appointed last week to co-chair an unusual joint committee of the House and Senate. By the end of the year, it’s charged with coming up with a way to restore the precarious finances of what are called multi-employer pensions for groups like the Teamsters, mineworkers and carpenters.
Brown has been pushing a fix called the Butch Lewis Act, which would provide a low-interest, 30-year loan to the pensions. Though the union hall was filled with Butch Lewis signs and shirts, Brown acknowledged uncertainty.
“I don’t have preconceived notions on what we end up with," Brown said. "I’d love to end up with Butch Lewis, I think that’s the best idea. But I also understand we’ve got to get five Republican and five Democratic votes.”
The 16-member committee is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. If it gets the bipartisan deal from at least 10 of them, the measure will go to the full House and Senate for a straight up-or-down vote.
Following the announcement of the final members of Congress that will serve on the bipartisan, House-Senate Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans tasked with finding a solution to the nation’s looming pension crisis, the Teamsters Union called for a commitment by the legislators to report a bill as soon as possible, and not wait until the November deadline.
The retirement security of as many as 1.5 million active and retired workers could be at risk if pension legislation is not passed soon. The committee, which is comprised of eight senators and eight members of the House evenly divided by party, will work toward reporting a bill to solve the pension crisis. The Teamsters Union supports the passage of the Butch Lewis Act of 2017 (H.R.4444/S.2147) which was introduced in Congress last November by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) and has received bipartisan support.
“Now that party leadership has appointed the members of Congress who will serve on the committee it is time to get to work,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “Millions of active and retired workers can’t wait until November for this committee to act. We already have a strong piece of legislation already in Congress in the Butch Lewis Act and the Teamsters Union believes it offers the best solution to the pension crisis.”