Saturday, September 01, 2007

Court: Mexican Trucks Program to Proceed

The Bush administration can go ahead with a pilot program to allow as many as 100 Mexican trucking companies to freely haul their cargo anywhere within the U.S. for the next year, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request made by the Teamsters union, the Sierra Club and the nonprofit Public Citizen to halt the program.

The appeals court ruled the groups have not satisfied the legal requirements to immediately stop what the government is calling a "demonstration project," but can continue to argue their case.

The trucking program is scheduled to begin Thursday.

In court papers filed this week, the Teamsters and Sierra Club argued there won't be enough oversight of the drivers coming into the U.S. from Mexico.

They also argued that public safety would be endangered in a hasty attempt by the government to comply with parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The trade agreement requires that all roads in the United States, Mexico and Canada to be opened to carriers from all three countries.

Canadian trucking companies have full access to U.S. roads, but Mexican trucks can travel only about 20 miles inside the country at certain border crossings, such as ones in San Diego and El Paso, Texas.

The government contends that further delays in the project will strain the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.

In court filings this week, government lawyers said that the program is an important interim step in fulfilling the United States' obligations under NAFTA. They said that Mexican trucking companies would have to meet the same regulations governing U.S. trucking companies, and that in some cases the requirements are stricter.

Representatives of the Teamsters did not immediately return calls late Friday from The Associated Press, and a Sierra Club spokeswoman declined to comment immediately.

The program is designed to study whether opening the U.S.-Mexico border to all trucks could be done safely.

Congress ordered the Department of Transportation this year to launch a pilot program to investigate the issue. As the start date neared, the Teamsters and the Sierra Club claimed the public wasn't given enough opportunity to comment on a program that, as proposed now, won't yield statistically valid results.

The government says it has imposed rigorous safety protocols in the program, including drug and alcohol testing for drivers done by U.S. companies. In addition, law enforcement officials have stepped up nationwide enforcement of a law that's been on the books since the 1970s requiring interstate truck and bus drivers to have a basic understanding of written and spoken English.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Department of Transportation agency charged with managing the program, said Friday that the court's decision is "welcome news for U.S. truck drivers anxious to compete south of the border and U.S. consumers eager to realize the savings of more efficient shipments with one of our largest trading partners."

However, the agency said it must still wait for final report by the inspector general and for Mexico to begin giving U.S. trucking companies reciprocal access before the program can begin.

The Teamsters had complained that the government has provided not details of the reciprocal agreement.

National Freight Negotiations to Begin Early

Dear Freight Teamsters:

Last week, we met with executives from YRC Worldwide to discuss the upcoming National Master Freight Agreement (NMFA) negotiations. We are pleased to report that both sides came to an agreement to begin negotiations early.

Negotiations with Trucking Management, Inc., (TMI), the primary multi-employer bargaining arm of the unionized general freight trucking industry, will begin this fall. The talks will occur sometime after the Teamsters’ two-person meeting, which is scheduled September 13 in Chicago. During the two-person meeting, two representatives from each freight local union will review the contract proposals that will be presented during negotiations.

Early negotiations will benefit both Teamster freight members and the companies. YRC Worldwide asked for the early negotiations, and we agree that protecting its customer base is advantageous to our members.

Early negotiations have been productive and beneficial to our members in the past, and we believe they will be this time around as well. We have many complex, important issues to address. The earlier we start negotiating these issues, the more time we have to come up with solutions that will keep your future secure.

More than 30,000 freight Teamsters recently filled out contract surveys, and we thank you for your participation. Your responses will be an integral part of the contract proposals that we review in Chicago.

We appreciate your support so far, and we look forward to your continued help and support as we negotiate a new national freight contract that will keep you and your families secure for many years to come.


James P. Hoffa
General President

Tyson Johnson, Director
Teamsters National Freight Division

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Labor Day Message from General President James P. Hoffa

This Monday, we pay tribute to the millions of hardworking men and women who make our world better and keep our country vital. The recognition is well-deserved, although a single day hardly seems adequate to address the contributions of workers and the generations who preceded them.

As we approach Labor Day, the American labor movement is reinvigorated and working for profoundly important things: the continued existence of the middle class and our national safety. I’m proud that the 1.4 million members of the Teamsters Union are at the forefront of this effort.

Our most immediate struggle is taking place now, as we face an immediate threat to our country’s well-being, courtesy of big business and the very person who should be protecting our safety. Despite overwhelming bipartisan congressional opposition and in defiance of public opinion, President Bush and his administration are trying to sidestep safety regulations in his ill-planned effort to open our highways to Mexican trucks. Of all weekends to recklessly open our highways to dangerous trucks, the president chose one of the busiest of the year — what a slap in the face to all Americans!

Safety is one of the key reasons — along with wages and benefits, and retirement security — that thousands of school bus drivers, logistics workers, airline workers, public service employees and sanitation workers have voted to become Teamsters Union members in the past year. As we have focused our organizing efforts on key industries, such as transportation, logistics and public services, more and more workers are able to secure fair compensation for them and their families, as well as improved treatment and safer conditions at work.

But we can and must do more.

I urge you to support political plans that are in the best interests of all Americans. You can make a difference by meeting workers in organizing drives; attending rallies; urging politicians to support issues such as fair trade and universal health care; voting for pro-labor candidates; and by becoming a member of DRIVE, our powerful political action committee.

While some politicians seem to think that handing hot dogs to workers and making a nice speech at a picnic will take care of labor issues for another year, we must remind them why Labor Day was established 113 years ago to ensure that the knowledge of labor’s great contributions to society lives on.

This is one reason we have joined with the Netroots, to raise our issues and public awareness for labor among a new generation of online activists and workers. Join the discussions, the online blogging communities in your states and hometowns and talk about your union. Be proud of the century-old Teamster legacy, and tell others what it means to be in a union — solidarity, democracy, respect. Because if we don't educate the public, no one will.

We must maintain respect for those willing to work with their hands, put in an honest day’s work and take pride in a craft or a job well done. It has always been laborers who were the first to stand up against injustice. Doing so, too many workers lost their lives to gain the rights and benefits that enable workers to support themselves and their families today.

On this Labor Day, I ask you for your continued support and involvement as we build support for working Americans.

Bush administration delays unpopular program until after Labor Day

Bush administration delays unpopular program until after Labor Day

Plans to open the border to Mexican trucks this weekend were postponed until at least Thursday, Sept. 6.
The Bush administration's lawyers on Thursday told the 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals that "DOT (Department of Transportation) now anticipates that the Demonstration Project will not begin before Thursday, September 6."
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said the negative publicity
generated by the union's request for an injunction forced the Bush
administration to delay its proposed pilot program.
"Dangerous trucks should not be driving all the way from Mexico to
Maine and Minnesota," Hoffa said. "The American people understand that,
Congress understands that and the Teamsters understand that. What is it
about safety and national security that George Bush doesn't understand?"
As one indication of the program's unpopularity, the House of Representatives voted 411-3 on May 15 to halt the program until safety and security standards were met.
The Bush administration made no formal announcement about the expected start date for the controversial program. The Bush administration lawyers, however, told the Teamsters that Mexican trucking companies would be granted permission to roll across the borders on Saturday, Sept. 1.
Reporters learned from the Teamsters that the Bush administration
planned to open the borders to Mexican trucks on Labor Day weekend. When reporters tried to get a straight answer from the Department of
Transportation, they couldn't.
It is only in a footnote to legal papers filed Thursday, Aug. 30, that the Bush administration reveals its plans to open the border on Thursday,Sept. 6. The papers were filed in the 9th Circuit Court in response to the Teamsters' motion for an injunction.
"I will continue to fight like hell to prevent Mexican trucks from
endangering lives throughout the United States," Hoffa said. "I'm confident the court will side with the Teamsters and with the American people by blocking this program before it starts next week."
The Teamsters will also ask Congress to block the program as soon as it returns from vacation.

American Public Put at Risk on Highways by Bush Administration

Unsafe Mexican Trucks Could Cross U.S. Border Soon

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa released the following statement today in response to the Bush administration's opposition to the Teamsters filing a request for a court injunction in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The Teamsters sought to block the Department of Transportation's reckless plan to open the U.S. border to unsafe Mexican trucks:

"This is just more deceit from the Bush administration," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. "They've been trying to sneak this program into existence for years and we can't even force them to tell the truth by going to court."

"Their court filing says the truck safety agency will satisfy all the safety requirements that Congress ordered, and we know that would be impossible," Hoffa said. "For example, they claim that all Mexican motor carriers can comply with drug and alcohol testing requirements. How can that be when there are no drug testing labs in Mexico?"

"We are confident the court will side with the American traveling public."

In its court filing, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) relinquished is original start date of Saturday, September 1 to open the border to unsafe trucks. The DOT has announced that it will start the pilot program no earlier than Thursday, September 6, 2007.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Teamsters to file suit over plan to open border to Mexican trucks

The Teamsters union said Wednesday it will file suit to block a controversial Bush administration plan to open the border to long haul Mexican truck traffic as early as Saturday.

Union officials said their attorneys have been told by government lawyers that the administration expects to receive approval from the Department of Transportation's inspector general to begin the program Friday.

Legislation passed by Congress prohibits the agency from going forward with the program until the inspector general certifies the government has met congressional requirements.

The Teamsters, other trucking and safety organizations and dozens of lawmakers have sought to block the program, which they contend is unsafe. The union is seeking an emergency injunction from the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

“There are clearly some serious issues that won't be resolved by Friday,” said Leslie Miller, a Teamsters spokeswoman.

Miller noted that an earlier report on the program from the inspector general called for improvements in the law enforcement database on Mexican drivers. The report also acknowledged that Mexico lacks a history of drug and alcohol testing for its drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration did not confirm or deny the union's claim that the program will begin soon.

The agency said in a statement it was working closely with the inspector general “as his office completes an additional assessment of the program and we prepare a detailed response to that report.”

The inspector general's office has not yet released the report, said a spokeswoman, who declined to say when it would be released.

90 More USF Reddaway Workers Join Teamsters

Ninety dockworkers and drivers at two USF Reddaway terminals in California are now Teamsters after the company recognized the workers through a card-check agreement.

The card-check agreement enabling the latest victories was included in a contract that was ratified earlier this month by workers at Reddaway terminals in California, Arizona and New Mexico. The contract was ratified 216-13.

In the latest victories, 25 workers at the Benicia, California terminal and 65 workers at the Stockton, California terminal are now Teamsters. The Benicia workers joined Local 490 in Vallejo, and the Stockton workers joined Local 439 in that city.

The Stockton group included workers in Modesto who had earlier signed cards seeking to join the union. However, the company merged the Modesto and Stockton terminals and more cards needed to be collected. In Benicia, 22 of the 25 workers signed cards; in Stockton, a majority of the 65 workers signed cards.

“We’re very happy to welcome the new members in Benicia and Stockton and we continue to reach out to USF Reddaway at other terminals in the West,” said Bob Paffenroth, Western Region Coordinator for the Teamsters National Freight Division. “There are still more than 2,000 workers at 43 nonunion terminals who are seeking a strong voice with the Teamsters, and we will work with them to make that happen.”

The workers in Benicia and Stockton will be covered under the same contract that was ratified earlier this month. The five-year contract will significantly improve their wages, pensions, health care and other benefits.

USF Reddaway Professional Driver Earns Top Honors

YRC Regional Transportation, a subsidiary of YRC Worldwide Inc. , is proud to announce that USF Reddaway driver Steven Beckwith captured 2nd place in the Twins Class at the 2007 National Truck Driving Championships held August 21-25 in Minneapolis, MN.

A USF Reddaway employee for 13 years, Steven is a linehaul driver at the USF Reddaway service center in Denver, CO. He has competed at the state level for the past four years. Steven has received safety awards annually since 1995.

"We are extremely proud of all of our drivers, particularly Steven Beckwith whose achievements are outstanding," said Jim Staley, President and CEO of YRC Regional Transportation. "The championships are always very competitive, and we applaud our drivers on their exemplary performance."

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) sponsors the event, also known as the "Super Bowl of Safety," where drivers compete against nearly 400 others for national titles in eight different classes of vehicles for the National Grand Champion title. The drivers accumulate points by demonstrating their driving skill and knowledge of the trucking industry through a series of tests. The drivers are given a written examination, personal interview, pre-trip inspection test and a skills test.

To compete at the national competition, drivers must be accident-free for the 12 months leading up to the event and place first in the state-level driving championship. A record of 79 professional drivers from YRC Worldwide brands qualified for the national event this year.

The 2007 YRC Regional Transportation National Truck Driving Championship

Driver Company Class Service Center

Thane Barden USF Holland 5-Axle Holland, MI
Steven Beckwith USF Reddaway Twins Denver, CO
Derrill "Marty" Blandford USF Holland Twins Louisville, KY
Dan Broughton USF Reddaway 3-Axle Great Falls, MT
Will Chrvala New Penn 5-Axle Reading, PA
Scott Colwell USF Reddaway Sleeper Boise, ID
Kyle Cordano USF Reddaway 3-Axle Portland, OR
David Durham USF Holland Straight Truck Indianapolis, IN
Thomas Holman USF Reddaway Straight Truck Denver, CO
Dino Moore USF Reddaway Straight Truck Portland, OR
Michael Mygatt USF Reddaway 3-Axle Seattle, WA
Doug Stubbs USF Reddaway 4-Axle Three Forks, MT
Mike Young USF Reddaway Twins Portland, OR

State Grand Champions: Thane Barden and Dino Moore

YRC Worldwide to start talks early with Teamsters

YRC Worldwide Inc. of Overland Park late Tuesday said its TMI member subsidiaries will start discussions on a new contract with the Teamsters as soon as early September.

The current national master freight agreement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters expires April 1, 2008.

“We are looking forward to the possibility of an early renewal to our contract, which will be in the best interest of our employees, our customers and our shareholders,” Bill Zollars, chairman, president and chief executive officer of YRC Worldwide, said in a news release.

During contract talks, the Teamsters National Freight Industry Negotiating Committee will represent the union. Transportation Management Inc. will represent the YRC Worldwide subsidiaries, including Yellow Transportation, Roadway and others.

Mike Smid, president and CEO of YRC National Transportation, serves as chairman of TMI and will lead the negotiating team.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

ABF Drivers Hazlett and Harris Earn Honors

ABF Freight System, Inc. drivers John Hazlett and Kevin Scott Harris were named National Champions during the 2007 National Truck Driving Championships conducted August 21-25 in Minneapolis. Sponsored by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the national competition highlights the driving skills, industry knowledge and work ethic of professional truck drivers, along with their contribution to the safety of America's highways.

Hazlett, who operates from the ABF service center in Vincentown, N.J., won the National Championship in the Three-Axle Class. Hazlett also won the Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence Award, which recognizes the contestant who most exemplifies the best attributes of a professional truck driver. This is the third time Hazlett has won first place in the National Truck Driving Championships. He also placed first in 1994 and 2000. Pennsylvania Driver of the Year in 2002, Hazlett has twice won the Pennsylvania Grand Champion award and has won first place in the Pennsylvania State Driving Championship eight times. Hazlett joined ABF in 1986.

Harris, who operates from the ABF service center in Albany, N.Y., won the National Championship in the Five-Axle Class. Since joining ABF in 1985, Harris has achieved a record of distinction behind the wheel, including earning a safe driving award for zero preventable accidents each year he has driven for ABF. Harris also has earned a Silver Safe Driving Award for 30,000 hours driven consecutively without a preventable accident, and a 21 Year Safe Driving Certificate and Patch. A five-time winner of the New York State Driving Championships, Harris is a former America's Road Team Captain and was the ATA's National Driver of the Year in 2002.

"Thanks to the commitment and leadership of outstanding employees like John Hazlett and Scott Harris, ABF has a well-earned reputation as a trusted supply-chain partner," said Wes Kemp, ABF senior vice president of operations. "Everyone at ABF greatly appreciates the dedication and hard work they put into every endeavor. We are proud of the way they represent both ABF and the trucking industry at large."

Contestants at the National Trucking Championships were the state champions (in eight truck types) from all 50 states. Collectively, they have driven over a half-billion accident-free miles. In their respective classes, drivers tested their expertise in the driving skills they use daily. The competition course inside the Minneapolis Convention Center challenged their knowledge of safety, equipment and the industry. The skills course tested drivers' ability to judge distances, maneuver tight spaces, reverse, park and position their vehicle exactly over scales, before barriers or around curves.

Monday, August 27, 2007

YRC CEO Concerned About Economy's Future

The president and chief executive of YRC Worldwide Inc., one of the nation's largest trucking companies, on Monday expressed concern about the U.S. economy's near-term growth, and its affect on the company.

"I think the economy is a lot softer than people are saying," Bill Zollars said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "The Fed needs to move quickly and make some kind of rate cut so that we can generate some kind of economic growth."

Zollars noted that while the public's primary focus has been on financial markets, the goods market is not recovering as expected in the third quarter.

"The demand we expected has not materialized," Zollars said. "And our customers are telling us that economic recovery has not shown up at this point."

Many analysts were touting a turnaround in the second-half of the year, following a largely disappointing first two quarters in the freight market.

Last month, YRC Worldwide reported its second-quarter earnings fell 40 percent on soft volumes related to the sector-wide slump. Zollars said primary indications suggest things are not likely to improve in the near-term.

"Usually at this time of year, we see business building toward a Christmas peak, and that is not materializing," he said. "We don't foresee a normal seasonal peak - at least not yet."

Zollars said the company has been aggressively cutting costs in response to a dim near-term economic outlook, and that YRC Worldwide will continue to consider cost-cutting measures - including possible job cuts - should the downturn continue.

Hoffa's Lead

Following the recent presidential debate hosted by the AFL-CIO, we lamented the decline of organized labor's commitment to a strong foreign policy in the mold of Lane Kirkland, George Meany, and Thomas Donahue. But one labor leader is finally reversing course and taking the type of stand on a foreign policy issue that is needed. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters recently urged its pension funds to sell its shares in companies that do business in Iran. The directive was written by the Teamsters president, James Hoffa, and sent to more than 170 fund managers.

The letter notes that Iran has treated union leaders particularly harshly. One, Mansour Osanloo, president of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs (Vahed) Bus Company, was kidnapped, beaten, and imprisoned in the Evin prison, a jail that cages political prisoners. Another, Mahmoud Salehi, founder of the Saghez Bakery Workers Association, was sentenced to a year in prison for trying to mobilize and organize workers. He is now far from his family, incarcerated in Kurdistan. Mr. Hoffa also claims that the Iranian government "persecutes any Iranian citizen who dares to organize a trade union."

These abuses are similar to the intimidation that the Soviet Union used against labor unions during the Cold War, and Mr. Hoffa's letter goes beyond Iran's mistreatment of labor leaders and strikes a much broader tone. As part of his justification for the divestment campaign, he points out Iran's destructive role in Iraq, saying that Iran "supplies weapons and training to Shia militant groups that attack our troops in Iraq." He also mentions Iran's uranium enrichment and funding of -- in his words -- "terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah."

The free trade union movement played a heroic role in the Cold War, standing up to the Communists and taking a harder line than even some in the business and banking communities did. In the current battle, according to the American Enterprise Institute's Web site on "Global Business in Iran" (, American based-companies continue to invest in or conduct business transactions with Iran, a startling development given the Mullah's attitudes toward the West. Mr. Hoffa's letter shows that at least one important union is prepared to lead.

It may be that Mr. Hoffa has inherited one of his father's better personality traits, an independent streak that enabled him to stand apart from the rest of the movement when he felt it was wrong. In 1972, when big labor was locked out of the Democratic National Convention that nominated Senator McGovern, the AFL-CIO stood neutral in the general election but Hoffa senior and the Teamsters endorsed President Nixon for re-election, largely, although not only, because of the anemic foreign policy of Senator McGovern. We'd like to think that the younger Mr. Hoffa is demonstrating that a strong foreign policy from labor in the mold of Kirkland, Meany, Mr. Donahue, and even his father is still possible.

The thing to watch is how all this plays out in the context of the 2008 general election. Where will labor leaders like John Sweeney and Andrew Stern be while the working men and women of the non-democratic Middle East are denied their right to organize? It's not a question of party politics; Lane Kirkland challenged President Reagan from the right. Mr. Hoffa concluded his letter on a note of patriotism, saying, "What I am concerned about, though, is that Teamsters' hard-earned money would support in any way an enemy of the United States of America. No Teamster should ever have to worry that his or her retirement money is used to support terrorism in any way."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

National Truck Driving Championship

Roadway's Alphonso Lewis is 2007 Champion

Alphonso "Al" Lewis, a Roadway professional truck driver based in Montgomery, Ala. was named the 2007 National Truck Driving Grand Champion. Lewis' driving skills and knowledge of transportation and truck safety information topped those of 377 other drivers from all across the United States in the National Truck Driving Championships, held in Minneapolis, Minn. In route to his title, Lewis has logged 21 accident and injury free years as a driver. Lewis is the first African-American winner in the 70-year history of the Championships.

The 70th annual "Super Bowl of Safety" is sponsored by the American Trucking Associations.

The contestants were the state champions (in eight truck types) from all 50 states. Collectively, they have driven over a half-billion accident-free miles.

In their respective classes, drivers tested their expertise in the driving skills they use daily. The competition course inside the Minneapolis Convention Center challenged their knowledge of safety, equipment and the industry. The skills course tested drivers' ability to judge distances, maneuver tight spaces, reverse, park, and position their vehicle exactly over scales, before barriers or around curves.

Lewis also won the individual Four-axle truck driving competition. Joining Lewis as champions in their respective classes:

Straight Truck: Scott Watts, FedEx Express (Anchorage, Alaska) Three-Axle: John Hazlett, ABF Freight System (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) Five-Axle: Kevin Scott Harris, Sr., ABF Freight System (North Greenbush, New York) Five-Axle Sleeper: Warren Lewis, Jr., Hannaford Trucking Company (Lewiston, Maine) Twins: Dennis Day, Con-way Freight (Lawrenceville, Georgia) Flatbed: John Smith, Jr., FedEx Ground (Tupelo, Mississippi) Tank Truck: Dale Duncan, Con-way Freight (Chula Vista, California)

Lewis succeeds Dale Duncan as the National Grand Champion, who himself won this year's Tank Truck division.

Jason Matte, a five-axle driver for FedEx Freight from Pearl, Miss., was named 2007 Rookie of the Year. Matte, who has been a professional truck driver for nine years and has over 700,000 accident-free miles, was also the 2007 Mississippi Truck Driving Championships Rookie of the Year.

The Arizona state truck driving championship team won honors as the highest scoring state team, followed by Washington and South Dakota respectively.