Saturday, August 18, 2007

Teamsters Slam Bush Administration for Pursuing Mexican Trucks Pilot Program

Hoffa Says Bush Administration Defies Congress, American Driving Public

The Teamsters Union strongly opposes the Bush administration’s plans, announced today, to press forward with its unsafe cross-border trucking program despite repeated and overwhelming opposition from Congress and the American driving public.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced in the Federal Register that it plans to proceed with the pilot project, which would allow unsafe Mexican trucks to travel freely along U.S. highways.

“It’s outrageous, yet not surprising, that the Bush administration would announce on a Friday during Congress’ August recess that it plans to recklessly move forward with its hugely unpopular program to throw open our border to unsafe Mexican trucks,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “President Bush’s fondness for secrecy is matched only by his willingness to defy Congress.

“Just last month, the House of Representatives voted to cut off funding for the cross-border trucking program,” Hoffa said. “The bill, however, must still pass the Senate. The Bush administration took the opportunity presented by the August recess to foist this foolhardy, dangerous plan onto the American people.”

Hoffa said the Teamsters are assessing possible legal action to prevent the initiation of the pilot program.

FMCSA said in its notice it would go ahead with the program once the inspector general completes a report required by the war supplemental appropriations act passed earlier this year.

On July 24, the House voted to amend the Transportation-HUD 2008 appropriations bill by limiting funding for the pilot project. The amendment had bipartisan support, with sponsorship by Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., Gary Miller, R-Calif., and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

Among the reasons the Teamsters oppose the pilot program:

* There is no certified laboratory in Mexico that can test drug and alcohol samples.
* Mexico does not enforce hours-of-service regulations.
* The Mexican Commercial Drivers License (CDL) has questionable medical standards and no real assurance that the license is authentic.
* State databases in the United States do not adequately track Mexican drivers’ history. For example, the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General has reported that more than 40,000 traffic violations by Mexican drivers hadn’t been entered into the State of Texas’ database.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Minnesota Teamsters Push for Transportation Changes

Challenge Bridge Contract, Condemn Fast-Track, Demand Special Session, Request New Commissioner

Local 120 in St. Paul, Minnesota, which represents nearly 14,000 members and is the largest Teamsters local in Minnesota, is pressing Governor Pawlenty and the legislature for fundamental change to the state’s transportation policy.

"The bridge collapse was a tragedy for the Twin Cities, for Minnesota and for the nation," said Brad A. Slawson Jr., Local 120 President. "The horrific loss of lives, including that of a Teamster delivery driver, is testament to the need for fundamental change.

"Rebuilding the bridge is an important first step. However, the new bridge must represent more than a mere span of concrete and steel. Instead, it must serve as a monument to Minnesota’s renewed commitment to safe, efficient and responsible transportation."

"As drivers of everything from concrete mixers to tractor trailers, Local 120 members are constantly at work both building roads and traveling on them," Slawson said. "Our members understand the importance of transportation to their jobs, their families and their communities. On their behalf and in the interests of 1.4 million Teamsters nationwide, Local 120 is pushing for change on three fronts: bridge reconstruction, transportation funding and policy oversight." Complete Story.......

Monday, August 13, 2007

Detroit's Health Care Burden

By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa

With all the talk of health-care costs in the contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers and the Big Three, you almost forget that Ford, General Motors and Chrysler produce automobiles, not stethoscopes or hospital equipment.

While it is too early to know the outcome, these discussions have definitely shined a light on our national health-care system, and what we see isn’t pretty. Health insurance costs are skyrocketing, and these costs are causing a loss of jobs and making America less competitive.

While our businesses compete in a global economy, our health care system puts them at a severe disadvantage. The majority of our trading partners have established national health insurance, including the country that is home to the big three’s chief competitors. Japan offers national health insurance to citizens, relieving Toyota, Mazda and Honda of much of the costs that the big three say have become unbearable.

Detroit's Health Care Burden

According to a Morgan Stanley research report, without any changes in health care coverage, the bill of G.M., the country’s largest provider of health insurance, could balloon by 40 percent over the next decade and Ford’s by 16 percent. These increases are not limited to the automobile industry. Companies that provide health care for their employees have faced double-digit cost increases, and two-thirds of large employers have increased employee co-pays in the last year alone.

Without question, a national health-care system is the most sensible plan for individuals and businesses. Some argue that such a system would be unrealistic, but nothing is realistic about maintaining our current system.

Unfortunately, the person who should be leading the call for a single-payer healthcare system seems blind to the bind Americans face. Last month, President Bush said, “People have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

That is ludicrous! Imagining emergency rooms as a primary form of health care shows just how disconnected the president is from reality, or how a preventative health-care system should function.

While some argue that a national health-care system is a recipe for bloated government bureaucracy and inefficiency, they’re unaware that it can’t be much worse than our convoluted market-based system. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international organization committed to growing market economies, we spent far more on health care coverage than any other developed nation—an average of $6,102 per person on health care in 2004 (more recent figures are not available), which consisted of 15.2 percent of our gross domestic product, far above the $2,550, or 8.9 percent of GDP, average for 30 other countries.

Even with our extra spending, Americans’ average life expectancy was lower than other countries’, our obesity and infant mortality rates were higher, and we left 46 million citizens uninsured.

Employer Coverage Shaky

The cold truth that many of us work under is that employer-provided health care coverage is shaky at best. Let’s say you lose your job; not only are you financially vulnerable, you’re quite possibly going to lose health coverage for you and your family. It’s senseless that this possibility exists in our society, although it could explain why our overall health statistics trail those of other developed countries.

There’s a little-known program that has made a major difference for low-income children. State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-CHIP, has provided health care coverage for 7.4 million children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to be able to afford private health insurance. This program has a proven record—it was originally passed in 1997—and more people want to take part in it.

Last month, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate set about improving the program by passing bills that increase funding, enabling more to participate. Yet the president has threatened that he will veto the bills. He fears that this successful program is the first step toward government-provided health care for all.

What’s so bad about that?

If anyone is in a position to judge the state of government-provided health care, it’s President Bush. As David Lazarus noted in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, the president’s opposition to a government-run health care system comes “from a man who just underwent a colonoscopy performed at the taxpayer-funded, state-of-the-art medical facility at Camp David by an elite team of doctors from the taxpayer-funded National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.”

No one wants to deny our president the very best health care available. But if he cannot recognize that all Americans deserve the same care, we have to convince him that this is exactly what we need.

Newly Organized USF Reddaway Workers Overwhelmingly Ratify Contract

Newly organized USF Reddaway [NASDAQ: YRCW] workers have overwhelmingly ratified a five-year contract that will significantly improve their wages, pensions, health care and other benefits, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa announced today.

The drivers and dockworkers at the freight company voted 216-13 this past weekend to ratify the contract, which is retroactive to February 12, 2007.

“By ratifying this contract, the newly organized workers now have a more secure future,” Hoffa said. “We are now organizing more Reddaway workers who are seeking that same security.”

The agreement covers about 425 workers who recently chose to join the Teamsters through card-check at seven former USF Bestway terminals in California, Arizona and New Mexico. USF Reddaway has since merged with USF Bestway. About 2,000 other Reddaway workers are eligible to join the union.

The five-year agreement also improves the workers’ health and welfare benefits, eliminates a co-pay for health coverage, improves vacation time, provides a safety bonus incentive plan, and provides card-check recognition as spelled out in the union’s National Master Freight Agreement.

“This strong first contract includes strong card-check language and our organizing efforts at the nonunion terminals are in full swing,” said Tyson Johnson, Director of the Teamsters National Freight Division. “We will organize the remaining drivers and dockworkers at USF Reddaway and provide them with the same strong voice.”

UPS Freight workers vote against joining union

Workers at the area UPS Freight Inc. terminal have decisively rejected a labor group’s attempt to organize them.

According to a three-day election concluded Tuesday by the National Labor Relations Board, 203 employees voted against joining the Association of Parcel Workers of America, while 66 voted in favor of the group. Dan Hubbel, assistant director of the NLRB’s regional office, said 339 hourly employees were eligible to vote.

It was a big setback for the North Carolina-based group that has tried to establish itself as an alternative to the Teamsters union. The Teamsters represent nearly 240,000 employees at UPS’s parcel and package operations, which is in the middle of negotiating a new national contract.

UPS Freight, a less-than-truckload carrier, was known as Overnite Transportation Co. until UPS bought it in 2005. The Teamsters also represent 125 employees at UPS Freight’s Indianapolis facility, where the union and the company are also in contract talks.

The UPS Freight terminal in Kansas City, Kan., was the first site that the parcel workers association tried to organize.

Van Skillman, the parcel workers association president and UPS package driver in Greensboro, N.C., said a straw poll taken last week indicated the Kansas City, Kan., workforce would vote to join the association.

“In a week’s time, things changed dramatically,” he said. “I don’t know what happened in Kansas City. I have my suspicions, but I won’t say anything more while I’ve got our people looking into it.”

The parcel workers association also has filed with the NLRB to hold union elections at UPS Freight sites in Gaffney, S.C., and Pittsburgh.

UPS Freight said its workforce in Kansas City, Kan., has spoken.

“We’ve always maintained that it’s the employees’ choice as to whether they want a union,” said Ira Rosenfeld, a UPS Freight spokesman. “We should respect that, and the employees chose to remain union-free.”

The Teamsters said it is negotiating a contract with UPS Freight in Indianapolis that will be a model for other UPS terminals around the country.

“The APWA doesn’t even have records on file with Department of Labor,” said Harold McLaughlin, president of Teamsters Local 41 in Kansas City. “Freight workers at UPS Freight should get the best workplace representation that they can—and that’s with the Teamsters union.”

In the 1990s, the Teamsters undertook a national campaign to unionize what was then Overnite Transportation. Workers at the local terminal voted to join the union in 1994. As the organizing campaign fizzled, Overnite workers in Kansas City, Kan., voted to oust Teamsters Local 41 in 2002.

Truck drivers urged to shape up, undo 'years of unhealthy behavior'

Truck drivers ---- the people who deliver our food, cars and clothing ---- have one of the most dangerous jobs in America ---- accounting for nearly 15 percent of U.S. work-related deaths. And that's only counting the accidents.

They are also more at risk than average Americans for a number of health problems. Obesity is rampant. Many don't bother to wear seatbelts because their stomachs get in the way. About one in four have sleep apnea. Half of them smoke.

The latest research in an upcoming report drives home those points and may help influence government regulations for truck drivers' health, which are under review. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering tightening its rules for conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure. And many companies are stepping up their own efforts at improving health.

"It takes a while to undo years and years and years of unhealthy behavior," said Christie Cullinan of the American Trucking Associations, which represents about 2,000 companies and suppliers. "But I think companies are having to look at this because of the skyrocketing health care costs and related workers compensation costs."

Drivers are tested every two years to maintain their licenses, which are issued by states. Waivers can be granted, but generally commercial drivers can't be licensed if they have severe high blood pressure or severe heart conditions. Other aspects of drivers' health, like weight and smoking, aren't regulated. Continued............

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hoffa Calls on Bloggers to Be the Voice of Working Families

General President Jim Hoffa, at a Teamsters rally and cookout today at the YearlyKos Convention, stressed the importance of labor and the Netroots community joining forces to build a stronger progressive movement to strengthen America’s working families.

The event followed the conclusion of the YearlyKos presidential forum and was attended by more than 1,500 people, including bloggers and Chicago-area Teamsters who came out to show their support.

“All of you in the Netroots community are giving a voice back to working families,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “We share the same goals for a progressive America, an America that is strong.”

Daily Kos founder Marcos Moulitsas arrived to the rally with Hoffa in style, climbing out of a tractor trailer with horns blaring and lights flashing. Moulitsas expressed similar views as Hoffa on the natural partnership between the labor movement and the Netroots community.

“There’s no better way to reach people than through unions,” Moulitsas said. “We need a healthy labor movement and the Teamsters are growing it and giving us more Democrats.”

Hoffa called on the bloggers to hold politicians accountable, regardless of their party.

“You guys are tough on everybody,” Hoffa said. “You make the politicians uncomfortable and that’s good – we need to shake up the system.”