Friday, April 04, 2008

Teamsters, Religious Leaders Unite to Continue Martin Luther King Jr.'s Fight for Worker Rights

National Committee for Sanitation Worker Justice Demands Safe Conditions at Waste Management

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Teamsters and religious leaders from across the country stood in unity today with waste workers from 1968 and 2008 to demand Waste Management Inc. and other sanitation companies make immediate and substantive improvements in worker safety.

The Teamsters and religious leaders announced at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee, the formation of the National Committee for Sanitation Worker Justice (NCSWJ). The coalition was formed by Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) in response to the findings of the investigative report, "In Harm’s Way," which was issued last month by the National Commission of Inquiry into the Worker Health and Safety Crisis in the Solid Waste Industry. The report shows that waste workers still face very real threats to their health on a daily basis, threats that have caused an average of more than 80 deaths a year in this industry.

"Forty years ago Dr. King joined with the maligned and abused sanitation workers of Memphis to insist on human dignity and economic justice," said Rev. Nelson Johnson, Director of the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, Co-President of the Board of IWJ and Co-Chair of the NCSWJ. "The 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination ought to serve as a clarion call to faith leaders and people of good will all over the nation to join together to complete the unfinished work for which Dr. King courageously gave his life." Full Story........

Arkansas congressmen seek hearing on diesel prices

The four House members from Arkansas on Thursday called for congressional hearings into the high cost of diesel fuel that is harming top trucking firms in the state.

The written request to top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee comes as diesel prices hover near a record $4 per gallon.

The prices adversely effect the U.S. economy, said 1st District Rep. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, 2nd District Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock, 3rd District Rep. John Boozman, R-Rogers, and 4th District Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott.

High fuel prices are forcing trucking companies out of business, lawmakers said. The group expects the high cost of shipping goods to be passed along to consumers.

"As businesses across the country are forced to absorb the cost of surging diesel prices, it can be expected that the burden will ultimately fall on the consumer," the lawmakers wrote. " ... It is imperative that Congress examine the ripple effects caused by record high diesel fuel prices."

The delegation's action follows a March decision by the Arkansas Trucking Association to press for congressional hearings on the impact of high diesel prices.

The trucking association represents 84,000 Arkansans and more than 300 corporations. They include J.B. Hunt Transport Services, ABF Freight System and USA Truck.

The association maintains that diesel prices continue to increase despite ample supply and no significant rise in demand.

Lawmakers said they want an investigation into the cause of high-priced diesel fuel.

The letter was sent to Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of an investigations subcommittee on that panel; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; and House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Long road to vote

After decades of trying to unionize Overnite Transportation, now called UPS Freight, the Teamsters have negotiated a national contract that 53 employees in Fort Wayne can vote on Sunday.

Fort Wayne UPS Freight employees are part of a national organizing campaign that has brought 9,700 UPS Freight employees into the Teamsters since Jan. 16, Teamsters spokeswoman Donna De La Cruz said.

Brian Lytle, an organizer at Teamsters Local 414, said the highlights of the contract include better health insurance, a guaranteed 40-hour workweek for full-time employees and wage increases totaling almost $5 an hour by the end of the five-year contract. Local 414 is the union the Fort Wayne UPS Freight employees joined in February. The top wage at UPS Freight in Fort Wayne is currently $21.85 an hour. At the end of the contract, the new top wage will be $26.15 an hour.

Getting a national contract for UPS Freight employees is “very satisfying,” Lytle said. “This is a group the Teamsters have been trying to organize for 30 years.”

In the 1990s, the Teamsters tried to get Overnite Transportation Co. employees to join the union. But the organizing campaign was unsuccessful and resulted in the Teamsters declaring an unfair labor practices “strike” against Overnite that lasted three years, Lytle said. The Teamsters accused the company of violating U.S. labor laws.

Barry Craig, a road driver at UPS Freight who has worked at the Fort Wayne terminal for 18 years, said he remembers Teamsters picketing his truck then because it was a non-union facility. Craig said the goal seemed to be using the picketing to pressure the company to work with the Teamsters. Full Story.......

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pennsylvania Last Big Dem Battleground for Unions

The Pennsylvania primary is more than a contest between Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. It's a showdown between two rival factions in organized labor and whether they can deliver for their presidential candidate.

With by far the largest bloc of union voters remaining on the campaign calendar — 830,000 workers, the April 22 primary could demonstrate whether Clinton has expanded her edge over Obama among working-class voters and emerged as labor's decisive favorite for president. Or whether Obama has whittled her support to a virtual draw in a state where unemployment is at its highest in more than two years.

Each Democrat has the backing of a well-financed coalition of unions determined to produce a crucial victory for its preferred candidate — and in the process earn the enduring gratitude of the person it hopes will be the next president.

Clinton has a larger number of unions on her side: 12 AFL-CIO member unions — including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers and the International Association of Machinists — and one Change to Win union, the United Farm Workers.

Obama is backed by some politically powerful unions as well: Change to Win's Teamsters, SEIU, UNITE HERE and United Food and Commercial Workers — as well as the Change to Win organization and five smaller AFL-CIO unions. Obama picked up the endorsement Tuesday from the 10,000-member Laborers District Council of Metro Philadelphia.

The AFL-CIO has not endorsed either candidate, focusing instead on criticism of Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain. The labor federation challenged McCain to talk with its workers about the economy during his April stops in Maryland, Arizona and Florida.

A divided outcome is certainly possible, but there's a mystery that could tip the balance: Two large unions that once backed departed candidate John Edwards — the steelworkers and mine workers — haven't decided whether to endorse Obama or Clinton. Full Story.......

YRC Worldwide CEO Made $4.9 Million

Bill Zollars, chief executive of YRC Worldwide Inc., received a compensation package in 2007 valued at $4.95 million, almost 33 percent lower than the year before, the trucking company reported in a filing Tuesday.

The decline came as the nation's largest less-than-truckload hauler dealt with smaller shipments brought on by the slowing economy and internal disruptions as it tried to restructure some of its struggling subsidiaries.

Zollars, who has served as CEO and chairman at the Overland Park, Kan.-based company since November 1999, was paid $1.04 million in salary, $631,800 in non-equity incentive payments and $191,889 in other compensation, which included a $150,000 perk allowance and $35,139 for personal use of corporate aircraft and taxes on that use.

Based on YRC's performance in 2007, the company said it decided not to give its top executives performance bonuses of stock and options. However, it did award Zollars stock and options worth $3.08 million on the day they were given to reflect performance in past years.

The company reported an annual loss in 2007 of $638.4 million, or $11.17 per share, compared with profits of $276.6 million, or $4.74 per share, a year ago.

Most of the loss came from a $782 million impairment charge as the company wrote down the value of the former USF Corp. companies that YRC bought in May 2005. Those companies now make up YRC's regional transportation business division and have struggled with tough competition and smaller loads.

Two of the subsidiaries, USF Holland and USF Reddaway, announced in February they were closing 27 service centers, mostly in the South and Southwest, and laying off 1,100 workers.

Excluding the one-time charges, YRC said it would have earned $1.88 per share, below Wall Street's expectations.

Annual revenue declined about 3 percent, from $9.92 billion to $9.62 billion.

Zollars received a compensation package valued at $7.35 million in 2006, including $1 million in salary, $485,293 in non-equity incentives, $233,803 in other payments and stock and options worth $5.6 million on the day they were awarded.

In 2007, Zollars also realized $2.6 million on the exercise of stock options and $862,153 from the vesting of almost 20,600 stock shares. Those aren't included in the his total compensation from the company because they reflect personal finance decisions.

The Associated Press calculations of total pay include executives' salary, bonus, incentives, perks, above-market returns on deferred compensation and the estimated value of stock options and awards granted during the year. The calculations don't include changes in the present value of pension benefits, and they sometimes differ from the totals companies list in the summary compensation table of proxy statements.

All workers have the right to unionize

Ever since the employees of the Oneida casino contacted Teamsters Local 662 about forming a union at the casino, a virtual horde of people have come out of the woodwork to offer their opinions on unions. The employers have hired advisers to come in and try to convince the workers that unionizing would be bad for them, and the Green Bay Press-Gazette printed anti-union columns by Mick Hager three weeks in a row.

I wonder where all these people were when the workers' wages were frozen by the employers for the last 10 years. Why is it that there is so much concern for the workers at the casinos now? Could it be that with a union, the employers now will be forced to bargain with their workers collectively over wages, working conditions and benefits?

Organized labor has fought hard for generations to bring us the Fair Labor Standards Act, child labor laws, Workers Compensation, minimum wage laws, the 40-hour work week, paid holidays, Social Security, civil rights and Medicare benefits. None of these were voluntarily given up without a fight from corporate America.

Unions set a higher standard of living in America that the unorganized will never reach. When people are paid higher wages, it stimulates the economy. Ask anyone if they would rather have a union or a non-union job, and most will say union.

People who are represented by a union have many more rights than those who are not represented. The National Labor Relation Board protects union workers' rights. Individuals requesting help from the NLRB will first be asked if they have a union; if no union is present, there isn't much the Labor Board can do for them.

The bottom line is this: Employers who threaten their employees for organizing are breaking the law. Employees have rights afforded them under the National Labor Relations Act and are protected by such laws.

The history of organized labor's fight for workers' rights is not taught in today's classrooms, but it should be. Many men and women have died for these rights to bargain collectively with employers. Don't let anyone tell you that you don't have that right.

# "If I were a worker in a factory, the first thing I would do would be to join a union." — President Franklin D. Roosevelt

# "The right to join the union of one's choice is unquestioned today, and is sanctioned and protected by law." — President Harry S Truman

# "Today in America, unions have a secure place in our industrial life. ... I have no use for those — regardless of their political party — who hold some vain and foolish dream of spinning the clock back to days when organized labor was huddled, almost as a hapless mass. Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice." — Dwight D. Eisenhower

# "All that harms labor is treason to America." — Abraham Lincoln

Monday, March 31, 2008

YRC's Skarka Steps Down as Head of Yellow Truck Brand

YRC Worldwide Inc., the U.S. trucking company that had a $736 million fourth-quarter loss, said Maynard Skarka is retiring as president of Yellow Transportation, one of its largest brands.

Michael Smid, president of YRC's North American Transportation division, will take over from Skarka, the Overland Park, Kansas-based company said today in a memo to employees. Skarka is 55 years old and had been with Yellow since 1982, according to YRC's Web site.

The move follows job cuts and terminal shutdowns announced in February at another unit as YRC takes steps to stem losses and restore revenue growth. Smid has been president since October of YRC's North American Transportation division, which includes Yellow. More changes at YRC may be coming, he said in an interview.

``Our focus must be to provide the service quality our customers expect while we carefully manage cost and build for the future,'' Smid said in the memo to employees. He said the company is stepping up efforts to ``change our current growth trajectory.''

Smid, 52, retains his role as chief of North American Transportation.

``I would expect us to continue to try to improve our performance,'' Smid said in the interview. ``And sometimes that does involve organizational changes.''

Increasingly Competitive Market

YRC rose 32 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $13:12 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. The shares have lost 23 percent this year, the worst performance on the five-member Standard and Poor's Midcap Trucking Index.

Smid previously held various executive positions with YRC's national trucking divisions, which carry so-called less-than- truckload freight, or shipments from more than one customer in each truck.

``Smid has done a good job in the past for YRCW regional with integrating some of the new operations,'' Credit Suisse analyst Jason Seidl said in an interview. ``He's going to have his hands full as Yellow tries to compete in an increasingly competitive long-haul LTL market. Clearly they're in the cross hairs of the likes of FedEx, UPS and Con-way.''

The move is a vote of confidence for Smid rather than against Skarka, Seidl said. Seidl, based in New York, rates YRC shares ``neutral.''

The company is the largest U.S. trucker by sales, with $9.62 billion in 2007 revenue.

Difficult Position

YRC National Transportation lost $56.9 million in the fourth quarter and accounted for 70 percent of YRC's fourth- quarter revenue. Last year YRC stopped reporting revenue separately for Yellow and Roadway, the other major national brand. YRC made no management changes at Roadway today.

The company announced plans in February to reorganize its regional units by closing 27 terminals and cutting 1,100 jobs. The regional division provides a quarter of YRC's revenue and accounted for the majority of the fourth-quarter loss.

Chief Executive Officer Bill Zollars's job could be at risk if the reorganization fails to improve YRC's profit, Seidl said.

``If the company is not up to the challenge and they have problems with their covenants, he might be put in a difficult position,'' Seidl said. ``However, if they're able to pull off the regional turnaround and come through the economic downturn unscathed, he should be fine.''

Overwhelming Support for DHL Contract in Weekend Meetings

Members Get Answers to Questions about New National Agreement

In a strong show of support for the new DHL National Master Agreement, hundreds of members in seven states attended meetings this weekend. Local union leaders held votes to recommend the contract and in a majority the agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed.

“This is a great agreement. We protected what we already had and we’ve gained more,” said Patti McGuckin, dock agent and member of Local 299 in Detroit. “We’re getting more money than we’ve ever gotten, and our pension and health-and-welfare plans are protected. I’ve been a Teamster for almost 20 years and this is one of our best contracts.”

“I’ve read through the contract and I can’t help but think that this is going to be a good thing for everybody,” said Sam Conover, driver and member of Local 135 in Indianapolis. “I believe this helps the company by giving them some avenues to do some cost-saving. At the same time, our jobs have been protected and this is the strongest wage-and-benefit package I’ve seen as a Teamster. To all parties concerned, I think this is a good contract. I’ll be voting yes for it.”

“Members support this contract because it protects their futures, benefits, wages and jobs,” said Frank Burdell, Local 407 President. “We held a motion to support the contract at the end of our meeting, and the vote was 59-1 in favor of the contract—that’s a sign of strong support.”

In addition to Local 407 members’ support, approximately 375 members of Local 299 overwhelmingly endorsed the new tentative agreement, as did some 150 members of Local 135 (by a 149-1 voice vote) and more than 100 members of Local 249 in Pittsburgh. Bargaining committee co-chair Brad Slawson Sr. attended these four locals’ meetings, answering members’ questions. Complete Story....

Arkansas trucking lobby not supportive of April 1 strike

The Arkansas Trucking Association doesn’t support a strike by independent truckers reported to occur on April 1, the organization said today. “Our organization’s board of directors does not endorse any action that might disrupt the delivery of freight or harm the U.S. economy,” said Lane Kidd, president of the association. “Everyone is frustrated over record-high fuel prices but a strike is not a way to solve the problem.”

The group’s board of directors voted unanimously March 19 to seek congressional hearings into the causes of record-high diesel prices.

Kidd said based on conversations with several congressional aides there is growing support for congressional hearings on record high diesel costs and their impact on the U.S. economy.

The Arkansas Trucking Association is a business league of some 335 for-hire trucking companies, private trucking fleets and service or supply businesses. Some of the group’s larger members include J.B. Hunt Transport Services; ABF Freight System; FedEx Freight; Wal-Mart Stores [transportation fleet]; P.A.M Transportation Services; USA Truck; and Tyson Foods [transportation fleet].