Hoffa: Protecting Pension Remains Top Priority : It is encouraging when elected officials can work across party lines to get things done. Take, for example, Michigan’s historic no-fault auto insurance reform bill signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week. After years of grappling with making changes to the 1973 law, Democrats and Republicans in the state worked together to take action that will result in a reduction in the nation’s highest auto insurance rates.
XPO Logistics Workers Strike in Connecticut While Employees Around the Globe Protest Company’s Abusive Practices: Workers at a XPO Logistics warehouse in North Haven, Connecticut, walked off the job early Thursday over the logistics giant’s unfair labor practices. The workers are seeking to end the illegal abuses and manipulation from XPO. The facility’s exclusive customer is aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft.
If Congress Doesn’t Act : Joe Brown worked for more than 30 years as a roof bolter at the Federal #2 Mine in Marion County. Installing roof supports is one of the most hazardous jobs in coal mining, essential to the safety of all the other miners. Even though Brown’s lanky 6-foot-3 frame made bolting easier for him than others, he’s had four surgeries ― two on his back, two on his knees ― as a result of his decades at the mine.
Teamsters and Allies Advocate for Safety at Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing Summit: Yesterday Teamsters joined Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader and other aviation industry stakeholders at the Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing Summit, an event that was organized by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Business Travel Coalition. Teamsters and their allies brought attention to the life-threatening hazards to consumers and workers associated with having aircraft repaired overseas.
STA Roy-Hart Workers Join Teamsters: STA drivers and monitors who provide student transportation for the Royalton-Hartland School District (often referred to as “Roy-Hart”) have voted to join Teamsters Local 449. Over 95 percent of workers at the yard participated in the election.
U.S. Rep. DeLauro Visits North Haven Picket Line, Supports Striking XPO Workers: U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, visited with workers who are on strike against XPO Logistics at a warehouse in North Haven, telling them she supports their fight against the company’s unfair labor practices.
BLET: FRA Reduces Prospects For Safer Railroad Industry: On Thursday, May 24, 2019, we were informed that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had released a notice, withdrawing a 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking establishing a minimum train crew size for most rail freight operations in the United States. This news was not surprising.
Teamsters Commend Santa Ana USD for Responsible Bidding: Teamsters Local 952 is lauding a recent decision by the Santa Ana Unified School District (USD) Board of Trustees to reject a request-for-proposal (RFP) from a student transportation provider due to the board’s concerns about safety, transparency and accountability. Local 952 represents drivers, attendants and mechanics at Durham School Services, the current provider. Durham School Services has also submitted an RFP.
Teamsters Stand In Solidarity With IAM, TWU Workers At American Airlines: The following is a statement from Teamsters Airline Division Director Capt. David Bourne regarding American Airlines’ ongoing negotiations with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM):
AP: Hauling Route For Keystone XL Pipeline Approved In South Dakota: The Pennington County Commission has given approval to TC Energy to use county roads during construction of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.
Hoffa: Protecting Pension Remains Top Priority: It is encouraging when elected officials can work across party lines to get things done.
Take, for example, Michigan’s historic no-fault auto insurance reform bill signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week. After years of grappling with making changes to the 1973 law, Democrats and Republicans in the state worked together to take action that will result in a reduction in the nation’s highest auto insurance rates.
In Detroit, that means the average auto insurance cost that hovers around $5,000 a year will be reduced beginning next year. That’s a real win for motorists that will put much-needed money in their pocket.
Sadly, such bipartisanship is not more prevalent, even when the result would help a significant swath of people. Capitol Hill, in particular, is largely stuck and incapable of passing legislation that would make a real difference in the lives of working Americans.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. It is not too late for Congress to follow the lead of lawmakers in Michigan and back legislation on such things as pension reform that would help thousands of their constituents. It is clear this issue has supporters in both parties.
The Teamsters have been working for years to try to secure a solution that would beef up retirement security for some 1.5 million Americans whose nest eggs are jeopardized through no fault of their own. That includes having Teamster retirees and the spouses of Teamster retirees tell their stories to different House committees at hearings this year.
This union supports H.R. 397, the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, because it would protect the retirement futures of some 400,000 current and former Teamsters who paid into the Central States Pension Fund, including some 43,000 from Michigan. It is a bipartisan bill that is co-sponsored by six House members from the state – Reps. Debbie Dingell (D), Bill Huizenga (R), Dan Kildee (D), Andy Levin (D), Haley Stevens (D) and Elissa Slotkin (D).
As it stands, there are more than 300 multiemployer plans across the country — including the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund — that are in danger of failing. Congress needs to find a solution that will deliver for these hardworking Americans who are paying, or have paid, into the pension pool and have played by the rules all their lives.
The measure would boost financially-troubled multiemployer pensions so they don’t fail. It would create an agency under the Treasury Department that would sell bonds in the open market to large investors such as financial firms.
The agency, the Pension Rehabilitation Administration (PRA), would then lend money from the sale of the bonds to the financially-troubled pension plans. Plans that are deemed “critical and declining,” as well as recently insolvent but non-terminated plans, and those that have suspended benefits would be eligible to apply for the program.
Pension plans borrowing from PRA would be required to set aside the loan proceeds in separate, safe investments such as annuities or bonds that match the pension payments for retirees. For those plans needing additional help to meet retiree obligations, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation would be available to make up the difference.
Congress needs to show a united front when it comes to standing up for working Americans who make up the backbone of this nation. Follow the model of Michigan lawmakers!
XPO Logistics Workers Strike in Connecticut While Employees Around the Globe Protest Company’s Abusive Practices: (WASHINGTON) – Workers at a XPO Logistics warehouse in North Haven, Connecticut, walked off the job early Thursday over the logistics giant’s unfair labor practices. The workers are seeking to end the illegal abuses and manipulation from XPO. The facility’s exclusive customer is aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft.
While the workers formed a picket line outside the warehouse before sunrise, other XPO truck drivers, warehouse workers and intermodal drivers throughout the United States began a day of protests and informational leaflets at hundreds of company facilities to show that workers are united in standing up for fair pay, benefits and better working conditions. In the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Belgium, European XPO workers and international union leaders were already hours into protesting at company offices and warehouses to sound the alarm on XPO’s record of violating workers’ rights across the globe.
The wave of actions comes as worker unrest grows over XPO’s abusive treatment of employees and as investor and corporate customer confidence dwindles in XPO’s stability as a business. The company is facing the recent loss of major customers including Amazon and Cummins, declining stock prices and growing shareholder concerns over corporate governance structures and ballooning executive compensation. The company has also been under fire for its abusive treatment of its warehouse workers, freight drivers and truck drivers working at U.S. ports across the country and throughout the world.
“XPO continues to treat my coworkers and me with complete disrespect and that’s led us to walk out, raise our voices and say enough is enough,” said John Tullock, an XPO striker from North Haven, Conn. “We will continue to stand up to XPO until our concerns are addressed and company executives stop abusing our rights.”
XPO drivers are engaging their coworkers and practice picketing about XPO’s abusive practices at facilities in Miami; King of Prussia, Pa.; Cinnaminson and Trenton, N.J.; Aurora, Ill.; and Laredo, Texas; cities where workers have voted to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) but have been met with stonewalling tactics and a general unwillingness to negotiate a contract by the company. Port truck drivers in San Diego, Compton and Commerce, Calif., who have dealt with issues of misclassification and poverty wages will rally in the three cities. XPO will be the topic around the globe as workers show solidarity with the U.S. workforce and protest XPO’s abuses through numerous actions worldwide. Additionally, Teamsters members are distributing leaflets to workers at XPO facilities nationwide.
“XPO truck drivers work long, grueling hours contributing to Bradley Jacobs’s multi-million dollar paychecks, and in return all we get from XPO is a refusal to treat workers fairly, which is why we decided to join together and form a union,” said Mickey Young, an XPO driver from Aurora, Ill. “XPO workers around the globe are more united than ever, and executives need to open their eyes and improve working conditions and business practices before worker instability only worsens and more customers leave for more reliable business partners.”
“XPO makes us feel like we don’t exist, and we are just company property,” said Jose ‘Chema’ Rodriguez, an XPO driver from San Diego. “As someone who drives from Tijuana, Mexico to San Diego every single day to work more than 12 hours, it’s ludicrous that I’m still unable to afford to live in the United States because of the compensation and benefits XPO has denied me by misclassifying me as an ‘independent contractor.’ XPO executives claim we want to remain as independent contractors, but they aren’t the ones struggling to make ends meet.”
XPO workers in the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Belgium are facing issues related to the company improperly calculating overtime pay, withholding pension payments and delaying paychecks.
“The issues at XPO Logistics are not contained to one warehouse, one city or even one country but are rather institutional problems that reach across the world and across XPO’s supply chain,” said Thierry Mayer, an XPO driver of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) Union and member of the European Works Council (EWC) from France. “We are struggling in France to receive the overtime pay owed to us by XPO and concerned about issues with pensions, misclassification and working conditions we hear from our coworkers around the world. We are tired of fighting XPO for rights and benefits that are legally given to us as employees and we will continue to speak up until these issues are resolved.”
If Congress Doesn’t Act: Joe Brown worked for more than 30 years as a roof bolter at the Federal #2 Mine in Marion County. Installing roof supports is one of the most hazardous jobs in coal mining, essential to the safety of all the other miners. Even though Brown’s lanky 6-foot-3 frame made bolting easier for him than others, he’s had four surgeries ― two on his back, two on his knees ― as a result of his decades at the mine. But the union job helped Brown and his wife, Jo-Ann, buy a modest ranch house with a yard big enough for a ride-on mower, and put their three now-grown daughters through school. A small sign hangs on a tree beside Brown’s driveway, just across the street from a church: “Welcome to Brownsville, population 5. Mayor: Joe Brown.”
The mining work also assured him security in old age through retiree health coverage and a defined-benefit pension ― crucial perks that made the dangerous work and risk of black lung disease worth undertaking for Brown, who was one of just a few African Americans in his mine. When his injuries forced him into early retirement and onto disability in 2002, the benefits became even more vital.
“It was in writing that the pension would be secure,” Brown, now 78, said on a recent afternoon, taking a break from remodeling his bathroom. “A pension ’til I pass away ― that was the deal.”
But the pension plan through the United Mine Workers of America that Brown and 86,000 other retirees rely on is on track to be insolvent in about three years, which could result in deep cuts to once-guaranteed monthly payments. A growing number of plans are in similarly bad shape. If nothing is done, the coming rash of insolvencies could torpedo part of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, or PBGC, the government-run corporation that insures defined-benefit pensions.
Brown’s is what’s known as a multiemployer pension plan. Anywhere from a handful to hundreds of companies contribute funds to these plans on behalf of their workers, with payments negotiated through union contracts. The plans are common in the construction, transportation and service sectors, providing a portable benefit in cyclical industries where workers frequently change jobs. But many plans have run into trouble, losing their stream of income, as industries change and unionized employers go out of business.
While most of the 1,400 multiemployer plans in the U.S. are not in any danger, some 130 plans are projected to be insolvent within 15 to 20 years. The PBGC’s multiemployer insurance program, which would need to step in to help cover pension payments for those plans, is expected to go under by 2025 if lawmakers don’t intervene with a plan to save it.
Brown currently receives around $1,300 a month through his pension ― which, combined with his and his wife’s Social Security and the income from her part-time job, is enough to cover their basic expenses. If PBGC’s program collapses, his pension could be worth almost nothing.
The only real options for policymakers are to increase contributions by employers, shave benefits for retirees, or provide plans with government aid, such as federally backed loans ― an idea that has already drawn “bailout” criticisms from conservatives. The most likely course is a combination of all of the above.
It’s the sort of politically complex crisis that the modern, do-little Congress is uniquely ill-equipped to handle, with the security of 1.3 million pension recipients hanging in the balance. A special joint committee created expressly to tackle the problem blew its own self-imposed deadline last November and failed to pass a bill, forcing lawmakers to start over this year.
“This is not simply about pensions; it’s as much about who we are as a people and our expectations for the role of government,” said David Brenner, a pension expert at Segal Consulting, a firm that advises multiemployer plans. “We shouldn’t turn our back on people who trusted and believed their defined-benefit pension would provide them with an income stream for life.” ‘This Is Going To Devastate People’
It isn’t hard to see why a large pension plan for coal miners is in trouble right now. Despite what the president claims, the coal industry continues to decline as power plants shift to cheap natural gas and close down coal-fired generators. There were 52,000 coal miners working in April, down from 178,000 in 1985, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For all of Trump’s deregulation on behalf of coal operators, only around 2,000 mining jobs have been added since his inauguration more than two years ago.
“I started in 1975. Back then you could quit a job one day and go to work tomorrow at another,” said Roger Merriman, who put in 28 years at Federal #2 with his friend, Brown. “We were pretty strong back in the day. But our membership dwindled due to mines closing down.”
The vastly smaller workforce has left the miners’ pension plan with way more money going out the door than coming in. According to the union, there are about 12 retired miners collecting pensions for every active miner working in the plan ― a startling, and unsustainable, ratio.
The financial crisis didn’t help, with the 2008 stock market crash battering the pension fund. Ironically, its survival is now hitched to coal magnate and longtime union opponent Bob Murray, the chief executive of Murray Energy. His company is the last major employer chipping into the fund. If it goes bankrupt, the pension plan won’t last long.
Multiemployer pension plans have traditionally had lighter funding rules and lower insurance premiums than single-employer plans. After all, they were supposed to be safer. With so many employers paying in, a plan could afford to lose a company here or there due to bankruptcy or closure without putting the whole fund at risk. And, to be sure, most multiemployer plans are not hurting right now, with almost 60 percent deemed financially secure by the PBGC.
But many of the endangered plans have run into trouble for reasons unique to their industries. Take the Teamsters Central States, the largest endangered fund in terms of unfunded liabilities. The plan includes 385,000 participants and more than 1,000 contributing employers, mostly in the trucking industry. On the current trajectory, it will be unable to pay pensioners their benefits in seven years. Back in 1982, the plan had two active participants for every inactive one. That ratio has more than flipped: Now there is just one active participant for every five receiving benefits.
The trucking industry hasn’t disappeared the way coal has. In fact, trucking companies are growing in a strong economy and are looking for more drivers. What’s changed is how few of them are union shops. Deregulation of the industry starting in 1980 opened the door to smaller, non-union operators, shrinking the Teamsters’ footprint over the years. As a result, a plan that was underfunded even in the good days has deteriorated even more.
The falling rate of unionization in the U.S. has squeezed many multiemployer plans, all of which rely on contributions through collective bargaining agreements. Just 6.4 percent of private-sector workers are unionized, compared to 20 percent in 1983. Meanwhile, the shrinking base of employers chipping into the funds has pressured those who remain. Some companies decide it’s better to exit the plan and pay a penalty, fearing higher liabilities down the road. That was apparently the calculus of shipping giant UPS, which left the Central States in 2006, taking nearly a third of the plan’s active participants with it. When companies exit a plan they must pay withdrawal liabilities, which are based in part on the fund’s current value. UPS exited the plan near the peak of the stock market ― good for UPS, terrible for the fund. Much of the company’s $6 billion lump sum withdrawal payment to the Central States got wiped out in the market crash that followed.
Many other companies have left pension plans by going bankrupt. Some 22,000 of the participants in the mine workers plan worked for companies that have declared bankruptcy in just the last few years, according to the UMWA. The union argues that bankruptcy courts have provided a legal means for employers to unfairly shed their responsibilities to pensioners. When coal giant Peabody went bankrupt in 2016, the union said the company owed $643 million to the pension fund; the union got just $75 million in bankruptcy court.
“A lot of it falls on the downturn of the coal market. But a lot of it falls on the bankruptcy courts, allowing these companies to walk away from their obligations,” said Merriman, whose mine changed corporate hands multiple times and is now out of operation. “A company files for bankruptcy, we are the last in line to get our money.”
Merriman is what’s known as a pension “orphan”: the company he worked for no longer pays into his fund. Through no fault of his own, his benefit has become a burden to the current employers still contributing. Orphans make up a disproportionate share of the participants in the plans now teetering on the edge of insolvency ― nearly 28 percent, compared to just 10 percent in healthy plans, according to Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research.
One of the big political hurdles facing any rescue plan is how few Americans have a defined-benefit pension these days compared to decades ago. Most employers have switched to 401(k) plans that put the financial risk on workers. Lawmakers who view pensions as an anachronism ― or a cushy union benefit ― are less likely to get behind a plan that includes federal aid.
But pensions are really just deferred pay. Workers forwent raises over the years so they would have some money when they retired. In the case of multiemployer plans, the pension benefits are also pretty modest.
“These are people who worked physical jobs and the benefits they’re getting aren’t something you can grow fat on,” said Jean Pierre-Aubry, a researcher at the Center for Retirement Research. “This is minimal support for people who helped build the nation.”
The average benefit in the Central States plan is around $15,000 per year, far from enough to cover housing, food and other basic costs. The PBGC might guarantee less than $10,000 of that benefit, depending on the retiree’s years of service. And if the PBGC goes under, retirees in any multi-employer plan that becomes insolvent could end up with pennies on the dollar. Dale Hanner, a former diesel mechanic and Teamster who now advocates for Central States participants in North Carolina, noted that some recipients are widows or widowers receiving already-reduced benefits of their spouses who passed away. He said he knows one woman, a diabetic, who gets $385 per month and needs it to buy her insulin.
“This is going to devastate people,” Hanner said. “It’s going to put them in survival mode and I don’t think Congress understands that.” ‘A Moral Obligation To Retirees’
Some pensioners are already seeing cuts to their monthly payments, due to a bill Congress passed and former President Barack Obama signed in 2014 allowing multiemployer plans that are in financial trouble to reduce benefits under certain circumstances. The law has been highly controversial since it watered down an earlier, landmark law designed to protect benefits. The Treasury Department has signed off on applications from 13 funds seeking to make cuts and has rejected five.
But the cuts alone won’t necessarily stave off insolvency for individual plans or the PBGC itself. Policymakers have toyed with other methods of stabilizing them, such as requiring higher contributions from employers or further raising the premium rates they pay to the PBGC. But they fear that doing so could spook more employers out of the plans, further burdening the remaining pool of contributors.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation this year to finance loans for trouble plans, to be administered by a new agency that would be created inside Treasury. Pension funds would pay interest on the loans for 29 years and the principal would be due in the 30th, but the loans could be forgiven if plans couldn’t repay them. Even though the bill included four Republican and four Democratic co-sponsors when Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) introduced it in January, many conservatives will likely balk at the idea of government-backed loans for private pension funds. John Murphy, a Teamsters international vice president, said he expects the plan to pass the Democratic-controlled House but face a tougher road in the GOP-controlled Senate. He said if plans like the Teamsters’ go under, the federal government will lose taxes levied on pension benefits, while retirees will have to rely on social assistance programs.
“This is not a bailout,” Murphy said. “The official policy of this government is to protect workers’ pensions. I think that creates a moral obligation to retirees.”
He added, “These senators are going to have to look senior citizens in the eye and say ‘I’m not going to help you.’”
West Virginia lawmakers and the UMWA are pushing a plan to shore up the union’s pension plan with excess funds from the governments abandoned mine land program, which provides grants to states to remediate polluted mining sites. The AFL-CIO federation of 55 unions has endorsed the miners’ plan. The legislation might do little for the Teamsters and other funds that are on the brink, but it would help restore at least one of the largest and most troubled plans to health.
Cecil Roberts, the president of the UMWA, said the key to any legislative fix is the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky senator hasn’t allowed any plan to go to the floor for a vote, but he is facing reelection next year and represents a big coal state. McConnell would want the pension issue taken care of before next fall, especially if Democrats can put up a viable challenger against him.
“He can either be the obstacle or the catalyst here,” Roberts said. “We’re hoping the senator realizes that there are a lot of retirees in Kentucky who need these pensions.”
Merriman hopes to make it to the miners’ next rally and lobbying effort at the U.S. Capitol, but his health issues don’t always make such trips easy. Now 67, he’s had five heart attacks and two open-heart surgeries. Much of his $981 monthly pension goes toward co-pays and medicine for him and his wife. Even with good health insurance through his union, retirement has become more expensive than he imagined.
At the end of the month, he added, “there’s really nothing left.”
Teamsters and Allies Advocate for Safety at Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing Summit: Unions, Ralph Nader Join Stakeholders in Fight Against Offshoring Repairs (WASHINGTON) – Yesterday Teamsters joined Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader and other aviation industry stakeholders at the Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing Summit, an event that was organized by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Business Travel Coalition. Teamsters and their allies brought attention to the life-threatening hazards to consumers and workers associated with having aircraft repaired overseas.
“Commercial carriers that have their fleets repaired in countries with lax regulation and oversight to cut costs are endangering their passengers,” said Capt. David Bourne, Teamsters Airline Division Director. They are putting the lives of their passengers in the hands of non-certificated aviation maintenance helpers who are tasked with repairing an aircraft when they are not even licensed aircraft mechanics. Aircraft in the United States should be repaired only in the United States, by professionally licensed mechanics who abide by regulations that were implemented to prevent tragedy.”
Teamsters International Representative and Chairman of the Aviation Mechanics Coalition Chris Moore attended the summit, where he was on a panel that addressed the future of aviation maintenance. Moore emphasized that the Teamsters are working with their fellow airline unions to fight outsourcing.
“What the industry has never seen before, and what they’re about to see, is all of the major airline unions coming together as a group to talk about the same issues and move in the same direction,” Moore said.
The keynote address of the summit was given by legendary consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who tragically lost his grandniece when she was killed in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash last March. Nader emphasized that if safety isn’t a priority, there could be more accidents to come.
“We are moving into a new era of risk,” Nader said. “It’s like if you had a rubber band, and you keep stretching it. You say, ‘things are okay, nothing’s happened!’ and then it snaps.”
STA Roy-Hart Workers Join Teamsters: Workers Join Growing Movement of STA Workers Affiliating with the Union: (GASPORT, New York) – STA drivers and monitors who provide student transportation for the Royalton-Hartland School District (often referred to as “Roy-Hart”) have voted to join Teamsters Local 449. Over 95 percent of workers at the yard participated in the election.
“We are thrilled that Roy-Hart drivers and monitors have decided to join the growing movement of workers at STA seeking to drive up pay and benefits by organizing their union with the Teamsters,” said George Harrigan, Local 449 Secretary-Treasurer. “We now represent hundreds of workers at STA yards throughout the area. The strength we gain from building density in this industry gives us the power we need to negotiate contracts that reflect how valuable these men and women are to the safety of our children.”
K. Charles Branch and Lanesia Scalise are drivers at the STA Roy-Hart yard.
“I voted yes because I know that a union can give us a chance to negotiate for higher wages, more days off and better working conditions – most importantly, in writing,” Branch said.
“I support the Teamsters because I’m tired of favoritism; we also should be paid more for the responsibility that we have,” Scalise said.
Teamsters Local 449 represents workers in a wide variety of industries throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area.
U.S. Rep. DeLauro Visits North Haven Picket Line, Supports Striking XPO Workers: XPO Warehouse Workers Seek End to Company’s Abuse: (NORTH HAVEN, Conn.) – U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, visited with workers who are on strike against XPO Logistics at a warehouse in North Haven, telling them she supports their fight against the company’s unfair labor practices.
“Do not let these naysayers get in your way and deter you from what your tasks are. You have a right to be part of the decisions that affect your life and the lives of your families. You have the right to affordable health care, the right to retirement security, and most of all, the right to get respect for what you do,” DeLauro said.
The striking workers, who voted to organize with Teamsters Local 443 in the fall of 2016, are seeking an end to the company’s illegal actions at the warehouse. The facility’s exclusive customer is aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft.
“On behalf of the striking workers and the 1.4 million Teamsters who stand with them, I want to thank Congresswoman DeLauro for her support today,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “Representative DeLauro has been and continues to be a strong ally to working families, and her visit today is just the latest example.”
As the XPO workers walked the picket line today, other XPO truck drivers, warehouse workers and intermodal drivers across the United States protested against the company’s anti-worker actions. Workers at XPO in Europe also protested at company offices and warehouses to shed light on XPO’s record of violating workers’ rights across the globe.
BLET: FRA Just Reduced The Prospects For A Safer Railroad Industry: On Thursday, May 24, 2019, we were informed that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had released a notice, withdrawing a 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking establishing a minimum train crew size for most rail freight operations in the United States. This news was not surprising.
What is shocking, however, is the degree to which FRA has chosen to subordinate the safety of BLET and SMART TD members, other railroad workers, and the American public to the interests of the nation’s major railroads.
FRA’s reference to current crew sizes, which have existed for decades, as mere “crew redundancy” displays an astonishing ignorance of the findings of the agency’s own research studies, which establish—in detail and beyond dispute—the unique and specific duties of each crewmember.
FRA also disappointingly engages in self-serving fact selection in its attempts to negate the importance of the 2013 Lac-Mégantic tragedy and the Casselton, North Dakota oil train derailment—and subsequent explosion and fire—to the crew size debate. And it simply ignores several subsequent accidents where a two-person crew saved the public from an even more horrific outcome.
In its rush to diminish the safety impact of common-sense crew size regulations, FRA also points to various regulations requiring risk analyses and the adoption of risk reduction plans by railroads. While our Organizations fully support such plans, we note that Congress mandated regulations governing these subjects more than a decade ago, but they have yet to be promulgated because of industry recalcitrance and obstructionism.
Also, the argument that two-person crews have not been proven safer—because of FRA’s failure to collect crew size data—while the data support a conclusion that single-person crews are not demonstrably less safe is mystifying in its logic, to be charitable.
Moreover, the federal rail safety regulator hints that there is no “specific requirement that would prohibit autonomous technology from operating a locomotive or train” in the absence of any human crewmember whatsoever as a means of “reducing accidents caused by human error.” If the ongoing grounding of the Boeing MAX aircraft has taught nothing else, FRA and the Department of Transportation should be mindful of the danger of transferring the risk of a human factors accident from operator to programmer when autonomous technology is implemented. For this reason, FRA’s declared “support [for] the integration and implementation of new automation technologies” on the Nation’s locomotives should give everyone pause.
Lastly, the Agency’s invocation of the negative preemption doctrine is incredible. Both the industry and the Agency reject prescriptive safety regulations as a philosophical matter, because they supposedly require a “one size fits all” approach; indeed, this was part of the industry’s argument against the proposed rule.
In stark contrast to this philosophy, FRA’s invocation of negative preemption seeks to promulgate a prescriptive prohibition, regardless of the implications of its action on federalism. In so doing, the valid safety concerns expressed by supporters of the proposed rule such as National League of Cities—representing more than 19,000 cities, villages, and towns—and the Western Organization of Resource Councils are dismissed out of hand.
We frankly did not expect this Administration to complete this rulemaking, but we did afford the new Federal Railroad Administrator a fair opportunity to demonstrate that safety was his primary objective. Given the scope of this withdrawal, the Administrator has clearly failed the test, because he has placed corporate profits above public safety. Railroad safety has taken a giant step backward today, but our Organizations do not intend to let this development go unchallenged.
Teamsters Commend Santa Ana USD for Responsible Bidding: School Board Prioritizes Safety of Students and Workers Over Bottom Line: (SANTA ANA, Calif.) – Teamsters Local 952 is lauding a recent decision by the Santa Ana Unified School District (USD) Board of Trustees to reject a request-for-proposal (RFP) from a student transportation provider due to the board’s concerns about safety, transparency and accountability. Local 952 represents drivers, attendants and mechanics at Durham School Services, the current provider. Durham School Services has also submitted an RFP.
“Our members mobilized and spoke to the board of trustees, and the trustees listened to what they had to say,” said Patrick Kelly, Local 952 Secretary-Treasurer. “We would like to thank our fellow Teamsters who were so quick to take action on behalf of not just themselves, but the students they transport. We’d also like to thank the board of trustees for addressing the concerns of their constituents.”
“This is municipal government at its best,” said Rick Middleton, Teamsters Passenger Transportation Division Director. “These workers are a perfect example of our membership’s commitment to having the safest possible school buses throughout Southern California.”
Lee Pflug is a Local 952 Shop Steward who drives a school bus for Durham School Services. Pflug attended the hearing and said that the experience was a powerful reminder of the ways that rank-and-file Teamsters can have a positive impact on the decisions that affect their communities.
“This decision is a great example of what can be accomplished when union members and leadership work together,” Pflug said. “With the membership reaching out to school board members, teachers and the parents of the students we transport, we were able to demonstrate the importance of quality workers over cost. I’d like to thank everyone for their support.”
Teamsters Local 952 represents a variety of workers throughout Orange County, California and the surrounding vicinity. For more information, go to http://www.teamsters952.org/.
Teamsters Stand In Solidarity With IAM, TWU Workers At American Airlines: Company Needs to Keep Maintenance in Hands of Unionized Professionals: (WASHINGTON) – The following is a statement from Teamsters Airline Division Director Capt. David Bourne regarding American Airlines’ ongoing negotiations with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM):
“American Airlines has accused the TWU and IAM of participating in an illegal work slowdown. The men and women of the IAM and TWU have been in contract negotiations with American Airlines management to keep the maintenance work from being sent offshore.
“The highly trained professionals at the IAM and TWU show their dedication each day as they put the safety of our passengers and crew first when doing their jobs. Sending aircraft maintenance overseas threatens the safety of workers and passengers. We support and stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the IAM and TWU in their fight to secure a fair contract.”
AP: Hauling Route For Keystone XL Pipeline Approved In South Dakota: RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - The Pennington County Commission has given approval to TC Energy to use county roads during construction of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.
The commission on Tuesday approved a route for moving TC Energy equipment, supplies and materials in Pennington County. The company has similar agreements with other counties involved along the pipeline which would pass through western South Dakota.
The Rapid City Journal says TC Energy is required to make any necessary improvements to the roads and keep them in good condition through the end of the construction project.