Teamsters Local 162 members George Meadows and Ken Lopez both honorably served lengthy tours of duty in the Army including service in Iraq while employed at UPS. They returned from active duty in 2009 and both received promotions to full-time package driving jobs and are now full-time feeder drivers at the UPS facility in Portland, Oregon.
However, after a recent discussion with Local 162 feeder shop steward Walt Lawson, Meadows was advised to contact the pension office to make sure that UPS made the required pension contributions for his term of military service. Lawson also advised Meadows to contact Local 162 President Mark Davison if the pension contributions had in fact not been made. In Portland, Teamsters at UPS are covered by the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust.
Unfortunately, the appropriate payments to Meadows’ pension had not been made. A grievance was filed by Meadows and processed by Local 162 and Davison. Meadows then spread the word to fellow military veteran Ken Lopez and encouraged him to also call the pension office. It was discovered that UPS had also not made pension contributions on Lopez’s behalf and he also filed a grievance at Local 162. Ultimately, it was found that UPS had failed to properly apply the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) rule with regard to return to work and pension rights in both cases.
USERRA was signed into law in 1994 by President Clinton. The law grants reemployment and benefits rights to any member of the uniformed services. This includes the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserves, Army and Air National Guards.
Key rights under USERRA include protecting an employee’s job while serving in the military and the payment of pension contributions for an employee’s period of military service upon their return to work. For Teamsters working at UPS, the payment of pension contributions is a significant issue as the hourly rates negotiated by the union into the pension plans are the highest in the transportation industry.
The end result of Local 162’s grievances on behalf of the members has amounted to pension contributions in excess of $120,000 to the Western Conference Pension Trust. These contributions grant Meadows and Lopez not only a higher monthly pension check but also the ability to retire several years sooner.
“Meadows and Lopez are both highly decorated military veterans deserving of all our thanks and appreciation,” said Local 162 President Mark Davison. “It is imperative that we reach out to all Teamsters who have served their country in the military and encourage them to contact their pension and retirement plans to make sure their employers make the contributions, and if not paid they need to contact their Teamsters Local Union to file a grievance.”