Saturday, March 18, 2006

Drivers for disability center join Teamsters

Transportation workers at the Center for Disability Services voted in a 2-1 ratio Friday to join the Teamsters union.

All 66 full-time employees, who include drivers, transport assistants, mechanics and dispatchers, cast ballots between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the center's 700 S. Pearl St. facility.

The vote count was 44-22, according to union officials.

Two previous organizing efforts failed at the center, previously known as the Center for the Disabled. Both of those efforts were undertaken by UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, and were aimed at organizing all center employees.

Norma Werner, a driver with the center for three years who supported the Teamsters' effort, said the employees look forward to beginning negotiations for their first contract.

She said transportation workers are hoping to achieve "respect on the job, better benefits and job security." Employees currently can contribute to a 401(k) retirement investment plan but do not have a pension fund. They also would like more extensive health coverage with lower co-pays, Werner said.

The group was organized by Local 294, the Capital Region local for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Gary Ryan of Local 294 attributed the success this time, in part, to the focus on a smaller group of employees. He said the union also has had contact with other center employees who are interested in forming a bargaining unit.

Center officials released a statement after the vote. "Center management respected the right of staff to vote in this election, and in fact encouraged every eligible transportation employee to vote," the statement said.

The statement also offered thanks to staff members "for continuing to conduct themselves in a professional and caring manner throughout the process."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

TCA won't support ATA's higher weight limit proposal

The board of directors of the Truckload Carriers Association will not support the American Trucking Associations proposal to increase weight and size limits of big trucks.

The ATA changed its current policy on truck weight and size, recommending a standard 53-foot trailer and a 97,000-pound weight limit in certain circumstances.

“The TCA committees on Operating Practices and Highway Policy met jointly on March 12 and discussed this issue and recommended keeping current TCA policies on size and weights,” TCA president Chris Burruss told delegates to the organization’s annual meeting here on March 14.

Subsequently, he said, the group’s board of directors took no action leaving the group’s position unchanged, meaning the organization would not support the ATA proposal.

“Without question, this is one of the most divisive issues that we as an industry face,” Burruss said. “ATA should be commended for its willingness to take up this issue in an effort to seek commonality. However, it should be noted that many in the truckload segment do not support ATA’s view on this matter. Consensus will be difficult, but we are fully committed to discuss all proposals and recommendations regarding this matter through our committee process.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

US Airways Management Lines Pockets at Workers' Expense

Official Statement of Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa
US Airways' decision to pay huge
management bonuses to executives while freezing or cutting pay and benefits
for company mechanics is a stunning example of the corporate greed that is
killing the American Dream.
Last Friday, March 10, 2006, US Airways CEO Douglas Parker sent an
internal memo to employees revealing that the US Airways Board of Directors
had approved payouts of hundreds of thousands of dollars for managers under a
2005 annual "incentive program."
CEO Parker is to be commended for refusing to take his bonus, which is
only right. But perhaps a wiser choice would have been to distribute the
$770,000 to non-management employees who are being asked to shoulder the
burden of this merger.
Our hardworking mechanics have weathered the storm, keeping US Airways
flying through terrible times. And now the company is lavishly rewarding the
executives who drove US Airways and America West into three bankruptcies
between them, while telling mechanics they should sacrifice.
Sadly, management is dividing up the spoils of the recent merger while
mechanics and their families are being told to struggle on. We condemn these
outrageous management bonuses and the statement they make about this company's
value system.
And, US Airways is not alone, as our striking workers at Sikorsky in
Connecticut can attest. The drive to put profits before people is the biggest
threat facing our nation's working families.
It is up to working people to take on corporate America and fight greed
together to reshape our America.

Criminal Records, Bogus Licenses Among Truckers at Key U.S. Port

In Washington today, House Republicans vowed to defy President Bush's effort to have a Dubai company take over six major U.S. ports. But ABC News has learned about a port threat from within — a major security breach at the ports of New York and New Jersey.

The two ports handle millions of tons of cargo, with scores of cruise ships passing through each year. Truckers who transport much of the cargo are issued ID cards, which give them access to all areas of the port.

ABC News has learned that the cards, given to thousands of truckers by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were issued with virtually no background checks. The Department of Homeland Security recently investigated the New York and New Jersey ports, and found stunning gaps in security.

The new DHS report, obtained by ABC News, shows that of the 9,000 truckers checked, nearly half had evidence of criminal records. More than 500 held bogus driver's licenses, leaving officials unsure of their real identities.

"We have no idea who's in the ports. And many of the folks who come in to service the ports, that drive the trucks back and forth, are people who don't have very distinguished backgrounds. May have criminal backgrounds," said Stephen Flynn, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank. Complete story here......

Teamsters Call on Starbucks: 'Ask WMI to Negotiate Fairly!'

Teamster sanitation workers, in contract negotiations with Waste Management Inc. (WMI) distributed leaflets at several Starbucks locations nationwide over the weekend. Teamsters called on Starbucks, a major client of Houston-based WMI, to urge its refuse collector, to return to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith with Teamster members in New York City and Washington, DC.

WMI, which has rebuffed calls from federal mediators and elected officials to come back to the bargaining table, is threatening to impose deep wage, retirement, and health care cuts on sanitation truck drivers and helpers at Local 639 in Washington, D.C. and Local 813 in New York City.

"Starbucks claims to be pro-community and pro-environment," said Thomas Ratliff, president of Local 639 in Washington, D.C. "But actions speak louder than words and Starbucks is tacitly condoning WMI's refusal to bargain in good faith. We're calling on them to tell WMI to do the right thing."

The Starbucks protest comes on the heels of a wave of Teamster actions at WMI locations across the country, including informational picketing and leafleting in California, Seattle, Illinois, Colorado, and Maryland. Teamsters represent 31,000 private sector sanitation workers, including 8500 at Waste Management.

In early February, Local 813 in New York City, currently in negotiations with WMI, also held a protest at WMI's New York City headquarters that drew hundreds of Teamster members, who spoke of their dangerous working conditions and the importance of maintaining their health benefits.