Friday, December 08, 2006

Yellow to move trucking jobs to Tri State area

Ninety freight jobs that Yellow Transportation is cutting elsewhere are scheduled to move to its Tri-State facility in February, tripling the work force there.

The number of employees in State Line at the Maryland-Pennsylvania border would increase from about 45 to about 135 in February, a local union official said.

Yellow Transportation, which ships a variety of products, is trying to reduce transit times to compete better with nonunion companies, said Tom Krause, the secretary-treasurer and principle executive officer of Local 992 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Yellow Transportation's employees are among Local 992's approximately 1,100 Tri-State members, he said.

Washington County is attractive to distributors because it's where interstates 81 and 70 meet and it's not far from other major highways.

The company, which is based in Overland Park, Kan., referred questions to the New York City public relations firm of Linden Alschuler & Kaplan.

Nicole Mudloff, who works for the firm, said Thursday that she was unable to find anyone from Yellow Transportation to talk about the job shifts.

The changes aren't final yet. Krause said a "change of operations" committee of company and union representatives will meet in January to discuss the plan. If the committee approves it, it will go into effect on Feb. 25, he said.

Yellow Transportation's change of operations report, which The Herald-Mail reviewed, says the company will cut 199 pickup and delivery, long-haul driving and office jobs from sites across the country.

Lancaster, Pa., which would lose 126 jobs, would be by a wide margin the hardest hit.

All 199 jobs would move to other Yellow Transportation facilities. Eight additional jobs would be created, for a total of 207, the report says.

Krause said 65 pickup and delivery jobs and 25 long-haul driving jobs are scheduled to move to State Line. According to the company's change of operations report, that's by far the largest gain for any one place.

Krause said the State Line facility, an entirely union shop, currently has four long-haul drivers and about 40 local pickup and delivery workers.

With the influx of workers, the service center also would become a seven-day-a-week "break-bulk" center, he said.

He described "break-bulk" work as separating pallets of goods to fill orders for different customers.

Top scale at the State Line facility is about $21.60 an hour, he said.

Yellow Transportation employees from locations losing jobs will get the first chance to fill jobs that move to State Line. After that, unfilled positions will be advertised to the public.

Krause said employees new to the company start at 75 percent of top scale and reach top scale after two years.

Buy union holiday gifts that keep giving

Spend money on products, services that support our working families
James Hoffa
One of my favorite holiday movies, "A Christmas Story," concerns Ralphie, who is about 8 years old, and his effort to persuade his parents that on Christmas morning he should receive what he fantasizes to be the ultimate gift: a Red Ryder BB gun.

Adults in his life repeatedly tell Ralphie that BB guns are dangerous. Even Santa Claus, the guy who supposedly can't deny a kid's Christmas wish, tells him, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid." The view is so practical it'd break any kid's heart.

If you're anything like me, you root for Ralphie throughout the movie while understanding the adults' realistic concerns. That's also my perspective this time of year, when we're bombarded with advertisements and wish lists.

Consider source of gifts

As children, we don't question the provenance of gifts and toys, but as adults we can consider several important factors, such as where a BB gun is produced, what retail store sells it and what company ships the item. These are valid concerns that have consequences that stretch well beyond this holiday season.

Metro Detroit residents know better than most the devastation that can be caused when good-paying American jobs are shipped overseas thanks to the lowest-common-denominator practices of companies like Wal-Mart.

That's why with every gift you give this year, be sure to also give the gift of good jobs. We do this by spending our money on products and services that support working families. These funds will continue to circulate through our local and national economies.

A good place to start your holiday shopping is at one of the three area Costco warehouses. Not only are the staff and products high-quality, the chain has been dubbed "the anti-Wal-Mart" for good reason: It fairly compensates employees and provides them and their families with solid benefits. Americans need more jobs like these.

When shipping gifts, I urge you to utilize the union carriers, UPS and DHL. Unlike FedEx, which aggressively thwarts workers' wishes to become unionized, all UPS and many DHL employees receive strong wages and solid benefits for themselves and their families. More than 220,000 UPS employees are Teamsters, as are more than 12,000 workers in the DHL system.

Powerful Snap-on Tools make an excellent array of gifts for anyone who values sturdy, dependable tools. Sockets, wrenches, air ratchets and other products are known for their quality, thanks to the unionized work force.

For good books, consider the pro-union employer Powell's Books. Among other titles, the bookselling giant offers Golden Books, a classic, union-made line for young kids. If coffee is your, well, cup of tea, be sure to consider the USA Coffee Company and Eight O'Clock Coffee . Both companies produce java thanks to solid unionized work forces.

Have you seen recent TV commercials in which a Lexus sedan, topped with a giant bow, is given as a holiday gift? These ads make me so angry.

Buy a Big 3 vehicle

Here in Detroit, if we're buying an automobile, we choose a Ford, General Motors or Chrysler product. Not only do these makers produce fine cars, they're based here in Michigan. Other American-made high-quality vehicles include Harley-Davidson motorcycles and -- for those who have been especially good this year -- a Teamster-built Sikorsky helicopter.

Another wheeled option is a Radio Flyer wagon, available at Watch out -- the plastic wagons are assembled in China.

At holiday parties, eat and drink well with union-made goods. Some of the finest cheeses in the world are produced by the Tillamook County Creamery Association plant in Tillamook, Ore. Lipton, Coca-Cola and Pepsi products are made and often delivered by unionized workers, as are Budweiser and Miller beers. And locally, it's important to shop at unionized grocers Kroger, Farmer Jack and Spartan for your holiday food needs.

For the Teamster in your life, I urge you to visit Merchandise on the site is union-made and a portion of the proceeds goes to a scholarship fund named after my father that has benefited thousands of promising students over the years. If giving back to our community isn't part of the spirit of the holidays, I don't know what is.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Retired truckers reunite, reminisce

Truckers have a simple measure of success: miles.
At a reunion for retired truckers Wednesday at Rhodes Travel Center in Cape Girardeau, the tallies were huge: 3 million miles, 4 million miles, 5 million-plus miles.

They are the meticulously tracked, sum total of a lifetime spent transporting loads over America's highways.

And the truckers are proud of it.

"Here's something you should remember: If you got it, the truck brought it," said event organizer Don Fadler of Cape Girardeau.

Fadler said he is not unusual in keeping every log from every trip he traveled. The stack, accumulated over 41 years, holds a prized place in his home and rises 6 feet in the air.

For the event, Fadler invited 125 area retirees who were either Teamsters or worked for ABF Freight Systems Inc. About 80 showed up for lunch, coffee and reminiscing.

One married couple at the reunion could boast the most miles driven between a husband-and-wife team. Don Seabaugh of Cape Girardeau hauled loads beginning straight out of high school in 1958 until he retired several years ago.

For the last 10 years of his driving he had a partner alongside: his wife, Lola. She had worked in offices and raised their two children, but she wanted to give the open road a try.

"When she started running with me, we'd been married 30 years and I told her, 'Now we'll be in that truck together 24 hours a day. That'll really show if we can live together or not,'" Don Seabaugh said.

But both said they enjoyed the partnership. They alternated driving every four or five hours, so they made better time than either could individually.

In total, Don drove 5,691,000 miles, aided by his wife on the last million or so.

The arrangement also allowed them to take in some tourist attractions across the United States.

"We saw a lot of country and did a lot of things we wouldn't have done otherwise," Lola Seabaugh said.

Most present at the event drove trucks for more than 30 years. Over that time, they said, the industry has seen a lot of changes.

Bob Ogles, who began driving for Swift Packing Co. in 1949 and later worked for ABF, said he's seen some significant improvements, especially in the roads.

"We had a lot of gravel roads back then. There were no interstates whatsoever," he said. "You couldn't cover distances like you can now."

And some of the roads were narrow.

"I can remember driving on a 7.5-foot-wide road in Illinois with an 8-foot-wide trailer behind me," said Clarence Kurre, who drove for 45 years.

Ogles and Kurre, both of Cape Girardeau, said they'd seen many technological improvements. Cabs didn't start coming equipped with heaters until the 1950s and most trucks had hydraulic brakes until 1955, when air brakes became the norm.

With the hydraulic version, "you hit the brakes just hoping you were going to stop," Ogles said.

Other innovations included the shift from gasoline to diesel, which gives better mileage and more power.

But the shift that revolutionized the way truckers interact came in the late 1960s and early 1970s: the CB radio.

"Before that, we'd wave or use hand signals or flash your lights, things of that sort. But the radio really changed things," Ogles said.

The men and some women who shared the road had a sort of fraternity.

"Back then, everybody out there driving a truck was a friend to everyone else," Ogles said. "We shared a lot of dangerous moments out on the road, and you had to trust each other."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Teamsters, Safety Groups Urge Court to Overturn Hours of Service Regulations

Attorneys representing the Teamsters and safety advocates argued in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals challenging Hours of Service regulations that place drivers and the general public at risk.

The Teamsters joined Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in petitioning the court yesterday to overturn the rule issued in August 2005 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

"We have said from day one that the rules as they stand need to be changed," said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. "They force drivers to work more hours with less rest over the course of a given week. Their safety and the citizens they share the roads with are put at risk because these rules only lead to increased driver fatigue."

The 2005 rule dramatically increases both the number of hours that truckers may drive without a break and the number of hours truckers may drive per week. Before 2003, truckers were permitted to drive no more than 10 consecutive hours before taking a break. Now, truckers can drive for 11 hours straight.

The union also opposes the 34-hour restart -- a provision that resets the driver's clock after a 34-hour rest period. In a seven-day period, this puts drivers behind the wheel 14 hours longer with considerably less rest than the old rules.

Prior to 2003, drivers were barred from driving after they had worked 60 hours in the previous seven days or 70 hours in the previous eight, depending on the company schedule. Under the 2005 rule, truckers can now drive 77 hours in seven days or 88 hours in eight days -- a more than 25 percent increase.

On-duty hours during which truckers may drive have also climbed, so that a driver working 14-hour shifts under the new rules can now work as many as 84 hours in seven days or 98 hours in eight days -- a 40 percent increase over the old limits.

In addition, the new sleeper berth provision requires an eight-hour rest period, forcing a team driver to "rest" for eight hours in a moving truck, with engine noise, vibration and other distractions around them.

"The 2005 hours of service rules issued by the FMCSA must be fully reviewed and rewritten," Hoffa said. "There is no excuse for such blatant disregard for the health and safety of the highly trained men and women who are responsible for negotiating big rigs throughout our country. Their ability is directly effected by the quality and quantity of the rest they receive and the HOS rules should reflect that."

Monday, December 04, 2006

ABF Remains One of the 'Best Companies to Sell For'

For the fifth consecutive year, ABF Freight System, Inc., is ranked among the top 10 of Selling Power magazine's listing of the 25 best U.S. companies to sell for in the service sector. ABF, which ranks seventh overall, was the highest- ranking transportation company on the magazine's 2006 listing.

For the past six years, the corporate research team at Selling Power has identified and ranked the best companies to sell for in the U.S., focusing on companies with sales forces of 500 or more people. Assessments are based on compensation, training and career mobility. Selling Power ranks the top 25 manufacturing companies and the top 25 service companies to complete its annual list of the 50 best companies to sell for.

"We are proud to once again be recognized as a leader in recruiting, training, and equipping sales professionals," said ABF Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Roy Slagle. "At every level of our company, our employees are trained to make decisions and respond to each customer's unique requirements. Our customers then benefit from a representative who helps them anticipate supply-chain challenges and is empowered to respond with advantageous solutions."