Saturday, June 14, 2008

Michigan Democrats pick remaining convention delegates

Hundreds of Michigan Democratic activists were meeting to select the state's remaining Democratic National Convention delegates.

The Democratic State Central Committee on Saturday was choosing 23 delegates for presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama and 22 for Hillary Rodham Clinton, who won Michigan's disputed Jan. 15 primary.

The new delegates will join 83 selected in April at district conventions.

Teamsters President James Hoffa Jr. and United Auto Workers union official Richard Long were expected to be named to fill two superdelegate spots, joining 27 Michigan superdelegates already named.

Although Clinton won the state primary, her Michigan supporters attending Saturday's meeting say they now support Obama.

Highway Robbery

By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa

If you have any doubt whether gas prices are seriously hurting working families, you should talk to Denise Renedo. A dispatch clerk at Roadway Express' Detroit facility, Renedo is a single mother, working a solid 40 hours a week.

“There's no doubt that the high gas prices hurt,” Renedo said. “People have to cut into their budget in other places to afford the gas, taking some harsh but necessary steps.”

To fill the tank of her Ford F-150, which Renedo does every two weeks, she needs more than $100, a steep increase over last year. To compensate, she limits her recreational driving. Neighbors, she said, have eliminated trips not related to commuting. “Gas is getting so expensive that they have to conserve it or else cut into their budget somewhere else, like with food,” she said.

This is outrageous. People in Detroit work hard and deserve to be able to commute and travel in their community without cutting into their food budget. Unfortunately, workers here and across the country are facing major problems affording the costs of gas. Those problems are reverberating throughout our economy. Freight and parcel-delivery companies, airlines, police departments, grocery chains and school bus companies must compensate somehow for the added fuel expense.

For the first time, the average price for a gallon of gas topped the $4 mark this past weekend, and the cost of crude oil is quickly soaring toward $150 a barrel. Working families are taking the hit. It's no coincidence that we just saw the biggest spike in the unemployment rate in 22 years, to 5.5 percent.

Yet oil companies and President Bush are oblivious to working families' plight. Bush, a former oil company executive, expressed surprise earlier this year that the average price for gas was headed toward $4 a gallon. (The price is nearly a dollar higher than in January, and a Goldman Sachs analyst who foretold that cost predicts it will rise to $6 a gallon by 2010.)

Meanwhile, oil companies are gouging Americans at the pumps. Exxon Mobil had an income of more than $404 billion last year, a total that tops 120 countries' gross domestic product. The company's profits were a record-setting $40.6 billion last year—that's not just a company record but also the largest annual profit for any company ever. To reach its obscene milestone the company profited more than $77,287 per minute last year. Can you imagine that? Many working families in Michigan are fortunate if they earn that much in a year.

All told, the five largest oil companies pumped $116 billion in profits last year from nearly $14.7 trillion in revenue, according to the Congressional Research Service. Royal Dutch Shell turned a $31 billion profit, Chevron sucked in $18.7 billion, BP earned $17.2 billion and ConocoPhillips earned $11.9 billion. The companies are on a pace to top those totals this year, having reported total profits of approximately $36 billion through March.

Last month, oil executives for the largest oil companies testified before Congress, explaining away their obscene profits. But their claim that the chief culprit is supply and demand is misleading. Clear and simple, it's greed that leads to their massive profits. Oil companies' objective is to wring as much money as they can from their product. One telling moment occurred during the hearings. A member of Congress asked the executive vice president of ConocoPhillips how much he was paid in 2007. He did not know. What a position to be in, not needing to worry about your salary. It's clearly preferable to worrying that the cost of gas will lead to you not being able to afford to drive to work.

As we research alternative energy sources and consumers become more energy-efficient, the oil companies should be forced to contribute a greater percentage of their windfall profits to such pursuits. The Consumer-First Energy Act, a bill unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, would do just that. It would also punish price gouging and create a temporary windfall profits tax on major oil companies.

The bill would also prevent speculators from cashing in on off-shore transactions. It would also allow the attorney general to take action against any country or company that fixes the price of any petroleum product.

Sen. Reid's bill is a common-sense approach to protecting American workers from greedy corporations and speculators. I urge Congress to act quickly on the bill to control fuel prices. We can’t continue to let the entire U.S. economy take a hit just so a handful of oil companies make obscene profits.

Nebraska Truck Driving Championships

Competition gives drivers chance to exercise a keen eye in searching for defects

Crawling around on the ground looking at tires, axles and lug nuts isn't your idea of a good time?

How about searching through a truck cab for fire extinguishers and testing the brakes?

Toss in a timer set at five to seven minutes and you've got one round of the Nebraska Truck Driving Championships.

On Friday, 116 truck drivers took part in the pre-trip inspections competition at Fonner Park. They crawled underneath big rigs, climbed in the cabs and walked around the trucks looking for 10 planted "defects," including low tires, loose lug nuts, missing crankshafts, improperly stored fire extinguishers, foreign items stuck in the axle and trash in the cab.

This year's competition is the third one for Gary Kensel, an ABF Freight driver from Omaha.

"I like to represent the company and I like to meet the other drivers," he said.

He also admitted to enjoying the annual dinners and social gatherings.

Each year, Kensel has competed in a different class. There are eight classes, such as straight trucks and tankers, in the competition.

Kensel has switched because there are nine ABF drivers competing and they don't all want to be in the same class.

Michelle Drahota, director of communications for the Nebraska Trucking Association, said the drivers can pick the class they want to compete in when they register. All the competitors have to be accident free for 12 months and must work for a Nebraska-based trucking company, she said.

The drivers also completed written tests and interviews Friday, and will take part in a driving competition today. The driving involves six situations designed to simulated conditions encountered in actual truck operations, such as short turns and backing into tight spaces, she said.

The overall winner of the event can go to Nationals Aug. 19-23 in Houston, she said.

On Friday, 10 trucks sat in two rows near the Heartland Events Center as drivers quickly and carefully inspected them. The drivers were awarded points for each defect found, said Jim Hill, who was recording discoveries at a tanker truck.

He said the average number of defects found at his truck was five. All the trucks had the same defects.

"It's a tough year," he said.

As each driver made his or her way around the trucks, they called out problems and declared them to be defects.

They were allowed to use the tools they would have on hand during the pre-trip inspections they do on the job, such as a mallet, gloves, flashlights and tire pressure gauges.

Last year's grand champion, Randy McDonald, pulled on thick gloves as he stood with his back turned to the tanker and listened to Hill's instructions. He then moved quickly around the rig, thumping tires with a mallet, noting an open cabinet door, twisting a loose fuel cap and picking up a misplaced fire extinguisher.

McDonald found seven of the 10 defects before running out of time. After his inspection, he was rushed off to the Bosselman's Conference Center for his interview.

Drahota said the interviews were being done by the Nebraska State Patrol's carrier enforcement troopers, who are also having a competition at Fonner Park this weekend.

Friday, June 13, 2008

YRC Worldwide CEO to Present at Merrill Lynch Transportation Conference

Bill Zollars, Chairman, President and CEO of YRC Worldwide Inc. will deliver a company presentation at the Merrill Lynch Global Transportation Conference on Wednesday, June 18, 2008, at 8:00am ET. The conference will be held at Merrill Lynch Headquarters, 4 World Financial Center, 250 Vesey Street, New York, New York.

A webcast of the live presentation will be available to listeners via the YRC Worldwide Internet site Replay of the presentation will be available within 24 hours also through

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Teamsters Win Most Votes in DHL Gateway Election

In a vote for union representation at DHL's Wilmington, Ohio Gateway, workers cast their ballots in favor of the Teamsters Union. While the Teamsters received more votes than the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) or the choice for no union representation, the Teamsters did not reach the NLRB-required 50 percent plus 1 threshold of voters to be declared a winner. A runoff election will be held to decide whether the workers will choose either the Teamsters or no union representation at a yet-to-be-determined date.

"The Gateway workers in Wilmington have shown that they want Teamster representation and we are confident that they will choose the Teamsters Union in the upcoming election," said Bill Hamilton, Director of the Teamsters Express Division. "In these somewhat uncertain times at DHL, it's more important than ever that these workers have a strong union like the Teamsters to work tirelessly to represent their best interests and to secure their future."

DHL Gateway workers in Wilmington have faced deep concerns over the recent announcement that DHL is 'acquiring the services' of UPS and working toward an agreement to provide transportation in its air network system for package volume in the United States. This also applies to air lift for DHL packages between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. While the final deal between DHL and UPS is not yet complete, the Teamsters Union is using its bargaining, contractual and political clout to work to ensure that Teamsters in the DHL System are treated fairly. More than 200,000 Teamster members work at UPS and more than 12,000 Teamster members work within the DHL System.

"We need the power of Teamster influence, Teamster experience and Teamster members behind us," said Malien Grossman, a gateway service agent in Wilmington.

"The announcement from DHL has made me realize the importance of the strength of my Teamsters Union, politically and at the bargaining table. We would be honored to have the workers in Wilmington standing there with us as Teamsters," said Debra Contello, a Teamster member working at the DHL Gateway at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

Contello and her fellow Teamsters from the JFK, Los Angeles and Miami DHL Gateways recently came to Wilmington to support the workers' vote for Teamster representation.

In May, more than 7,000 Teamsters working at DHL Express ratified their first national agreement by a solid 82 percent. The agreement boosts wages and benefits, improves working conditions and strengthens job security for members at dozens of DHL Express locations across the United States. This vote comes on the heels of several Teamster victories at DHL. In March, 19 sort maintenance mechanics and tech reps in Wilmington and 369 workers at the DHL sort facility in Niles, Michigan voted to join the Teamsters.

Teamsters Hail Setback for Trans-Texas Corridor Plan

Union Praises Citizens, Union Members Who Spoke Out Against Key Link in "NAFTA Superhighway"

The Teamsters Union on Thursday hailed the Texas Department of Transportation's decision to upgrade U.S. Highway 59 instead of building a new transportation corridor through the countryside.

TxDOT announced the new plan to use existing alignments on Wednesday at a meeting in Lufkin, Texas. Only new lanes to the highway would be tolled, according to the plan.

"The decision to scale back the Trans-Texas Corridor is a victory for the local citizens and union truck drivers who spoke out against it," said Tyson Johnson, director of the Teamsters National Freight Division and an International Vice President. "The last thing we need in Texas is a NAFTA superhighway that siphons more jobs south of the border."

The Trans-Texas Corridor is a proposed super-tollway that would encompass rail and utility lines. Original plans called for a network that would be four football fields wide and 4,000 miles long.

Texas Teamsters made their voices heard against the plan during public hearings throughout Texas earlier this year.

"We have long fought to make sure that U.S. infrastructure remains in public hands and that it benefits U.S. citizens," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. "This decision is right for working families in Texas."

Trucking companies risk closing if government doesn't take action, Teamsters say

Dozens of Canadian trucking companies risk closing, if the federal government doesn't create a national rebate program to mitigate the soaring price of fuel, Teamsters Canada warned today.

The union, which represents thousands of Canadian truckers, today called on the government to use budget surpluses to assist the transport industry. The practice already exists provincially; the Quebec government gives independent drivers protection against rising gas and fuel costs, the Teamsters said.

"One thing is sure: current gas and fuel prices will have dire consequences for the health of Canada's economy," predicted Teamsters Canada President Robert Bouvier. "The federal government must take action to protect the future of transportation-industry workers and all Canadians.

According to transportation experts across the country, the prices of gas and fuel-which has surpassed the $1.50 per litre mark in several regions of the country, imposes a perilous cost on trucking companies, brokers and owner-operators, the Teamsters said.

"In my 40 years in this business, I have never witnessed such a critical situation. It is only a matter of weeks before companies will begin to disappear," says Robert McAulay assistant director of the union's central division freight and tank haul division.

Since the vast majority of goods arrive at Canadian stores by truck, higher fuel prices could further inflate food prices, which are already on the rise.

"Even a minor rise in gas and fuel costs impacts the price of produce, goods and services," said Richard Van Grol, assistant director of the union's freight and tank haul division in Western Canada.

"In the long term, customers will suffer the consequences."

Thieves hit truck tanks as diesel fuel prices rise

Big tanks on big trucks are being targeted by thieves as the price of diesel fuel soars to almost $1.50 a litre in the Vancouver area.

"Diesel is becoming more valuable than copper," said Don McGill, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 213, referring to the market for stolen copper. "We're starting to hear more and more of tanks being siphoned."

About 6,000 of the local's 10,000 members are truck drivers. Some have reported that thieves watch for them to leave their vehicles and then strike, Mr. McGill said from the local's Vancouver head office.

"It's becoming a major concern."

Recently, two of Lloyd Davies's dozen gravel trucks in Mission were hit by diesel dippers.

During one incident about 135 litres were siphoned and, in the second, about 270 litres were poached. The value of the stolen diesel was about $600.

"We're going to put in a security system," Mr. Davies said.

Langley resident Sabik Singh drives a gravel truck with a trailer and while his tank hasn't been tampered with, he's heard from many drivers whose tanks were drained in the past few months. It's never been this bad.

"It's getting very disturbing," said Mr. Singh, a Teamsters member for 48 years.

If a vehicle doesn't have a locking fuel cap, thieves remove the cap and transfer diesel from one tank to another.

Thieves pull up in a vehicle, usually with a concealed steel drum to hold the pilfered fuel, connect the pump and start the heist, Mr. Singh said.

Diesel theft isn't usually tracked by RCMP detachments, said Corporal Jack Hundial, spokesman for the Surrey RCMP, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening.

Truckers may not bother to report thefts because they don't think the court system or police can do much, or else they may not realize they've been a victim, said Staff Sergeant Dave Bown of Victoria's Regional Crime Unit.

Big rigs can be outfitted with two tanks on each side holding a total of 1,000 litres or about $1,500 worth of fuel. Smaller trucks can carry up to $500 worth when full.

If a truck has had 50 to 100 litres removed, the operator may not notice, Staff Sgt. Bown said.

DHL Saves Face

Partnering with a competitor may help DHL salvage its business reputation in the U.S.

Anytime a company joins hands with a rival, it's bound to raise concerns. And yet "co-opetition"—the sharing of resources amongst competitors—has a successful track record in dozens of industries, from shipping to financial services to telecommunications. DHL's proposal to outsource its air shipments to UPS () is likely to benefit both companies, and it may also set a precedent for similar partnerships in the express delivery market, according to industry analysts.

"I think it's a brilliant stroke for both DHL and UPS," says Doug Caldwell, executive vice-president of, an Orem (Utah) logistics provider. He believes the extra freight from DHL customers will help UPS fill its planes to near-capacity, building efficiency and ultimately lowering costs.

To be sure, it's not the first such move in the industry. In 2000, Federal Express () forged a long-term agreement to carry U.S. Postal Service packages through its air network. In return, FedEx placed drop-off boxes in some 38,000 retail postal outlets across the country. The deal currently being negotiated between DHL and UPS is similar, but it would be the first of its kind between two private players.

"With fuel prices unlikely to ever come back down materially and with ever-increasing costs of maintaining these networks, it makes sense that you will see competitive sharing arrangements around the world," says John Mullen, CEO of DHL's global business. "It makes sense anywhere where you can generate productivity and a better use of assets."

Going Greener

It could also be an environmentally beneficial move, according to Jim LeRose, principal of logistics consultancy Agile Network. "If you share capacity, you are reducing the amount of planes, cars, and trucks that go to the same places—so perhaps this is a twist on a [green initiative] as well," he says.

Many critics believe the deal is a win for DHL customers because of the strong reputation of UPS. "You're going to be moving from essentially a DHL air network to a UPS air network, and there's really nobody better operationally than UPS," says Caldwell. "They run on time, they sort on time—they're very efficient."

It's less clear what effect the arrangement will have on prices across the industry. "DHL was a downside pressure on the market," says Dan O'Rourke, editor of trade magazine Parcel. "It was another major carrier, so that kept some pressure on the other major private carriers. Obviously that pressure has dwindled quite a bit now."

The clearest beneficiaries of the deal are shareholders of Deutsche Post World Net, DHL's German parent, who have suffered billions of dollars in losses while DHL waited to make a major strategy shift in the U.S. "This stops the bleeding as far as their situation in the U.S.," says's Caldwell. "The question has been up until now whether DHL is even going to be able to maintain a presence in the U.S. market, much less expand it. If they perform the transition well, it's possible that they could increase their market share in the future."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Trade deficit jumps to highest level in 13 months

The trade deficit soared to the highest level in more than a year as an improvement in exports was swamped by record-high levels of imported crude oil. The deficit with China also rose sharply.

The gap between what the nation imports and what it sells abroad rose by 7.8 percent in April to $60.9 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. It was the largest imbalance since March 2007.

The higher deficit was driven by a $4.3 billion increase in crude oil imports, which jumped to a record $29.3 billion in April, as the average per-barrel price rose to an all-time high of $96.81.

If the price of crude had instead been at $60 per barrel, about where it was a year ago, the trade deficit would have been $11 billion lower in April. Analysts cautioned the deficit will widen further in coming months, given that oil is now trading above $130 per barrel.

U.S. export sales totaled $155.5 billion in April, up 3.3 percent to an all-time high, reflecting big gains in sales of commercial aircraft, farm machinery, medical equipment and computers. But this increase was swamped by a 4.5 percent rise in imports, which also set a record at $216.4 billion. In addition to oil, there were huge gains in imports of autos and consumer goods. Full Story........

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hamilton Named Director of New Express Division for DHL Express and Danzas Members

International Brotherhood
of Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa today announced the appointment of
Bill Hamilton, International Vice President, as director of the newly
established Express Division of the union. The Express Division, under
Hamilton's leadership, will represent Teamster members at DHL Express and

"With the recent ratification of new agreements with DHL Express and
Danzas, we anticipate that both of these companies will continue to grow,"
said Hoffa. "The creation of an Express Division will ensure that the
Teamsters Union is focused on growing our membership at these companies.
With Bill Hamilton leading our efforts, there is no doubt we will be

Hamilton, a 42-year Teamster, first joined the union as a freight
worker with Spector Motors in 1966. After serving from 1968-1970 in the
Army's 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War, Hamilton returned to
various Teamster jobs and was elected to his first union position as a
steward at McLean Trucking in the early 1970s.

In 1990, Hamilton became a business agent with Local 107 and worked his
way up to being elected as the local union's President in 2000 -- a
position he has held ever since. In his time at the local, he organized
many new Teamsters, and worked closely with freight and DHL members.
Hamilton was appointed as an Eastern Region International Vice President
earlier this year.

"I look forward to working with our members at DHL Express and Danzas,"
Hamilton said. "Together we will implement our new agreements and organize
the unorganized."