Thursday, December 28, 2006

U.S. trucking industry's November decline was biggest year-to-year drop in almost six years

In a potentially worrisome sign for the U.S. economy, domestic trucking shipments declined by almost 9 percent in November, marking the largest year-over-year decrease in almost six years, the industry's largest trade association said.
The American Trucking Associations said in a monthly report released late Wednesday that its seasonally adjusted truck tonnage index stands at its lowest level since late 2003, following an 8.8 percent decline versus the same month a year ago. The index fell 3.6 percent from the prior month.

Because more than two-thirds of all manufactured and retail goods in the U.S. are carried by truck, the industry is considered an important economic bellwether.
“Both the month-to-month and year-over-year decreases indicate that the economic slowdown is in full gear,” Bob Costello, the association's chief economist, said in a statement. “One month certainly doesn't make a trend, but if we continue to see year-over-year reductions of similar magnitudes in the next couple of months, it could indicate a greater economic slowdown than economists are projecting at this point.”

Costello cautioned that year-over-year comparisons might be skewed by the “very robust volumes” the industry saw during the same period a year ago.

The Alexandria, Va.-based trucking group said its tonnage index stood at 106.8 in November. The index, which stood at 100 in 2000, measures the weight of freight hauled by U.S. truckers, based on surveys from its membership.

Trucking companies have seen their fuel costs surge in the past few years, though they have been able to pass most of those extra expenses through to customers.

On the Nasdaq Stock Market, shares of JB Hunt Transport Services declined 13 cents to $21.05, near the middle of its 52-week trading range. Shares of Swift Transportation Company Inc. fell 15 cents to $26.56, also in the middle of its 52-week trading range.

On the New York Stock Exchange, shares of YRC Worldwide Inc. – the company created by the merger of Yellow and Roadway – gained 27 cents to $38.38, near the lower end of its 52-week trading range.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Santa Claus Is a Teamster

Local 509 Member Delivers for Charity

Santa Claus really is a Teamster.

Tracy Trapka, a USF Holland city driver in Duncan, South Carolina, plays Santa Claus every year for his local union, Local 509 in Cayce, South Carolina. His white beard and hair are natural.

This holiday season, Trapka did something special.

"This year, he was asked to be Santa for Toys For Tots for the Marine Corps which was held at Harley-Davidson of Greenville,” said Richard Maxwell, a Local 509 business representative. “Brother Trapka rode in a fire truck and led over 750 motorcycles into the dealership with each motorcycle carrying a toy for a child. The response was overwhelming and the Marine Corps wants to make sure this Santa is back next year.”

“Teamsters Local 509 is truly proud to have this gentleman as a member and we appreciate his dedication each year as he brings joy into a child’s life,” said L.D. Fletcher, President of Local 509. “We have even had him go to an individual child’s home who has disabilities dressed as Santa on Christmas Eve because the child would only tell him what he wanted. The only way to make sure the child’s Christmas came true was for Santa to deliver the gift which proves Santa is a Teamster.”

Monday, December 18, 2006

ABF, FleetNet Announce New VPs

Two subsidiaries of Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith have announced new vice presidents.

ABF Freight System Inc. has appointed Barry C. Hunter to vice president of administration and treasurer effective Feb. 1. Hunter, who has been with the company for 20 years, is now director of traffic services.

Hunter will assume the position being vacated by Arthur N. Lynch, who is retiring on Jan. 31.

Meanwhile, FleetNet America Inc. named Gary W. Cummings to executive vice president and chief operating officer effective Jan. 1. In this new position, Cummings will be responsible for all of FleetNet's operations. Cummings currently is serving as FleetNet's vice president of corporate services and will continue to oversee all information technology issues for the company.

Cummings has held various positions with Arkansas Best Corp. and its subsidiaries. He joined FleetNet two years ago. The company is a third-party vehicle maintenance company.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hazards of the long haul

Weary, financially pressed truckers raise round-the-clock road risks

Hurtling down a darkened Indiana highway, Roger Kobernick pulls his 75-foot-long rig into a truck stop just long enough to grab his one meal of the day, a thin baloney and cheese sandwich that he gulps down with a huge mug of black coffee.

He has several more hours of driving ahead this night to reach a warehouse in Walton, Ky., where he wants to be the first in line so he can get quickly unloaded and back on the road.

The next morning, after his truck is emptied, he sets off without breakfast or even washing up. Hours later as he falls in with a truck caravan snaking along a stretch of North Carolina's Smoky Mountains, he relaxes and his worries spill out.

"I'm 42 years old," he said. "And what am I going to do? Give it up? No, you gotta go out and pay the bills. You gotta keep plugging at it. I don't foresee me ever retiring. My dad worked 'til the day he died, and I foresee that being me."

Long hours

Truckers like Kobernick are travelers adrift in a tumultuous sea.

Spurred by a global economy that demands that goods be delivered on time and at low prices, business has never been so brisk and so cutthroat. Paid by the delivery, not the hour, the country's 350,000 independent truckers like Kobernick are lashed to punishing schedules that practically force them to live in their rigs. Counting all their time on the job, some earn as little as $8 an hour.

Long hours, chaotic schedules and exhausting work conditions make for a potentially lethal formula - for truck drivers and everyone else on the road.

Nearly a decade ago, the government vowed to significantly reduce the number of fatalities from truck crashes, but the results have been mixed. Nationally the death toll fell until 2002 and then started climbing. In the three most heavily traveled states, California, Texas and Florida, deaths involving large truck crashes have steadily climbed.

More than 5,000 people die and 116,000 are injured yearly in truck-related accidents, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Most often the victims are in passenger cars.

Take the night last April when trucker Robert Spencer, 37, of Canton Township, Mich., was headed north on I-69 in Indiana at close to 70 mph, according to a sworn statement from an investigator.

His truck crossed the highway's divide and slammed into a southbound van carrying nine people from the Fort Wayne campus of Taylor University. All were injured; five were killed, four of them students in their early 20s.

"Did I hit something? What happened? Who did this?" Spencer said at the scene. Besides five counts of reckless homicide, Spencer also was charged with filing a false logbook, concealing that he had driven 9 1/2 hours beyond the 11-hour daily maximum allowed by law.

Truckers do not escape being victims; 930 were killed in the U.S. while working last year, up 33 percent from 1992. And while they made up only 2 percent of the work force last year, they accounted for more than 16 percent of fatal workplace injuries.

Last week the health of truck drivers was taken up by the U.S. Appeals Court in Washington, D.C. It heard the latest arguments in a long battle that has pitted trucking companies against groups concerned with driver safety. Companies are pushing to increase the time drivers can be behind the wheel; critics contend that extending truckers' work days is aimed at increasing corporate profits at drivers' expense.

"You have drivers who are already working almost twice the normal 40-hour week," said LaMont Byrd, the Teamsters' Health and Safety director.

Dave Osieke, head of safety for the American Trucking Association, said the fact that fatality rates had fallen until only recently is evidence "that safety has improved."

One reason fatality rates haven't fallen faster, added Ian Grossman, a spokesman at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is that highways are more congested and more truckers are on the road. Since 1996, trucking mileage has soared by 43 billion miles, up 24 percent. Considering such dramatic changes, the death toll increase is quite low, he said.

'Race to the bottom'

When did the dream of being a trucker turn sour?

It began after the government deregulated the industry in 1980, said Mike Belzer, a one-time trucker who is now a Wayne State University professor and trucking industry expert. Ever since, he said, it has been a "race to the bottom."

Before 1980, nearly 9 out of 10 over-the-road drivers were union members, he said. Today, 1 out of 10 carry a union card. That shift ushered in lower pay, fewer benefits and tougher working conditions.

It also made the highways far more dangerous as inexperienced and lower-paid drivers push themselves to earn more, Belzer added.

"You get what you pay for," Belzer explains. It is a matter of choosing between a "skilled professional" and someone "from the soup line," he said.

New drivers' inexperience worries Kobernick, too. Schmoozing at a warehouse in northern Kentucky, Kobernick swaps stories about new drivers with fellow trucker Jerry Knoy, 52, of Salem, Ind.

"I met a guy two weeks ago who said, 'Hey, can you back my truck in for me,'" Knoy said.

By the late 1990s much of the industry was transformed into a "sweatshop on wheels," Belzer said. Truckers' income, when adjusted for inflation, dropped steadily as the market was flooded with new companies, new drivers, and pressures from shippers and manufacturers to keep freight costs down.

Figures from the American Trucking Association show that between 1980 and 2005, the number of interstate trucking companies soared from 20,000 to 564,000. But nearly 90 percent operate six trucks or less, according to the industry group.

The result is a highly fragmented industry with "low profit margins," according to an association study.

Out of an estimated 3.3 million truckers, about 1.3 million haul freight. Of these, about 350,000 are independent drivers. Most own their trucks but lease them to companies. Or, in Kobernick's case, they work for whoever has goods for them.

Some Teamsters members earn as much as $70,000 yearly, and industry experts say the salaries of drivers for large, nonunion fleets are close. Overall, the average pay is about $35,000 a year.

The average independent driver earns about $40,000 a year, according to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

USF Bestway Workers in Los Angeles Join Local 63

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On December 13, Local 63 in Covina, California received recognition from USF Bestway to represent a unit of 112 workers at the company’s terminal in Los Angeles. The win in Southern California is the latest victory in the campaign to give Bestway workers the secure future they deserve.

The win in Los Angeles follows similar victories at terminals in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona; and San Leandro, Modesto and Sacramento, all in California.

Local 63 sought and received recognition for 112 line drivers, city drivers and dockworkers.

The dockworkers, line drivers and city drivers in the West will be organized through the Master Bestway Agreement card-check neutrality clause negotiated in the Southwest and Southeast.

Seventy percent of the 112 drivers and dockworkers in Los Angeles signed cards to form a union.

"The drivers and dockworkers at the Los Angeles terminal turned to us to get the strong, secure future that they deserve. We look forward to providing them with the best representation so that they will have strong voices on the job," said Randy Cammack, Local 63 Secretary-Treasurer.

YRC cuts earnings forecast

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YRC Worldwide Inc. on Thursday lowered its earnings forecast for the fourth quarter by about 30 percent, citing lower freight volumes caused by a slow economy.

In a release, the Overland Park-based trucking company (Nasdaq: YRCW) said it now expects fourth quarter earnings of 95 cents to $1.05 a share, compared with its previous forecast of $1.40 to $1.50 a share.

"As widely reported by industry analysts, the economy has slowed significantly in the fourth quarter, resulting in lower volumes than we anticipated across all of our asset-based business units," YRC President and CEO Bill Zollars said in the release.

Eleven analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call reported a consensus earnings estimate of $1.32 a share for the fourth quarter, which ends in December.

The company also lowered its fiscal 2006 earnings estimate to between $5 and $5.10 a share, compared with its previous estimate of $5.45 to $5.55 a share.

Ten analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call reported a consensus earnings estimate of $5.40 a share for fiscal 2006.

The lower forecasts follow analysts recent downgrade of trucking companies across the board. Analysts with Deutsche Securities, Stifel Nicolaus and BB&T Capital Markets all downgraded YRC Worldwide to "hold" from "buy." A Robert W. Baird analyst downgraded the company to "neutral" from "outperform."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Markets slump as Fed holds rates steady YRC shares slip again in an overall down market

Meanwhile, another downbeat assessment of the trucking industry sends YRC sliding.

YRC Worldwide Inc. shares hit another slick spot on Wall Street, dropping more than 2.5 percent Tuesday after yet another analyst painted a gloomy picture for the trucking sector.

Bear Stearns analyst Edward Wolfe wrote that the nation’s industrial slowdown will cause many truckers to miss Wall Street earnings estimates by more than 5 percent in the fourth quarter.

Wolfe maintained an “underperform” ranking on YRC Worldwide shares and those of competing less-than-truckload carriers Arkansas Best, Old Dominion Freight Line and Con-Way.

In above-average trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market, YRC shares were down $1.09, or 2.76 percent, at $38.38. Shares had fallen in the previous two sessions after three analysts downgraded shares Friday and a fourth cut his earnings estimate Monday.

Overall, stocks slumped as the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee kept short-term interest rates steady for a fourth consecutive meeting at 5.25 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 12.90 points, or 0.10 percent, and closed at 12,315.58 after having been down as much as 76 points. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 1.48, or 0.10 percent, and closed at 1,411.56. The Nasdaq composite index was down 11.26 points, or 0.46 percent, and closed at 2,431.60.

Although the Fed left rates unchanged, investors grappled with the central bank’s economic assessment, which warned yet again of inflation risks and reported a substantial slowing of the housing sector. The statement left open the possibility that the central bank might raise rates if inflation accelerates. That disappointed some investors who were hoping for signs that the Fed was moving toward cutting rates.

Overall, the statement indicated to market participants that the Fed wants to keep rates steady for as long it can, analysts said.

“They’re trying to talk tough in the hopes of not having to act tougher,” Jack Caffrey, equities strategist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, told The Associated Press.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Power Networking

Join the Teamsters on MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and Blogs

Teamsters are taking their experience in face-to-face organizing to the Internet, connecting members and reaching out to supporters online through some of the most popular sites on the web.

Help our efforts. If you have a MySpace, YouTube or Flickr account, become a “friend” of the Teamsters, or join our Teamster YouTube or Flickr groups.

“We know Teamsters are using the web every day to talk to friends and to each other. And they’re using technology more, too. So we are building an army of e-activists, whose voices are being heard on Capitol Hill and at work sites across the country,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa.

By joining Teamsters Take Action and signing on with our social networking sites, members can keep up with the latest union news and actions. And by sharing calls to action with friends and family, members can help amplify our Teamster power.

“Think about it,” Hoffa said. “We have 1.4 million members. Even if a fraction of them sign up, we’d have thousands of members online ready to take action in a moment’s notice. If they ask their friends and family to join us in protecting jobs or taking a stand on a critical issue, we can easily add millions of voices to our own. That’s a lot of power—power that can make things happen.”

There’s another benefit, too. By organizing on public networking sites, we are able to show through words, photos and videos what being a Teamster is all about, educating nonunion workers and the rest of the nation about the benefits of organized labor.

The union also has been posting on two of the largest political blog sites on the Internet—DailyKos and MyDD. Both blog sites welcome union voices, and more voices are needed. By adding union voices to these and other blog sites, Teamsters can have a larger voice on issues that impact our daily lives.

The International Union is also looking for more Teamster bloggers. now features labor bloggers on the home page and is looking for members to write about their union experiences. If you have a blog, email

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."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ground breaks for MLK memorial

The Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. made history with the Ceremonial Groundbreaking of a Memorial to Dr. King on the National Mall. President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, members of the House and Senate including Senator Barack Obama and Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Maya Angelou, Tommy Hilfiger, and Memorial Foundation president Harry Johnson led the symbolic “turning of soil” groundbreaking.

The event allowed three of King’s children, Yolanda, Martin Luther III, Bernice Albertine King, and Black America’s leading civil rights, church, union and political activists to “turn the ground” for the four-acre memorial. If it gets the necessary funding, King’s will be the first memorial on the National Mall honoring a person of color. The site is at the edge of the Tidal Basin, adjacent to the F.D.R. Memorial, and in direct line between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. In its center will be a 30-foot statue of King called the “Stone of Hope.” Visitors will pass through an entryway cut through a massive stone symbolizing the mountain of despair and once inside, will come upon a carved profile of King. The memorial is to be ringed with walls chiseled with King’s words that may eventually be the base for a waterfall.

“When we finish this Memorial, we will have a King among presidents,” said MLK National Memorial Foundation President, Harry Johnson. The memorial “groundbreaking” is more than 20 years after it was conceived by King’s fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha in 1983. A combination of planning disputes, fundraising hurdles and design discrepancies have impeded the project’s progression.

In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed Joint Resolutions authorizing its establishment. Organizers hope the King’s Memorial will be completed by 2008. If actual construction starts soon, the monument can be completed in the next year and a half. In spite of the high-profile “groundbreaking”, the memorial’s foundation only have $72 million of the estimated $100 million necessary for construction in hand.
Until the $100 million minimum is raised, the Memorial’s rate, and reality, of construction is in question.

Almost two-thirds of the $72 million has been raised from government and corporate sources. Ironically, it was West Virginia Senator Byrd, a key adversary of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, that offered the June 2005 amendment to provide $10 million in federal funding for the memorial. Other individuals and organizations giving support to the Memorial Project include: General Motors, the Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation, NBA/WNBA, The Walt Disney Company Foundation, The Coca-Cola Foundation, Procter & Gamble, GE, PepsiCo, FedEx, Exxon Mobil Foundation, filmmaker George Lucas, State Farm Insurance, AFLAC, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Fannie Mae Foundation, Fannie Mae Corporation, Wal-Mart, Sheila C. Johnson, MacFarlane Partners, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, The Ford Motor Company Fund, AARP, The Horowitz Family Foundation, Federated Department Stores Foundation, Bell South, Continental Airlines, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Delta Airlines Foundation, The Dyer Family Foundation, Black Entertainment Television (BET), Carlos Santana, Toyota, Emerson, and Chevy Chase Bank. Most corporate donations have been in the $1 million range.

The qualifier for “the dream” to become reality is “money”. Despite donations from current contributors - federal appropriations, corporations, fraternities and sororities, and celebrity endorsements - the endeavor will need public support for actually building the site. The project’s organizers are pursuing an additional and essential $30 million to start construction. YRC Worldwide Inc., a large trucking company, plans to put billboards on three of its traveling tractor-trailers to advertise the memorial and need.

Though thousands of thoroughfares, buildings, and a site at Atlanta’s King Center, honor MLK, National Memorial advocates say having “King among presidents” is a symbol African Americans need. The “groundbreaking” means the memorial is closer to a reality, but there’s a ways to go before sufficient money is raised to actually “build the dream”. Donors should send contributions of $5 or more to: The National Memorial Project Foundation, Suite 334, 401 F Street, Northwest, Washington, DC 20001. The telephone number is 888.484.3373 and web address

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Union election at DHL postponed

A union election set for today for nearly 470 DHL employees in Wilmington was postponed Wednesday by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The election was postponed pending an NLRB investigation of an unfair labor practice complaint filed last Friday by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) against DHL Express.

The NLRB is a government agency that oversees union elections.

According to Assistant NLRB Regional Director Laura Atkinson, the order to postpone the election stems from Regional Director Gary Muffley's assessment that if the probe does find merit to the complaint, then potentially the employees' right to a fair and free election has been diminished, an outcome that would warrant postponement.

In other words, the union election was postponed because the unfair labor practice allegations, if true, would mean DHL has engaged in conduct that could impact its employees' free choice to form a labor organization at the place they work.

The ballot that had been prepared for today asked eligible DHL employees whether they wanted to be organized for collective bargaining by the APWU, by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, or neither union.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On the Road as Far as China

Anyone who has been on a road trip lately is likely to have seen a big Yellow or Roadway truck hauling merchandise.

YRC Worldwide owns those trucking lines, and several other businesses. William D. Zollars, 59, the chairman and chief executive, spoke recently about the company’s rapid growth, the spotlight on gasoline prices and the perk of being home every night. Following are excerpts:

Q. You announced last month that third-quarter sales reached a quarterly record of $2.57 billion. Wall Street had expected sales of $2.64 billion. Why is Wall Street disappointed when you are setting records?

A. The revenue fell short of projections because the economy slowed significantly in the quarter. We were the last company to report earnings in our sector, and every other company had already reported revenue that fell short of projections.

Q. Higher gasoline prices have been a thorn in the side of consumers for much of this year. Have they been painful for your company, too?

A. Not directly because we have a fuel surcharge that we put in place in 1996. It is adjusted on a weekly basis and has protected us from the rising gas prices.

Q. Have your customers complained about the rise in the surcharge?

A. The fuel surcharge used to be viewed as being temporary, and the fact that it wasn’t very much, customers really didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. But it’s been as high as 20 percent now for quite a while and as a result of that has become an integral part of the pricing discussion. In the old days, that topic probably wouldn’t have come up. Today, it’s front and center with every one of our customers.

Q. The company’s share price has fallen more than 20 percent since January. What is going on?

A. People have been very goosey about the economy, with predictions of a recession about every month. Since we are a cyclical company, we really get whacked when downturns are seen as imminent. Of course, that hasn’t happened, but we believe it keeps our stock price from performing where we think it should be.

And even though we have the fuel surcharge, people think there is a correlation between high gas prices and our costs.

Q. You acquired the USF Companies last year and now are on pace to finish 2006 with $10 billion in sales for the first time. Are you now shopping for more properties?

A. We bought Roadway in 2003, so we have had two major acquisitions in the past three years. We have tripled the size of the company since 2003. I think that we are probably finished buying asset-based companies in the U.S. and have shifted our focus to building out the global network. We have a couple of joint ventures in China, which is a primary area of emphasis for us.

Q. Why is China important?

A. We are basically following our customers around the world. And almost all of our customers now have a presence in China.

We have two joint ventures with a Chinese company, Jin Jiang. One is in the freight-forwarding part of the business; the other is in the logistics side of the business. Both of those are going well. And we probably will be making acquisitions there now as part of that strategy as well.

Q. When will you announce the China deals?

A. I would say definitely within the next year.

Q. The lifestyle and demands of trucking must make it tough to recruit and retain drivers.

A. We are a little bit advantaged in that regard because many of our companies, including Yellow and Roadway, are Teamster companies, meaning we offer wages and benefits that are higher relative to other competitors. And we also offer a better quality of life for our drivers. Because of the way our networks are engineered, they are usually home every night in their own beds. We only have about a 2 percent turnover rate.

Q. You are also on the boards of other companies, including Cigna and ProLogis. Has the spy scandal at Hewlett-Packard caused you to rethink your role on them?

A. I think there are good reasons to serve on other boards. One is to pick up a perspective that you don’t have in your own company. One of the boards I am on is health care related, and that is a big deal for any company. And the other one is a logistics company in the distribution-center business, and a lot of that stuff is very translatable to our businesses.

At the end of the day, I have a hard time relating to all of these scandals du jour because they are so foreign to my experiences.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

USF Bestway Workers Choose Local 104

Phoenix Employees Are Latest to Organize

On November 20, approximately 130 USF Bestway workers at the Phoenix terminal became the newest organized USF Bestway workers under the Teamster card-check neutrality agreement with the company, which was ratified in July.

Local 104 in Phoenix sought and received recognition for the drivers and dockworkers. The workers in Phoenix follow their counterparts in San Leandro, Modesto and Sacramento in California, all of whom have organized under the agreement during the past several months.

The dockworkers, line drivers and city drivers in the West will be organized through the Master Bestway Agreement card-check neutrality clause, negotiated in the Southwest and Southeast.

Seventy-nine of the workers in Phoenix signed cards to form a union for increased job security, seniority rights, a way to address favoritism and improved pension benefits. Because a majority of workers signed authorization cards, the company recognized their wish to form a union.

“We’re very excited to be able to provide these workers with the best representation,” said Andy Marshall, Local 104 Secretary-Treasurer. “We’re getting calls from Bestway workers in Tucson who want to receive the same strong representation.”

“This campaign began about two years ago, but it was the card-check neutrality agreement that was the breakthrough for us,” said Kathy Campbell, Local 104’s organizer. “The International Union’s Freight Division did a great job by negotiating this agreement.”

Teamsters Urge Secretary of State Rice to Demand Reopening of Soto Murder Case

Teamsters Continue to Seek Truth About 2004 Murder of Union Organizer

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa is urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to demand the government of El Salvador take immediate action to reopen and support a transparent investigation into the murder of Teamster Port Division representative Gilberto Soto.

"Just as they did in the height of the anti-union death squads during the 1980s, the Salvadoran government attempted to cover up this assassination from the first day by labeling it a 'common crime' and stonewalling a proper investigation," Hoffa said. "We urge that Secretary of State Rice use her influence to ensure that this murder becomes a top priority with a transparent and aggressive investigation."

Soto, a U.S. citizen born in El Salvador, was assassinated on November 5, 2004, in Usulutan, El Salvador, while on assignment for the Teamsters to build a network of Central American port workers. Salvadoran authorities, lacking credible evidence, rushed to charge and jail his mother-in-law with hiring hit men because of a domestic dispute. Two alleged gunmen were also charged for the killing.

A Salvadoran court, however, later acquitted the mother-in-law and one of the gunmen. Authorities made no attempt to determine if the slaying could be connected to people working to prevent unions from gaining strength in El Salvador's Acajutla port.

"We can't tolerate the murder of an American citizen, especially when the murder may be connected to organizing workers to protect and improve living standards," Hoffa said in his letter to Rice.

The Salvadoran government never conducted an objective investigation and continues to obstruct the work of the country's Human Rights Ombudsman, Beatrice de Carrillo, who has been investigating the assassination and cover up. Carrillo has received threats for examining Soto's killing and other human rights violations in El Salvador.

"Unless this murder is solved and the Salvadoran government agrees to properly fund, support and protect the investigation, no labor leaders or human rights activists will be safe in El Salvador," Hoffa said.

Hoffa's letter to Secretary of State Rice asks her to insist that the government of El Salvador:

* Reopen the investigation into Soto's murder, including the possibility
that the killings may have been related to his work as a Teamster

* Grant the Human Rights Ombudsman access to the police case files; and

* Strengthen and support the work of the Ombudsman, including steps to
assure the funding, safety and security of the Ombudsman and her office.

"We have got to get to the bottom of this," Hoffa said. "The Salvadoran government's inactions allow impunity for those truly responsible for Gilberto's murder."

Hoffa's letter is available on the Teamsters web site at

Hoffa's letter follows a condemnation of the Salvadoran government's handling of the case by the United Nations' International Labor Organization (ILO). The Geneva-based ILO on November 15 called on the Salvadoran government to reopen the case file and stop thwarting an honest inquiry. The ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association issued a report criticizing the Salvadoran government's handling of Soto's murder. The report is available at

Monday, November 20, 2006

James W. Keenan Named ABF Vice President of Sales

ABF Freight System, Inc., announces the appointment of James W. Keenan to vice president of sales, effective February 1, 2007. Mr. Keenan, who has been with the company for 24 years, currently serves as vice president administration and treasurer.

As vice president of sales, Mr. Keenan will lead all activity related to revenue growth through management of sales activities at all of ABF's customer service centers. He will assume the position being vacated by Arthur N. Lynch who is retiring on January 31, 2007.

"The experience Jim brings to this position will continue ABF's long standing tradition of customer service and responsiveness in our sales leadership. Jim is a person valued for his insight, intelligence, and integrity," noted ABF President and CEO Bob Davidson. "I am confident that under his leadership we will continue providing our customers the best value in the transportation industry."

Mr. Keenan came to ABF with the East Texas Motor Freight acquisition in 1982, starting as a pricing analyst. He became a pricing manager in 1985 and was promoted to regional vice president sales in 1988. Mr. Keenan later served Arkansas Best Corporation as vice president sales & marketing for Clipper Exxpress before returning to ABF in 1999. He assumed his current position as vice president administration & treasurer in February 2006.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

ABF's Arthur N. Lynch to Retire After 35 Years With the Company

Arthur N. Lynch, vice president of sales for ABF Freight System, Inc., will retire January 31, 2007, concluding 35 years with the company.
"Art is a creative thinker whose understanding of customers and their supply chain guided us to a more consultative sales approach. Art served as mentor and friend to a great number of ABF personnel, helping to guide and shape careers," commented ABF President and CEO Bob Davidson. "We will miss him and want to thank him for his many years of dedicated service."

Mr. Lynch joined the company as a management trainee at the Chicago terminal in 1971. Upon completion of training, he became an operations supervisor in Chicago and was promoted to sales representative and then branch manager in Moline, Ill., in 1976. He was named regional vice president of sales in 1981. He was promoted to vice president of sales in 2000.

Mr. Lynch and his wife Gayle plan to return to the Chicago area and spend time with their children and grandchildren.

James W. Keenan, who has 24 years experience with ABF, will assume the position vacated by Mr. Lynch. Previously, Mr. Keenan served as vice president administration & treasurer for ABF.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hoffa Says Organized Labor Will Rebuild

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting James P. Hoffa, headed to another 5-year term as general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said Friday the congressional elections will aid the rebuilding of organized labor.

Hoffa, who first became Teamsters president in 1998 and was elected to a full term in 2001, said the midterm elections that put Democrats in charge of the House and Senate should help labor achieve its goals.

"Now that we have the House and the Senate, that will have major effects on the way this country is run," said Hoffa, who was a labor lawyer in Detroit before moving up the ranks to head the 1.4-million-member transportation union.

Teamsters campaigned for Democratic candidates, committing millions or dollars and knocking on thousands of doors. along with other unions in the Change to Win federation.

The Teamsters want Congress to pass a law raising the minimum wage, block trade agreements that don't address labor concerns, seek better health care coverage for millions of uninsured people and pass legislation that would make it easier to form a union if a majority of workers want one, Hoffa said.

But he acknowledged that President Bush might veto pro-labor legislation passed by Congress.

"The Employee Free Choice Act certainly would help unions organize," said the 65-year-old Hoffa. "We have been hamstrung by the Bush NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) which tries to thwart the organizing of unions. Right-wing judges have done everything they can to thwart the American labor movement."

Hoffa said that congressional passage of such legislation would put the president on the spot.

"We're certainly going to embarrass him," Hoffa said. "Can you imagine him vetoing a minimum wage bill? He will look so bad if he does that."

More importantly, Hoffa said, Democrats will have the power to block right-wing nominees for judgeships and other government posts.

With about two-thirds of the vote totaled, Hoffa held almost a 2-1 lead over his opponent, Oregon Teamsters official Tom Leedham. Calls to Leedham's headquarters were not returned Friday.

Hoffa's opponent had claimed the incumbent was not strong enough to protect worker benefits and rebuild the flagging labor movement.

When the AFL-CIO merged in the 1950s, one of every three private-sector workers belonged to a labor union. Now, only about 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.

The Teamsters and a half-dozen other unions broke free of the AFL-CIO starting in the summer of 2005 and formed the Change to Win federation. The breakaway unions cited the need to focus more of their money and time on organizing.

Hoffa pointed to several Teamster organizing efforts recently. Among those are organizing 15,000 workers at UPS Freight, 5,000 bus drivers and as many as 100,000 port truck drivers.

And he said the Teamsters work together with the other unions in the Change to Win federation.

"We help each other in each battle," Hoffa said. "That wasn't there during the AFL-CIO days."

He said that going to the AFL-CIO "was like going to the United Nations. You had a diversity of dozens and dozens of unions with no common goal."

FedEx Home Delivery Drivers in Massachusetts Vote to Join Teamsters

FedEx Home Delivery drivers
at two locations in Wilmington, Massachusetts, voted 24-8 to overwhelmingly
choose Teamsters Local 25 in Boston as their bargaining representative, as
ballots they cast a month ago were counted today by the National Labor
Relations Board.
The workers are the first units in the FedEx Home Delivery system, a
subsidiary of FedEx Ground, to win Teamster representation. Since 1988, the
NLRB has ruled seven times that FedEx Ground and Home Delivery drivers are
not independent contractors as the company alleges, giving them the right
as employees to form a union.
"This is a great day for these workers," said Sean O'Brien, President
of Teamsters Local 25. "Their voice was finally heard despite every effort
by FedEx to silence them. I look forward to securing a first contract for
these drivers that will ensure they are treated like the employees both we
and the company know they are."
FedEx Ground employed stall tactics during the past month in an attempt
to deny the drivers their federally protected right to join a union. Its
final attempt was quashed when the NLRB refused to reconsider its ruling
that ordered the October 20 representation election, paving the way for
today's vote count.
"This vote sends one clear and simple message to FedEx -- the free ride
is over," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. "These workers and
this union will not stand idly by while FedEx rakes in profits and avoids
its responsibilities to the workers and their communities by exploiting
this phony independent contractor model."
The Teamsters Union represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men
and women, including workers at UPS, UPS Freight and DHL.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hoffa Statement on Results of 2006 Mid-Term Elections

Today working families have new reason to believe in the ability of
their government to better their lives, as Teamster endorsed candidates
across the country prevailed at the ballot box yesterday. I congratulate
the victors and thank the thousands of Teamster members who invested
countless hours over many months to help elect a pro-working families
Now is the time for action on issues such as universal health care,
retirement security, the Employee Free Choice Act, fair trade agreements,
safe highways and national security. This new Congress must reverse action
on the Bush administration's misplaced priorities.
This election marks an opportunity to move our domestic agenda in a
markedly different direction. It is an opportunity to cease the global race
to the bottom resulting from the endless series of job-killing trade pacts
passed by Congress. It is an opportunity to give all working Americans
access to affordable, quality healthcare. It is an opportunity to raise the
minimum wage. It is an opportunity to promote the rights of workers who
want to join a union.
Over the years I have had many conversations with Representative Nancy
Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid about how Democratic control of Congress
could directly benefit the lives of working Americans. I commend them for
their leadership throughout this campaign and congratulate their success in
electing Democratic majorities in the House and, possibly, the Senate.
But the truly difficult task still lies ahead. I look forward to
working with Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Reid to move our pro-worker, pro-union
agenda through Congress. In particular, I commit that the Teamsters are
willing to work overtime to help enact key provisions of Rep. Pelosi's
"First Hundred Hours" plan, including a raise in the minimum wage and
changing in the Medicare prescription drug program that will lower the cost
of medications.
The votes of working families made a difference at the ballot box. We
must now make sure this new Congress makes a real difference in their

Workers in Change to Win Unions Help Bring Pro-Worker Candidates to Victory

Activists Call on New Leadership to Help Restore the American Dream

American workers sent a clear message yesterday that they are ready for new leaders who will stand up for issues important to their families, following a massive voter turnout program spearheaded by members of the most politically active unions in the country.

"For months, workers from the Change to Win unions have pounded the pavement to help elect leaders who will fight to make work pay for ordinary Americans, not just corporate America," said CtW Chair Anna Burger. "And voters united behind that hope for change at the polls."

Activists from the 6-million strong labor federation helped shape the outcome of this election by committing significant resources and contributing the people-power and organizing know- how to the largest grassroots mobilization of union members ever in a midterm election.

Truck drivers, janitors, grocery store clerks, carpenters, health care workers and others united in the CtW unions helped center the worker-to-worker contact program within a universe of 6 million CtW union member households across the country. In all, they knocked on 2.3 million doors, made 6.9 million phone calls, distributed 5.6 million worksite flyers, and contributed 356,731 volunteer hours to support candidates and initiatives that can make a difference for working people.

Shannon Ross, a UNITE/HERE member who was forced to live on minimum wage before her co-workers formed a union at a St. Louis laundry facility, got active for the first time in a political cycle to help give a raise to other Missouri workers.

"I helped raise the minimum wage by raising my voice," said Ross, who also helped elect a new U.S. Senator who has pledged to represent Missouri's working families in Washington. "Congress had left so many hard-working people out in the cold so I'm excited union workers like me here and in five others states took matters into our own hands."

In addition to working with the entire labor movement and other progressive partners on congressional races in all 50 states, both new and seasoned activists from the CtW unions also focused a comprehensive, strategic program around U.S. Senate, gubernatorial and down-ballot races in the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, where CtW represents close to one million members, resulting in wins in key races in all three states.

The members of Change to Win affiliates today celebrated their hard work had paid off, but recognized their work is not over and plan to hold the 110th Congress and other politicians accountable for bringing changes to the polices that affect working families.

"Activists from Change to Win welcome their new leadership, but with an expectation. These new leaders must do their part to restore the American Dream -- a paycheck that supports a family, affordable health care, a secure retirement and most of all, a better life for our kids," said Burger.

"We will continue to do our part by helping workers unite in their industries to change their lives. Together, we will make work pay in this country again."

YRC forecasts 2006 revenues of $10 billion

YRC Worldwide Inc. of Overland Park today forecast a third consecutive year of record revenue and earnings per share.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the nation's largest trucking company said it estimates 2006 revenue of $10.02 billion. It also reiterated its earnings per share forecast for the year of $5.45 to $5.55 a share.

YRC shares have gained $1.69 in the previous two sessions on the Nasdaq as parts of the trucking sector have gained on news that Swift Transportation Co. Inc. of Phoenix has received a $2.17-billion buyout bid from its former top executive and biggest shareholder.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Don't be stopped from making vote count

Voters should know their rights when they cast their ballots on Tuesday.
In the next few days, candidates across the political spectrum will be working overtime to bring their supporters to the polls on Nov. 7. Sadly, there's a flip side to the contest to maximize turnout: There will also be efforts -- less publicized, but intensely political -- to prevent certain people from voting.

"Voter suppression" is a conscious strategy practiced by those who want to see particular groups -- such as working families and people of color -- silenced on Election Day.

Sometimes, voter lists are improperly purged. In other cases, voters are unfairly challenged. This year, one Republican candidate for Congress in California went so far as to send families of Hispanic origin a letter threatening that they could be arrested if they tried to vote.

Such tactics have no place in our democracy -- and there's no reason to let anyone deny you your right to vote. There are many ways to ensure that you exercise your fundamental right to cast a ballot for the candidates of your choice on Election Day.

A new federal law, the Help America Vote Act of 2004, guarantees a provisional ballot to voters whose names do not appear on the registration rolls. So even if an election worker claims that you are not eligible to vote, you have the right to cast a ballot. If it is later determined that you are eligible, your vote will be counted.

In Michigan, you are not required to provide identification to vote, unless you are a first-time voter who registered by mail and did not provide verification of your identity when you registered. In that case, numerous forms of photo or non-photo ID are acceptable, including a driver's license, a student ID or even a recent utility bill.

Your voting rights include:

The right to vote free from harassment. No one can harass or intimidate you while you are voting. For example, there is no reason for anyone to ask you about child support, debts or any other matter in a polling place.

The election officials at your polling station are obligated to protect you from harassment. If there's a problem, voters can call a nationwide Election Protection Lawyer Hotline, (866) OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683), to report harassment and other election abuses.

Sample ballot or endorsement card. You have the right to carry voting materials into the polling booth.

Right to vote when polls close. If you are in line when the polls officially close, you have the right to vote.

Right to take your time. Don't be rushed by others in line or poll workers.

Right to correct mistakes. If you think you've made a mistake before casting a ballot on paper or on an electronic touch-screen machine, you can ask for help and a new ballot.

Right to assistance. A disability or the inability to read or write does not prevent an American from voting. You may have a person of your choosing -- in Michigan, not an employer or union agent -- help you cast a ballot. You also have the right to see a sample ballot and be instructed on the voting process.

Election Day is our day to speak up as citizens and have a voice in the decisions that affect our lives. From city councils to school boards, from nonpartisan judgeships to highly partisan races for senator, governor and the U.S. Congress, a number of hard-fought races will be decided Tuesday all across Michigan. Every vote counts -- and every vote must be counted.

Rights, it has been said, are like muscles: They work best when exercised. Don't let anyone kick sand on your right to participate in the democratic process.

Ron Gettelfinger is president of the United Auto Workers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sussex County artist garners prizes for oil paintings

Artist Kathi Sojka of Glenwood recently attended the “Homecoming Hues” Painting Retreat at North Bend State Park in Cairo, West Virginia. She took first place for her oil still life “Peaches and Grapes” and Best of Show for her oil landscape “Spring Awakening.”

Sojka works in several mediums, including pen and ink, acrylics, watercolor and oil. Her paintings have been accepted for juried shows, such as the Ringwood Manor Association of the Arts and the Ridgewood Art Association show. Her Christmas card design was chosen for the ABF Freight Company Christmas card and the painting was featured on the cover of the company’s “By-Lines” magazine.

Sojka is a member of the Ridgewood Art Institute and the Sussex County Arts Council. She teaches ongoing classes in different mediums at the A.C. Moore location in Parsippany and in her home, by appointment.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Teamsters Sponsor Voter Hotline on Election Day to Combat Voting Malfeasance

Hotline Setup to Report Voting Irregularities, Intimidation or Request Assistance

For the November 2006 elections, the Teamsters Union is launching a national voter hotline to assist members with problems or questions they may encounter on Election Day. Voters can call the toll-free number 1-877-4IBTNOW (1-877-442-8669) to report voting irregularities, intimidation or request assistance. The service will be available in English and Spanish.

Voting malfeasance has plagued recent elections in many states. Disturbing occurrences included broken voting machines, uncertainty over polling places, voting locations not opening or closing as scheduled, poorly trained election workers, not enough translated materials and registered voters not being listed.

The Teamsters belong to the MyVote1 Consortium and the union's hotline is being established in conjunction with the consortium's efforts. The consortium consists of a broad and nonpartisan group of policy and grassroots organizations. Each member has committed to assist voters and improve our electoral system. On Election Day, the MyVote1 Consortium will track voter complaints so that problem "hot spots" can be addressed in real-time.

"With the future direction of our country at stake, no one can overstate the importance of the upcoming elections," said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. "That is why we have taken measures, like setting up a voter hotline, to ensure that members are able to exercise their rights regardless of possible intentional obstacles and inadvertent errors."

The 2006 elections will be hotly contested with all 435 House seats up for vote. In the Senate, races are being held for 33 seats. At the state level, 7,382 legislative seats (83 percent) are in play. Elections for governor will take place in 36 states.

A recent Government Accountability Office study revealed that in 2004 election officials were overwhelmed by strong get-out-the-vote drives. Most voting lists failed to be ready in time for the elections. In addition, polling locations struggled to manage heavy early turnout and officials unequally applied new federal voter identification requirements. According to many news reports these problems and many more persist and will likely arise this year.

"The Teamsters stand ready to vigilantly defend the fundamental democratic principle that each person's vote should count," Hoffa said.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Solid revenue boosts YRC bottom line

But the Overland Park freight hauler sees a slow-up in ’06’s last quarter.

YRC Worldwide Inc.’s profits were up about 12 percent on record revenues in the third quarter, the firm reported Thursday.

But the largest U.S. trucking company said it expects a slowdown for the remainder of the year as the economy downshifts.

For the three months ending Sept. 30, the Overland Park-based company posted net income of $95.79 million, or $1.64 a share, on $2.57 billion in revenue.

During the comparable period last year, YRC earned $85.29 million, or $1.42 a share, on $2.49 billion in sales.

The third-quarter earnings-per-share figure included expenses of 8 cents a share for reorganization costs and losses on a sale of a subsidiary and other property. YRC said it does not consider it part of its core operations, which would put its adjusted diluted earnings per share at $1.72.

The average estimate among trucking analysts for YRC’s third quarter had been $1.73 a share, according to a Thomson Financial survey.

“We delivered a solid quarter with record revenue and earnings per share,” said Bill Zollars, YRC’s chairman and chief executive, in a news release. “Our operating companies continued to execute well while effectively reducing our cost base.”

Zollars said that all of YRC’s units have performed solidly this year. “With that said, the economy is growing at a much slower pace, and we believe that will impact our earnings growth in the fourth quarter.”

YRC said it expected fourth-quarter earnings between $1.40 and $1.50 a share, which would put full-year earnings at $5.45 to $5.55 a share. YRC previously had forecast full-year earnings of $5.65 to $5.85 a share.

Other trucking companies that have issued third-quarter reports also have said their businesses were being affected by a slowing U.S. economy.

Jason Seidl of Credit Suisse lowered his YRC quarterly forecast to $1.66 a share earlier this month, noting that other carriers had lowered estimates based on evidence of a sluggish domestic economy.

Seidl’s report on Oct. 2 also lowered YRC’s full-year earnings estimate for 2006 to $5.50 a share from $5.73 a share.

Nevertheless, Seidl said the cost savings that YRC should realize from its acquisitions of Roadway Corp. and USF Corp. should continue into 2007, making it an attractive stock.

“As such, we maintain our position that YRCW is a solid choice for investors seeking exposure to the trucking industry that are not averse to volatile stocks,” Seidl said in his report.

Before earnings were released, YRC’s stock rose 39 cents and closed at $39.20 a share.

In after-hours trading, the stock price dipped to $38.50, down 70 cents an hour after the markets closed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

ABF Sees Trucking Softness

Arkansas Best slumped 8% after missing third-quarter earnings targets by a nickel and pointing to softness in the truckload freight market.

The Fort Smith, Ark., transportation giant made $31.5 million, or $1.24 a share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30. That's down from the year-ago continuing operations profit of $40.2 million, or $1.58 a share. Excluding certain items, latest-quarter earnings were $1.26 a share.
Revenue rose to $507 million from $463 million a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a $1.31-a-share profit on sales of $503 million.

"ABF's quarterly operating ratio wasn't quite as good as the superior number that we posted in the third quarter of last year, but it still reflected an excellent result," the company said. "In the third quarter of this year, ABF took aggressive steps to improve service levels to customers. In addition to reducing spot volume tonnage, ABF has added approximately 2,000 new employees throughout its network, resulting in a net increase of over 750 in ABF's total employee count since the first of the year. The additional employees also allowed us to reduce our rail usage and thus increase the amount of freight moving in ABF's linehaul network. This successful recruiting effort will also position ABF for future growth, especially as we expand in the regional markets."

The company said since the end of the third quarter, total tonnage per day has dropped by the mid-to-high single digits from a year ago. Excluding the impact of reductions in spot volume tonnage that ABF continues to experience, the percentage change in early October tonnage is flat to down in the low, mid-single digits compared to the same period last year.
"In early October, ABF began to experience a slowdown in freight tonnage that appears to be related mostly to retail customers who have delayed the timing of normal holiday orders," said CEO Robert Davidson. "In addition, based on the continuing decline of ABF's spot volume tonnage, we suspect that this slowdown is related to softness in the truckload market."

Shares fell $3.63 to $41.08.

Local truckers take pride in driving for dollars

At 5 feet and 105 pounds, Helen Dame of Bedford doesn't look like someone you'd expect to see driving a tractor-trailer.

But the grandmother of four has been a truck driver for the last 22 years, 19 of them with BSP Trans Inc. of Londonderry, ever since she decided that, as a single mother with two children, she could make good money by driving a truck.

"I wanted to drive locally, no long trips, so that I could be home at night with my kids,'' says Dame, who has been driving every working day from Londonderry to Boston for the last 21 years, picking up trailers there sometimes twice a day.

Dame is active in NH Professional Drivers Association, which yesterday held its 11th annual Convoy for Kids at New Hampshire International Speedway. It's an event she has chaired twice.

It was Dame who persuaded the association to become involved with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), an organization that helps physically and sexually abused children, as one of the charities it supports.

"She's our goodwill ambassador,'' says Michael Greany, executive vice president of BSP, of the company's longtime employee who several years ago was featured on television.

About 65 truckers, including some from Maine and Connecticut, took part in the convoy, according to Mickey Rafeal of Pittsfield, who organized this year's event.

One driver, David Paul, also known as "Animal," who drives for Pike Industries, held two car washes during the summer to raise money for the event and other drivers sought out donations from businesses in their home towns.

Yesterday, drivers brought toys and games for the Concord area Salvation Army, food and cash for the New Hampshire Food Bank, as well as money for CASA, said Rafeal, who drives for Roadway Express in Concord and has been a driver for 33 years.

He said Pike Industries sent 14 trucks yesterday and many of the companies represented had matched the dollar amount their drivers raised.

Randy Cowles of Chester, a million-mile driver and one of the founders of the association, said the group was formed so drivers would have a voice at the state level. It started the Convoy for Kids as a way to show its commitment to the communities in which the drivers live.

"We wanted to show that we do more in life than drive trucks,'' says Cowles.

Lance Rickenberg of Henniker, a truck driver for Pike, says he's about to join the association because he likes the kinds of things it does.

"This is a great way to do it, to help people out,'' says Rickenberg, who has been a truck driver for 25 years and has done everything from hauling produce, plowing snow and driving a propane delivery truck.

He says trucking would be a lonely job were it not for the constant chatter of drivers over the CB radios, something that enables them to share information about road conditions as well as to form friendships with people they've never met before.

His favorite trucks are dump trucks and he's still getting used to his new one, which has an automatic transmission.

"There's no shifting, there's air conditioning, air ride seats and a CD player. It's really comfortable,'' says Rickenberg.

But driving still requires constant attention. "You're always thinking. You have to think ahead, especially when cars pull out right in front of you and don't seem to realize that a truck weighing 23,000 pounds can't just stop on a dime,'' he says.

Ray Miller of Franklin, a driver for 41 years who has handled everything from cattle trucks to double trailer semis in all 48 of the lower states, says he still likes the manual shift trucks the best.

He now drives for GMI Asphaltics of New Hampton and was at the event bringing toys in a Peterbilt 359 tri-axle that his granddaughter, Jessica Arteaga of Northfield, had helped him decorate.

Miller says he tried to make the switch away from driving several years ago. "I tried mechanic-ing'. But every time I heard one start up, I wanted to be behind the wheel."

And he's glad that he's been a truck driver all these years. "I've gotten to see quite a lot of this country. I wouldn't trade what I've done for any other kind of life,'' says Miller.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dispute spins out of a plan to slow trucks

An industry group says the idea is driven by a desire for safety. Critics see other motives.

The American Trucking Associations group wants the government to require truck makers to place speed limiters on their vehicles to prevent them from going faster than 68 mph.

“This issue was raised by our safety committee, debated by our safety committee, and recommended by our safety committee. This is designed to improve truck safety and all highway safety. Period.”

Dave Osiecki, vice president of safety, security and operations for the American Trucking Associations

Citing safety concerns on the nation’s highways, an influential trucking industry group is seeking new federal regulations requiring devices limiting the top speed of big rigs.

Critics of the proposal, however, say some big trucking companies are trying to use the safety issue to restrict competition and reduce turnover in an industry that is grappling with a shortage of drivers.

The American Trucking Associations on Friday submitted a petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking that the agency require truck manufacturers to place speed limiters, also called governors, on their vehicles to prevent them from going faster than 68 mph.

“For the sake of safety, there is a need to slow down all traffic,” said Bill Graves, the president and chief executive of the trucking group, which is based in Alexandria, Va. “The trucking industry is trying to do its part with this initiative. No vehicle should be capable of operating at excessive speeds on our nation’s highways.”

The trade group said that while the federal government focuses on equipment failure, driver fatigue and impaired driving, speeding is the most significant factor in truck crashes.

As much as 90 percent of trucks already have some type of speed limiter, according to the trade group. It contends a small number of truck drivers are speeding and creating greater chances for accidents.

The Grain Valley-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has more than 145,000 members in the United States and Canada, disagrees and questions the American Trucking Associations’ motives.

Big trucking companies want to limit smaller competitors, said Todd Spencer, the group’s executive vice president.

Spencer said big trucking companies should pay drivers by the hour instead of the mile. He said that paying by the mile creates incentives for employees to drive faster because federal rules limit how many hours they can drive each day.

“This is a PR campaign touting safety, but it’s really about big trucking companies acting in their own self-interest,” Spencer said. “Any trucking company can set their own speed limits. But if they do, their drivers will go work for other companies where they can drive longer distances and receive more pay. If these companies paid by the hour instead of by the mile, the issue’s gone.”

Spencer also said the American Trucking Associations’ wish to limit truck speed to 68 mph would actually make the roads more dangerous. He said it would create an even greater disparity between truck speeds and how fast the general public drives, potentially causing more accidents.

“Slower isn’t necessarily better all the time,” Spencer said. “Cars are going to be more likely to run into the back of a truck at these slower speeds. It flies in the face of common sense.”

There are 24 states where the speed limit for trucks on interstate highways is 70 mph and higher.

Yellow Transportation Inc. has limited its trucks to a maximum speed of 62 mph for several years, said James Welch, its president and chief executive officer.

Yellow Transportation, the biggest unit of trucking giant YRC Worldwide Inc. of Overland Park, has been an industry leader in reducing its accident rate, Welch said.

“We certainly believe in slower speeds for trucks,” Welch said. “It’s served us well. The faster you’re going when you’re pulling a 53- or 56-foot trailer, the more reaction time you need. So the slower speeds are definitely better.”

YRC says it has consistently lobbied for slower speeds for trucks. In 2002, the company urged all states to limit the maximum truck speed to 65 mph for safety reasons.

Spencer, of the independent truckers group, said he thinks other motives are at work in the lobbying of the big carriers.

“It’s no secret the big companies want bigger trucks and trucks with longer-vehicle combinations such as triple trailers,” he said. “If everybody else has to drive slower, that gives them a competitive advantage.”

The American Trucking Associations emphasized that safety is the only concern driving this proposal.

“This issue was raised by our safety committee, debated by our safety committee, and recommended by our safety committee,” said Dave Osiecki, the group’s vice president of safety, security and operations. “This is designed to improve truck safety and all highway safety. Period.”

The trade group’s proposal is just the first step in seeking a new federal regulation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would have to agree to review the issue and hear from other parties if it decides to explore the matter. Spencer of the owner-operators group said his organization would file its objection to the proposal if the federal agency pursues it any further.

A spokesman for the agency could not be reached late Friday.

Federal statistics show that U.S. fatalities resulting from truck crashes has been relatively stable since 1994. Between 1994 and 2004, the number of truck-involved deaths averaged 5,176 per year. In 2004, truck-involved deaths totaled 5,190.

Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, said the American Trucking Associations’ proposal could improve truck safety, but other measures could also help. Since most drivers are paid by the mile and can work only a limited number of hours, the temptation to speed exists, said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen.

“The real issue is they should pay drivers by the hour, then they wouldn’t encourage them to speed,” she said.

One local driver also said a speed limiter of 68 mph would be impractical.

Robert Merrell, an owner-operator from Liberty, said such a limit would be detrimental to fully loaded trucks trying to head up mountains and steep inclines, particularly in places like the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians.

“You need to generate a little speed when you start heading up those mountains,” said Merrell, who was driving outside Dallas on Friday. “A governor at 68 miles per hour would bog everything down too much. Trucks you see going 35 or 40 miles per hour up those hills will be going 15 or 20 miles per hour. The traffic problems would be immense.”

Merrell, who said he never drives faster than 68 mph for fuel-efficiency purposes, said the notion that truck drivers are accident-prone is a misperception.

“We’re not all tailgating and trying to be NASCAR semi-drivers,” he said. “Most truck drivers drive pretty decent. I think the best thing you can do to make it safer out here is to set the same speed limits for everybody.”

The proposal

The American Trucking Associations proposed a federal regulation to place speed limiters on new trucks to limit their speed to a maximum of 68 mph.

The proposal is aimed at reducing the number of truck accidents and fatalities.

The measure would apply to trucks that weigh 26,000 pounds or more, which includes most trucks with double rear axles.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Trucking Industry Seeks to Limit Speeds

A lobbying group for the largest U.S. trucking companies wants to force big-rig manufacturers to install devices that limit the speed of new vehicles to 68 miles per hour in a bid to reduce crashes and save lives.

But critics of the proposal put forth by American Trucking Associations on Tuesday see a veiled attempt to gain a competitive edge over independent drivers, and a public relations effort to curry favor with safety regulators.

The Alexandria, Va.-based lobbying association said it plans to formally petition federal officials on Friday. It will ask the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "to limit the maximum speed of large trucks at the time of manufacture" and ask the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to "prohibit the tampering or adjustment of speed limiting devices to greater than 68 miles per hour."

There are 24 states where the speed limit for trucks on interstate highways is 70 miles per hour and higher.

Industry officials that are not affiliated with the American Trucking Associations said the group's proposal appears to be motivated by economics as much as by safety.

Because many of the country's largest trucking companies already have devices installed in their vehicles to limit drivers' speeds below 68 miles per hour, the trade group may be seeking the new rules as a way to remove an advantage among rivals who are free to drive faster, these officials said.

"Certain trucking companies would like to limit the productivity of their competitors," said Todd Spencer, executive vice president for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Spencer said leveling the playing field on truck speeds may also be an issue in an industry that "doesn't pay very well" and is facing a driver shortage. "Many drivers will leave a company that has speed-reduced trucks for a company without them," he said.

And with some trucking companies interested in putting longer and heavier double- and triple-trailers on the road, "they may feel it would be easier to slide that by the public if they were to package it by saying that all these trucks are going to be driving slower now," Spencer said.

Joan Claybrook, the president of Public Citizen, said the trucking association's proposal might help improve truck driver safety, though there are other ways to go about it.

Because most drivers are paid by the mile and are only allowed to drive a limited number of hours each day, "they often are tempted to speed," Claybrook said. "The real issue is they should just pay drivers by the hour, then they wouldn't encourage them to speed."

Federal statistics released in August showed the number of fatalities from truck-involved crashes declined to 5,212 in 2005, down from 5,235 in 2004. The number of people injured in large truck crashes fell to 114,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the year before.

Leigh Strope, a spokeswoman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said the union's 12,000 truck drivers would not be affected by the proposed speed-limit rules. Under contracts signed in 2003 with companies such as USF Bestway, a unit of Yellow Roadway Corp., and ABF Freight System, a unit of Arkansas Best Corp., "we have an agreement that sets speed limits of 62 miles per hour on newer equipment and 60 miles per hour on older equipment," Strope said.

Some analysts said trucking companies might also be trying to improve the fuel efficiency of their fleets.

One major trucking manufacturer said it hadn't seen any specific speed-limit proposals, but that it was generally aware of the issue.

"Our basic position has been that we support and design our vehicles for safe and efficient operations," said Roy Wiley, a spokesman for Navistar International Corp., the parent company of International Truck and Engine. "We do offer speed limiting devices on all of our vehicles, and if a customer wants it, we put it on."

Tiffany Wlazlowski, a spokesman for the American Trucking Association, said the group would have no further comment on the issue before a news conference scheduled for Friday.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Don't Be Deceived About the Recent Drop in Gas Prices

Creating a New Oil Profits Tax Would Ensure Prices Stay Lower

By Teamsters President Jim Hoffa

After suffering through countless months of outrageous gasoline prices, motorists are relieved to finally be getting a break at the pump. But many Americans are wondering why this happened and, perhaps more important, how long it will last. With two oilmen in the White House, there shouldn't be any question.

After hitting a high in August, suddenly—almost magically—gas prices started falling, even after analysts had been cautioning Americans to get used to $3 per gallon. Despite those warnings and the BP pipeline crisis in Alaska, the price of gas has fallen 75 cents in two months on the eve of Election 2006.

Election Implications

How long will it take President George Bush to give his oil baron buddies the green light to continue price gouging once ballots are cast? The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has announced production cuts, which translates into higher gas prices and is an important indication of things to come -- after Nov. 7, of course.

Saudi Arabia, the cartel's largest member, has thoughtfully decided to maintain current production through November.

A recent Gallup poll suggests that almost half of Americans are suspicious of the role the Bush administration played in the sudden and timely decline in gas prices, and think the drop likely has more to do with trying to secure a win for the Republican Party in the upcoming November elections than it does with supply and demand.

And there is plenty of evidence to support their beliefs.

It is no secret that the Bush family has had a long-standing relationship with the government in Saudi Arabia. Washington Post Managing Editor Bob Woodward wrote in his 2004 book, "Plan of Attack," that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then-Saudi ambassador to the United States, also known as "Bandar Bush," promised he would keep oil production high enough to average out gas prices and bolster America's economy during the presidential election year.

Price Drop Not a Coincidence

The Saudi government is again trying to rescue Bush, in danger of losing his grip on Congress.

While Americans were suffering at the pump, Exxon posted a record $36 billion in profits last year—the most for any company ever. Exxon also gave retiring Chief Executive Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history—nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks such as home security, personal security and use of a corporate jet.

Americans were fed up with price gouging at the pump, and polls showed they were going to make their anger known at the ballot box. Then gas prices started falling.

What a coincidence!

Our hands are not tied, though. We can cast our votes for candidates who will work to keep fuel costs down.

Democrats in both the House and Senate have called for a windfall-profit tax on oil companies that avoids taxing exploration and development of new production. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., proposed suspending federal taxes on gas and diesel fuel for 60 days, reducing the cost of gas by 18 cents per gallon for regular gas and 24 cents per gallon for diesel. Taxing the surging oil profits would easily make up the lost revenue.

Don't let Bush's magic gas wand sway your vote—it loses its power after Election Day.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Teamsters, UPS Freight Continue Contract Negotiations

Union Presents Non-Economic Proposals

On October 11, the Teamsters continued contract talks with UPS Freight, and both sides expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached in the near future. The talks cover 125 drivers and dockworkers in Indianapolis who recently joined Local 135 through a card-check and neutrality agreement.

Representing the union in Washington, D.C. this week were Ken Hall, Director of the Teamsters Parcel and Small Package Division, Gordon Sweeton, Assistant Director of the National Freight Division, and Brian Buhle, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 135.

During the meeting, leaders from both the union and the company reiterated their commitment to seeing a contract negotiated smoothly and quickly.

“We made it clear to the company that we have every intention of negotiating a model contract for Indianapolis, one that we will use to organize the 15,000 former Overnite workers at over 300 UPS Freight terminals nationwide,” Hall said.

“UPS Freight workers in Indianapolis gave us guidance during a recent proposal meeting, and we will make sure we address their concerns about retirement security, health care and other important issues,” Sweeton said.

The union presented non-economic proposals this week to company negotiators. A proposal meeting with workers in Indianapolis was held in late September, where UPS Freight drivers provided valuable input for a model UPS Freight contract.

“Our union’s negotiators did a great job clarifying the various issues and answering our questions,” said David Osborn, a 20-year employee of Overnite/UPS Freight. “We’re very excited to be Teamsters, and we look forward to a great contract.”

“Our Freight and UPS members will be closely following these negotiations and will continue to offer their support to the UPS Freight workers as we get closer to providing them with the fair pay and decent working conditions they deserve,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

FedEx drivers set to vote Oct. 20

In a little more than two weeks, Wilmington will be at the epicenter of a fight to unionize a large chunk of one of the nation's best-known company

On Oct. 20, approximately 55 Federal Express drivers at the company's Jewel Drive distribution center and Ballardvale Street facility will vote to authorize the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to represent them in future negotiations with the company.

And with nearly three-quarter of drivers requesting an election, according the Teamster spokesman, there is a good chance that Wilmington drivers will be the first of the Memphis-based company's 15,000 drivers nationwide to belong to a labor union.

"This will the very first election in the country to unionize FedEx drivers. It's a landmark union event and it's happening in your little town," said Steve Sullivan of Teamsters Local 25 based in Charlestown.

A call to FedEx's media office in Memphis was not return by deadline. But in an press release issued last week, Perry Colosimo, a spokesman for FedEx Ground, said the decision "may be appealed."

Union officials believe that a successful vote in Wilmington could begin a rapid vote to bring FedEx's entire fleet of drivers under its representation.

The election takes place in the shadow of a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that the drivers at both Wilmington's FedEx Home Delivery locations are employees under the company's business model.

Rosemary Pye, Regional NLRB director that includes Boston, ruled Sept. 20 that control and restrictions enforced by FedEx on drivers in the Home Delivery division led the package-delivery company to incorrectly classify drivers as independent contractors, which would make them ineligible to be unionized.

"This is a big mandate from the NLRB," said Sullivan, who is the Local's director of organizing.

And that ruling has allowed the union to seek to represent the workers in any future negotiations.

"This is a great victory for these workers in Wilmington," said Jim Hoffa, the Teamsters' general president, in a press release.

The Teamsters, with 1.4 million members nationwide, represents both United Parcel Service and DHL, the nation's two other largest package delivery companies.

While most of FedEx's employees are not union members, the Air Line Pilots Association International represents their 4,700 pilots.

In accordance with the decision, Local 25 initiated the election under the NLRA guidelines by submitting and having the workers return authorization cards.

First vote

This is the second ruling by the NLRB this year that found FedEx Home Delivery drivers in Massachusetts are direct employees. The Wilmington vote, which will take place between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. at both locations, is the first vote of it's kind across the country.

Currently, none of Federal Express 15,000 drivers nationwide are unionized,

The ruling is the seventh time since 1988 that the NLRB has found that all drivers - full-time, regular, part-time and swing drivers - at FedEx Home Delivery are direct employees despite the company's assertion that they are "independent operators." Currently, FedEx drivers are required to supply their own uniforms, register the trucks and fill out their own tax forms.

They are also paid on a per package basis so there is an incentive, according to Teamster officials, for Fed Ex drivers to work longer hours which compromises safety for the driver.

Teamster drivers at UPS make $27.12 an hour while those driving for DHL make $22, said Sullivan.

"These rulings are exposing FedEx's underhanded business model, designed to deny thousands of hardworking employees benefits they deserve as direct employees," said Sean O'Brien, Local 25 president.