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Teamsters Unions Striking, Battling Concessions Nationwide

Teamsters 848 rally

While millions of worker-supportive onlookers witness the national fast food workers’ strike, Teamsters union members across North America are battling unscrupulous employers of their own in search of fair treatment.

Below, highlights of a handful of recent Teamster struggles and successes:

Southern California

Hundreds of supporters joined over a dozen drivers to protest Green Fleet Systems at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in a 24-hour strike earlier this week.  The drivers claim that the company is using improper tactics in dissuading them from joining the union. While the workers for GFS have an advantage over many of the ports’ other drivers in that their company recognizes them as employees, the right to organize is fundamental and protest against this right marked the kickoff of a week of pre-Labor Day action.

Jose Rodriguez, a driver at the Carson-based Green Fleet Systems, told the HeraldOnline:

This is dangerous work that we do. GFS management says that we are professional drivers, but they do not treat us professionally.  We deserve to have respect on the job as well as fair benefits and a pension. This is a fight against exploitation, in every job I have worked I have been exploited and treated without respect, and that needs to stop.

Fred Potter, director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ Port Division, told the Los Angeles Times,

The few trucking companies with bona fide employees like Green Fleet Systems are routinely violating workers’ legal right to form a union at their workplace. Industrywide change is needed.

PHOTOS FROM THE PROTEST

Many drivers employed by Green Fleet Systems are looking to organize and join Teamsters Local 848.  Those involved have accused the company of bringing in “union busters.”

Cape Cod

30 Drivers and Mechanics at Republic/Allied Waste have ratified their first contract.  The workers have been represented by the Teamsters Local 59 for a little over a year.  In July of 2012, workers voted to join by a 3 to 1 margin. According to George Belanger, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 59 in New Bedford, “The contract includes improved wages and a grievance procedure.  There is also language that will improve working conditions and enhance job protections.”

The news hasn’t been all good for Local 59 this summer, though, as their members who work at AFC Cable ended a 13-week strike in mid-July despite not yet reaching an agreement.  In June, hundreds of the region’s union members marched in solidarity with the 170 striking Teamsters:

The strikers, part of Teamsters Local 59, want the company to answer demands regarding their pay, work schedules and health care benefits, although Local 59 Executive Officer George Belanger said it would not be “productive” to provide details while negotiations are ongoing.

Belanger did say that one issue rankling workers is AFC’s move to a 24-hour production cycle — meaning shifts will run at all times of day — although he again declined to say what about that policy was in dispute or what the company could offer workers to make it acceptable.

Pittsburgh

The Pleasant Hills Council conditionally accepted a contract with their police officers last week which will begin retroactively to January 1st and last the next four years. However, the council’s acceptance hinges on the police accepting concessions concerning their health care contributions.  Members currently pay five percent but the council will ask them to pay 10.  It must now be approved by the officers who are represented by the Teamsters Local 205:

Wages for the officers would increase by 2.5 percent in the first and fourth years and 3 percent in the second and third years. The police department has 21 officers, but 16 would be affected after the last of five retirements in December 2013.

The base salaries affected are on eight levels, with a new officer being paid $47,866 and the highest paid at $79,777, Councilman Dan Soltesz said.

Non-uniform employees are still without a contract, though the next round of negotiations will begin August 29th.  If completed, it will be the non-uniform employees’ first contract.

British Columbia

Teamsters at the Richmond IKEA have been locked out since May and recently rejected a 4th contract offer from the company.  Now, other unions are calling for a solidarity strike against the store and the IKEA in nearby Coquitlam.   

At an internal meeting of Teamsters Local 213, 32 workers who crossed the picket line were stripped of their membership.  The local accused IKEA of “backwards bargaining,” but conceded that the company’s most recent offer did not include a two-tier pay system which was previously a cornerstone of their contract offers.  In an email to The Tyee, Teamsters business agent Anita Dawson explained in an email the ongoing labor dispute:

The company did table another offer on July 24 that did not have a two tier, but this offer was unanimously rejected by the bargaining unit because the only guaranteed wage increase for employees with four or more years of service was 1.5 per cent in the first year. Nothing guaranteed in subsequent years.

For employees with less than four years of service, the offer did not have a two-tier wage system, but it only guaranteed two per cent a year on the start rate until the wage got to current max. This means that it could take decades to reach top rate, i.e. if you start at $12 an hour at two per cent a year, it would take 23 years to get to $19.45.

Ontario

On the other side of Canada, Teamsters are gaining a foothold in local hospitals. Teamsters Local 419 has gained almost 2,000 new members since their merger with the Ontario Workers’ Union (OWU).  The OWU had represented 14 bargaining units including the Humber River Hospital chain and the William Osler Health System locations.  According to Brian Lawrence, Local Union 419 President, “This is an important breakthrough into the health care industry.This merger shows our credibility with workers in a very important sector.”

Tim Oribine, one of the architects behind the merger, told Teamsters Canada:

We had an opportunity to join an organization known for its quality of services and power.  As soon as we met with the Teamsters’ officers, we knew that our members would get excellent service.

The Teamsters have the human, financial and material resources to fight back when employers make arbitrary decisions. For them, injustice is unacceptable and must be dealt with swiftly.

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