Thursday, October 18, 2007

U.S. Officials Plea for Open Mexican Truck Borders

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters rebuffed opponents who say the entry of Mexican trucks will jeopardize safety as she urged Congress to stop opposing Mexican carriers on U.S. roads.

Peters, speaking in Washington today, said Mexican trucks being allowed into the U.S. under a pilot program are as safe as U.S. vehicles. She and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said closing the border again, as Congress would do under legislation approved by both chambers, would also hurt the economy. Their remarks drew protests from labor groups.

``Finding an efficient way to transport goods across our southern border is a critical issue,'' Gutierrez said. ``We can be safe and trade at the same time.''

Peters and Gutierrez stepped up the debate today by asking Congress to remove language from transportation-spending bills that would halt the pilot. The program, which began last month, allows trucks and drivers from as many as 100 Mexican trucking companies open access to U.S. roads.

The Teamsters union, whose members include truck drivers for United Parcel Service Inc. and YRC Worldwide Inc., says Mexican trucks aren't inspected adequately by the U.S. Among union chants aimed at Peters, Gutierrez and Luis Tellez, Mexico's minister of transportation, at their press conference: ``Mary had a little lamb; this inspection is a scam.''

John Hill, head of the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said the agency and its state partners have more than enough trucking inspectors on the U.S.-Mexico border.


While U.S. trucking companies would like to participate in the pilot program, they are wary because of the uncertainty prompted by the congressional opposition, Hill said.

U.S. truckers are ``reluctant to make the kind of investment they need to make if it's not going to be a permanent program,'' he said.

Five Mexican trucking companies with a total of 15 trucks have been cleared to drive in the U.S., Transportation Department spokesman Brian Turmail said in an interview.

Melissa Mazzella DeLaney, a spokeswoman for the carrier- safety agency, said three U.S. trucking companies with a total of 30 trucks have been cleared to drive south of the border.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hoffa Calls DOT Inspection Stunt "Insulting"

Transportation Department Pretending Cross-Border Trucking Program Is Viable

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters shows contempt for Americans’ intelligence with a truck inspection stunt planned in Washington, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said on Wednesday.

Peters was scheduled to stage a news conference Wednesday afternoon to “prove” that trucks from Mexico are safe to carry freight in the U.S.

Hoffa said her effort to promote the viability of the Bush administration’s illegal cross-border trucking program is ridiculous, since Congress is expected to cast a final vote soon on a bill to block funding for it.

“Does the Bush administration think we’re stupid?” Hoffa said. “It’s insulting to the intelligence of the American people to suggest that a staged truck inspection before the news media proves anything.”

In recent weeks, Teamsters watched Transportation Department officials inspect trucks crossing the southern border while television cameras were rolling—then watched the inspections stop as soon as the cameras left.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) inspector general raised a number of concerns about safety oversight of trucks that cross the border. For example,

*Many Mexican driving records cannot be tracked. There was a failure rate of nearly 20 percent for Mexican commercial drivers’ licenses examined by the inspector general.

*DOT can only review the driving records of Mexican and U.S. citizens, so if someone were to fly to Mexico from Pakistan or Afghanistan the validity of their license couldn’t be ascertained.

*There are no certified laboratories in Mexico that test for drugs or alcohol.

*DOT isn’t able to inspect every truck every time it crosses the border.

“Surely someone who grew up in Arizona, as Mary Peters did, understands that Congress killed the program because it’s dangerous for American motorists,” Hoffa said.

In addition to fighting the program in Congress, the Teamsters are fighting it in the courts. Teamster arguments are due before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on November 19.

UPS Freight Indianapolis Agreement Highlights

The following are highlights of the Teamsters Union's agreement with UPS Freight, which covers 125 dockworkers and drivers who are members of Local 135 in Indianapolis. This agreement will improve wages, benefits and working conditions and will serve as a model to organize thousands of other UPS Freight employees nationwide.

The highlights are also available for download in a PDF version. (Requires Acrobat Reader, a free download.)

*UPS Freight employees now receive an improved health care plan with lower costs. Additionally they get a guarantee that there will be no increases in what they pay toward their plan during the term of the contract.

*The agreement reduces the cost of retiree health insurance for most retirees and freezes the rates for the term of the contract (5 years, 10 months).

*Employees won overtime after working 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. Previously in Indianapolis, UPS Freight employees had to work 43 hours a week to get overtime pay.

*Employees will be paid for all time spent in the service of their employer. They won paid Delay Time, where previously they received none.

*UPS Freight employees will lock in their current pension benefits.

*Employees won wage increases of $4.65 per hour over the term of the contract.

*In addition, Indianapolis UPS Freight employees won a lump sum payment of 50 cents per hour and 1.25 cents per mile, for every hour and every mile worked or driven from January 2007 to the date of contract ratification.

*Ninety percent of full-time UPS Freight employees holding bid jobs won minimum daily and 40-hour weekly guarantees.

*Casual employees won four-hour guarantees.

*Casual employees won health insurance and pension benefits.

*The company will pay for medical exams required by the government or the company.

*The agreement contains “Maintenance of Standards” language to protect existing practices.

*The company will provide equipment and assistance to employees to obtain a CDL.

*Casual employees, as well as full-time employees, are now covered under the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act).

*Employees are eligible to participate in the Teamsters National 401(k) plan.

FedEx Ground Drivers' Class-action Suit Certified

Latest Court Action in Fight for Rights by Misclassified Employees

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa on Tuesday praised a federal judge's decision to grant class-action status to FedEx Ground drivers who say the company denied them benefits and proper wages.

Judge Robert Miller of the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana on Monday certified a class-action lawsuit brought by present and former FedEx Ground drivers.

FedEx Corporation employs about 15,000 so-called "independent contractors" at its Ground and Home Delivery subsidiaries. The potential size of the class could be as many as 20,000 drivers depending on the time period still to be determined.

"FedEx is running out of places to hide," Hoffa said. "The FedEx Ground and Home Delivery drivers have carried on their fight for many years as the company has pulled out all the stops to defend their illegal model. Another judge has once again ruled against the FedEx arguments. The Teamsters applaud the drivers who are fighting for their rights and proper compensation."

This federal judge's ruling is the latest in a series of recent decisions that found FedEx Ground drivers to be employees and not independent contractors.

In August, the California Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that the drivers are employees and not independent contractors. FedEx responded in California by simply firing all the drivers who were the subject of the court rulings to limit future liabilities. FedEx has appealed the Court of Appeal ruling to the California Supreme Court.

In September, the National Labor Relations Board in Washington ordered FedEx to bargain with Teamsters Local Union 25 over the work conditions of two FedEx Home Delivery Facilities outside Boston. The NLRB earlier found these drivers to be employees rather than independent contractors and ordered an election. The drivers elected Local 25 as their bargaining representative. FedEx has refused to adhere to the NLRB order and appealed the NLRB rulings before the US Court of Appeal DC Circuit.

"FedEx may be able to delay making these drivers employees, but the company is fighting a losing battle against a lot of authorities in a lot of places," said Teamsters International Vice President and Parcel Division Director Ken Hall. "FedEx is sticking to a very risky strategy. There are more and more angry drivers. The customers who will ship with FedEx this year for the holidays might not get the service they are paying for."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Teamsters/DHL National Negotiations News

National Negotiations Underway

Teamsters national negotiating committee met last week with representatives of DHL to begin the historic task of negotiating a new DHL National Master Agreement. Appointed by General President Jim Hoffa, the national committee comprises representatives of Teamsters locals from around the country that represent members working in every aspect of DHL Express’s business.

While we cannot yet reveal information about specific proposals and discussions, your committee is encouraged by the tone of these talks and DHL’s willingness to negotiate within the framework provided by Articles 1-39 of the National Master Freight Agreement (NMFA).

Using current contract provisions should allow us to quickly move through the process of negotiating the “common clauses” and begin work on the operational supplements—pick-up and delivery, clerical, gateway and hub—as well as allowing each local’s representatives to begin bargaining local riders.

The new DHL National Master Agreement will cover all local unions covered under the NMFA and a number of locals that previously negotiated stand-alone “white paper” agreements.

The national bargaining committee is scheduled to negotiate through the end of October, including weekends, and will continue to update you as we work through this historic process.

UPS Chief Eskew to Retire; Davis Named as Successor

United Parcel Service Inc., the world's largest package shipping company, said Michael Eskew will retire as chief executive officer and be replaced by Chief Financial Officer Scott Davis.

Eskew, 58, will step down at the end of this year, capping a UPS career that began in 1972 and included about $2 billion in acquisitions since he became CEO in January 2002. Davis, 55, has been CFO at Atlanta-based UPS since 2001. Full Story Here....