Friday, April 14, 2006

Organizing Overnite/UPS Freight

Teamsters Launch Member Mobilization, Education Drive

UPS has renamed the recently purchased Overnite Transportation "UPS Freight," and the Teamsters Union is launching an effort to bring its nearly 15,000 employees into the Teamster family.

As part of the member mobilization and education drive, freight and UPS Teamsters are being asked to speak with UPS Freight workers about the benefits of working under a Teamster contract. Those benefits include a strong voice on the job and maintaining gold-standard wages and benefits by raising density at UPS—the largest Teamster employer with more than 200,000 union members.

"The nearly 15,000 employees at UPS Freight—the former Overnite—deserve the same strong voice and strong representation that the Teamsters provide to workers at UPS," said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. "With our members' help, we will make that happen."

"Our members' involvement is vital because they know firsthand the benefits of being in the union," said Ken Hall, Director of the Parcel and Small Package Division. "Our members at UPS, our freight members and others, are on the front lines in this effort to educate UPS Freight workers."

"Our members have struggled to achieve justice at Overnite," said Tyson Johnson, Director of the Teamsters Freight Division. "This effort is a new chapter in that struggle and we will succeed."

UPS bought Overnite last year for $1.25 billion. UPS Freight workers' new uniforms and branded trucks will begin appearing May 1. The rebranding of Overnite's facilities and fleet, which includes 22,000 trailers, will occur over the next several years.

Teamsters Denounce Peru Free Trade Agreement

In another blow to workers everywhere, the Bush administration signed the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement, a substandard deal with no worker protections that will continue the trend of shipping good, American jobs overseas.

“Congress can make sure this bad trade deal never sees the light of day, and the Teamsters will do everything in our power to ensure that happens,” said Jim Hoffa, General President of the Teamsters Union.

In this agreement, the Bush administration has blatantly disregarded the issues that have plagued the past trade agreements—core labor standards. Despite the president of Peru publicly stating he would include International Labor Organization labor standards in any trade agreement with the United States, the Bush administration inexplicably chose to exclude them, mirroring the failed NAFTA and CAFTA models.

“If the global economy is to truly benefit workers and economies, there must be real and enforceable mechanisms in our trade agreements to ensure the basic rights of workers,” Hoffa said. “Without such mechanisms, these trade agreements will only lead to more job loss, weaker critical regulations, and repercussions that will affect economies and workers everywhere. If Peru is ready to move forward on workers rights, why isn’t our government as enlightened?”

Health costs destroying our economy

Friday, April 14, 2006

James P. Hoffa

National health plan only way to protect workers and employers

Our nation is facing an urgent crisis. Companies, workers and all levels of our government have an equal stake in this fight. Our nation's health care system is broken. America must act now.

General Motors Corp. is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and Delphi Corp. is already there, largely because of the amount of money they spend on health care for their employees.

GM spends more on health care for its workers than on steel for its cars. GM estimates that it spends $1,500 in health care costs for every car it produces. It paid out about $5.8 billion for health care in 2005. That competitive disadvantage largely explains why the Big Three automakers have eliminated or announced plans to eliminate nearly 140,000 jobs since 2000.

This problem is hitting all sectors of our economy.

Teamsters in Connecticut and Florida recently waged a six-week strike against Sikorsky Aircraft, a defense contractor that makes helicopters for the military. Sikorsky and its parent company, United Technologies Corp. (UTC), are tremendously successful companies in an industry that shows no signs of slowing down. UTC earned $3.2 billion in 2005. Its chief executive officer, George David, collected more than $53 million in total compensation in 2005.

But that did not stop Sikorsky from demanding that its 3,600 unionized workers pay twice as much for their health care co-payments in the first year of their contract and an additional 15 percent during the next two years.

The company said it was taking a stand because America's health care system is broken. Sikorsky claimed to want to teach its employees a lesson about how much health care costs.

But the workers at Sikorsky understand the health care crisis very well. They offered to give up signing bonuses and accept smaller wage increases to help pay for their health care. Sikorsky refused to consider this and wouldn't even communicate with members of Congress from both parties, who encouraged them to negotiate in good faith.

Don't punish workers

In another fight for affordable health care, Teamster sanitation workers in New York were forced to strike last week against the highly profitable Waste Management Inc. These workers have the fifth-most dangerous job in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, contending with all kinds of deadly risks.

How are they repaid for keeping our neighborhoods clean and disease free? Waste Management is trying to gut their health care benefits -- the very people who need it the most.

Men and women who work hard and play by the rules should never face this dilemma. In 2005, America spent more than $2 trillion on health care, up from $916 billion in 1993. One out of every $5 spent in this country will be spent on health care. Those are dollars that could be spent on education, housing, food, savings, retirement investments, bridges, highways and roads. Pretty soon, America won't have money left for anything else.

Too many go unprotected

Despite these increases -- and maybe even because of them -- there are now more than 46 million Americans without insurance. That's over 15 percent of the population. In 2000, it was 39 million, and it was 31 million in 1987, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

America is spending more and more on health care to cover fewer and fewer people poorly.

Health care costs are destroying our nation's economic edge. The cards are stacked against American companies as they try to compete with low-cost, low-wage foreign producers.

The only real solution to this crisis is national health care. Meeting such a basic need should not force government budgets, companies and workers into the red. As the crisis grows, more and more Americans, workers and corporate leaders alike, are calling for government action.

We invite General Motors, Delphi, Sikorsky, UTC, Waste Management and other corporations to stop fighting against us and start fighting along side us. It's time for all Americans to join this fight for a country that rewards hard work and where working families don't have to choose between going to the doctor and paying the rent.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Teamsters picket parent company UTC meeting of shareholders site of protests

Teamsters who recently concluded a six-week strike at Sikorsky Aircraft returned to picket lines briefly Wednesday to protest outside a shareholder meeting of Sikorsky's parent company, United Technologies Corp.

About 3,500 Teamsters began returning to work last week after voting 1,488-1,416 to accept a contract that contained the same health care cost-sharing plan the union had previously said was unacceptable.

Dozens of union members rallied in front of the shareholders meeting at Carnegie Hall with some exercising their rights as shareholders by attending the meeting. The union said that negotiations with United Technologies left bitterness after a close vote to approve the contract offer and that it will continue to raise the issue of health care at protests.

"We need affordable health care and they refuse to offer it," said Harvey Jackson, president of the Teamster's Local 1150. "The shareholders can expect to see the Teamsters wherever they go."

UTC Chairman George David has said that the company would "stand firm" on the issue because workers throughout UTC's other divisions have agreed to the same kind of health care cost-sharing. Sikorsky said its health care costs this year would be more than $16,000 per employee for family coverage, up from $9,800 four years ago.

Some of the union members said they intended to voice their concerns at the meeting. They vowed to continue fighting Sikorsky's attempts to increase employees' share of health insurance costs.

"As a stockholder myself, I want to see the stock do well but I also want to see them treat people well," said Rocco Calo, the local's secretary-treasurer.

The contract approved earlier this month includes a $3,000 ratification bonus, 3.5 percent annual pay raises, pension improvements and the option for workers to select retroactive health care coverage and reimbursement for payments they may have made for temporary insurance while on strike.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fed overrides DC hazmat ban

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has formally announced that federal hazmat transportation laws preempt District of Columbia rules that ban hazmat transport within 2.2 miles of the U.S. Capitol building without a license. The FMCSA today issued the notice of administrative determination of preemption in the Federal Register, which overturns the current ban in place.

The controversy began when the Council of the District of Columbia enacted a temporary ban in February 2005, dubbed the Terrorism Prevention in Hazardous Materials Transportation Emergency Act of 2005. Although that particular act has expired, the Council has since enacted new rules with similar language.

The DC Act bans hazmat transport and vehicles capable of transporting such freight within 2.2 miles of the U.S. Capitol building without a license issued by the District of Columbia Dept. of Transportation. DCDOT was authorized to implement safety measures such as time-of-day restrictions as well as levy a fee for permits.

Yellow Roadway Corp., recently renamed YRC Worldwide, said if the DC Act went unchallenged, other cities and local governments could enact their own rules. Additional miles associated with rerouting increases exposure while adhering to a patchwork of local hazmat would be confusing, costly and decrease safety, the LTL said.

In 1990, Congress enacted federal hazmat transportation rules, underscoring that uniform regs were vital to avoid “unreasonable hazards in other jurisdictions and confounding shippers and carriers which attempt to comply with multiple and conflicting…requirements.”

FMCSA’s notice in the Federal Register was in response to an American Trucking Assns.’ request filed on March 14, 2005. The notice wasn’t the first time that DOT weighed in against DC’s restrictive hazmat measures. In March 2005, the Surface Transportation Board issued a comment that federal regs preempt the ban.

Teamsters Fight for Organizing Rights for Workers and Minimum Wage Increases

Hard Working Men and Women Dealt Both Victory and Defeat

WASHINGTON, April 10 /PRNewswire/ -- At Saturday's meeting of the
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) the Teamsters won
significant victories by passing a resolution in support of increasing the
minimum wage and coming just two votes short of passing a resolution on the
Employee Free Choice Act.
Despite Friday's strong 9-1 vote of the Labor Committee the big
business lobby mounted a heavy last-minute effort. The Teamsters Union held
strong to fight for what is right for working men and women in our country.
"Today workers in our country were dealt both victory and defeat," said
Missouri State Representative Tim Meadows, a 30-year Teamster who was first
elected to office in 2004. "While we were able pass the minimum wage
resolution, it is clear by Big Business's efforts against EFCA that they
want to keep workers' very basic rights from being protected in the
The freedom to form unions has been shown to benefit society as a whole
in the form of reduced inequality, higher wages and increased purchasing
power for union and non-union members alike, reduced gender gap, greater
access to healthcare and pensions, lower poverty rates, and higher voter
participation. The Teamsters stand committed to workers' access to their
very basic rights and will continue to fight to make sure these rights are
preserved, promoted, and protected.

Wal-Mart Digs Its Heels In

Kate DuBose Tomassi, 04.12.06, 8:02 AM ET

Goldman Sachs analyst Adrianne Shapira reiterated an "outperform" rating on Wal-Mart Stores shares after company meetings led her to believe the company is dealing with its sliding return on investment capital.

The analyst said her recent meetings with the company's chief financial officer further bolsters her conviction in management's efforts to stem sliding ROIC, which could lead to multiple expansion.

Wal-Mart thinks it can reverse the slide this year through margin expansion and inventory control, she said.

"Specifically, better store-shelf, back room, and distribution center space management will be a key focus over the next 12 to 24 months, especially for slower turning items," said the analyst.

Checks with key suppliers like Proctor & Gamble and logistical suppliers like transportation company YRC Worldwide indicate the company's cutting of excess inventory is already underway.

Moreover, key to driving margin expansion and increasing ROIC will be the company's continued global procurement, said the research analyst.

"The growing importance of this division was best exemplified by the recent appointment of Lawrence Jackson, a seasoned executive, to lead the group," she said.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Comprehensive Pension Legislation

Last week, Congressional leaders said that they expect to have votes on comprehensive pension legislation before their Memorial Day District Work Period at the end of May. Last year, the House and Senate passed different pension bills, and a conference committee has been meeting to negotiate a single piece of legislation that will then go back to both chambers for approval.

While the make-up of the final bill remains unclear, some information on the conference committee's deliberations is cause for serious concern. Most alarming is the fact that there is still support for the so-called "red zone" provision from the House bill. This language would allow pension fund trustees to reduce vested benefits. The inclusion of "red zone" language in the House bill forced the Teamsters Union to pull out of a coalition that was working on the legislation and withdraw support for the bill.

In addition to the red zone, other proposals remain on the table that would also be harmful to Teamsters and other working families who are relying on their pension for retirement. One provision would actually permit so-called small businesses—employers with 500 or fewer employees—to walk away from their pension obligations and in many cases tank the pension funds in which they participate. The Teamsters Union is on record in opposition to this measure and continues to lobby against it.

At the same time, the Teamsters are working to protect relief that was recently granted to the Central States Pension Fund by the Internal Revenue Service. This relief will permit the fund to recover from the stock market slump of 2001-2003. The final agreement must include the necessary provisions to maintain IRS relief and to avoid disrupting approved recovery plans. The Teamsters Union is closely monitoring the conference committee process to protect the IRS relief.

When the conference committee comes to agreement on a comprehensive pension bill and releases its report, the Teamsters Union will quickly analyze the legislation and its impact on pension funds in which Teamster participate. Should the bill prove harmful to Teamster members, the Union will lobby aggressively against it and mobilize the membership to work for its defeat.

Immigration protesters speak out on other social issues

An estimated 15,000 protestors gathered in Downtown Tucson to voice their opinions on immigration reform.

And, with so many people, and scores of media members on hand to record their every move, a number of groups took the opportunity to voice their opinions on a variety of other sometimes controversial issues.

“You really want change? Vote!”

That was the message among many that Nizhone Hart was trying to send, as she marched to Armory Park with thousands of immigrant supporters.

“If we don’t band together and actually vote for politicians that’ll support our causes, we can’t make a change. So, everybody 18 years and older needs to vote,” said Hart.

Hart was just one of dozens of others taking advantage of the big crowds, media turnout, and opportunity to present their views on hot-topic issues other than the proposed immigration legislation.

“We’re all trying to do better for everybody,” said native Tucsonan Salvador Andrade.

He says he was seizing the moment to educate people on Teamsters, and on unions in general.

“Unions down here (in Tucson ) aren’t too common, because it’s a right-to-work state,” Andrade said.

Jud Blawis, from Jobs with Justice, had a booth at the park so he could spread the word.

“We believe the country can only be prosperous if there’s a strong work force and it is strongly organized.”

Tom War Cloud, a Native American from Wyoming’s Arapahoe tribe said, “I’m not representing any side (of immigration)."

He says his message is something that goes back centuries.

“(This land) was our country many years ago. (the land of Native Americans ). We were invaded from the north, south, east and west by the French, Spaniards and British. It was taken from us. They took our land. Still, we are proud Americans as Indians.”

And, also proud to have first amendment rights, and the freedom of speech to express their opinions on every issue.

“This is what America (is all about),” said Hart.