Teamsters Hold Benefit Fund Trustee Education Program
More than 150 trustees from Teamster Taft-Hartley funds are meeting for the 13th annual Benefit Fund Trustee Education Program to discuss challenges the plans face and share strategies.
“We have many people in this room who have come up with very creative ways to address some of the issues we face,” said General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, co-chairman of the Teamsters Benefits Committee. “It’s important we come together to confront the challenges of the future and share strategies.”
Over the past 13 years, two stock market crashes and the ever-changing health care marketplace have placed unprecedented challenges on multi-employer funds.
The Teamsters Union has about 400 Taft-Hartley health, welfare and pension funds. The funds have more than $100 billion in assets covering 1.5 million active members, retirees and dependents.
Those assets and participants give the union a lot of power to engage shareholders to demand greater corporate responsibility to benefit workers and Teamster funds, General President Jim Hoffa told participants at the three-day conference.
Hoffa led the fight last month in the United Kingdom at global transport giant National Express’ annual general meeting of shareholders to demand justice for Durham School Services bus workers in the United States.
The Teamsters’ shareholder resolution calling for a special board to be created to oversee the health and safety of workers won unprecedented support, sending a strong message to the company.
“We have to continue to try and hold these rogue employers accountable,” Hoffa said.
Evelina Moultrie, a member of Local 509 in West Columbia, S.C. and a Durham driver in Charleston, S.C., traveled to the U.K. to tell her story. She also spoke to trustees about the deplorable conditions at Durham, and the surprise by members of Parliament that a foreign company would be allowed to operate in the United States and treat workers so poorly.
“Most of the drivers are single parents and without the union they couldn’t afford a lot of things,” Moultrie said. “Having the Teamsters have brought so many changes to our lives.”
The union is having success:
- By securing strong shareholder support at FedEx for governance reform, Teamsters loosened Chief Executive Fred Smith’s grip on the board of directors. In response to roughly 40 percent support from outside shareholders for a Teamster resolution, FedEx has appointed a lead independent director. The Teamsters also will take on the company’s practice of paying Smith’s personal taxes owed on his equity compensation.
- At Swift Transportation, the Teamsters led a shareholder revolt against founder and CEO Jerry Moyes. A Teamster proposal to eliminate the company’s dual class stock structure won nearly 80 percent support from Class A shareholders earlier this year. Swift’s dual class structure provides Moyes majority control over a company for which he owns a minority stake.
Speakers at the conference also are addressing such topics as health care spending, the Affordable Health Care Act, retirement security, benefit cost saving strategies, bargaining and the impact on plans, corporate governance and investor education.
Local 79 member Glenn Gray talked about successful shareholder initiatives aimed at his former employer, pharmaceutical giant McKessonCorp., including one that resulted in a $45 million pension cut for the chief executive. Local 449 Teamster Dennis Wellspeak talked about pressure efforts directed at Rural/Metro Medical Services that resulted in a fair contract agreement for paramedics, including a raise to $11.15 per hour, up from $7.90 per hour.