Teamsters employed at ABF Freight System, Inc. have won major gains in their newly ratified contract that covers approximately 8,500 drivers, dockworkers, mechanics and office workers.
The agreement consists of the national master portion as well as 27 regional and/or job classification supplements.
The last outstanding supplement to the national contract was ratified in late July. Consequently, the new collective bargaining agreement has been approved and took effect on July 29. Pay increases will be retroactive to July 1 as per the new agreement.
“We got a lot of things back in this contract: the vacation, the pay increases and other gains, including the benefit contributions and protections against subcontracting,” said Paul Krenz, a city driver and 16-year ABF employee who is a steward and member of Local 120 in Minnesota.
“The big thing for me was getting the week of vacation back,” said James Rogers, an eight-year ABF employee who is also a steward and member of Local 120. “It’s tough to get anything back once you give it up. Getting raises is also a big plus.”
ABF members initially voted on the tentative new national agreement in April and early May.
The bargaining committee put together to represent Teamsters in negotiations with ABF was made up of dedicated and experienced Teamsters from all regions of the country. Each member of the committee was connected with the ABF membership. Some members of the committee were former ABF employees with significant insight into ABF’s operations. Attorneys, economists and administrative staff were made available to assist the bargaining committee and the committee made full use of these resources throughout the process.
Prior to the start of negotiations, the Teamsters National Freight Industry Negotiating Committee (TNFINC) conducted member surveys, solicited and accepted proposals from every affected ABF local union, and spoke with many ABF members and local union business agents. TNFINC’s economists studied the company’s finances as well as the state of the economy. The initial exchange of proposals took place in December 2017. The parties met for multiple weeks from January through March for negotiations. The union’s negotiating team worked hard. Ultimately, 100 percent of the committee supported and endorsed the tentative agreement.
Below are some of the more significant changes contained in the new agreement.
Vacation Restoration: Restoration of the vacation week that was previously given up under the last contract was a top priority of the members. TNFINC was successful in gaining back the 2008-13 vacation schedule based on eligibility and years of service. Because each ABF supplement addresses the earning and accrual of vacations differently, the removal of the one week was also handled differently across the U.S. during the 2013 and 2014 period. To ensure fairness and compliance with the contract, the vacation schedule will essentially be restored in a similar manner to which it was removed so that no member is disadvantaged under a particular supplement’s rules.
General Wage Increases and Bonus: The union successfully opposed the company’s attempt to have only a bonus in the first year of the agreement and no wage increases for the life of the agreement.
Instead, effective each July 1 of the agreement, hourly wages and mileage equivalents will increase by 30 cents, 35 cents, 40 cents, 45 cents and 50 cents in the last year. Total increases, absent any COLAs, will grow by $2 per hour or 5 cents per mile for road drivers over the term of the contract.
In addition, the union was able to also leverage the recently enacted tax cut legislation and secure a $1,000 lump sum signing payment for all active, full-time employees upon ratification (casuals who worked 300 hours between Sept. 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018 get a $500 bonus). Lastly, casuals will see annual wage improvements each year of the contract after seeing their rates frozen for long periods at various points over the last two NMFAs.
Health and Welfare Funds Preserved: The union’s negotiating committee knew that maintaining superior health benefits for members and their families was a top priority for ABF Teamsters coming into talks. From the outset, however, the company was looking to radically alter how all benefits are delivered to Teamsters and was insisting on having all future health and welfare contributions be “fixed” with hard numbers at rates lower than what it was paying to most funds. In the end, the union’s negotiating committee prevailed in requiring the company to continue to stay in all health and welfare plans.
More Protections against the Use of Purchased Transportation: The red circle protections have been increased and updated and a method established for backfilling the red circle list. Additionally, the overall amount of allowable purchased transportation has been reduced.
Other provisions of the new agreement include maintaining pension contribution rates; improved paid-time-off protections; improvements to equipment and safety; tightened disciplinary standards regarding alleged “dishonesty”; and leave of absence protections.
In addition to the many improvements, the union committee was able to defeat several attempted company takeaways, including demands for no wage increases, taking away holidays and overtime cuts.
“The union held its ground and made it clear we would not accept concessions and that we needed to address our members’ priorities, both of which we were able to achieve,” said Ernie Soehl, Director of the Teamsters Freight Division.