Saturday, February 17, 2018
It's still early, but talks to hammer out a collective-bargaining agreement between ABF Freight, the less-than-truckload unit of ArcBest Corp., and the 8,200 full-time Teamsters union members who work for the unit is shaping up to be just as difficult as the last go-round five years ago.
Negotiations resumed on Monday in Kansas City after two rounds of talks that moved the needle a bit, but not by much. ABF said in a memo last Friday that progress had been made on unidentified "mutually agreeable" language, but that "significant issues" remain to be discussed. The memo did not mention the core issues still on the table, but they no doubt mean employee wages, and perhaps more important, the cost of the company's pension plan, which is significantly higher than that of YRC Worldwide Inc., ABF's only unionized rival. The five-year ABF-Teamster contract expires March 31.
The two sides first exchanged proposals on Dec. 18, with the Teamsters' freight division seeking cost-of-living adjustments for each year of the contract and ABF calling for an across-the-board wage freeze effective July 1, 2018. The company has agreed to restore one week's vacation for union members that was eliminated in the 2013 contract, with the condition that the two sides identify cost savings to offset the increased expense associated with adding back the vacation week.
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“While working men and women have long known the value of a dollar—it is a lesson well taught to one who labors for a living—it has taken a long, long time to teach employers the value of a human being, and in many cases has not yet been successfully taught. Few give thought to what happens to displaced workers, but they can analyze to the penny what the profits will be.” –James R. Hoffa
Each year in February, Teamsters take a moment to reflect upon and remember a leader who changed the course of history for working men and women in America. James R. Hoffa, born February 14, 1913, served as General President of the Teamsters Union from 1957 to 1971. In that time, he inspired thousands to stand up and let their voices be heard.
His words, spoken more than 50 years ago, resonate just as profoundly today as they did then.
As General President, Hoffa honed his well-earned reputation as a tough and effective bargainer, and gained the respect of labor and business leaders alike across the country. He worked hard to expand the number of working men and women who were protected by union contracts and, under his leadership, the union’s membership rose to include more than 2 million workers.
Hoffa’s crowning achievement was the 1964 National Master Freight Agreement, which united more than 400,000 over-the-road drivers under one contract. This contract, a feat that had been declared virtually impossible by many, lifted more workers out of poverty and into the middle class than any other single event in labor history. Congressman Elmer Holland (D-PA) was quoted as saying, “Jimmy Hoffa has put more bread and butter on the tables for American kids than all his detractors put together.”
“My father’s devotion to the Teamsters and their families was—and remains—legendary. His whole life was dedicated to bettering the lives of America’s working families,” said James P. Hoffa, General President of the Teamsters Union. “I can think of no better way to honor his legacy than to continue fighting on behalf of working people everywhere.”
The parties met in Kansas City and made progress in several areas. For example, progress was made on tightening up language to address concerns about the use of purchased transportation and to improve job security. The union committee also stood firm in its opposition to the company’s controversial drug-testing and fitness-for-duty proposals and, after many spirited meetings, the company ultimately withdrew these proposals. As a result, there will be no changes to Article 35.
Other issues were also addressed including improvements to certain equipment and additional disciplinary protections. TNFINC Co-Chairman and Teamsters National Freight Division Director Ernie Soehl said he was encouraged by the progress.
“Addressing the use of purchased transportation and improving job security are two of the main objectives of the bargaining team,” Soehl said. “We made good progress on some important issues, but tough items, including the major economic issues, remain to be tackled.
“Our committee has done an amazing job of showing solidarity, working hard and is 100-percent committed to achieving our goals and representing the interests of the membership,” Soehl said.
Soehl said he greatly appreciates the support that the membership has shown for the committee in recent weeks.
“The committee has received near universal support from the membership, and that is who we are working for,” Soehl said.
Negotiations resume on February 26.