Community Labor News Forum

Featured Writers => Gregory A. Butler => Topic started by: GREGORYABUTLER on April 13, 2009, 07:50:47 pm

Title: JACKKNIFED ...the collapse of the Teamsters in the freight industry
Post by: GREGORYABUTLER on April 13, 2009, 07:50:47 pm
Title: JACKKNIFED [part 2]
Post by: GREGORYABUTLER on April 13, 2009, 07:56:51 pm
Also, the ALA's "Community Union" program had fizzled as well - in large part because it was competing for government and corporate grant foundation funding with other not for profit social service programs, many of which were more well established and had stronger ties with the Democratic Party.

So the ALA fizzled, the Atlanta organizing drive collapsed, and what was left of the "Community Union" program was spun off into an independent not for profit, run by UAW staff and funded by the Ford Foundation.

Meanwhile, Fitz and the MFCA were busy negotiating the April 1973 - March 1976 National Master Freight Agreement.

The talks were happening in a very different climate than the 1970 talks.

The Vietnam War was still raging - but since the withdrawal of American infantry in January 1971 almost no Americans were dying - which pretty much killed off the US anti war movement.

Between the death of the anti war movement and the collapse of the African American Civil Rights Movement, the whole political climate in America had drifted sharply to the right.

On the labor front, the US economy was dipping into a deep recession that, as it would turn out, ended up marking the end of total American domination of the world economy.

American workers were learning this the hard way - through plant closings and mass layoffs. It wasn't as easy to find a job as it was in 1970 - and even those who were working were seeing the value of their wages declining rapidly because of double digit inflation.

Consequently, wildcat strikes were rare - and it was easier for unions to get their members to settle for bad contracts.

The IBT was no exception - the teamster dissident movement was in it's death throes, and the remains of that movement in Nader's Professional Drivers Council and the International Socialists' Teamsters for a Decent Contract were not nearly strong enough to carry out any kind of serious resistance on the ground.

As for Jimmy Hoffa and his movement - they basically agreed with Fitz's approach to the contract, their only difference was that they wanted Hoffa at the table instead of Fitz!

In any case, Fitz's supporters and Hoffa's supporters were busy scuffling with each other in various Teamsters locals over who would hold office.

Some of these fights got quite ugly - in Detroit in particular...the hometown of both gut really ugly really fast, with the usual Central States Teamsters tactics of firebombings and carbombs and beatings - especially in local 299, the home local of both Hoffa and Fitzsimmons.

The truly amazing thing about all the violence was the fact that Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Fitzsimmons positions on Teamster labor issues were IDENTICAL.

There was no political difference between Fitz's supporters and Jimmy's - except the question of which one of them would run the union.

The victor in that struggle would be able to give out all the low show and no show patronage jobs - organizers, business agents, "general organizers" -  that served "at the pleasure of the General President" and all the goodies that went with those jobs - high five figure salaries, Cadillac sedans or Lincoln Town Cars (with the gas paid for by the union) union credit cards, trips to Florida, Las Vegas or Palm Springs on "union business" ect.

To some, those perks were worth killing and dying for.

In this climate, Fitz was able to ram through a really bad NMFA.

The trucking companies won the right to fire shop stewards for leading wildcat strikes - and the union pledged itself to help them do it.

In return for becoming a designated strikebreaker, the IBT and it's locals won immunity from damage lawsuits for those illegal wildcat strikes.

Stewards had their rights sharply curtailed - they were specifically banned from calling any type of work stoppage, legal or otherwise, and their powers at the truck terminals were sharply limited to being in the room when a worker gets disciplined and putting up official Teamsters Union notices on the bulletin board!

It also became much easier for trucking companies to fire any other worker who led a wildcat strike - and to impose discipline on strike participants.

As bad as that was, the worst giveback  - the one that caused the most long term harm for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as a freight union and led to the present day deunionization of the industry, was in an MOU  ["memorandum of understanding"] attached to the agreement.

It was called the Special Commodities Rider.

The Motor Freight Carriers Association had claimed that some of it's member firms in the truckload sector wanted to haul fresh fruit and vegetables from the farms to the warehouses and frozen foods packing plants, but they could not profitably do so because the Teamsters pay scale was so much higher than what non union produce truck drivers were getting.

So, the MFCA wanted it's carriers to have the right to hire non union drivers to haul that cargo - and non union dockworkers and mechanics to handle the cargo and service those non union operated rigs.

Fitz agreed with the MFCA's request.

The Special Commodities Rider required that the non union drivers and terminal workers would be employed by separate divisions of the union trucking companies - totally abandoning the NMFA's Successorship Clause.

Successorship clauses are common in almost all craft union labor contracts in this country - they require that if the owners of the signatory companies open up new firms in the same business, they have to be covered by the same union contract.

It's a way of keeping unionized bosses from setting up shell companies as a way of dodging their obligations under their union agreements.

The Special Commodities Rider totally gutted the NMFA's successorship clause.

Worse yet, despite the MFCA's dubious claim that the union carriers only wanted to haul fresh produce, there was no limit on what type of cargo could be hauled by the non union subsidiaries of trucking companies.

Nor was their a limit on how much freight or how many routes had to be left on the union side of these companies - the agreement only said that they had to leave some of their routes union - that literally could mean 1 truck with 1 driver hauling 1 load for 1 client!

Schneider National, the first Teamster employer to invoke the Special Commodities Rider, sure as hell interpreted it like that.

They were a 48 state truckload carrier based in Wisconsin - they set up a non union company with an almost identical name [Schneider - which was so similar to the union company that they literally painted their trucks the same color - orange with the company name written in black], and quickly shifted almost all of their freight from their union side to their scab side.

In short order, the non union Schneider ended up with 10,000 non union truckload drivers - and unionized Schneider National was reduced to 250 teamster drivers.

Incidentally, despite the MFCA's claims that the Special Commodities Rider was needed to help union companies haul fresh produce, the only cargo left with the unionized Schneider National was....fresh milk!

In other words, the only cargo they hauled union was the very type of agricultural freight that, supposedly, they needed low wage non union workers to haul!!!

Every other Schneider National truckload client switched over to the lower cost non union Schneider.

Within a few years, almost the entire truckload sector of the freight industry shifted from union to this new status.

The less than truckload sector would follow within a decade.

Thusly the Teamsters entered the age of Double Breasting - the term the carriers made up to describe their new status as part unionized part scab firms.

This was an earthshaking development - but nobody talked about it at the time - not Nader's middle class driver advocates in the Professional Drivers Council, not the International Socialists and their Teamsters for a Decent Contract, not Jimmy Hoffa and his supporters (now united in a national group of their own, which was unimaginatively named "Helping Old Friends Feel Active" -  the abbreviation of which, of course, spells H.O.F.F.A.)

Hoffa's forces were too busy fighting Fitz's people for control of local 299 and other major Central States locals to actually struggle over a question of union principle!

Especially since Hoffa - who'd been signing substandard "white paper" contracts with freight carriers since 1939 - essentially agreed with how Fitz handled the 73' - '76 NMFA negotiations!

Hoffa's only beef was that he wasn't at the head of the table making the sellout!

As for the militant shop stewards in the terminals - the folks who had led the 1970 nationwide wildcat strike - between the recession and the IBT letting the carriers fire aggressive shop stewards pretty much at will, they had had their spirit broken and were unable to lead any effective resistance to the 1973 contract.

The only major Teamsters strike that year was the strike by Teamsters local 804 at UPS in New York City and Long Island. The issue was the substandard National UPS Agreement which, by allowing unlimited part timers, undercut the New York agreement.

New Jersey Teamsters local 177 (an affiliate of the Genovese family dominated Joint Council # 70 - run by the Provenzano brothers) openly scabbed on the local 804 UPS teamsters.

That led to local 804 picketing New Jersey UPS service centers which led to local 804 members being arrested and one local 804 teamster actually getting run over and killed by a local 177 member at a New Jersey terminal that was breaking the strike by handling strikebound packages from New York City.

Eventually, local 804 was forced to yield - and, along with UPS locals in Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago was eventually put under the substandard National Master UPS Agreement.

This was the beginning of UPS's status as one of the nation's leading low wage employers of disposable part time labor - a status all the more galling because UPS was a unionized company!

The president of local 804, Marine Corps veteran and second generation UPS driver Ron Carey, never forgave Fitz for 1973 - so he used his street smarts and the fact that his local was in New York City, the media capital of the nation, to launch a low key campaign for the general presidency of the Teamsters.

While Fitz was undercutting union conditions at the nation's # 1 small package firm, he was doing absolutely nothing to unionize the # 2 carrier.

That was a Memphis, Tennessee-based air freight carrier/express mail delivery firm owned by former Marine Corps fighter pilot Fred Smith - a company called Federal Express (a name the company's advertising consultants soon shortened to FedEx).

They were fast, and efficient - and rigidly militaristic to work for - and as FedEx rapidly expanded in every major US market, the Teamsters made absolutely no effort to try and unionize them.

The nation's # 3 small package carrier, a Dayton, Ohio-based air freight company called Airborne Express, was allowed to operate double breasted.

In New York, Harry Davidoff's grotesquely mobbed up local 295 had Airborne signed up to a white paper agreement based on NMFA.

Like many other airfreight carriers at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Airborne Express was permitted by Davidoff to assign part of their workforce to Teamsters local 858, a low wage airfreight clerks local run by his son Mike.

Also, like every other airfreight carrier at JFK, Airborne also had to deal with the men behind Davidoff - Lucchese family captain Paul Vario, newly minted Gambino family captain John Gotti (a convicted truck hijacker who had replaced the ailing Aniello "Mr Neil" Dellacroche) and independent truck hijacker James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke - all of whom expected their tribute, and the right to steal air freight without interference.

Airborne's pilots, mechanics and freight handlers in Dayton were also signed up to an NMFA-based white paper agreement.

As for the rest of the company - Airborne was allowed to use an unlimited number of non union air freight drivers and freight handlers, as long as they were - at least on paper - on the payroll of other companies.

The local delivery industry, by and large, stayed union.

This was true even in construction - where the building trades unions were under major attack (by 1978, most construction in the Intermountain West, the South, the suburbs of the big Northeastern, Midwestern and Pacific Northwest cities and most of California outside of the Bay Area was 80% deunionized).

The IBT was able to preserve it's strength in building materials delivery in part because of the union's ties to cosa nostra in the Northeast, Midwest and Nevada, and in part because the lumber yards and readimix concrete companies didn't actively deunionize the way the construction contractors did.

Also, many local delivery companies - especially frozen foods warehouses - took advantage of the Teamsters Union's willingness to allow them to cut the pension benefits of their workers.

An extreme case of this happened in Alaska during the construction of the Alaska Oil Pipeline from 1973 to 76.

Because of the extreme climate in that state, construction is very seasonal - work can only be done in the dead of winter, when the ice roads are cold enough to carry heavy trucks, or in the Arctic summer, when the ground is soft enough to dig.

Because of this, the contractors would bring in large groups of out of state workers to carry out the work in short intense bursts of activity during the brief building season up there.

In the case of Alaska Teamsters local 959, lots of teamsters from other locals in "the lower 48" would come up for a few months to haul materials to the remote work camps on the pipeline and then go home.

Over 4,000 out of state teamsters worked on that pipeline - some for every season of the 3 year job.

And every one of those out of state workers got cheated out of their benefits by local 959 - with the collusion of the contractors and the trucking companies (that pension fraud kept their hourly benefit costs low - since their pension fund contributions only needed to cover the relatively few permanent members of Teamsters local 959)

On the other end of the country, the Provenzano brothers local 560 allowed a local less than truckload (LTL) carrier, New England Motor Freight (NEMF) to sign a white paper agreement letting them pay less than NMFA wages and benefits.

Then, NEMF asked for permission to go double breasted - and Tony Pro, Sammy Pro and Nunzio said OK and let them do it.

Then, NEMF decided to go completely non union - and did so, with the blessings of the Provenzanos (the only union left at NEMF was the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represented the company's mechanics - years later, that IAM local would reunionize the drivers and dockworkers).

Across the river in New York City, Teamsters local 138 - the supermarket and frozen food warehouse local in Brooklyn and Queens - was allowing Key Foods Supermarkets to violate seniority rules and to underpay certain workers.

The Colombo family associates who ran the local would make sure that any worker who complained would be identified to the bosses - who would then fire them, and then local 138's business agents would make sure they stayed fired by sabotaging the handling of their grievance.

Local 138 wasn't the only warehouse local selling out it's members - far from it!

Nationally, grocery warehouse locals all over the country were letting employers impose production quotas, and were laying off workers who weren't fast enough - especially high seniority workers with higher wages and more vacation time.

Technically, it was illegal to fire a worker for not meeting production quotas - but as long as the companies said the worker was fired for "not following production methods" the firing was OK.

That loophole cost a lot of older teamsters their jobs and their pensions.

But it wasn't only warehouse teamsters getting screwed over - construction teamsters were taking it on the chin too - even in the Big Apple, where the construction unions were still the strongest in the nation.

Building Materials Teamsters local 282, the main construction drivers local in the city, and the only major Gambino family run construction union in New York City, was deeply involved in building trades labor racketeering.

Local 282 had "working teamster foremen" on every major union jobsite in the city.

Despite the misleading name, "working teamster foremen" were actually shop stewards who were supposed to keep non union trucks off New York jobsites.

In practice, companies that used scab trucks just had to pay tribute to the teamster foremen (who passed up a percentage to the family) in return for the right to use underpaid non union drivers.

While the Gambino family and local 282 subverted truck driver unionism on the rough construction end of the trades, the Bonnano family's local 814 did the same thing on the finish work end of the business.

Teamsters local 814 - the New York City and Long Island moving van drivers and helpers - let certain commercial movers and office furniture installation contractors (the ones that paid tribute to the Bonnano family) to pay below union scale wages to their helpers on certain jobs.

Locals 282 and 814 were not alone - those kind of scams were common in a number of the Genovese family dominated building trades unions in the city at that time - in particular the Carpenters, Concrete Laborers, Mason Tenders and Drywall Tapers - so it wasn't that surprising that the Bonnano family and the Gambino family were copying those tactic in the little piece of the construction rackets they controlled.

Similar deals happened all up and down the country - local trucking companies stayed union, but under substandard conditions.

In port trucking, the sea freight hauling carriers and the stevedoring contractors decided to be done with the Teamsters Union.

The sea freight hauling companies in Los Angeles Harbor never forgot that, alone among local trucking firms in the country, they'd been as hard hit by the national teamsters wildcat strike of 1973 as any of the over the road carriers.

They also, as a direct consequence of that strike, had seen Gunner Hansen, the 400 pound pro trucking company gangster who had dominated Long Beach Teamsters local 692 for years, defeated in a union election - making it a whole lot harder for the carriers to get away with labor abuses on the piers.

So, they fired all of their teamster port truckers - and agreed to hire them if they were to incorporate themselves as independent owner operator truckers, and would supply their own trucks (they only had to buy the tractors - the chassis that the sea freight containers sat on would still be supplied by the trucking companies).

Teamsters local 692's new leadership was utterly unprepared for this blatant union busting and didn't even try to unionize the drivers - both the former teamsters and the independent drivers who came in from outside the industry and already owned their own trucks and had their own DOT numbers.

Other sea freight carriers got the same idea - within a few years, most of the 50,000 teamsters who had hauled sea freight to and from the docks were no longer in union - either they'd been forced to become owner operators, or they were replaced by new owner operator truckers.

None of the sea freight locals even tried to do anything about this - not in Seattle, or Portland, or Oakland, or Long Beach, or San Diego, or Houston, or New Orleans, or Tampa, or Miami, or Port Everglades, or Charleston, or Wilmington, or Norfolk, or Baltimore, or Port Newark/Port Elizabeth/Port of New York, or Boston - all of the deep sea ports had their trucking deunionized without any resistance from the IBT.

Of course, the other waterfront unions were just as passive - the Communist Party USA-led International Longshore and Warehouse Union out on the West Coast was just as passive as the Gambino family associated Irish gangster-run International Longshoremen's Association was on the East.

And all 6 of the sailors unions - Masters, Mates and Pilots, Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, Sailors Union of the Pacific, Marine Firemen's Union, the Seafarers International Union and the National Maritime Union - were all totally silent on the attack on the Teamsters Union on the piers.

As all this was happening, Jimmy Hoffa was preparing to contest the Teamsters General Presidency at the 1976 general convention (in - where else? - Las Vegas, the city the Central States Pension Fund built, and venue for every IBT general convention for the last 4 decades).

Not that Jimmy had any real solution to any of these problems - but he still had his charisma and his ability to lie to teamsters with a straight face and get them to believe in him while he betrayed them.

Cosa nostra was not happy about this - Fitz was much easier to work with, and Hoffa was a lightning rod for law enforcement (and as it was, there was lots of FBI attention being paid to the union already).

And none of the mobbed up Teamsters leaders were less happy to see a return of Hoffa than the Genovese family's Provenzano crew.

They were dealing with serious criminal charges of their own (the unavenged ghosts of Anthony Castellito and Walter Glockner were about to catch up with Tony Pro) and they did not need any more law enforcement heat - and it was the consensus of the Provenzanos and all the Teamster-connected mob bosses that there would be a LOT of heat falling upon them if there was another Hoffa administration.

So, on July 30, 1975, Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano arranged to have a sit down with Hoffa in the suburbs of Detroit.

But Tony Pro didn't show.

According to press accounts published shortly afterwards - which have never been conclusively proved, or disproved, by subsequent investigations - Tony Pro had Local 560 business agent (and Genovese family soldier) Salvatore Briguglio and his brother (and fellow Teamsters official and gangster) Gabriel flown via private plane to a small airport near Detroit.

It is believed that they met up with Hoffa's foster son, Teamsters Union "organizer" Charles "Chuckie" O'Brien, who in turn is believed to have taken them to meet his foster father.

Hoffa was never seen again after July 30, 1975 - needless to say, it's a reasonable assumption that he was murdered, and his body disposed of in a cosa nostra run scrap yard in the Detroit area.

Sal Briguglio was killed in a New York mob hit 3 years later - his brother Gabriel went to jail with Tony Pro when the feds finally went after local 560 - and Chuckie O'Brien kept his mouth shut about his involvement.

Hoffa's "movement" - based as it was on illusions in Hoffa by teamsters at it's base and blind ambition for patronage jobs from a reelected General President Hoffa by Teamsters Union officers and staff in it's leadership - did not last very long after his murder.

Hoffa's son, labor lawyer Jim Hoffa, did make an effort to prod the feds into probing the case - and to this day, a lot of older teamsters still believe in the legend of Jimmy Hoffa The Great Labor Leader - but Hoffa's political movement in the Teamsters Union died with him.

Title: JACKKNIFED [part 3]
Post by: GREGORYABUTLER on April 13, 2009, 07:59:31 pm
Some of the followers of the now defunct Hoffa movement drifted into the orbit of the International Socialists Teamsters for a Decent Contract, which was waging a campaign to oppose the 1976-79 NMFA and to have a token opposition presence at the 1976 Teamsters international convention.

At this point, TDC and Ralph Nader's Professional Drivers Council were all that were left of a once vast movement of dissident teamsters.

Fitz's only grassroots support came from the local Teamsters Union officers and their bands of thugs and gangsters.

One of the more ambitious local Teamsters leaders - Jackie Presser (who had taken his father's leadership posts when he became mortally ill with cancer, and now held 8 separate official International Brotherhood of Teamsters full time jobs plus a job with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees and one with the Retail Clerks International Association) set up an organization called the Brotherhood of Loyal Americans and Strong Teamsters ["BLAST"] to counter TDC.

Presser was known to have a sick sense of humor, and the name was a bad joke on Presser's own long personal history as an arsonist and carbomber.  

Also, one of Presser's 8 jobs was public relations director for the Teamsters - and this was part of that effort.

The organization was basically a cover for the classic Teamsters Union goon squad terrorist campaign that Presser was unleashing against TDC, the last remnant of the once powerful dissident movement in the IBT.

Presser, a very intelligent man and one of the few IBT officers (other than the late Jimmy Hoffa) who at all understood the power of the media, also exposed TDC's achilles heel - it's dependence on corporate foundation grants to fund it's operation

Many teamsters were - and still are - deeply uncomfortable with the idea of a group funded by the bosses intervening in the political life of their union, and Presser was able to play on that natural and basically healthy class instinct.

In any case, Fitz was able to get the 1976-79 contract approved - there were small brief local strikes in some of the big cities in the Central States, most notably in his home local in Detroit, but the contract still passed.

Worse yet, the main focus of TDC - and the remaining dissidents in the truck terminals - had been on the economic package.

For the price of a modest wage increase, Fitz and the MFCA were able to get the Special Commodities Rider's language incorporated into the contract - where it would continue to allow union carriers to set up non union subsidiaries.

Also, Fitz and the MFCA were able to keep in the language that weakened the power of shop stewards in the terminals, and allowed shop stewards and other workers who led wildcat strikes to be fired at will by the carriers.

When the National Master UPS Agreement, and the local UPS agreements in New York, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco came up in May 1976, again Fitz let the UPS teamsters go on strike briefly - and then, after the big city UPS workers had been given a chance to "blow off some steam" by striking, Fitz rammed through all of the concessions that UPS wanted in the agreements.

In UPS's case, that meant that every UPS Teamsters contract in the US now allowed the unlimited use of part timers.

This meant that the full time career teamster UPS loaders who earned the same pay as every other UPS teamster could now be replaced by college students for whom UPS was a "transitional job" - a short term source of employment to tide them over until they graduated college and went on to their real job.

This was the beginning of the McDonaldsization of UPS - and was a big defeat not only for UPS workers and for teamsters but for young workers in general.

The International Socialists had a front group in the UPS teamsters locals too - it was called UPSurge, and it was virtually identical to TDC.

With UPS pulling down the bar, their non union competitor FedEx and their double breasted competitor Airborne Express were able to reduce hours of work, pay and benefits for the loaders at their firms as well.

After the concessionary 1976-79 NMFA and National Master UPS Agreement were signed, the International Socialists merged their two teamster front groups, TDC and UPSurge, into one - Teamsters for a Democratic Union.

They then set out to have a token presence at the 1976 convention - and succeeded, by getting local 299 shop steward and former Hoffa supporter Pete Camarata to take the floor at the convention.

This didn't really accomplish much - but the International Socialists thought it was a very useful public relations victory (and a good way of reaching out to "reform" local union officers - guys like Ron Carey of New York City UPS Teamsters local 804 - who the Trotskyists thought would be the key to electing a 'reform' leadership at the international union level in the IBT).

Meanwhile, the greed of certain New York gangsters was paving the way for a full scale federal attack on organized crime in the Teamsters Union.

James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke and his hijackers carried out the biggest armed robbery in the history of the world in 1978.

Using information obtained from a teamster foreman with massive gambling debts, Jimmy the Gent's crew robbed the Lufthansa Airlines freight hangar at Kennedy Airport. They stole between $ 6 million and $ 10 million dollars worth of cash and negotiable securities from the hangar (to this day nobody knows for sure how much that haul actually was worth).

Jimmy the Gent then turned around and killed almost every single person who could link him to the robbery.

He'd just come home from a federal prison sentence, was still on conditional release and didn't want to go back to jail.

Also, he didn't want to share any of that rich score with the men who actually stole it for him - Paul Vario and John Gotti got their tribute, and the thieves who did the work got killed.

Starting with James "Stacks" Edwards, the crew's sole African American member, who was killed because he didn't destroy the trucks used in the heist (the cops found them and traced them to him) and not stopping until he'd killed every person in on the heist, including all of the thieves and even the hairdresser girlfriend of one of the robbers (who's only offense was being questioned by the FBI - she said nothing, but got killed by Burke's hitmen anyway).

Jimmy the Gent didn't kill the teamster foreman - who cooperated with the feds - nor did he kill longtime friend and associate Henry Hill, a Lucchese family associate who then turned around and cooperated with the feds to beat a cocaine dealing case.

Hill's testimony led to the incarceration of Jimmy the Gent and Paul Vario, and the collapse of both of their criminal organizations.

The aftermath of the Lufthansa robbery not only ended the storied career of Jimmy the Gent, it also emboldened the airlines and their shippers to demand that the feds crack down on all of the other racketeers in the air freight industry.

Meanwhile, the decay of the Teamsters Union continued in the freight sector - and accelerated in 1978, when President Jimmy Carter and Senator Ted Kennedy (two great "friends of labor") proposed the deregulation of trucking.

The Interstate Commerce Commission had regulated freight rates and truck routes since 1934 - President Carter and Senator Kennedy wanted to eliminate that, and let carriers pick their own routes and set their rates.

This would be a windfall for the shippers - because rates would fall rapidly, and freight routes would adjust to reflect current manufacturing centers, warehouses and consumer markets.

The IBT leadership didn't have a plan to deal with this - Fitz had bet the union's political fortune back in 1968 on continuing Republican control of the White House - but Nixon's resignation in August 1974 and President Gerald Ford's defeat in the 1976 elections had totally screwed up that plan.

As for the International Socialists and TDU - like most of the American far left, they were closet supporters of the Democratic Party, so it was impossible for them to publicly oppose a Democratic president and the most liberal Democratic Party senator, no matter what they did to workers.

Consequently, there was no real opposition to the deregulation of the trucking industry - no demonstrations, no mass rallies, no truck caravans converging on Washington, no nationwide freight strikes, nothing.

There was another National Master Freight Agreement negotiated during the time the deregulation bill was being debated - the 1979-82 NMFA - but the deregulation issue didn't even come up.

Fitz didn't raise the deregulation issue - neither did the International Socialists and TDU, nor the Naderites' Professional Drivers Council, nor did FASH, the national steelhauler's caucus.

There was a brief national freight strike, and a slightly longer steelhaulers strike, and then, after the freighthaulers and steelhaulers had "blown off some steam", Fitz gave the MFCA everything it wanted in the 1979-82 NMFA.

The only gain for freight teamsters in that agreement was paid sick days - for the first time, freight workers could get 5 days of sick pay each year.

The Special Commodities Rider language that allowed union carriers to have non union double breasted companies was still incorporated into the text of the pact, and the trucking companies still had the right to break wildcat strikes and fire the shop stewards who led them, with the full assistance of the IBT.

Airborne Express and all of the other "white paper" carriers were also able to keep their substandard conditions - including Airborne's huge non union local air freight cartage operation.

They weren't the only double breasted carrier - there were lots of others now.

Sadly, neither the Trotskyists, nor the Naderites, nor the steelhaulers, made any of this mass deunionization an issue!

They had fought Fitz over a few pennies more in the mileage rate, and a slightly higher hourly wage - penny ante stuff, considering the fate of the whole unionized freight sector was at stake!

Meanwhile, President Carter and Senator Kennedy continued their efforts to deregulate the trucking sector - still with no coherent opposition either from the IBT leadership or the teamster dissident movement.

The best the IBT leadership could do was a ham handed effort to bribe Senator Howard Cannon (D-Nevada) that only succeeded in bringing more FBI heat on the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

At least they tried - in a pathetically stupid way, but at least they tried - TDU wasn't able to put up any kind of serious resistance at all to the Carter - Kennedy attack on America's largest blue collar union.

A union which was shrinking - by 1980, the IBT was down to 2.1 million members.

Deregulation came in that year - with bipartisan support and with no meaningful organized freight worker resistance.

Deregulation merely accelerated the deunionization of trucking which had begun in 1973 with Frank Fitzsimmons' Special Commodity Rider.

The trucking companies were starting to really take advantage of their NMFA sanctioned right to operate double breasted

Initially, it was mainly the truckload carriers that were going double breasted, but now less than truckload (LTL) carriers were following in their footsteps.

This trend accelerated after President Carter's deregulation plan came into effect.

Low rate independents and gypsies could now operate legally - and anybody with a truck could haul any load along any route at any rate without having to clear it with the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Neither Fitz nor TDU nor the Professional Drivers Council had any serious plan to deal with this crisis.

The best Fitz could do was returning to his old Nixon strategy of supporting the Republican Party - but when Ronald Reagan got elected president, the IBT didn't get any real political gain for their enthusiastic support for the GOP, since Reagan was a supporter of trucking deregulation.

Fitzsimmons didn't have to worry about that though - he had more pressing personal issues - he was dying of lung cancer.

Fitz  left this world not long after Reagan's inauguration - and was replaced by a former truck driver from Kansas City named Roy Williams.

Williams had a tough road ahead of him - he faced a federal investigation even before he got sworn in.

Williams got to negotiate his own NMFA and National UPS Master Agreement in 1982.

He actually had an easier time than Fitz had ever had - the opposition was weak (even though now unified under one umbrella - TDU) and it was in the middle of the Reagan recession, so teamsters were scared for their jobs, and terrified of going on strike.

UPS and the Motor Freight Carriers Association companies got whatever they wanted in their 1982-85 agreements - but that wasn't enough.

Corporate America wanted to take full advantage of the rapid fall in freight rates caused by President Carter's deregulation program - to do that, the power of the IBT and cosa nostra had to be broken.

Also, the major hotel chains who had come to dominate the Las Vegas casinos wanted to terminate their business relationships with the Central States Pension Fund and the IBT officials and cosa nostra figures who controlled those business relationships.

Parallel to that, the feds were launching a crackdown on labor racketeering in New York City - and the New York City building materials Teamsters were a big part of those investigations.

This caused the Chicago Outfit's leaders to panic - and start killing potential co defendants and witnesses.

One of those victims was Teamsters financial wizard Alan Dorfman, the head of the Central States Pension Fund and the financial godfather of the Las Vegas casinos, who met his death at the hands of unknown gunmen in the parking lot of a Chicago hotel.

At the time of his death, Dorfman had already been removed from office by the feds, who had taken over the administration of the Central States funds.

While the hoodlums were murdering each other and scrambling to stay out of prison, the men and women who's dues paid the leases on their Cadillacs were fighting for survival.

Between the recession and the Special Commodities Rider-sanctioned double breasting, it was a bad time to be a freight teamster.

Ironically enough, the industry was actually expanding - the NON UNION side of the industry!

Carriers were deunionizing right and left - and major less than truckload carriers like Consolidated Freightways, Yellow, Roadway, CCC, USF and NationsWay were setting up non union alter ego companies at a rapid clip (and transferring many of their clients to their double breasted subsidiaries).

Non union carriers that had avoided unionization in the 30's and 40's like Overnite and newly formed non union firms like Central Freight were also rapidly expanding - eliminating even more union jobs.

Even with all the factory workers, civil servants, brewery workers and other non drivers that Fitz and Williams had organized, the union was shrinking.

Membership plummeted from 2 million to only 1.5 million in just a few years.

Williams was unable to stay in office - between his failing health and the federal criminal investigation, he had to leave his post.

He was replaced by, arguably, one of the most corrupt men in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (and that's REALLY saying something!) - the notorious Jackie Presser.

Title: JACKKNIFED [part 4]
Post by: GREGORYABUTLER on April 13, 2009, 08:03:16 pm
Presser - as both a businessman and a labor official - sat on both side of the bargaining table.

That is, when he had time to sit down at all - Presser owned a bar and a jukebox repair company, and held 10 separate full time union posts!

He was the public relations director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, IBT international vice president, chairman of the Ohio Conference of Teamsters, head of Teamsters Joint Council # 41 in Cleveland, principal officer of 4 separate Teamsters locals  - and a Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees local - and a United Food and Commercial Workers supermarket clerks local!

Assuming that Presser actually showed up for work at all of these jobs (an amazing feat - since some of these positions were in the Cleveland area, some were in Detroit  while others were in Washington DC) he clocked an incredible 400 hours of labor each week.

What a work ethic!

He may not have worked all of those hours - but he sure as hell did get paid for all of them!

Presser collected a jaw dropping $ 740,000 a year in combined IBT salaries, making him the highest paid union official in the history of the world.

And that doesn't include the salaries he collected from his HERE and UFCW posts - or the income he drew from his businesses.

He also got 2 late model Cadillac sedans - with the gas paid for by teamster dues money - and a Gulfstream III jet  - with the members picking up the tab for the 2 pilots, flight attendant, mechanic, the jet fuel and the hangars in Washington DC and in Cleveland.

Unbeknownst to the Teamsters Union officers who selected him for the IBT presidency, Presser also had an 11th job - FBI informant!

His compensation for that was a "get out of jail free card" - as long as he told the feds everything they wanted to know, he could continue his racketeering operations unmolested by law enforcement.

One job that Presser had never held was - teamster!

As a teenager, he had been a full time criminal, then, after a brief stint in the Navy, he divided his time between his bar (which was funded by Central States Pension Fund loans), his jukebox maintenance business, his union officer posts (in unions that he'd never actually been a member of), and his racketeering career - and that vocational pattern continued for the rest of Presser's life.

This was a low point for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Presser made it worse at the first IBT convention he attended as president.

As had been a Teamsters convention tradition since the 1960's (when the union permanently moved it's conventions to Las Vegas), the 5 conferences (Canadian, Eastern, Central States, Southern and Western) held huge banquets each night - with the members picking up the tab for all the caviar, steaks, lobster, champagne (not to mention the strippers and prostitutes who were the overnight guests of the many male delegates who left their wives back home).

At the Eastern Conference Banquet at the convention, Presser (who weighed over 400 pounds) had male models dressed as ancient Roman gladiators carry him into the lavish million dollar event on a Roman Emperor's sedan chair.

The astonishing thing was - nobody in attendance (other than Presser's publicist - and the wife of a delegate who took a picture of the grotesque event and later made it available to the media) thought that there was anything wrong with this pathetic spectacle!

Truck drivers losing their jobs, having to work non union - or having their mileage rates, hourly wages and benefits cut by their own union just to stay employed - but out in Las Vegas their union leaders were living lives of disgusting gluttony, at the workers expense!

It's truly unfortunate that there was no mass opposition movement in the IBT to oppose this abominable criminalized leadership.

There was Teamsters for a Democratic Union, of course.

TDU had gotten stronger - it had taken over Ralph Nader's Professional Drivers Council, and with the collapse of the remains of the steelhaulers movement (the implosion of 80% of the American steel industry devastated the steelhaulers and their movement disintegrated as a result) they were the only opposition group left.

Unfortunately Solidarity (the former International Socialists - they borrowed the new name from the famous Polish trade union) did not have a serious program to deal with the crisis in the industry.

At a time when teamsters were looking for leadership, and would probably have followed TDU and Solidarity (a lot of teamsters respected them for taking on the gangsters) the Trotskyists were looking to find reform union leaders to follow behind, rather than taking leadership in their own hands.

Solidarity and TDU had another problem - a lot of dissident teamsters had illusions that the FBI was going to save them from cosa nostra, and give the workers decent gangster-free democratic unions.

This was a dangerous and deadly illusion - but Solidarity and TDU, in their rush to curry favor with reformist Teamsters local officers (many of whom did their best to aggressively encourage illusions in the FBI), did not try and explain to the teamsters the real reasons why the feds were meddling in the IBT.

The government didn't want a strong union in trucking - they wanted a weak union (or preferably no union at all) the better to reduce freight rates and trucker wages.

The feds had a triple goal - break the monopoly power of the major trucking lines, bring down freight rates, and break the power of cosa nostra in trucking.

To achieve those goals, the feds needed to break the pro trucking company leadership of the Teamsters Union, and replace them with a leadership that was beholden to the government, and would support the feds' pro shipper agenda.

The feds launched their attack at the Teamsters Union's weakest point - New Jersey Joint Council # 70 and Union City Teamsters local 560, the most blatantly wiseguy ruled affiliates of the entire IBT.

The Provenzanos were overthrown, Tony Pro finally got jailed, and the feds put local 560 under the control of a federal monitor.

There were no tears on the loading docks of North Jersey for the Provenzanos - other than a few well connected individuals who would lose their no show or no work jobs, there weren't any teamsters who were going to miss the Pros!

A lot of people - especially the many local 560 teamsters who's wages had been cut or who were cheated out of pension coverage or who lived in constant fear of being fired for "violating company production methods" (a warehouse industry lawyers euphemism for not working as fast as the boss wanted you to) actually welcomed FBI intervention - because they believed the feds were coming to help them!

The feds had another - pro corporate - agenda, of course, but they were coming nonetheless, and this time, for the entire union.

Across the river, in New York City and Long Island Joint Council # 16, the State of New York Organized Crime Task Force and the FBI were also going after the IBT.

The state was targeting the commercial waste carting cartel and Teamsters local 813, while the feds, as part of a broader probe of construction labor racketeering, went after construction drivers local 282 and commercial movers local 814.

There were corporate agendas involved with all of those cases.

The State of New York was working in league with the nation's three largest private waste hauling companies, Browning Ferris Industries (BFI), Waste Management, Inc (WMX) and USA Waste.

They were trying to break into the New York City market - and the only thing that kept them out was the waste haulers cartel. They needed law enforcement to break up that cartel, so they could come in and monopolize the market from the 300 small local firms that operated under cosa nostra protection.

As for the probes targeting the construction unions - the city's leading banks and real estate developers had long resented having to pay tribute to local mobsters, pay high construction prices to their contractors and to have to pay for the decent wages and benefits that union construction workers were paid.

They began resenting this even more when - thanks to the deunionization of city funded housing construction - construction worker wages in the residential sector fell sharply, but prices stayed just as high as they had been when that work was unionized (the mobbed up contractors were pocketing the difference).

The bankers and developers brought in the feds to break the power of the unions - which were the backbone of the cosa nostra cartels that kept construction prices and contractor profits high, at the developers and bankers expense.

The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (a very ambitious lawyer named Rudolph Giuliani) joined in this attack on cosa nostra linked unions.

Giuliani filed a federal civil lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America.

Every IBT general officer was also named as an individual - and  the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonnano and Colombo families, and the Chicago Outfit, as criminal enterprises, and the leaders of those families as individuals.

None of the employers associations were mentioned in this civil racketeering suit - not even the blatantly cosa nostra dominated ones like the Metropolitan Import Truckmen's Association, and certainly not the most powerful association in the industry, the Motor Freight Carriers Association.

Nor were any of the many trucking companies who had directly benefited from IBT labor racketeering - even firms like New England Motor Freight (NEMF), who had actually bribed their way into deunionizing their drivers- were mentioned in the suit either.

To the extent that trucking company management got mentioned at all, they were described as "innocent victims"!

The shippers - the big corporations who were the ultimate beneficiaries of the feds intervention in the Teamsters - actually were innocent victims, in a way.

After all, it was their freight being hijacked and their rates that were being pushed up thanks to the anti trust practices of cosa nostra and the trucking companies.

And, of course, the biggest victims were the men and women who worked in the road freight industry - because it was their union that was being perverted and subverted.

But the trucking companies were far from innocent - in particular the big carriers, who had gotten their leading positions in the industry as directly because of cosa nostra-run freight cartels.

Presser began frantic negotiations with the feds - both openly through union lawyers in talks with Giuliani and through the back channel of his FBI handlers.

He was seeking a settlement that would maintain his control over the union - and would avoid any kind of jail time.

Presser, like his predecessor Roy Williams, had another pressing issue - a medical one. He was dying of cancer, and he was struggling for his life as he fought the feds and cosa nostra to keep hold of the union.

Between avoiding death from cancer, avoiding death from a cosa nostra hit, staying out of prison and maintaining his post as general president of the Teamsters Union, Presser had a lot on his plate.

So when the two big national Teamsters Union agreements, NMFA and UPS, came up in 1985, Presser didn't ask for very much of anything at the table.

Nor did TDU put any fire under his feet - they had concerns of their own.

As Trotskyists, Solidarity should have opposed the government takeover of the IBT on principle. But, as practical opportunists, they were trying to figure out a way to put a leftist face on the FBI takeover of the union, and to actively be a participant in it, while still looking like socialists.

Also, Solidarity had another problem.

Like a lot of opportunist socialists, they basically believed that only college educated middle class people were capable of actually understanding socialist politics.

They felt that workers were far too stupid, conservative and shortsighted to be socialists, and could only be tricked into supporting socialism by hiding socialist politics behind the cover of "good trade unionism".

Because of these basically anti working class beliefs, Solidarity been desperately trying to conceal their politics from teamsters since they started TDU back in the early 1970's.

That had actually played straight into the hands of Jackie Presser - who, as IBT PR director had always done his best to pull TDU's Trotskyist leaders out of the closet and expose their politics to teamsters.

TDU continued with this "self redbating".

They couldn't put forward TDU's longtime leader Ken Paff, because his socialist politics had long ago been exposed by Jackie Presser.

Title: JACKKNIFED [part 5]
Post by: GREGORYABUTLER on April 13, 2009, 08:05:05 pm
Nor could they put forth their most famous member, Diana Kilmury.

She was the first woman construction driver in British Columbia/Yukon Territory Construction Teamsters local 155.

Kilmury was famous in teamster dissident circles for heroically standing up to her local's leadership while she was still recovering from a horrible traffic accident - and for being the only delegate at the 1984 Teamsters convention to stand up to Jackie Presser and his B.L.A.S.T. goons.

Kilmury had a triple handicap in TDU's views - she was a socialist, she was a Canadian and she was a woman.

Solidarity pandered to the imagined sexism of male teamsters...and totally ignored the women teamsters who made up a third of the union and a majority of some of the IBT's trade divisions (industrial teamsters, civil service, ect) - not to mention the men who would vote for a woman if she was a union militant.

Kilmury was just about the only woman in her 10,000 member construction local - but they'd elected her as a convention delegate!

But Solidarity's stereotype of teamsters as sexist, racist and nationalist neanderthals who's alleged bigotry had to be pandered to prevailed.

Nor could they put any other of their leaders out there as candidates for general president - because Presser had outed them as socialists too.

Also, some of the other TDU leaders had Kilmury-style "handicaps" - Solidarity felt they were unelectable because they were women, or African American, or Latino ect (again, Solidarity's classist stereotype of White male teamsters as reactionary bigots prevailed over the far more complicated reality).

And both the Hoffa movement and the steelhaulers movement had disappeared, so there was no longer a deep pool of White, male, right wing, militant shop stewards with conservative Democratic (or better yet, Republican) politics - guys like Pete Camarata  - who could be put forward as respectable TDU facemen.

So they had to look to reformist local union leaders - of a certain type.

They couldn't be Canadian - or African American, or Latino, or women.

They couldn't be too leftist - this left out a number of New York Teamster leaders with ties to the Communist Party USA - most notably Bill Nuchow of white collar workers local 840 and Dan Kane of Western Union telex workers local 111.

But they could have a working relationship with cosa nostra - as long as it was at arm's length (a quality that Carey, Nuchow, Kane and just about every supposedly "reformist" local officer in the IBT shared).

The logical candidate (based on Solidarity's self imposed racial, gender and politics limitations) was Ron Carey - the president of New York City UPS Teamsters local 804.

Carey was White, male, an ex marine - and a registered Republican!

He also had tremendous political ambition - ever since he'd gotten himself profiled as a heroic, honest, sincere and uncorruptable union officer by New York Magazine writer Steve Brill in his 1978 book "The Teamsters", Carey had been seeking a road to the general presidency.

The federal takeover would be just such a road.

Carey and TDU would be a perfect match.

TDU had a national organization - three of them, actually. TDU itself, Labor Notes Magazine (another Solidarity front) and Solidarity itself.

Solidarity also could draw people and resources from it's other labor front groups - two separate organizations with the same name, New Directions (one in the United Auto Workers, the other in New York City Transport Workers Union local 100).

The Trotskyists' multi faced organization had lots of wealthy 60's radicals on their mailing lists, a legion of millionaire limousine leftists and campus radicals turned upscale middle class professionals.

Some of these upscale radicals were as famous as they were rich - like film producer Oliver Stone and rock star Frank Zappa - but even the less prominent of these high net worth socialists could back up their respectable radical politics with their ample checkbooks.

And Ron Carey was the perfect faceman - cause even Jackie Presser couldn't redbait a Republican!

The feds needed both Carey and TDU - Carey as somebody with a respectable labor leadership background, and TDU because they were socialists, to make the federal takeover of the IBT look "pro labor" to the teamsters in the freight barns.

Meanwhile, Presser was seeking allies.

Through the good offices of local 840 chief Bill Nuchow and local 111 head Dan Kane, those same leftist New York City Teamsters officers who were too red for TDU, Presser got the public support of famed civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and, just as importantly, the private backing of the Communist Party USA.

That public support and behind the scenes lobbying enabled Jackie Presser to bring the IBT back into the AFL-CIO in 1987, and to get the public endorsement (and, far more importantly, access to the government and corporate connections) of the head of the federation, Lane Kirkland.

Presser and TDU's high level politics didn't stop the decay in the trucking terminals - the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Presser dropped the "Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America" part of the official name) was down to just 1.3 million members (a 50% decline from the glory days of the 1960's), and was suffering a net loss of 30,000 members a year.

Unionized freight truckers had a new enemy to contend with - the railroads.

During the 1970's, the Pennsylvania Central Railroad, the dominant rail carrier in the Northeast and Great Lakes States, used a buyout by the government's Conrail system to get out of railroading (the corporation refocused to concentrate on it's considerably more profitable big city real estate development operations).

Conrail in the Northeast and Midwest - and the dominant carriers in the South (CSX, Chesapeake System, Norfolk Southern) the West (Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Burlington Northern) and Upstate New York and New England (Guilford Transportation and the Canadian National Railroad) - spun off their labor intensive passenger routes to the government owned AMTRAK system or to local transit authorities and cut all of their unprofitable freight service.

On the lines that remained, they cut labor costs to the bone.

They launched a coordinated nationwide offensive against their unions and their work rules - and they won.

From a minimum of 5 workers (in 4 different unions) per freight train they now had 2 workers (in two different unions) on those trains, with no limit on workday, train length or mileage.

The locomotive firemen, who's job had long ago been made redundant by coal's replacement by diesel fuel and electricity, all got laid off permanently. Their union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, got folded into the Order of Railway Conductors.

The brakemen and trainmen lost their jobs too - and the conductors had to do their car hitching and unhitching work as well as their work keeping track of the cargo. Their union, the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, dissolved too, and it's remains joined the ORC (now renamed the United Transportation Union).

The locomotive engineers kept their jobs, and their union, because somebody had to drive the train - also, locomotive engineers have to have a special federal license to drive a train, so they aren't as interchangeable as other railroad crafts.

On the platforms and in the railroad yards, they went from 8 unions to 6, work rules were gutted and the 12 hour day (and on some of the long haul lines in the Intermountain West, the 14 hour day) were restored.

On some carriers, one conductor and one locomotive engineer could now do the work of 100 long haul teamsters (200 teamsters, if the carriers were using sleeper service - as many trucking companies did on long haul Intermountain West runs).

The trucking companies took advantage - and with the new "piggyback" or "intermodal" service, they loaded their trailers right onto the back of railroad flatcars.

Piggyback/intermodal was win win for both sets of freight bosses - and lose lose for both sets of freight workers.

Every trailer on a train cost a teamster a freight run (or two teamsters in the case of the longer sleeper truck routes) - and, the railroads could replace a whole crew of a dozen or more railroad freighthandlers taking the freight off a truck box by box and putting the boxes in a boxcar with just three railroad freighthandlers - one running a crane lifting the trailer off the road and putting it on the back of a flatcar, the other two on the flatcar chaining it in place.

The impact of piggyback service actually shattered the freighthandlers union.

The Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks collapsed, and it's remnants were cobbled together with the remains of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the Switchmen's League of North America and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen to form the Transportation Communications Union - a much weaker organization that was a lot less than the sum of it's parts.

Other than one national strike in 1978, the railroad unions were largely passive in the face of massive attacks on themselves and their members.

Piggyback service not only helped break the railroad unions, it also began to seriously cut into teamster employment.

Presser really wasn't in a position to do anything about that - or to fight for the two largest groups of members he directly bargained for, the 200,000 workers left under the National Master Freight Agreement and the 130,000 UPS teamsters, who's pacts came up in the spring of 1988.

The freight workers got a mediocre NMFA, with the same critical flaws as every NMFA since 1973.

The UPS part timers really got screwed in their agreement.

Presser agreed to freeze starting pay for part timers at $ 8.50 an hour, while full timers would see their starting rate increase.

That was a permanent starting pay freeze - and, to this day, 21 years and a lot of cost of living increases later, UPS part timers start at $ 8.50/hr.

UPS also got the right to use lower paid workers - air express drivers - for certain types of delivery work. Some of these air express drivers were actually part timers - the first time UPS had been allowed to use part timers for driving work.

One of the reason the freight agreement was subpar, and the UPS agreement was an outright betrayal of the part timers, was Presser's increasingly critical situation.

He absentmindedly negotiated those contracts between high level summit meetings with politicians, union chiefs and the feds and frequent trips to the Cleveland Clinic for chemotherapy and radiation treatment for his inoperable brain tumor.

Presser ended up dying shortly thereafter, replaced as general president by one Weldon Mathis, the general secretary treasurer.

Mathis was a career business agent from Atlanta Teamsters local 728.

He had only briefly worked as a teamster before becoming a full time union officer in 1950, and, in typical IBT leader fashion, he handed his local over to his sons when he advanced to higher office.

Mathis even split off part of the local to create local 528, so both of his sons could have local unions of their very own!

Needless to say, nobody bothered to ask Georgia teamsters their opinion on that!

The only major "highlight" of the Mathis administration in local 728 was his good old boy-based leadership's role in sabotaging the joint UAW-IBT African American workers organizing drive back in 1968.

Mathis time in the general president's chair was very brief - he was quickly ousted by Salvatore "Sammy Pro" Provenzano and Joseph "Joe T" Trerotola, who wanted an Eastern Conference guy with stronger cosa nostra ties in the presidency.

They picked Billy McCarthy from Boston Teamsters local 25.

McCarthy was a former freight driver - and made history as the first actual freight industry worker to serve as IBT general president.

He'd been a business agent for many years, and had close ties with the wiseguys - both Boston's Irish organized crime family, the cosa nostra families in Providence, Rhode Island and New York City and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.

He resumed Presser's negotiations with Giuliani - talks that became far more urgent with the arrest of Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno.

Fat Tony was the owner of S & A Concrete, a major hirise concrete contractor in New York City. He was also the underboss of the Genovese crime family, and in that latter capacity he was responsible for negotiating all major disputes in construction and trucking in New York City, and for broader labor and union governance issues related to the Teamsters and the building trades.

These high level discussions, involving billion dollar industries and the work lives of a couple of million people, were held in the back room of Fat Tony's other business, a pizzeria in Manhattan's East Harlem neighborhood.

Fat Tony's arrest put the entire leadership of Teamsters Joint Councils # 16 and # 70 and the Eastern Conference of Teamsters at risk of arrest - and if they went, the IBT's international leadership's arrests would almost immediately follow.

This forced McCarthy to settle with Giuliani, more or less on the US Attorney's terms - putting the International Brotherhood of Teamsters under government supervision.

The already existing federal trusteeships of the Central States Pension Fund and New Jersey Teamsters local 560 would continue separately.

But the rest of the IBT would be supervised by a judge in the federal Southern District of New York, assisted by a court appointed Special Master and a three person panel that would serve as the highest judicial body in the IBT, with the power to expel any person from the union for cosa nostra ties or other major criminal activity.

And, every major decision of the IBT leadership - with the exception of organizing, bargaining and strikes - would have to be approved by that federal judge.

The cost of the federal supervision of the union would be completely funded by the IBT general fund.

The feds also wanted to build a leadership that would support their efforts to break up the local trucking and construction cartels, and would break up the dominant positions that the leading less than truckload carriers still held in the freighthauling industry.

The current Teamsters Union leadership, with their ties to the trucking companies and cosa nostra, would not be willing, or even able, to accomplish this task.

So the feds wanted a whole new leadership, who would be beholden to the feds rather than to trucking company management.

They planned to install this leadership through the means of a one member one vote general election for the union's top leadership posts.

This was a great democratic innovation (especially in light of the fact that of all of America's unions only two, the United Steel Workers of America and the United Mine Workers of America, elect their general officers - every other union has their top officials appointed by general convention delegates).

But, as we will see below, the feds severely miscalculated in their assumption that a democratically elected Teamsters Union leadership would be able to go against the dominant IBT employers.

The feds didn't grasp a basic reality of North American unions - and this mistake would cripple almost all of the government's efforts at regime change in the craft unions.

The social base of the leaderships of those unions was in a narrow privileged layer of workers with strong ties to the bosses in those industries.

In the case of the Teamsters, where, due to the existence of a large class of owner operators, there was a large overlap between trucking company management and the most privileged layers of truck drivers, there was an even stronger tie between the employers and union leaders.

Even if those leaders were subject to election, that privileged layer of teamsters would still dominate the union, in the absence of a mass movement of the less privileged teamsters - employee drivers, dockworkers and warehouse workers.

Since the feds had no intention of building a mass movement on the loading docks (they were as terrified of that as the trucking companies, the IBT leadership and the leaders of TDU and Solidarity were!) it was impossible for them to build a stable pro federal leadership in the IBT.

Neither the feds nor TDU understood that at the time.
Title: JACKKNIFED [part 6]
Post by: GREGORYABUTLER on April 13, 2009, 08:06:54 pm
TDU didn't want to build a mass movement either.

This was partly because of Solidarity's elitist contempt for the intellectual capacities of blue collar workers in general and freight teamsters in particular.

It was also partly because of Solidarity's fear that an independent mass movement of those dumb uneducated blue collar workers that was not carefully controlled by smart well educated responsible middle class people like them might get too radical and might challenge the system in irresponsible and revolutionary ways.

One of the late Jackie Presser's most effective public relations attacks against TDU - and the one that still resonates with many freighthaulers to this very day - was his claim that TDU and it's leaders were corporate funded outsiders trying to meddle in the internal affairs of a blue collar union.

It was an effective charge because it was basically true!

TDU was funded by a mix of corporate foundation grants and donations from rich leftists - dues colleted from the group's alleged "10,000 members" were a very small part of their income.

TDU's leadership looked at the federal takeover as an opportunity to become the behind the scenes ruling party of the Teamsters Union, without having to actually build a mass movement of workers as a power base - basically, it was a get rich quick scheme, built on the weak and unstable foundation of a federal court order.

Unfortunately for Teamsters for a Democratic Union, this get rich quick scheme was ultimately doomed to failure.

It probably didn't seem that way at the time.

Judge David Edelstein - the federal judge who Giuliani's consent decree had placed as final arbiter on all Teamsters Union policy decisions - seemed to be on their side, even going so far as to picking a pro TDU candidate as Elections Officer - a left wing lawyer with ties to Solidarity, Barbara Zack Quindel.

Even then, there was a problem with the wealthy non teamster donors.

Specifically, film producer Oliver Stone's donations were a problem - because he was an employer, and the National Labor Relations Act forbids employers to be part of union elections in any capacity.

Making matters worse, he was a teamster employer - he had members of Teamsters locals 25, 399 and 817 working for his production company.

The officers of those locals happened to be vocal TDU opponents.

In other words, not only was Stone directly meddling in the internal affairs of a union that represented some of his employees, he was also supporting political opponents of the union officials who directly represented his workers.

This made Stone's donation a serious violation - but, thanks to Quindel's intervention, all TDU had to do was return Stone's check.

This was a natural consequence of TDU's lack of a social base among actual teamsters - and was foreshadowing for future problems.

Meanwhile, the Teamsters Union leadership were divided into several hostile camps, preventing a unified opposition to the pro TDU forces.

McCarthy was unable to get a campaign organized - and ended up being a lame duck who would leave office no matter who won the election.

McCarthy also faced electoral opposition from a Carey/TDU candidate in his own local - George Cashman.

Cashman ended up defeating McCarthy.

Not that it mattered much for the members - Cashman the "reformer" had ties of his own to Irish organized crime and to the Hells Angels, just like McCarthy did, and he was soon giving the local's best construction and motion picture driver jobs to wiseguys and gangbangers, just as his predecessors always had.

James P. "Junior" Hoffa - the logical opposition candidate - was barred from the race, because he wasn't an actual teamster (he was a lawyer in private practice who represented several Detroit-area IBT locals - including the local his dad founded, local 337).

Lacking Hoffa's name on the ballot, the IBT leadership were divided between Walter Shea (Joe T's successor as head of the Eastern Conference) and R. V. Durham, the head of North Carolina Teamsters local 391.

Although they both had solid support from local officers in their home conferences (and Durham had the behind the scenes support of the Communist Party, USA and several CP led locals in New York City), the leaders of Western and Central States were divided.

Also, many Teamsters Union officers were very busy defending themselves against the new Independent Review Board - which was rapidly clearing house and kicking out IBT leaders with blatant cosa nostra ties.

Keeping their salaries and their Lincoln Town Cars - not to mention staying out of prison - was a lot more important for these guys than campaigning!

TDU's candidate, Ron Carey, had support from many of the UPS locals - and, of course, from the feds.

Solidarity and TDU had imported a number of professional union activists from the staffs of other unions (most notably the United Mine Workers of America - who's leaders had also been installed by the feds, back in 1975) and from the world of left wing activism.

None of those folks had ever been teamsters - or coal miners, for that matter.

Most teamsters supported "none of the above" and were barely involved in the election (many factory worker teamsters were barely aware there WAS an election - since their locals had always been on the fringes of Teamsters politics anyway).

There were actual labor struggles going on that distracted the members from the balloting - the UPS agreement and NMFA were both up for negotiation during the campaign (and neither McCarthy nor Durham nor Shea nor Carey/TDU had any real plan to fight back against all the years of givebacks to the freight carriers)

Shea and Durham cancelled each other out, and Carey won by a plurality in December 1991, becoming the first directly elected Teamsters Union general president - and the first UPS driver to hold that post.

And 80% of teamsters didn't even bother to return their mail ballot - silently rejecting all three candidates.

Carey was sworn into office in February 1992. He immediately fired most of the staff at IBT headquarters, bringing in the leftists and ex UMWA staff who had worked on his campaign as their replacements.

He also changed the name of the union's bimonthly propaganda sheet magazine from the International Teamster to the New Teamster.

It was still a propaganda sheet, written by professional public relations people rather than Teamsters Union officers and activists or legitimate labor journalists and it still had no independent news coverage or analysis of Teamsters events or freight industry news.

Carey just fired the Republican Party PR people (many of whom were Presser-era holdovers) who used to write the magazine's lying puff piece articles and brought in Democratic Party PR people - to write lying puff piece articles.

Carey also continued the practice of having all of the magazine's content in English, with no articles in French or Spanish (despite the IBT's many French Canadian and Latino members - some of whom were more comfortable reading articles written in their native languages).

Judge Edelstein and the Independent Review Board, who published bimonthly reports to the members in the magazine, didn't feel the need to translate their articles into Spanish or French either.

Carey inherited a union that was rapidly shrinking - it was down to 1.3 million members when he came into office (only 180,000 of whom worked in freight - a 20,000 worker loss in just 3 years!).

His first acts were budgetary - reducing expenses to reflect the reality of a shrunken union. The 7 Gulfstream executive jets were sold, and their crews laid off and many of the Cadillacs and Lincolns got sold as well.

Staff salaries were reduced and many no show or no work "general organizer" jobs were eliminated as well.

Carey also disbanded 4 of the Conferences - the Eastern, Central States, Southern and Western Conferences were all dissolved, with only the Canadian Conference remaining as an autonomous body.

This was also presented as a budgetary measure - but Carey's disbanding of the conferences had more to do with the fact that the majority of local union leaders n the IBT were Carey opponents, and the Conferences were rival centers of power in the union that could be used against his administration.

It also removed a major financial resource from his opponents - the second or third salaries that many local officers received from Area Conference payrolls were taken away at one fell swoop.

Carey now was able to face the problem of a shrinking union - in a growing industry.

The road freight business was rapidly expanding - as were the closely related small package and air freight industries.

In road freight alone there were 2 million workers - only 180,000 of whom were members of the Teamsters Union.

He - and TDU - both knew that the solution was organizing, but they were not prepared to launch the kind of sweeping 1930's style organizing drives that would be necessary to revive the union.

Launching a mass movement of truck drivers was dangerous - it would bring tens of thousands of militant workers (and hundreds of militant workplace leaders) into the union, and it would antagonize the feds, who wanted to reduce the standard of living of truckers, not increase it!

But not organizing pretty much guaranteed that the union carriers would continue to deunionize just to stay in business, and guaranteed the eventual extinction of the Teamsters Union as a freight drivers organization.

Even UPS was in danger of deunionizing! The biggest teamster employer had a non union subsidiary, UPS Logistics, and a huge non union white collar workforce - and the non union side of the company was growing faster than the union side.

So, to deal with this crisis, Carey launched some very limited organizing drives.

The Teamsters Union's Organizing Department approached a number of activist FedEx workers (some of whom were veterans of a failed United Auto Workers organizing drive in Philadelphia) and put together a small scale FedEx organizing campaign (big enough to be noticed, but too small to seriously threaten the # 2 small package carrier in the nation with unionization).

The Organizing Department also approached George Cashman - the pro Carey gangster unionist from Boston - about setting up a Port Drivers department.

Cashman - who had strong ties with the South Boston Irish wiseguys and Hells Angels gangbangers who controlled the Boston waterfront - agreed to lead a drive to reunionize the port truckers the union had abandoned in the 1980's.

He also agreed to get paid a 5th salary - on top of the other 4 six figure salaries he drew as president of Boston Teamsters local 25, president of Joint Council # 10, international vice president of the IBT and part time MASSPORT (Massachusetts Port Authority) board member - for this job.

Cashman's 5th job brought his compensation up to almost Jackie Presserian levels - over $ 600,000 a year, plus expense accounts, a Lincoln Town Car and a no show job for his mistress on the payroll of the Local 25 benefits fund.

Cashman didn't organize the port truckers in his own back yard, Boston Harbor.

After all, he didn't want to offend his fellow MASSPORT board members - or the shipping lines and stevedoring contractors they answered to - or the Hells Angels and the Irish mob that stood behind the stevedoring contractors - so that was out of the question.

Nor did he approach Teamsters local 805 on the Brooklyn waterfront or local 560 across the river on the New Jersey waterfront - because the feds were busy taking over those locals from the Genoveses.

But he did approach a group of radical Latino drivers in the Port of Los Angeles (led by militant CPA Ernesto Jesus "Ernie" Navarez...yes, you read right, a radical tax accountant!) who had been involved in a failed Communications Workers of America port truckers organizing drive in 1988.

The LA port truckers hadn't failed in 1988 - they'd been abandoned by the CWA, who had launched a massive Latino workers organizing campaign in LA two years earlier.

Overnight, and without warning, the CWA cut it's losses, went back to it's core jurisdiction (telephone company workers) and pulled out of Southern California, abandoning tens of thousands of militant Latino workers who had looked to them for leadership, including the LA harbor port truckers.

These LA truckers were ready, willing and able to organize when Cashman and the IBT came to them in 1992.

The Teamsters Unions lawyers (and the feds, who were always looking over their shoulders) were NOT ready, willing or able - they were terrified of a port truckers strike, and used the excuse of a possible anti trust lawsuit, because the port truckers were owner operator drivers who used their own trucks to haul the port trucking carriers' chassis and the steamship lines' sea freight containers.

This anti trust excuse was used to delay port trucker organizing for many years.

Carey also launched a freight organizing drive - kindasorta.

Instead of a national drive targeting the entire industry - in particular carriers on the rapidly growing Laredo, Texas to Chicago route, and the non union subsidiaries of Consolidated Freightways, Yellow, Roadway, US Freightways, NationsWay and UPS - Carey went after two small companies instead.

One was Overnite Transportation (OVNT).

The Memphis-based less than truckload carrier had managed to avoid unionization during Hoffa's Southern organizing drive in the 1950's, mainly because OVNT was a  paternalistic family-owned firm that had close to Teamsters Union wage levels and good working conditions.

But, in the late 1980's, the descendents of the original owners decided to cash out - they sold the company to Union Pacific Railroad.

Union Pacific, flush with cash from it's profitable Chicago to California piggyback service, wanted to be a full service door to door intermodal logistics firm, instead of just a railroad.

Having their own non union LTL trucking company was part of that plan.

Union Pacific junked the near NMFA pay scales, gutted the benefits, and, most angry-making for the 10,000 OVNT workers, imposed brutal Union Pacific-style labor relations at the relaxed, family oriented southern trucking company.

Workers who had hated or feared the Teamsters Union for decades flocked to the IBT.

Over 1,000 of the firm's 10,000 drivers, dockworkers, secretaries, mechanics and security guards joined the IBT organizing committees - and over 4,000 more were willing to sign authorization cards.

This kind of pro union groundswell is unheard of in modern union organizing - as a result, the OVNT organizing drive was far and away the most successful Carey era organizing drive.

At least at first.

Then UPRR put the hammer down.

Union Pacific set up what can only be described as a private terrorist group - called OVNT SWAT - in all 130 of it's US terminals.

The OVNT SWAT thugs operated with impunity (the tech-savvy goons even had their own website, and bragged about their vile deeds on truck drivers websites like TeamsterNet and Freighthaulers!) - especially at the company's home terminal in Memphis.

The pattern was a group of OVNT SWAT thugs would single out a pro union worker, beat him or her up, and then OVNT managers would fire the victimized worker on the spot for "fighting at work" - while leaving the OVNT SWAT goons unpunished!

In one case, a middle aged female dockworker at Memphis was followed into the ladies room by 4 male OVNT SWAT goons, had her arm broken - and then got fired before she could even get to the emergency room!

Union Pacific fired over 2,000 pro union workers in this campaign of blatant, in-your-face union busting terrorism.

The Teamsters Union's response?


The IBT's lawyers did write lots of letters, and file lots of unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, and did do their best to represent the fired workers in court.

But that was about it.

There was no mass picketing at OVNT terminals and no attempts to get teamsters to refuse to handle freight inbound to or outbound from the OVNT system.

The union didn't picket Union Pacific freight yards - and teamsters continued hauling freight into and out of the UPRR rail system as if nothing was happening.

No attempt was made to ask the railroad unions to call a sympathy strike against the UPRR system.
Title: JACKKNIFED [part 7]
Post by: GREGORYABUTLER on April 13, 2009, 08:08:42 pm
There was no resistance on the ground, and the OVNT freight workers were left to twist slowly in the wind by themselves.

The IBT organizers surrendered the loading docks of Overnite Transportation to the thugs of OVNT SWAT without any organized fightback whatsoever.

One of the largest intermodal freight companies in the United States set up what was basically a high tech North American version of a Colombian death squad, and the Teamsters did nothing to stop them!

This taught a very harsh lesson - to freight workers in general, and OVNT workers in particular.

Carey's Overnite organizing drive still continued - on paper - but on the ground it was a dismal failure.

And 2,000 freight workers paid the price - 20% of the potential bargaining unit lost their jobs.

Carey's other truck drivers organizing campaign was at Pony Express.

That carrier - a subsidiary of Borg Warner security - mainly carried cancelled checks, and other financial documents.

The Pony Express campaign was about as successful as the OVNT organizing drive - initially, the IBT got a lot of worker support, and then Borg Warner began an anti union campaign and a lot of pro union workers got fired.

The IBT responded with a very ineffective strike, a lot of NLRB complaints and a "corporate campaign" - basically, an effort to embarrass Borg Warner's clients into pressuring the company to sign a contract with the IBT.

It did not work - and the Pony Express organizing campaign was a flop.

Meanwhile, there was yet another attack on freight workers - the Free Trade Agreement between the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Canada.

One of the clauses in FTA allowed Canadian trucking companies (and the Canadian subsidiaries of US carriers) to use Canadian trucks and drivers - getting Canadian mileage rates - to haul to any destination in the Continental United States or Alaska

Since most Canadian truckers were non union - and even union Canadian carriers generally paid lower rates than their US counterparts - this was yet another blow to union drivers in the US.

But the Carey administration did very little about this - and they certainly didn't launch a frantic PR campaign against "dangerous Canadian truckers".

As we'll see below, this is totally different than their response to the Mexican truckers issue just two years later.

Unionized freight workers were still in a crisis, and the defeat of the Overnite organizing drive and the Canadian FTA made things even worse.

But the Carey administration had other priorities - in particular, supporting the FBI's purge of cosa nostra-linked officials in Teamsters locals all over the country - in particular in New York City.

Numerous cosa nostra linked IBT officers were expelled from the union - including "Chuckie" O'Brien, Jimmy Hoffa's foster son and a longtime IBT "organizer" (who was allegedly involved in his disappearance and murder).

Among the New York City locals aggressively cleaned out were the city's two freight locals - Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island based local 707 and the Manhattan and Bronx based local 807, which also represented the city's trade show teamsters.

Construction drivers local 282 also had widespread expulsions - not only of local officers but of several working teamster foremen on the jobsites.

The other IBT construction-related locals in New York City, lumber yard workers locals 554 and 1205 and movers local 814 also had their officers purged as well, as did private sanitation workers local 813.

The grotesquely corrupt air freight locals 295 and 858 also had their officers purged as did the waterfront drivers local 805 and Hunts Point Terminal Market local 202.

The local 202 takeover gave Carey an opportunity to put out an olive branch to the Communist Party, USA run Teamsters locals in the city.

Carey gave local 202 to Danny Kane, the son of Western Union telex workers local 111 chief Dan Kane, one of the leading CPUSA-linked Teamsters officers.

Kane the younger had never actually had a job at the Hunts Point market, of course - he was a former amateur boxer.

Danny wasn't even a teamster when he was given control of local 202, which he became a member of shortly before he was appointed it's president!

To add insult to injury, Kane the younger was yet another White president for a local that had long been majority African American and Latino.

At least one local was outright disbanded.

Funeral home workers and barrel factory workers local 1034, run by Bernard Adelstein, the gangster who controlled the notoriously cosa nostra dominated local 813, the private sanitation workers local, basically functioned as an insurance fraud scheme and was not a real trade union.

Most of local 1034's "members" were the relatives of cosa nostra-linked funeral home operators, barrel factory owners and restaurateurs. The actual workers in those businesses were not allowed to join local 1034 - only relatives of the business owners, who were given health coverage that was denied to the nominally "union" workers.

Among those expelled were leading Teamster wiseguys.

Like the Genovese family's "Matty the Horse" Ianello (who went over to his rackets in Amalgamated Transit Union local 1181, which represents the city's 15,000 public school bus drivers - a racket he continued until his 2007 racketeering arrest).

And the Colombo family's William "Wild Bill" Cutolo, who shifted his focus to his rackets in District Council 37 of AFSCME, the city workers union.

"Wild Bill" only lasted a few more years - he disappeared in 1999 and was almost certainly killed in a mob hit and secretly buried.

Bernard Adelstein was banned for life from the Teamsters Union - effectively ending his racketeering career.

Even non mobbed up New York City Teamsters Union officers got kicked out - like Barry Feinstein, the president of City Employees Union local 237, who was basically kicked out for his Jackie Presser-like millionaire's lifestyle rather than any criminal conduct (he made a soft landing at the New York City Central Labor Council where he was hired to run it's Consortium for Workers Education, a vocational education program serving union members and underprivileged youth).

All of these locals had pro Carey administrations installed in place of the old cosa nostra dominated regimes.

Similar, smaller scale, purges were carried out in New Jersey, Chicago, St Louis, Ohio and Southern California - again, replacing wiseguys with Carey supporters.

This did not necessarily improve things for teamsters.

In local 813, the New York City private sanitation local, the main beneficiaries were the big three national waste haulers - BFI, WMX and Allied - who were now able to enter the New York market.

This led to 30% price cuts for buildings owned by big real estate developers, 40% price increases for small business owners, and the end of an industrywide union contract for the industry's 3,000 teamsters and 3,000 Laborers Union members.

Also, about 1,000 teamsters and 1,000 laborers lost their jobs when many of the 300 independent waste haulers were driven out of business by the big three.

The federal cleanup of local 282 - while removing many wiseguys from the local - also destroyed the working teamster foreman system.

General Contractors were allowed to get rid of teamster foremen on all but their biggest jobs - only jobs worth $ 5 million or more now required a teamster foreman.

In practice, that meant that they were now free to let their subcontractors use non union trucks on those smaller jobs.

In the long run, the newly installed pro Carey officers didn't really help Carey that much - it only won him distrust from other Teamsters Union local officers.

More importantly, it alienated the carriers - which was very important, considering that the privileged owner operator drivers had always been the social base of IBT leadership from the very beginning.

Those drivers with close ties to management were very suspicious of the feds, feeling - with good reason - that the government's objective was to weaken the carriers.

The New York City waste haulers case showed that clearly - the City of New York, aided by Carey and the feds, basically crushed the small independent waste hauling companies, on behalf of the big three national waste haulers and the big real estate interests.

Carriers - and the privileged layer of pro company drivers - felt, correctly, that this is what the feds planned for the entire freight industry.

The many "old guard" IBT officers who came from that social background - plus the officers who were mob guys, felt - correctly - that Carey and TDU were allied with this effort to break the will of the freight carriers on behalf of Corporate America and the feds.

The carriers, the better off and more privileged layers of drivers, the old guard union officers, the gangsters and Junior Hoffa were being united by the FBI/Carey/ TDU attacks on them.

Carey, TDU and the feds were crippled in opposing this growing opposition precisely because of their LACK of a solid social base among teamsters.

TDU had long since ceased to be a mass dissident organization - most of it's chapters were small groups of aspiring union officers, and in some areas, where federal removals of old guard officials had catapulted TDU members into local union office, TDU had basically ceased to exist.

TDU nationally was largely funded by foundation grants and donations from well to do non teamster leftists - it's ties to militant trucking terminal shop stewards (the historic backbone of the Teamsters Union dissident movement) were all but gone.

Carey had even less of a social base - he had widespread support among the more privileged layer of UPS workers (full time feeder drivers and package car drivers) but that was about it.

Even in UPS, the army of young college student part timers - temporary teamsters who on average quit or lost their jobs due to injury after only 4 months on the job, and who were 49% of UPS' workforce - were basically politically inert, since UPS was nothing more than a transitional job to pay their way to education and future white collar professional employment.

To them, the IBT was just another payroll deduction on their tiny paychecks.

Paychecks that were proportionately smaller than they had been in years past - thanks to Jackie Presser's 1988 betrayal, most of these workers only made $ 8.50/hr - and few of them stuck around long enough to get full teamster pay.

Outside of UPS, there was a narrow layer of freight drivers - many of them veterans of past struggles - who still believed in TDU and therefore supported Carey.

As for the rest of the union?

Many IBT members in factories and the civil service sector shared the UPS part timers view that the Teamsters Union was just another deduction on the paycheck, and involvement in the political struggles in the union was minimal at best.

This was especially true of the many Latino factory workers who were left out of the loop by the fact that neither the Hoffaites nor Carey and TDU nor the official IBT had any of their propaganda material in Spanish.

Even if bilingual literature had been available, there was the cold hard fact that many industrial teamsters ESPECIALLY in the New York City factory worker locals (210, 240, 808, 810 and 966) worked in low wage sweatshops that were often "union" in name only.

For these teamsters, all the rhetoric about "taking back our union" was just so much hot air.

Supermarket warehouse teamsters, at 600,000 workers the largest craft in the IBT, were also largely absent from the IBT political world.

The tyranny of "methods" and rampant union sanctioned firing of teamsters who worked "too slow" had made many warehouses hellish places to work, where the bosses used the latest in electronic surveillance to make sure every worker on the floor handled at least 5,000 pounds of groceries a day.

The privileged layer of supermarket warehouse workers - the drivers - faced attacks of their own.

Many supermarkets were aggressively contracting out their grocery hauling work to non union trucking subcontractors - or, worse yet, UNION trucking subcontractors with lower pay scales and grossly substandard conditions.

This deterioration had actually accelerated since Carey came to power - so these workers had no reason to support Carey.

Basically, Carey had a very thin base of support, Junior Hoffa had a much wider base (and one with solid ties to the carriers) - but even Hoffa's base was a small minority of teamsters.

Most teamsters basically sat out the conflict, since their conditions were unlikely to improve no matter which one held the general presidency.

It was in this climate that Carey decided to launch a national freight strike in 1994.

Well, calling it a "national freight strike" is kind of overstating matters.

Carey only called out 40,000 freight teamsters who worked for the unionized parts of 4 less than truckload carriers - Consolidated Freightways, Yellow, Roadway and Arkansas Best Freight (ABF).

The 140,000 teamsters who worked for the rest of the LTL carriers, the truckload carriers and Airborne Express stayed on the road.

And, of course, the 1.8 million non union drivers were still on the road too.

And all the Canadian drivers - union and non union - who could now haul freight to and from US destinations in 49 states, thanks to the 1992 Free Trade Agreement  - were still on the road as well.

Consequently, this "national strike" had almost no impact on the economy - unlike the 1970 wildcat strike, which crippled much of American heavy industry for over a month and shut down the nation's largest seaport, the Port of Los Angeles.

Carey also didn't touch the double breasting issue - even though CF, Yellow and Roadway were all massively double breasted (CF's non union Con Way divisions actually hauled more freight than the parent company).

The main issue of the strike was piggybacking - the hauling of truck trailers by railroads.

The carriers eventually agreed to a loophole filled "ban" on railhauling trailers - with an elaborate compensation system set up to pay "runaround pay" to drivers who would have worked if their freight had not been put on a train.

In a real way, instead of banning piggybacking, the 1994-97 NMFA institutionalized the practice!

The compensation system guaranteed that higher seniority road drivers and sleeper team drivers would not protest the system, because they would get money in their pocket every time a trailer got piggybacked.

Meanwhile, Carey settled the 1994-97 National Master UPS Agreement, who's only notable feature was a "innocent until proven guilty" clause - a first in a private sector contract in the American labor movement - stating that UPS couldn't fire a worker until that firing had been upheld by an arbitrator.

The customary practice in American union contracts is for the boss to have the right to fire a worker for any reason - and the worker and the union have the right to file a grievance if they think the firing is unjust.

The termination then goes through a multi step grievance procedure - and even if the company was totally in violation of the contract, the worker doesn't get his/her job back for months or even years.

Under the 1994-97 National Master UPS Agreement, the firing went to arbitration first - and the worker kept his/her job while the grievance made it's way through the arbitration process.

This was a much fairer system for workers - and it's truly unfortunate that no other union has followed the Teamsters Union's lead on this (not even other IBT contracts have this clause!)

Meanwhile, the US, Canadian and Mexican governments signed NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

One of it's sections extended to Mexican trucking companies - and the Mexican subsidiaries of American carriers - the right to haul freight in 48 American states and let American carriers haul freight in all 31 Mexican states.

This basically extended the same rights to Mexican trucking companies that their Canadian counterparts had won 2 years earlier.

Carey - who had let the US Canadian FTA go by almost unnoticed - screamed blue bloody murder about NAFTA.

There was a lot of overheated and often flat out racist rhetoric about "unsafe" Mexican drivers and trucks marauding across American roads.

Lost in all the hot air was the fact that few Mexican carriers would be able to haul in the US for insurance reasons.

Mexico has a very different legal system than America.

Here, traffic accidents are dealt with by the civil courts, and are usually resolved by lawsuits and insurance company payouts.

In Mexico, traffic accidents are a criminal court matter - with the full weight of the Mexican police falling on the individual truck driver, with the trucking company all but immune to any civil or criminal legal sanction.

Because of this Mexican trucking companies are not nearly as well insured as their American or Canadian counterparts - they don't have to budget for lawyers fees and insurance premiums when setting their freight rates, like their counterparts north of the border do.

 Accidents are a lot cheaper for Mexican trucking companies than they are for US or Canadian carriers, since it's simply a question of some hapless driver going to jail for a couple of years with the only actual cost to the carrier being a modest fine or a bribe to a police official to get the truck and it's load out of impound.

Due to this big transportation law difference, it's actually easier for well insured American carriers to haul in Mexico (even if they are  using American drivers who are being paid American mileage rates) than for underinsured Mexican carriers to haul into the United States of America.

The IBT's research department and it's legal staff knew all of this.

But that didn't stop the Carey administration from launching a racist lobbying campaign against NAFTA.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union and Solidarity uncritically supported Carey's racebaiting of the Mexican truckers (as did Solidarity's other labor front groups, Labor Notes Magazine, UAW New Directions and TWU New Directions).

As Trotskyists, they should have opposed Carey on principle - socialists are supposed to believe in working class internationalism, after all.

But Solidarity and it's front groups as a rule had never let a little thing like basic Marxist principles get in the way of their uncritical support of Carey on every issue, big and small, so why would they make an exception here?

Carey succeeded in getting Congress to block the handful of Mexican trucking companies that were US insurance law compliant from hauling into the US beyond the border zone set by the 1965 US Mexico treaty - 20 miles into Arizona, California and New Mexico, 75 miles into Arizona.

Ironically enough, the Mexican trucking industry is far more heavily unionized than it's US counterpart (27% south of the Rio Grande - 5% north of it) - so you had the sad spectacle of the Teamsters Union attacking unionized Mexican drivers on behalf of non union American trucking companies!

To add to the irony - the Mexican union truckers who regularly haul Mexican made factory goods across the border to American trucking terminals in the 1965 border zone actually make about the same mileage rate as their non union US counterparts!

Beyond the racial shenanigans with the Mexican truckers, Carey still faced a political crisis - his administration had a very narrow social base among the members, and he was unable to consolidate his position.

He wasn't even able to get the Teamsters general convention to formally enact the amendments to the IBT constitution that had been mandated by Judge Edelstein.

Carey couldn't even accomplish the modest goal of giving the union a less sexist name (Carey's gender neutral "Teamsters International Union" was rejected - the delegates decided to keep "International Brotherhood of Teamsters" as the union's official name - even though it overlooked the 400,000 sisters in the brotherhood).

Meanwhile, Junior Hoffa had gotten one of the clients of his law firm - Teamsters local 337, a Detroit-area supermarket warehouse local founded by his dad - to hire him as a secretary.

The point of his demotion from lawyer to clerical worker was very simple.

As a self-employed attorney who owned his own firm, he was not a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and could not run for any union office.

But as an office worker at an IBT local union, he would be eligible for union membership - and with official Teamsters Union membership Hoffa would be legally able to run for general president in 1996.

Hoffa also began reaching out for support - from local union officers, the trucking companies and the transportation industry media. All of these groups were looking forward to a Junior Hoffa administration.

Although only the union officials could actually give cash donations, the political support from the carriers, and the good coverage in Traffic World, the Journal of Commerce and the rest of the freight industry trade press (which generated even more trucking company political support) was incredibly valuable for Junior.

Carey also began preparing for the 1996 race.

He had a very narrow base among teamsters - the backbone of Carey's support came from the AFL-CIO leadership, the Clinton administration, the hierarchy of the Democratic Party and middle class liberals, all of whom saw a pro Democratic leadership in the Teamsters as a major part of their goal to take back control of congress for the Democrats in 1996.

Since very few actual teamsters were going to be donating money to Carey or TDU, they had to come up with a way to finance his reelection campaign.

An elaborate scheme was set up where Carey would have the IBT donate money to liberal groups, who would in turn make donations to Carey's reelection campaign.

It amounted to money laundering - and Carey, unlike his wiseguy predecessors, wasn't very well versed in the fine art of camouflaging the source of his cash.

The feds - who desperately wanted Carey to win reelection - basically looked the other way while this scheme happened.

It greatly helped that the federal lawyer in charge of monitoring Teamsters Union elections was Barbara Zach Quindel - a leftist Wisconsin attorney with ties to TDU and it's parent organization, Solidarity.

She had been in charge of the 1991 general elections and had bent over backwards then for Carey and TDU - which she continued to do in the 1996 elections.

Carey narrowly won that election - he overwhelmingly carried the minority of UPS workers who actually voted, split the minority of freight and carhaul members who voted with Hoffa and lost all the other divisions.

Carey had ran on his record - and Hoffa ran on a promise to basically abandon any effort to re unionize the freight industry and to focus on rebuilding the Teamsters as a union of UPS workers, hospital workers and public employees.

As in 1991, over 80% of teamsters didn't bother to vote for either candidate.

This was despite lots of direct mail and telemarketing appeals from the Carey camp - paid for by laundered union funds.

Hoffa immediately went to court to appeal the election - citing Carey's money laundering, which he and his lawyers had easily discovered.

Carey and his Democratic Party backers were very very incompetent when it came to money laundering (in one case, Carey literally forced an IBT bookkeeper to write a $ 400,000 check to a pro Democratic Party charity - and almost immediately the group turned around wrote an only slightly smaller check to his campaign fund!)

Hoffa's lawyers, who'd spent their careers working for cosa nostra controlled local unions, were very good at spotting union related financial shenanigans (since they themselves had often been ACTIVELY INVOLVED in union related fraud!) so they picked up the trail right away.

So it was no contest - it was clear that Carey, TDU and their fundraisers had blatantly violated Judge Edelstein's consent decree.

It was all the feds could do to get Carey sworn in and to drag their feet about actually enforcing the consent decree against Carey.

Meanwhile, the UPS and freight agreements came up again.

This time, Carey didn't even try to call even a limited freight strike, he basically settled the 1997 - 2000 NMFA on the Motor Freight Carriers Association's terms - including giving the carriers a two tier wage scale.

New hires would only get 75% of teamster pay - it would take them 2 full years to get up to 100% of NMFA scale.

Time was on the carriers' side here.

Beyond Carey's political problems, there was also the NAFTA Effect.

The "NAFTA Corridor" (Laredo, Texas to Chicago) had rapidly become the busiest road freight route in the entire world.

And almost all of that freight was carried non union.

An Irving, Texas-based carrier called Central Freight was the main less than truckload carrier on the route (their home terminal in Irving was the largest trucking terminal on the face of the earth - employing over 10,000 workers).

Consolidated Freightways had it's non union Con Way carriers on the NAFTA Corridor route too, and Yellow had it's non union Saia and Jevic division, and Roadway's non union side Viking was there too, as was UPS's non union UPS Logistics division, and the non union divisions of USF, and NationsWay's double breasted NFI division.

And, of course, FedEx Logistics was on that route too - as was Overnite Transportation.

And all the non union truckload carriers were there too - JL England, JB Hunt, Schneider, ect

There weren't any major union truckload carriers on that route - since there really weren't any major union truckload carriers left.

Of course Consolidated Freightways, Yellow, Roadway, USF and ABF all had their union trucks on the NAFTA Corridor too, but the route was overwhelmingly non union.

This should have been a golden opportunity for organizing.
Title: JACKKNIFED [part 8]
Post by: GREGORYABUTLER on April 13, 2009, 08:10:53 pm
All of those carriers had their main US/Mexico border terminals in just one city - Laredo, Texas, where over 40,000 dockworkers were employed by the carriers and the local warehouses that took Mexican freight off Mexican trucks and put it on US trucks.

And almost all of the NAFTA Corridor carriers - union and non union - had terminals in the Dallas-Ft Worth area to service the route - including the main NAFTA Corridor LTL carrier, Central Freight, in Irving, Texas.

Central Freight's huge non union terminal was literally just across the street from Yellow Freight's union terminal in Irving!

But neither the IBT Organizing Department nor the IBT Freight Division made the slightest effort to unionize these workers.

It's possible that they might have been uncomfortable with leading 50,000 workers in struggle in a right to work state - a state that was right on the border of Mexico's industrial zone and it's militant radicalized workers.

Tyson Johnson, the president of Dallas/Ft Worth local 745, the only freight local on the Texas segment of the NAFTA Corridor, must have been equally as scared of the thought of his small, insular, conservative local having to lead a major strike and then having a 2,000% membership increase overnight.

It was far better for Carey, the IBT Organizing Department, the Freight Division and Tyson Johnson's local 745 to leave well enough alone and leave those 50,000 workers non union - even if it pretty much guaranteed the continuing decline of the unionized freight sector.

Carey had another problem with the National Master UPS Agreement.

Because of the chronic shrinkage of the IBT (from 2.3 million members in 1970 to barely 1.4 in 1997), most Teamsters Union pension plans were underfunded.

The funds were paying pensions for lots of workers who's employers were either bankrupt or deunionized - and the dwindling number of unionized carriers were having to pick up the tab for the legacy costs of their deunionized competitors.

UPS, by far the largest teamster employer, had the biggest legacy costs - because of the part timer situation.

Most of the company's 80,000 part timers either quit or became too disabled to keep working there after only 4 months - but, UPS had to make pension contributions on their behalf - contributions they'd never collect, since you have to be covered by a pension plan for 5 years to be eligible to collect even a partial pension.

UPS was tired of making those pension fund contributions to cover costs that their formerly union competitors should be paying.

They had much better use for that money - an ambitious expansion plan.

UPS had traditionally shunned the capital markets and had financed every major expansion in the company's history through reinvestment of company profits.

This expansion needed every extra dollar they could spare - and by not making pension fund contributions on low seniority part timers, UPS would save several million dollars.

UPS proposed to set up a private pension plan - which would pay full timers pensions a third higher than any Teamsters pension fund, and which would not cover the part timers at all (a non issue, since few part timers stayed at UPS long enough to collect a pension).

The IBT desperately needed the pension money - the Central States Pension Fund in particular had been hard hit by the deunionization of freight and the much lower rates of return it had gotten since the feds took it over.

It didn't matter that, objectively speaking, UPS full timers - who were career UPS employees who would almost certainly stick around long enough to retire from Big Brown - would be far better off under the UPS pension plan -  since the plan would pay them a lot more.

For most part timers, UPS was a transitional job that they would eventually quit decades before they were pensionable, so pension coverage was irrelevant for them.

The IBT was bleeding red ink - so they would fight UPS for the cash, no matter what UPS workers actually needed.

They couldn't actually tell that to the UPS workers, of course!

Instead, Carey, and Ken Hall, the head of the IBT Small Package division, made a demand that the company create full time jobs for about 20,000 high seniority part timers (by UPS standards, 1 or 2 years was "high seniority" for a part timer) by not replacing low seniority part timers when they leave and giving their hours to "high seniority" part timers.

This plan had a thousand loopholes in it, so even if UPS went for it, they'd be able to evade it - and, more importantly, it was a great propaganda demand.

Carey's public relations people used this demand to present him as this great defender of America's part time workers - a useful way of evading all the bad publicity about the money laundering!

It also helped Carey that, in general, the Wall Street financiers didn't like UPS - precisely because of it's independence from the banks, and they wanted to keep the Teamsters Union in pro Wall Street anti trucking carrier hands - and that meant that it was in Wall Street's interest to preserve the Carey regime and the federal monitorship.

Internally within the Teamsters Union, Carey was able to present himself to UPS part timers as their defender - they might not buy the whole package, but at least he' d be able to prevent them from actively scabbing on a national UPS strike.

To non UPS teamsters, Carey could present himself as a militant who was willing to fight for the more marginal teamsters - and as the defender of the pensions of the more highly paid, stablely employed and relatively privileged teamsters.

The first part (Carey as defender of the poorer part time teamsters) was a lie.

The second part (Carey as defender of the pensions of the more privileged better paid teamsters) was only partially true.

Carey's priority was preserving the financial stability of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as an institution.

Like his predecessors Frank Fitzsimmons, Roy Williams and Jackie Presser, Carey knew that preserving the IBT funds financially might mean sacrificing the pensions of many individual teamsters.

As for the feds - they knew that Carey was in jeopardy of being ousted from office -  a wildly successful UPS strike could save him.

So, Carey called the first ever national United Parcel Service workers strike.

UPS tried to maintain limited service with supervisors and a handful of UPS full timers who scabbed - but that was impossible.

Also, the US Department of Labor actually ordered UPS not to hire scabs - a first in American labor history.

Without outside scabs, there was no way UPS could break the strike.

Beyond the support from the Clinton White House and the feds, the UPS strike also got amazingly positive media coverage.

Normally anti union media outlets painted Carey as a hero of American workers and a fighter for the nation's millions of part timers.

It was all a big lie - the real issue was pension fund control, and at no time did the IBT demand full time jobs for all UPS part timers or wage parity between part time workers and full timers.

You'd never know any of that from the laudatory press coverage that Carey got - and the mountains of praise he received from the American left, first and foremost TDU, Solidarity and Labor Notes magazine.

UPS settled after one month

Carey got to keep control over the pension funds - the real reason for the strike.

Also, 2,000 high seniority part timers got full time jobs and UPS promised to give full time jobs to another 20,000 part timers at some vague point in the future (the propaganda issue that Carey had falsely claimed was the reason for the strike).

UPS used the massive loopholes in the part timer clauses of the agreement to not actually give any of those 20,000 high seniority part time workers full time jobs - only the first 2,000 part timers got their full time jobs.

Worse yet, Carey gave UPS a 5 year agreement - to date, the longest term contract between the Teamsters and an employer.

From this, the corporate media and the far left declared a Grand-And-Glorious- Victory-For-American-Labor and proclaimed Ron Carey to be a great hero and the secular patron saint of the American labor movement.

Meanwhile, Hoffa's lawyers had finally gotten a federal court to actually enforce Judge Edelstein's Consent Decree, and call a new IBT general election.

Carey was barred from running in this election, because of his money laundering - and Barbara Zach Quindel was removed from her role as the government lawyer running the elections.

The feds were very upset about this - but one of the consequences of taking control of Teamsters Union internal affairs was that even the feds' allies in the union had to follow the consent decree just like Hoffa's people did.

Almost immediately, Solidarity concocted a conspiracy theory that this was some kind of government "retaliation" against Carey for the "great victory" of the UPS strike!

Sadly, many labor activists still believe that conspiracy theory to this very day.

That's truly unfortunate, because Solidarity's conspiracy theory was a total lie.

In the real world, the feds had helped Carey every step of the way - even with the UPS strike, where, for the first time in history, the government actually banned an employer from hiring scabs.

But it was politically impossible for the Clinton Administration to blatantly violate the law by keeping Carey in office - as much as Clinton and the Democrats needed Carey in that post, they still couldn't keep him in office, unless they wanted to stage a coup d'etat in the IBT (and realistically there was no way they could do that - the political fallout would just be too much).

The re-run of the election was scheduled for 1998, to fill the remaining 3 years of Carey's term - James P. "Junior" Hoffa was the opposition candidate, of course.

TDU's replacement for Carey was Tom Leedham.

He was the president of Teamsters local 206, a supermarket warehouse workers local based in Portland, Oregon and covering the whole state.

Leedham was also the first openly gay man to ever run for general president of the Teamsters Union.

He was also a registered Democrat with open ties to TDU.

Leedham wasn't nearly as well known as Carey, he hadn't had the years of good press coverage that Carey had enjoyed and he couldn't hide behind conservative "family values" like the married Republican Catholic ex Marine Carey could.

Worse yet, as the principal officer of a warehouse local, he had to take the weight of years of deteriorating conditions and unionbusting in the supermarket sector.

Thanks to competition from Wal-Mart out in the suburbs on the one hand and low wage non union 99 cent stores, bodegas and delis in the cities on the other, the big supermarket chains had been demanding labor concessions from their unions for almost 20 years at that point.

The main supermarket union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, couldn't give that much - they represented the cashiers, stock clerks and butchers in the stores and their membership had already been reduced to minimum wage part time transitional job status...there wasn't much more for them to give up.

That left the Teamsters Union.

The warehouses had already won the right to fire warehouse workers for "violating production methods" (a legal euphemism for firing workers for working too slow - because Teamsters Union contracts don't allow firing for working too slow, but do allow workers to be fired for violating the employer's production methods)

The pay had been cut to close to rock bottom, workers were pushed to the limit and spied on by elaborate state of the art surveillance technology to make sure that the company got 5,000 pounds of product moved per worker per day OR ELSE.

Now, they were going after the drivers - by subcontracting delivery driving work to non union companies, or to Teamsters Union-represented companies with lower pay scales, by cutting mileage rates, by making workers do extra work for the same pay, by lengthening the work day and by surveillance on the roads.

200,000 warehouse teamsters had lost their jobs - and for the 400,000 remaining, it had become a truly miserable job.

Many warehouse workers - correctly - blamed the union's leaders for all of this - ALL of the leaders, from local presidents like Leedham all the way up to the top.

So, Leedham could not count on their support - nor could he get the automatic support of the minority of UPS workers who voted like Carey could.

He couldn't even count on the money from TDU's friends in the Democratic Party - because the Carey investigation had put a lot of heat on professional fundraisers, so it was too risky for them to bankroll Leedham the way they did Carey.

Junior Hoffa was also running a much more militant sounding campaign in 1998.

He attacked Carey from the left for his organizing failures and the falling standard of living of most teamsters and he promised to resolve all of the outstanding labor disputes the union was involved in - including Overnite Transportation.

Unlike the last election, where Hoffa had proposed that the IBT stop even trying to be a freight union, this time Hoffa promised to organize in the freight sector.

It worked - Hoffa roundly defeated Leedham in the election, carrying every sector of the union, including warehouse and UPS.

Of course, over 80% of teamsters didn't even bother to vote for either one - the same as in 1991 and 1996.

James P. Hoffa (known as "Jim" to friends and supporters - "Junior" to opponents and enemies) was sworn in to office in 1999.

Carey went back home to Queens, was able to beat the federal criminal charges arising from his campaign financing fraud, was expelled for life from the IBT (by the same federal tribunal that had expelled so many of his wiseguy enemies) went into retirement and died of lung cancer in 2008.

To many in labor and on the left, Ron Carey is still a hero (all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding).

And Leedham went back to his warehouse workers local in Oregon (he'd hedged his bets by hanging on to his day job while running for the IBT general presidency).

As for Junior Hoffa - now, he had to live up to his campaign promises.

He hit the ground running - fired all of Carey's staffers, appointed his own people in their places (Hoffa's appointees were predominantly former teamsters - unlike Carey's, many of whom were non teamsters who had been parachuted in from the staff of the United Mine Workers of America or the far left) and right away Hoffa tackled the Anheuser Busch brewery workers contract fight.

The A-B brewery workers (makers of the famous Budweiser beer) got a settlement - not a great one, but it was tolerable.

Then Junior decided to deal with the Overnite situation.

He revived the campaign and ordered every Teamster freight local to assign a business agent or staffer to approach the workers in their local terminals.

Despite the repression, there were still large numbers of OVNT freight workers who wanted to go union.

Hoffa - who had promised to "resolve" the OVNT conflict, as well as every other outstanding Teamsters Union labor dispute, quickly, had decided to carry out a quick organizing drive - and if OVNT management didn't recognize the IBT right away, he would call a national strike.

That's exactly what happened - Union Pacific Railroad refused to recognize the unions, so the Teamsters called a strike at every one of OVNT's 138 US terminals.

About 2,000 of OVNT's 10,000 workers honored the strike call - and OVNT actually had to shut down terminals in a number of areas.

And, by the low standards of late 20th century American strikes, the OVNT strike was remarkably militant.

OVNT terminals were picketed regularly, and in many areas Teamster roving pickets followed OVNT city trucks to picket them as they made their rounds.

Of course, considering the reality of the heavily deunionized workforce of 1999, there were few workplaces where those picketlines made a difference.

Also, and most critically, the Teamsters Union did not picket Union Pacific's railroad terminals.

Since UPRR's train crews and terminal workers were 100% union, those pickets would have been decisive - it could have easily shut down UPRR's entire system.

And that would have a major effect on the American economy - UPRR had just absorbed the Southern Pacific Railroad, and now the merged UPRR and SPRR systems hauled almost all of the freight between the Midwest and California.

If the UPRR system was strikebound, almost all of America's industrial exports to the Far East would be left sitting on pallets in Chicago warehouses, and almost all of America's imports from Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea would be sitting in seafreight containers out on the piers of San Francisco and Los Angeles, or riding at anchor in the holds of cargo ships off the California coast.

That would be a world shaking development - and would almost certainly have led to enormous pressure from the capitalist class as a whole being put on Union Pacific to make a deal with the Teamsters - on the IBT's terms!

But Hoffa was afraid to go that far - it would be too dangerous to lead a struggle like that - the Teamsters Union might just win, and he might be forced to launch an industrywide freight organizing drive.

So, Junior Hoffa - like Carey before him - let the OVNT strike go down to defeat.

Some of the strikers returned to work - but about a thousand of them didn't - the freight locals did try and find them alternative employment, but it didn't make the strike any less of a demoralizing defeat.

Meanwhile, a number of the few remaining union road freight carriers were trying to either go all non union or get completely out of the business.

Preston - the 151 line, a major East Coast LTL carrier, decided to close it's doors, and lay off all of it's employees.

St Johnsbury, another Eastern LTL carrier, also went under, laying off all of it's teamsters as well.

Out in the Intermountain West, NationsWay decided to shut down it's Denver-based unionized division while keeping it's non union double breasted outfit, the also Denver-based NFI, on the road.

It wasn't because NationsWay's owner was broke - he'd just started an expansion Major League Baseball team, the Colorado Rockies, in a brand new stadium!

But it was just more profitable to use all non union freight workers - so his union company had to go.

NationsWay shut down so quickly that some of the firm's East Coast drivers found out they were jobless by listening to talk radio newscasts!

The NationsWay casuals and low seniority workers were lucky - they got laid off right away, got all of their unpaid vacation pay and their last checks didn't bounce!

The high seniority NationsWay workers who stuck around for another 2 weeks to deliver all the freight left in NationsWay's terminals got rubber checks - and they got stiffed out of their vacation pay!

NFI picked up NationsWay's old customers (and even some of NationsWay's old trucks and trailers).

These mass layoffs - and the OVNT defeat - naturally cast a pall over the 2000 NMFA  negotiations. The union freight carriers got pretty much everything they wanted at the table.

The feds were very unhappy at this turn of events - they'd lost control of the general presidency to a man who was loyal to the interests of the trucking companies, rather than to the interests of their clients, Corporate America.

The White House wasn't thrilled either - unlike Carey, who had made major IBT campaign contributions to President Clinton in 1996, Hoffa refused to bankroll Vice President Al Gore's presidential bid, or Hillary Clinton's senate race in New York.

Instead, Hoffa followed the path of Frank Fitzsimmons and Jackie Presser and backed the Republicans.

As for the carriers - put it this way, "Traffic World" - a major freight industry trade paper - wrote an article about how the freight industry bosses viewed the Teamsters Union's general president.

The title?

"In Love With Hoffa".

Meanwhile, back on the loading docks...

There were a few small bright spots on the horizon.

In Chicago, the hub of the American freight industry, the independent Chicago Truck Drivers Union, which had disaffiliated from the IBT after the disastrous Montgomery Ward strike in 1905, finally came back to the IBT.

The CTDU had suffered a sharp membership decline, falling from 10,000 workers to only 3,500, so it's leadership decided to merge with Teamsters local 710.

In New York City's commercial movers local 814, a group of TDU members forced the local's leadership to call a strike against the office furniture moving companies.

The strike - called in July, at the height of the commercial building season - was one of the most militant and effective construction drivers strikes in the city in nearly a century, and quickly got a settlement on the movers' terms.

This was entirely due to that small group of TDU movers mobilizing their own strike committee, and using bands of cell phone dispatched roving pickets to stop office furniture deliveries at office buildings in Midtown Manhattan.

These workers proved that it really was possible to win truck drivers strikes - all it took was militant leadership who weren't afraid to take risks and fight back against the bosses.

Income and working conditions decay continued industrywide - especially on the non union side, which was leading some unorganized freight workers to look to the Teamsters Union.

The Teamsters port trucker campaign continued on the piers - especially in the West and the South, but was still stalled, largely by IBT footdragging (Hoffa didn't want to ruffle freight carrier feathers by being too aggressive here either) - so the anti trust excuse was still being used to prevent strike action on the piers.

George Cashman - the $ 600,000 man from Boston who worked part time at 5 separate full time jobs, 4 with the IBT and one with MASSPORT - was still the head of the Teamsters Port Truckers Division.

Cashman had jumped ship from Carey and TDU when it was obvious they would lose, and became a born again old guard Hoffa loyalist.

Also, out in the NAFTA Corridor, workers at Central Freight, the biggest LTL carrier on that route, had actually approached the Teamsters about unionization.

Initially, union support was very heavy in the non union carrier's 10,000 worker freight barn in Irving, Texas - and this should have been a slam dunk win for the Teamsters Union.

The only problem was Tyson Johnson.

He was the head of Dallas/Ft Worth Teamsters local 745, and an IBT international vice president and the head of the IBT Freight Division

Yes, yet another IBT officer with 3 different full time jobs!

120 hours a week!

In two different cities!

1,500 miles apart!

And for the bargain price (by Teamsters standards) of "only" $ 150,000 a year!

Tyson Johnson also had his own private goon squad - who terrorized teamsters who dared to disagree with him.

Like Union Pacific's OVNT SWAT, Johnson's goons were very tech savvy - they actually bragged about their teamster-on-teamster violence on TeamsterNet, a popular teamster internet bulletin board site.

Johnson's thugs regularly terrorized teamsters at their jobs - including the freight workers at Yellow Freight Systems.

Occasionally, the goons would drag workers into a tunnel under the loading dock at the Yellow Freight terminal in Irving, which happened to be right across the street from Central Freight's terminal.

At their anti union captive audience meetings, Central Freight arranged for Yellow Freight workers who had been victims of Tyson Johnson's goon squad beatings to speak to Central Freight workers about their horrible experiences.

That turned a pro union group of workers - who had longed for the high wages and mileage rates that Yellow Freight workers earned - into workers who did not want to be in the IBT.

This caused the IBT to lose the NLRB election at Central Freight by a very high margin - the Teamsters did win the election at a tiny 20 worker Central Freight terminal in Las Vegas, but they lost the 10,000 workers at Irving, who were the decisive bargaining unit at the company, and the key to  unionizing the NAFTA Corridor LTL freight carrier workforce.

There were other bad developments on the horizon.

Roadway set up a small package operation to compete with unionized UPS, non union FedEx and double breasted Airborne Express.

It was called Roadway Package Systems - it's name was as close to UPS as they could get without being sued and it's trucks were the same white with blue and orange trim as FedEx' trucks were.

The drivers were owner operators who had to purchase their own vehicles, and who were paid a flat fee for each box delivered, rather than an hourly wage.

This guaranteed that sweatshop labor conditions would prevail at the company - since the owner operators had to cover their truck payment, insurance, diesel fuel, repair costs, parking tickets, uniform cleaning costs and have enough to live on out of their modest per package fee.

Meanwhile, Hoffa did take some serious steps to unionize the 20,000 non union workers at Airborne Express.

To be technical, they didn't actually work for Airborne - all of Airborne Express' 7,000 employees at the New York/New Jersey local delivery operation and the pilots and air freight handlers at JFK, Newark and Dayton (Ohio) International Airport were teamsters.

But all the other workers who delivered Airborne packages in the rest of the country worked for non union subcontractors.

The Teamsters Union was finally - after over 30 years - actually doing something about organizing those workers.

The Airborne Express organizing campaign stands out as one of the few freight worker organizing success stories of the last 30 years.

Hoffa did have other priorities - like getting the feds out of the union.

It was presented to the members as an expense issue - and indeed, having a team of high salaried government lawyers being paid from the IBT general fund cost a lot of money - but the real issue was control over the IBT as an institution.

Hoffa - unlike Carey - had a stable social base in the union (the local officers, in particular the leaders of freight and construction locals, and more importantly, the  social base that kept those officers in power, the better paid and more privileged of their members)

Title: JACKKNIFED [part 9]
Post by: GREGORYABUTLER on April 13, 2009, 08:13:08 pm
So, unlike his predecessor, Hoffa didn't need the feds to fight his battles for him.

Consequently, Hoffa easily won reelection to a full term in 2001 - trouncing Tom Leedham, who ran for a second time against Hoffa.

As usual, over 80% of teamsters didn't vote for either one of them - they didn't even bother to mail their ballot back.

After the 9/11 attacks (which, among their victims, claimed the lives of 4 local 804 UPS teamsters who were working on the World Trade Center's cavernous loading docks the morning of the air raid), Hoffa tried another tactic.

He presented the IBT as the first line of defense against terrorists on America's highways, at the airports and on the piers.  

Strictly speaking, this wasn't really true - in fact, the corruption and Hells Angels and Irish organized crime ties of George Cashman's local 25 were directly involved with making Boston's Logan Airport a security weak spot (which is why al-Qaeda terrorists picked that airport as the launching pad for two of their four air attacks).

But, Hoffa's patriotic pledges - and his continuing anti Mexican rhetoric about the cross border trucking issue - and the IBT's support for the Republican Party - were helpful in reducing FBI interference in Teamsters Union internal affairs.

The Teamsters Union had other problems to deal with in 2002 - more union carriers were folding up their tents and going out of business.

A - P - A Transportation, a major New Jersey-based LTL carrier, closed it's doors.

The owner, Anthony Imperatore, also owned NY Waterway, the main private ferry line between New Jersey and New York City. 9/11 related damage to the commuter train lines under the Hudson River had caused his ferry business to rapidly expand.

Imperatore, a hands on manager (he personally interviewed and hired every single teamster at A - P - A himself) didn't want to deal with the distraction of the money losing freight line - so he closed it.

But at least Imperatore shifted all of his freight to a union carrier - Lebanon, Pennsylvania-based New Penn Motor Freight.

Not so the biggest LTL carrier - and one of the biggest 48 state carriers in the country overall, union or non union.

Consolidated Freightways shut down it's entire unionized freight operation, laying off 15,500 teamsters in 48 states.

CF's non union double breasted companies - LTL carrier Con-Way Transportation and air freight forwarder Emery Air Freight stayed on the road (and Con-Way took over much of CF's former business).

Out in the Midwest, CCC, and old line union carrier originally organized by Jimmy Hoffa went out of business.

Or at least it's union side - it's non union double breasted entity, Crete, stayed in business - and took the bulk of CCC's old accounts.

It wasn't just the freight carriers breaking the IBT.

The carhaulers, just about the only segment of the trucking industry that was still mostly union, were also aggressively moving against the unions.

Allied, Ryder, Leaseway and JHT were all shifting major routes from their union divisions to their non union double breasted firms.

Also, all 4 of those carriers were using their lower paid Canadian teamster drivers to haul new cars from Canadian GM, Ford and Chrysler plants to US dealerships.

And one of UPS's non union divisions, UPS Logistics, was also picking up a lot of formerly union carhauling work as well.

These were all major losses for the Teamsters Union.

As unionized freight was collapsing, a new non union colossus was forming in Memphis.

Roadway spun off it's non union RPS and Viking subsidiaries and Yellow sold it's non union double breasted firms, Saia and Jevic.

The buyer for Viking and Saia?


Viking and Saia became FedEx Freight - which, with the demise of CF, became the largest LTL carrier in the country.

RPS became FedEx Ground - same abusive labor conditions, but a different paint job on the trucks (white with blue and green trim, to distinguish them from FedEx Express trucks - and the new white with red trim on the FedEx Freight vehicles).

Jevic continued it's existence as a non union LTL carrier.

As for the union side, now it was just Roadway, Yellow, USF Holland, the union part of USF Reddaway, ABF, New Penn, Old Dominion, Oak Harbor Freight and Airborne Express.

While all this was happening, the National Master UPS Agreement expired.

He signed a 6 year agreement with United Parcel Service - which continued the 14 year long wage freeze for part timers, but raised full timer wages, so you now had the spectacle of some UPS teamsters only making $ 11,000 a year while others made over $ 100,000 a year.

But the worst giveback of all was the length of the agreement - he was locking the union in for a full 6 years (the longest term of any contract the IBT had signed in it's entire 99 year history as a union).

The UPS agreement also cast a much longer shadow within the IBT - with the fall of the unionized freight segment and the rapid expansion of Big Brown, UPS was the union's biggest bargaining unit (230,000 teamsters to only 88,000 left in freight)

UPS was expanding too - it had gotten alternative sources of capital after the 1997 strike (an Initial Public Offering - IPO - yes, after a century of independence, Big Brown finally surrendered to Wall Street) and was rapidly growing the company.

One of their acquisitions was - Overnite Transportation.

Union Pacific Railroad had decided to unload OVNT and it's persistent labor problems - UPS brought OVNT and changed it's name to UPS Freight.

While a railroad was getting out of the road freight business, Hoffa was looking to get into the railroad union field.

The Teamsters was looking to take over the nation's anemic and collapsing rail labor sector - to prop up the union's sagging membership figures.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers - one of the nation's oldest unions (founded 1863) was absorbed into the IBT as an autonomous division.

The Teamsters Union also took over a couple of printers unions - the Mailers, the Graphic Communications International Union and the Amalgamated Lithographers - all old line newspaper printers unions who were slowly collapsing.

These mergers managed to keep Teamsters Union membership figures over the 1.4 million member mark.

In 2003, it proved to be very fortunate that Hoffa's only successful truck drivers organizing drive - the Airborne Express campaign - had been as effective as it was in organizing much of Airborne's non union subcontractor network.

Airborne got brought out by DHL - the American airfreight forwarding subsidiary of Deutsche Post - the German Postal Service.

Deutsche Post was 100% union back home - but not over here.

Like Airborne, DHL had a network of non union subcontractors who handled their package delivery operations outside the New York/New Jersey area - so the IBT's Airborne drivers organizing campaign had to continue at the new DHL Express.

Hoffa also gave the Motor Freight Carriers Association a 5 year NMFA in 2003.

Along with a longer term, the carriers also got the right to use casual truck drivers

That was a huge giveback.

Since 1939, casuals - temporary teamsters hired by the day - had been restricted to loading dock work and other non driving labor. Now, the carriers could use casuals to drive, and for a bargain basement pay scale - more than what they'd get on the dock, but less than what city drivers were paid.

The 2003-2008 NMFA also created a new type of driver, "utility workers" - who would get city driver pay, but could be asked to do the work of higher paid road drivers.

The agreement also had a "Wage Reduction - Job Security Plan" which enabled companies that claimed a "hardship" to reduce new hire wages from 80% of NMFA scale to 75% and to reduce full NMFA scale workers to 95% of NMFA scale (a 5% pay cut, in plain English).

As had been the pattern for every NMFA since 1973, as the union shrank, teamster standards were pushed down closer and closer to non union levels.

While the Teamsters Freight Division was selling out it's poorest members - the casuals - the Teamsters Warehouse Division was scabbing on supermarket clerks.

The United Food and Commercial Workers called an industrywide supermarket workers strike in Southern California in October 2003.

Jim Santangelo, an IBT vice president and head of Southern California Joint Council # 42, said that "this is not our strike" and ordered all of the warehouse teamsters in the area to scab on the strike.

Santangelo justified this by saying that "everybody has a right to cross a picketline"

That grotesque order didn't go over so well with supermarket teamsters - many of whom respected the lines, despite what their union told them to do.

Right after Thanksgiving, Santangelo let the warehouse teamsters honor the picket lines - but he then ordered them to go back to work 3 days before Christmas, so the supermarkets would be able to stock their shelves for the holiday!

Out at the stores, teamster drivers were ordered to drop their deliveries off in the street in front of the stores - so, technically, they wouldn't be scabbing, but the goods would still get delivered anyway (scabs with u-boat carts would wheel the goods by hand across the UFCW picketlines).

The UFCW was forced to end the strike - on the supermarket chain's terms - in early 2004, thanks in large part to Santangelo's scabbing.

Meanwhile, George Cashman - the amazing 200 hour a week $ 600k a year man with 5 simultaneous full time jobs - was going to prison.

His years of racketeering ties - including a shakedown scam that sold labor peace to Hollywood film producers filming on location in New England in return for jobs for Cashman's Hells Angels buddies - had finally caught up with him.

It also didn't help Cashman's cause that his Logan Airport rackets had directly compromised airport security and created a lawless environment at the airport that had (indirectly and unintentionally) helped make the 9/11 terrorist attacks possible.

So Cashman went to federal prison - and the IBT (and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) had no choice but to fire him from all 5 of his jobs.

Tragically, Cashman's mistress lost her (no show no work) union staff job too.

Even more horribly, some of Cashman's Hells Angels buddies lost their high paying movie set jobs too.

Hoffa appointed Northern California Joint Council # 7 leader Chuck Mack as Cashman's replacement as head of the Port Truckers Division.

Mack was also a multi job Teamsters Union millionaire - he now had 4 separate jobs - president of Teamsters local 70 and head of Joint Council # 7, in Oakland, and head of the Port Division and international vice president, both 3,000 miles away in Washington DC - and all 4 of these full time jobs had six figure salaries.

The only difference was Mack lacked Cashman's open ties to mobsters and motorcycle gangs.

Cashman had to earn all 4 of his salaries in 2004.

On Cinco De Mayo, port truckers at the Port of Oakland, led by owner operator driver Irvinder Dahanda, went out on strike.

They were joined by drivers at Union Pacific Railroad intermodal (piggyback) yard in Lathrop, California - a suburb of Salinas, a Central California farm town - who were led by driver Youbert Betady.

Betady and Dahanda led those workers out on strike, and announced that they were forming a new labor organization, the Intermodal Truckers Union.

They were joined by 80 employee drivers who hauled freight at Yang Ming shipping lines at the Port of Los Angeles and the intermodal drivers at the Union Pacific rail terminal in Sacramento - a total of 6,000 strikers.

Most of the drivers were Latino, with sizeable minorities of Sikhs, Tanzanians, Iranians, African Americans and White Americans among the drivers.

The main issue was money - even though diesel fuel prices were skyrocketing (they had hit the then unheard of $ 2.39 a gallon mark the week of the strike) the drivers were still getting paid a flat $ 50 to $ 200 a trip - with no pay for the hours of wait time at the terminals.

The drivers estimated that, allowing for wait time, they made $ 8/hr for an 18 hour workday, or only $ 50 a year for a 6,250 hour work year (most full time workers only put in 2,000 hours a year).

That was bad enough - but with fuel prices going up, they were now making less than $ 8 and hour - and that just would not do.

The drivers demanded a 30% trip rate increase, a 6% fuel surcharge, a $ 35/hr wage for waiting time and a $ 50/hr wage for time spent dropping off containers.

The strike was very militant - Oakland drivers blockaded the port (and confronted the handful of scab trucks with rock throwing and brakeline cutting) - Long Beach truckers shut down Interstate 5, the main freeway in Los Angeles.

And it was very effective - Union Pacific actually cut off freight train service to the entire State of California because their yards were so jammed with piggyback rail cars and freight containers.

UPRR actually had freight trains backed up all the way to Chicago because of the strike!

And since Chicago is the hub of the nation's freight train network, canceled UPRR trains also caused delays on Burlington Northern-Santa Fe service to the Great Plains states, the Pacific Northwest, Texas and Mexico, Norfolk Southern and CSX service to the South, Great Lakes States and the Northeast Corridor and Canadian National service to Canada and New England.

The California intermodal drivers strike was the most effective truck drivers strike since the national freight drivers wildcat strike of 1970.

The Port Authority and the Pacific Maritime Association in Oakland were forced to negotiate with the ITU - an experience they found very odd, since the ITU's truck driver leaders were very different than the suit wearing Lincoln Town Car driving union business agents they normally bargained with.

The drivers won a compromise settlement - a 15% increase in rates and a 5% surcharge, but with no hourly waiting time wage paid.

Unfortunately, the ITU wasn't able to win union recognition - but they did force the Port Authority and the Pacific Maritime Association to pledge to have consultative meetings with drivers' representatives every three months.

They also proved that the whole "anti trust" excuse the IBT had used to stop a port truckers strike was bogus - in a pinch, if the containers aren't moving, the bosses will bargain with a truckers union, no matter what employment status the drivers have.

250 log truck drivers in Washington state - inspired by the California truckers and represented by an independent union - also went on strike.

The long dormant Teamsters Port Truckers Division was forced into action, calling a one day strike at the Port of Houston and a 2 day strike at the Port of Norfolk.

Unfortunately, the official labor movement's response to the California port truckers strike was outright scabbing.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the communist-led labor organization that represents longshoremen on the West Coast docks, actually ordered it's members to scab on the ITU strike.

ILWU longshoremen were dispatched to work - even though the piers were idle because of the strike, and their union contract has a clause saying they are not required to work behind a picketline.

Despite that no scab clause in that agreement, longshoremen who refused to scab were disciplined by ILWU local 10, acting on the Pacific Maritime Association's behalf.

The ILWU leadership is very radical on outside political causes that have nothing to do with the seafreight industry - but on the piers they work hand in hand with the shipping lines and the stevedoring contractors.

The ILWU has also wanted to claim port trucker work for it's members - and has actually used national security as an excuse (most port truckers are immigrants, many are undocumented, but all ILWU members are citizens or green card aliens).

By scabbing, the ILWU leadership showed the shipowners that they could supply a loyal strike free workforce in place of the militant port truckers.

All in all, a shameful display from a union that makes much of it's so called "progressivism"!

Speaking of nominally progressive unions the even more radical Industrial Workers of the World (the famed anarcho-syndicalist IWW) actually was given the chance to take on ITU as an affiliate during the strike.

The strike leadership approached the IWW.

And the IWW's leadership, when given a chance to actually put their radical labor politics to a practical test, ran away from the field of struggle.

The IWW leadership announced that they had nothing to do with the strike and refused to take any kind of leadership role whatsoever - despite the fact that the truck drivers were looking to the IWW for leadership!

The Teamsters Union leadership played a double game - trying to take over the strike and sabotage it simultaneously.

On the other side of the country, the Teamsters called token strikes in Houston and Norfolk - but made damned sure that those walkouts ended very quickly, before they could have any real effect on ship traffic.

On the California docks, Chuck Mack ordered the handful of teamsters who were employee drivers for shipping lines to cross ITU picketlines and scab on the strike.

Most of the 100 or so scab trucks at the Port of Oakland (the normal daily truck traffic is 1,000+ vehicles) were teamster driven rigs!

Mack - while scabbing on the strike - also tried to capture leadership of the strike, while simultaneously making contemptuous and borderline racist statements to the press about how these "low income" immigrant drivers didn't have the capacity to lead their own union!

As has been far too common throughout American labor the last 40 years, union leaders were trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, because they were terrified of any struggle that really challenged the power of Corporate America.

The Port Division did launch a lengthy effort to get Los Angeles County to require that all stevedoring contractors and sea freight carriers operating at the Port of Los Angeles hire their drivers as employees.

This lengthy effort was based on the idea that, if the drivers were employees instead of owner operators they could be organized the conventional way - but they could not be organized while they were still owner operators.

That effort is still underway as of this writing in 2009, with minimal success.

The drivers themselves had proved in 2004 that it was simply a matter of shutting down the piers and the railroad yards, and the bosses would bargain, anti trust law or no anti trust law.

The IWW, having perhaps realized their earlier error in not taking leadership of the statewide intermodal strike, did eventually organize the intermodal truckers at the UPRR railroad yard in Sacramento.

In October 2004, the Safeway Supermarket warehouse workers in Tracy, California suffered their own IBT betrayal.

Like many supermarket chains facing the simultaneous competitive threats from low wage immigrant-owned bodegas and 99 cent stores in the ghettoes and low wage Wal-Mart stores in suburbia, Safeway was trying to aggressively cut labor costs.

Safeway could only cut so much from it's United Food and Commercial Workers represented store workers, most of whom were near minimum wage part timers - mostly transitional workers (high school kids, college students, mothers coming back into to the labor force, retirees) who usually quit their jobs after only a few months.

As I mentioned above, in '03 the UFCW had fought a 141 day strike just to preserve the meager pay and benefits their members had - so there was only so far the stores could push the workers in the stores.

So, they went after the teamsters in the warehouses.

Safeway contracted out it's warehouse operations to Summit Logistics, a low wage British-owned union contractor.

The Tracy warehouse workers were sick and tired of production quotas for the warehouse workers and unpaid overtime for the drivers.

So they went on strike - demanding lower production quotas for the warehouse workers and an hourly wage for the drivers instead of the "activity pay" piecework pay system currently in effect.

Initially, the strike was very militant - the 400 drivers and 1,200 warehouse workers represented by Stockton Teamsters local 439 initially aggressively mass picketed at the warehouse, beating and stoning scabs who tried to cross their picketline.

Unfortunately, almost immediately, the United Food and Commercial Workers, claiming that Safeway was "a pro union company" ordered all 20,000 of it's clerks and butchers at the stores served by the Tracy warehouse to scab on the strike.

Since most UFCW members are very thinly attached to their union (for a lot of the low wage low seniority part timers - who make up the overwhelming majority of the union's supermarket industry membership - "UFCW" is just another payroll tax taken out of their check, since that's the only tie they have to the union) it was not that hard to get them to scab - unfortunately.

Of course, there was also the fact that the Southern California teamsters had been ordered to scab during the UFCW strike just a year before - so it's understandable why the supermarket clerks' union leaders might be a little reluctant to go the extra mile for a Teamsters Union strike.

Summit brought in 1,400 scab warehouse workers and 250 scab drivers to take the place of the Tracy warehouse workers - proving just how seriously that company - and Safeway - took this strike.

The members did too - as their militancy on the first day proved.

The IBT leadership didn't want to wage a militant struggle - so they went out of their way to prevent the workers from fighting back.

When supermarket picketing began to have an effect - customers were shopping elsewhere and Safeway was losing money, the IBT actually called off the pickets - because they were too effective!

The strike did end after a month - Summit fired the scabs, and most of the strikers got their jobs back, but it was very much on Safeway and Summit's terms.

At least in the warehouse industry, there were still over 400,000 union teamsters on the job - they may have had miserable jobs and low pay, but at least they were still in the union.

Of course, there were hundreds of thousands of workers in the non union wholesalers that served the inner city bodegas and 99 cent stores.

And Wal-Mart's vast non union warehouse and trucking network.

And the non union warehouses of online retailers like - the fastest growing sector in the retail industry.

A joint UFCW-Communications Workers of America organizing drive (the UFCW went after the etailer's 5,000 warehouse workers - CWA targeted the 400 customer service representatives) had failed at Amazon back in 2005 and that, unfortunately, was the only serious attempt to organize that sector at all.

In the freight sector - where only 88,000 of the nation's 2 million freight workers were union by 2005 - the union's decay continued.

An organizing campaign at one of US Freightways many non union subsidiaries - USF Red Star, dramatically backfired, when US Freightways shut down the firm rather than see it get organized.

The IBT was able to get the fired USF Red Star workers put on a preferential hiring list at USF Holland, a unionized USF subsidiary that covered the same territory (the Northeast Corridor and the Middle Atlantic States).

The only bright spot was yet another organizing campaign at what used to be Overnite - now UPS Freight.

UPS didn't set up a terrorist group and brutalize it's workers like Union Pacific had done - but it did make the IBT go terminal by terminal and file one NLRB election campaign at a time for each small group of workers.

By 2005, the only truck driver organizing going on were the UPS Freight campaign, the long running drive to organize all of DHL Express' non union subcontractors, the roundabout campaign to organize LA port truckers by getting the city to make the trucking companies hire them and the campaign at US Freightways Reddaway division, which is part union and part non union.

The two biggest remaining union carriers, Yellow Freight Systems and Roadway Express, merged - their road operations remained separate, but the companies now had a common parent company.

The unfortunate thing was, there really wasn't any organized opposition to Hoffa and his allies.

Solidarity still had Labor Notes Magazine and Teamsters for a Democratic Union - but TDU had never taken ownership of it's political responsibility for the failures of the Carey administration.

They remained uncritical of Carey - and of the federal monitorship - and their own lack of a mass base among freight workers, UPS drivers, UPS part timers or any other teamster craft.

The late Jackie Presser's old criticism of them as corporate funded outsiders still rung true for many teamsters - and TDU never had a real answer for that criticism of their organization.

TDU also lacked any kind of a program for how to save the Teamsters Union or how to reunionize the freight industry.

The best they could do was "gotcha" investigative journalism in their magazine Convoy/Dispatch - articles about the grotesque six figure salaries and multiple no show jobs of pro Hoffa teamsters officers and the outright criminality of some of these officials.

Of course, one of the most grotesquely overpaid IBT officers of the post Presser era was - A FORMER TDU SUPPORTER - George Cashman from Boston local 25!

When Cashman was in the Carey camp, they'd kept quiet about his multiple salaries and his ties to the Hells Angels and the Irish mob.

Which made their criticism of overpaid and corrupt Hoffa associates seem all the more hypocritical.

Despite it's lack of a base among actual teamsters, TDU could continue indefinitely, because of large cash donations from Solidarity's many upper middle class and rich members and supporters.

TDU actually opened up a satellite of their Detroit headquarters in New York City, who's primary function was to raise funds from upscale New York leftists for TDU and Labor Notes Magazine.

There were a few dozen actual TDU members in New York City - mostly movers from local 814, dissident Housing Authority elevator mechanics from local 237 and the federally installed officers of port truckers local 805.

But they weren't the ones writing the big checks - and most of TDU's house party fundraisers were in apartments in upscale New York neighborhoods like Greenwich Village or Park Slope, were very few actual teamsters could afford to live.

Outside of the Big Apple, TDU had a handful of functional chapters - Youngstown, Detroit, Atlanta ect -  but that was pretty much it.

The group still claimed 10,000 members - but, unlike the early years of TDU, when they probably did have 10,000 activists in their group, today, most of those folks are teamsters who are, at most, passive supporters of TDU who are paid subscribers to Convoy/Dispatch.

It's truly unfortunate that TDU is not in a position to actually be a viable left opposition in the Teamsters Union.

North America's teamsters desperately need a serious alternative leadership to Hoffa and his supporters.

And TDU is not that alternative.

While TDU was spinning it's wheels, Hoffa followed in his father's footsteps by pulling the IBT out of the AFL-CIO for the second time this century.

Hoffa affiliated the IBT with Change To Win, a mini labor federation cobbled together by Andy Stern, the president of the Service Employees International Union.

Stern felt the AFL-CIO wasn't quite pro corporate enough, so he set up a labor body based on essentially company unionist ideas.

According to Change To Win, bosses and workers are partners, the main role of unions is to help corporations be profitable, and workers who fight back against discrimination and on the job abuses are "bad workers" who "deserve to be fired"

[Those are actual quotes from the SEIU's lead organizer for the State of Colorado]

Change To Win wants to unite the "shiny happy people" among the workers [an actual quote from that SEIU organizer] with the bosses to make American business more competitive in the world market.

Worker grievances are a "distraction" from that pro corporate goal.

The SEIU and IBT were joined by the United Farm Workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE-HERE (a conglomerate union made up of the former hotel and casino workers union and the remnants of the garment industry unions), the Laborers International Union and the Carpenters Union.

Most of those unions kept a foot in both camps - they retained affiliation to state and local AFL-CIO bodies while being affiliated to CTW at the international level.

Like the short lived Frank Fitzsimmons-era Alliance for Labor Action back in 1968, CTW was stillborn, and never really took off as a serious labor federation.

One major reason was the fact that - by far - the SEIU is the most cravenly pro corporate of the CTW unions, and the most undemocratic.

In particular, the SEIU's leaders (almost none of whom have ever worked in their union's industries - the union likes to hire young college grads with no background in the labor movement as organizers and then promote them, unelected, into union office) hate the IBT as a "dinosaur union" that's "stuck in the 20th century" and is far too "confrontational" and "anti business" for the SEIU's taste.

[More actual quotes from that same SEIU organizing director]

It's hard to believe that ANYBODY would think that Junior Hoffa is too radical - or the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is too "anti business"!

But that just shows the political degeneration of the SEIU's leadership that such bizarrely right wing views are the political mainstream there.

Radical or not, Junior Hoffa coasted to an easy third election victory in 2006.

Junior easily defeated Tom Leedham (now TDU's perennial presidential candidate) in the elections - and, as usual, over 80% of the IBT's members didn't even bother to mail back their ballot!

As has come to be the norm, the biggest truck drivers strikes of 2006 were not IBT sanctioned official walkouts.

In the spring of 2006, a group of Spanish language radio DJ's, Roman Catholic priests and directors of immigrant services agencies and day labor centers had organized a national movement for amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

The movement was built around lobbying against the Sensenbrenner Bill (HR 4437) - which would have harshly cracked down on undocumented immigrants.

Eventually, it evolved into the largest mass movement of workers in this country since the 1930's.

The movement called a nationwide immigrant workers general strike ["La Gran Marcha"] in March 2006

Over 4 million workers (mostly Latino immigrants) answered the general strike call - with the port truckers in Los Angeles among those walking off the job, effectively shutting down shipping in the harbor.

This was the biggest general strike in American history - and the first general strike of any kind in this country since 1877.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters - like the rest of the American labor movement - played absolutely no role in this strike whatsoever.

La Gran Marcha was followed up by another national general strike "the Great American Boycott" on May Day 2006.

Again, over 4 million workers participated - including the Los Angeles Harbor port truckers, who - again - shut down seafreight service for the day.

Again, the IBT was nowhere to be seen and played absolutely no role in this strike, the greatest walkout this country's working class has ever carried out.

Unfortunately, the movement's middle class leaders were flatly terrified of the genie that they'd let out of the bottle.

Fearing that this mass movement of workers would hurt the Democratic Party's chances in the midterm elections they derailed the movement away from struggle at the point of production and into the dead end of voting for the Democrats.

Under the rotten slogan "!Ayer Marcharon! Manana Votan! ["Today we march! Tomorrow we vote!"] they persuaded the millions of workers they lead to abandon struggles at the workplace in favor of the dead end of begging racist politicians to be pro immigrant.

It was an astonishing feat of misleadership - encouraging voting as a strategy to a group of workers who CANNOT VOTE - and the movement was stalled by primary season and totally dead by election time.

But that did not negate the raw social power those workers had shown by withdrawing their labor!

Despite all the bogus claims that "strikes don't work" - and, in the case of the port truckers that "you can't organize owner operators" and "it's illegal for them to go on strike" - these workers had shown yet again where their true power lies - in their labor and their ability to withdraw that labor power.

On paper, Hoffa quietly supported "a path to citizenship" (a position carefully concealed from the union's White membership - most of whom, like most White Americans in general, oppose amnesty for undocumented immigrants).

Far more publicly, Hoffa continued his ranting and raving about Mexican truckers and how dangerous they were to US highway safety and homeland security.

Of course, he was referring to drivers from Mexico, not Mexican American truckers - but the whole campaign still had a foul stench of racism about it.

While the port truckers again proved their organizeability, the union's organizing department was mainly focused on small town police departments, First Student Corp's school bus drivers and attendants, Rural/Metro Ambulance Co paramedics in Buffalo and workers at a number of airlines.

Many of those airline workers ALREADY HAD A UNION - in particular, 9,000 airframe and powerplant mechanics at United Airlines, who were in the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association.

That wasn't so much organizing as it was raiding - poaching members who were already in another union.

The port trucker organizing campaign was still limping along - the main focus now being on getting Los Angeles County to make seafreight hauling companies take on their owner operator drivers as employees before the Teamsters Union would even try and unionize them.

It didn't matter that port truckers had - again and again, and most recently in the big 2006 immigrant strikes - proved that they could be organized in their present employment status, the IBT insisted upon this tired idea that "you can't organize owner operators" (a curious position for a union that was originally founded by owner operators IN 1903!).

Worse yet, thanks to IBT and ILWU encouraged security crackdowns on the docks, and the wave of anti immigrant repression that followed the collapse of the 2006 immigrant rights movement, demanding employment for owner operator truckers might cause some of these drivers to lose their jobs and get deported!

Non citizen drivers who lacked social security cards but who had a taxpayer ID number and a DOT number could always buy a truck and get work - but they couldn't get a job that required they become statutory employees, due to their noncitizenship.

In a real way, the IBT's campaign to get LA County to require the use of employee drivers might very well lead to much of the current militant pro union workforce losing their jobs - and perhaps even being deported!

The slow terminal by terminal campaigns at USF Reddaway, UPS Freight and DHL Express continued - with all three firms making the IBT unionize each small group of drivers and dockworkers building by building (and no effort by the union to force the carriers to let the workers be unionized all at once).

As for FedEx, the multi headed colossus of the road freight industry (FedEx Express FedEx Freight, FedEx Custom Critical, FedEx Ground ect) Teamsters lawyers were trying to challenge FedEx on the owner operator issue at FedEx Ground (based on the bogus "you can't organize owner operators" position)

The union also had a low key internet-based organizing campaign limping along among  truck and plane mechanics at FedEx Express as well.

There was absolutely no effort to organize the biggest crafts at FedEx - FedEx Express drivers, couriers and loaders, who made up the bulk of the firm's US workforce.

This was a losing strategy - a fragmented localized struggle against a handful of small bargaining units at the most centralized carrier in the entire freight industry was a sure loser.

All of FedEx far flung operations across the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe and South China were centrally run out of FedEx corporate headquarters in Memphis.

Every FedEx driver and courier on three continents had a small computer terminal on his/her belt that tied directly into FedEx world headquarters - the company was that hypercentralized.

Did it really make sense to have these small token organizing campaigns around the fringes of the company?

If the objective was to annoy FedEx management by making them pay attorneys' fees to management side labor lawyers and NLRB wrongful termination settlements to pro union FedEx workers illegally fired for their labor activism at work then the IBT was incredibly successful.

If the aim was to actually unionize FedEx - then it was a colossal waste of time - and the pro union sentiments of so many FedEx workers who sincerely wanted a union!

In 2007, Hoffa's main focus was on signing an early contract with UPS.

The National Master UPS Agreement wasn't due to expire until 2008, but Hoffa opened the agreement early, to settle the pension issue that had been bothering Big Brown for over a decade.

UPS was allowed to remove 44,000 full timers in the Central States area from the Central States Pension Fund, and to put them in a UPS pension fund  - in return for  one last $ 6.1 billion dollar payment to the fund.

This was bad news for Central States teamsters - thanks to the deunionization of the road freight industry, the fund was badly underfunded and had been cutting benefits every year since 2003.

Without UPS to prop Central States up, the fund was going to be in bad shape.

UPS agreed to continue paying 20 other much smaller IBT pension funds to cover 66,000 other UPS full timers - at least for the 6 ½ year life of the agreement.

This was the first step in UPS' longtime goal of no longer subsidizing the pension legacy costs of their non union competitors.

Eventually, Big Brown wanted to have all UPS full timers covered by the company's own in house pension funds (invested largely in the firm's own stock, of course).

As for the part timers - UPS's plan was to ultimately have no pensions at all for them - saving the company several billion dollars.

Of course, most part timers were low seniority transitional workers who, on average, left the company after only 4 months.

Removing them from the UPS pension system would only impact the minority of UPS part timers who were career employees.

TDU tried to organize a vote no campaign against this contract - unsuccessfully.

For the Central States UPS full timers, the switch to a company pension plan meant a better pension payout after retirement, as opposed to the Teamsters plan, which was constantly being reduced and might not even be solvent in a few more years.

For UPS full timers outside of the Central States area, this was another step towards their areas getting out of the dangerously insolvent Teamsters pension system in the next National Master UPS Agreement.

For some lucky UPS full timers - like the members of local 804 in New York City, which had it's own local pension plan separate from all other IBT pension funds, they were already in a UPS-only pension plan, insulated from other, less solvent, Teamster pension funds.

And for the vast majority of UPS's 240,000 teamsters - the 140,000 part timers - the whole pension discussion was basically irrelevant.

Most of them were transitional workers - college students, recent graduates, moms returning to the workforce - and UPS was NOT a long term career for them (most of these workers would be off the UPS payroll within 4 months, on average).

Over 120,000 UPS workers are college students (with most of those students - of course - being part timers)

The student part timers, like most college students who work low wage transitional jobs while they are in school, very much think of themselves as students first, UPS workers a distant second and teamsters a far distant third, if at all.

The pension thing didn't matter to them - since none of them were going to stick around at Big Brown long enough to get one.

Making $ 8.50 an hour wile working side by side with full timers who made $ 22/hr did - but neither the IBT nor UPS nor TDU had any plans to make any changes in THAT situation!

So most UPS workers who actually voted on the 2007 - 2013 National Master UPS Agreement voted YES, which further confirmed TDU's long, slow and sad slide into irrelevance.

UPS also signed a separate contract for 135 road drivers, city drivers, dockworkers and casuals at UPS Freight's Indianapolis terminal.

These were the first UPS Freight workers to have a union agreement - the first IBT victory at the former Overnight Transportation after over a decade of struggle.

Even though these workers were in the Central States area, the IBT agreed to let UPS cover them under one of the company's own pension plans.

Hoffa also negotiated a contract for 1,600 newly organized freight workers at USF Reddaway - a part union/part non union subsidiary of double breasted LTL carrier US Freightways, operating in the Pacific Northwest. The other 2,000 USF Reddaway workers remained non union.

In 2008, the Hoffa administration - seeing which way the political winds were blowing - broke with the Republican Party and supported the Democrats.

Initially, during primary season, the IBT supported Senator Hillary Clinton - but, upon her primary defeat by Senator Barack Obama, they shifted their time, money and volunteers to Obama  - and the union aggressively campaigned for him right up until election day.

Alongside all of the efforts to support pro capitalist politicians, Hoffa also had to negotiate a new NMFA and a first contract at UPS Freight while facing a collapsing US and world economy - as well as the near total deunionization of the American road freight industry.

It was almost comical to speak of NMFA as a "National Master" agreement anymore - since it covered such a tiny proportion of America's road freight workforce!

Only a handful of carriers were still union, and of them only a few were still under the national agreement (the now merged Yellow Roadway, USF Holland, New Penn, Old Dominion and ABF).

UPS Freight's national agreement was similar to NMFA - except they had much greater rights to subcontract work to other carriers (including non union firms) to use an unlimited number of casuals for city driver work, to use video surveillance against their workers and (just like the National Master UPS Agreement) to cover their workers under UPS rather than Teamster pension plans.

The agreement expired in 2013 - and UPS kept the Indianapolis UPS Freight workers under their existing separate contract.

The 2008 - 2013 NMFA was also filled with givebacks - starting with the pact's 6 year length. The carriers also cut casual dockworker pay from $ 16/hr to $ 14, kept the right to use $ 19/hr casual drivers in place of $ 22/hr city drivers, and $ 23/hr utility worker drivers in place of road drivers (who earn more because they get 0.55 cents per mile rather than an hourly wage).

They also won the right to transfer 10% of the trailers they piggyback by rail to non union trucking companies!

Of course, ever since the 1973 Special Commodities Rider union carriers  have been allowed to have non union subsidiaries - but, at least on paper, their still was a ban on openly shifting work to non union carriers.

That was all gone now - union trucking companies could now openly shift work to non union carriers (they'd only have to pay a modest $ 35 per trailer to the Central States Pension Fund as a penalty!)

If that wasn't bad enough, almost immediately after the agreement was ratified, Yellow Roadway began demanding an even better deal from the IBT.

Yellow Roadway (which employed 40,000 of the roughly 60,000 freight teamsters left under NMFA) announced a merger of the company's two separate divisions.

This entailed large scale layoffs, since there is a lot of overlap between the two firms.

Right after those layoffs were negotiated with the IBT, Yellow Roadway demanded a special hardship agreement.

Citing financial difficulties, Yellow Roadway demanded a 4 year wage freeze and a 10% pay and mileage rate cut for all of it's freight teamsters.

Hoffa agreed - and launched a massive public relations campaign among the Yellow Roadway workers, claiming that, in the present economic meltdown, the only way he could guarantee their "job security" was through the pay cuts.

In the face of that job blackmail, the majority of the Yellow Roadway workers felt they had no choice but to agree to the givebacks (even then, there was widespread opposition to the sellout deal).

Before the ink was even dry on the Yellow Roadway sellout -USF Reddaway demanded, and got, similar givebacks from the Teamsters.

USF Reddaway very pointedly did NOT impose similar givebacks on their non union freight workers!

And right after them, ABF also demanded similar givebacks.

Despite the givebacks, Yellow Roadway teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, and may end up going under anyway.

Meanwhile, out in the Pacific Northwest, after over a year without a contract, 620 freight teamsters struck at Oak Harbor Freight Lines.

The strike dragged on for over 3 months - the carrier maintained much of it's service with scab drivers and dockworkers - the clients found alternative carriers for the freight Oak Harbor couldn't haul and, unwilling to let the drivers win the strike on the streets, the IBT resorted to a "corporate campaign", targeting the bank that handles Oak Harbor's business and the clothing retailers who are the carrier's biggest clients.

"Corporate campaigns" are one of the worst things to come out of the great era of union defeats of the 1980's and 90's.

Basically, they involve trying to embarrass an employer into bargaining with a union - or to embarrass other bosses who do business with the employer to make him/her bargain with the union.

Since greed and profit always trump embarrassment in the mind of any successful businessperson, this is a very foolish and useless tactic.

The corporate campaigns of the 80's and 90's were, overwhelmingly, failures

The list of corporate campaign defeats is depressingly long:

Eastern Airlines, Greyhound Bus Lines, Hormel, Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel, Ravenswood Aluminum, Pittston Coal, A. E. Staley, Diamond Walnut (a Carey administration era Teamsters Union corporate campaign)

In fact almost from the beginning of corporate campaigns (Farah Pants and J.P. Stevens Textiles in the 1970's) the tactic has failed almost every time.

Despite the high failure rate of corporate campaigns union leaders who are in struggles that can only be won by picketline militancy still resort to them.

This is because in the minds of union leaders who believe in "class partnership", a  corporate campaign - even if it's sure to fail -  is far preferable to actually leading the workers to victory on the picket line.

That's because the latter method involves struggle against the capitalists - and there are many labor leaders who are not comfortable with that at all!

The Oak Harbor corporate campaign was a failure - and the teamsters had to go back to work - on Oak Harbor's terms - in early 2009.

Almost immediately, the carrier launched a wave of retaliation - including the firing of 14 particularly militant teamsters.

On the other side of the country, USF Holland announced mass layoffs - it was shutting down the terminals it inherited from the closing of USF Red Star, and handing the work over to Yellow Roadway and New Penn.

Most of the 300 workers losing their jobs were teamsters laid off when USF shut down USF Red Star in retaliation for the workers joining the IBT.

The Teamsters Union was able to negotiate a preferential hiring list - so some of those teamsters will be able to get jobs at Yellow Roadway or New Penn, probably driving the same routes, to the same customers, just wearing a different uniform, in a different colored truck and pushed 4 years down the seniority list.

Considering the precarious economic state of Yellow Roadway, having to start at the bottom at that carrier might not be a very good career move!

If present trends continue, these luckless USF Red Star/USF Holland/Yellow Roadway workers aren't the only freight teamsters facing a very dim future.

Some of these carriers - most notably UPS Freight - will almost certainly survive the crisis. Others - like Yellow Roadway - are unlikely to make it.

And 96% of America's freight drivers will still be stuck without a union.

The Industrial Workers of the World has done some limited organizing - most recently, among the port truckers in Norfolk and among log truck drivers in rural North Carolina.

This is their second major truck driver organizing campaign since they organized the owner operator intermodal drivers at the Union Pacific Railroad piggyback rail yards in Sacramento.

Which means that the tiny 1,000 member IWW is doing about as much truck driver organizing as the mighty 1.3 million member IBT!

This is really unfortunate - tragic, really.

At a time when the nation's truck drivers badly need organization and leadership nobody is there to fight for them.

The union that - at least on paper - represents their industry is incapable of leading these workers into struggle.

And that's not just a problem for truck drivers - as goes the Teamsters so goes the rest of the blue collar labor movement in this country.

So, what needs to be done?

Well, obviously, the nation's 2 million freight drivers need to be unionized.

A logical start point would be the drivers at the strongest and largest company in the industry - FedEx.

Organizing FedEx would be a formidable task - the company is aggressively anti union. FedEx - like UPS - also has a huge transitional workforce - part time truck loaders and couriers who are not career freight industry workers, and who tend to see the company as a stepping stone that will pay for the college education that will prepare them to work in other industries.

It's very hard to organize workers like that - and, in fact, no labor union in this country has every successfully organized transitional workers on a large scale.

There are only two large groups of unionized transitional workers in America.

One group is supermarket clerks, who's stores were organized thanks to teamster warehouse worker secondary boycotts in the 1930's, when grocery store work was still a full time career job.

The other is UPS part timers - who work for a carrier that was unionized in 1907, and who's positions were still full time jobs as late as 1965 (they only became part time transitional jobs thanks to a Hoffa-era Teamsters Union giveback to UPS).

Since it would be very difficult to unionize FedEx' part timers it would make more sense to go after the full time FedEx express drivers (the second largest craft at the carrier) and the drivers and dockworkers at FedEx freight (most of whom are full time career freight workers).

FedEx Freight in particular is a small, compact operation that - if organized - could be a stepping stone to going after drivers at FedEx Custom Critical, FedEx Ground and, of course, the biggest branch of the company, FedEx Express.

With the full time drivers organized, the transitional workers in the part time jobs could easily be brought into the bargaining unit.

A unionized FedEx would be a huge victory - especially since the firm is based in Tennessee, a lightly unionized right to work state.

Also, as far as unionizing the freight sector as a whole goes - FedEx freight is a major LTL carrier along the NAFTA Corridor route - so it could help launch a second unionization drive at Central Freight (the largest LTL carrier along the Laredo to Chicago freight corridor), and could also help to unionize Jevic, NFI, Con-Way, Schneider, JL England, JB Hunt and the distribution centers in Laredo.

And, of course, the easiest organizing targets would be those freight workers who have consistently shown interest in reunionization ever since the IBT abandoned them in the 1970's - the port truckers.

With little effort, a Los Angeles port truckers strike could be organized at any time

In fact, the economic meltdown might just spur those workers into action, since falling imports mean less containers for them to haul, and less containers means less money in their pockets, while they still have to make the payments on their trucks.

The whole owner operator issue is a smokescreen - the IBT has had owner operator members since the union was founded and, as the 2004 port trucker strike proved, if you can stop the containers from going off the ships and onto the trains, you will get the carriers to negotiate, irregardless of employment status.

With comparative ease, a national port truckers strike could be organized and the while sector could be brought into the union - and the port truckers would almost certainly bring along other special commodity drivers with them.

Would any of this happen easily?


There would have to be a lot of struggle - there would be few handshake deals, or joint press releases about "labor and management working together to make the freight industry more efficient".

There would also have to be a political will to struggle against the carriers.

There would also have to be a certain focus on the part of the Teamsters Organizing Department.

With all due respect to school bus drivers, their industry already has a perfectly good union - the Amalgamated Transit Union. They should be organizing bus drivers, not the IBT.

The same goes with police - they already have their own unions (and, of course, since cops are a special group of workers hired by the rulers to repress the rest of the working class, there are some sound political reasons why a non police union would definitely want to steer clear of unionizing cops).

The same goes with pilots, flight attendants and aircraft mechanics - especially those who are already unionized!

The IBT Organizing Department should be 100% devoted to organizing ACTUAL TRUCK DRIVERS AND WAREHOUSE WORKERS - period.

It's going to take that kind of single minded focus to reunionize this vast industry.

Also, considering the reality of NAFTA, there is a need for transnational unity.

American drivers - union and non union - generally make more than their Canadian or Mexican counterparts

In fact, despite all the anti Mexican hysteria, far more low wage Canadian drivers are used to undercut American truckers wages on long haul cross border runs - in particular in the carhaul, furniture delivery and building materials sectors.

There is a crying need for North America wide truck driver unity - especially at all the carriers who have US, Canadian and Mexican divisions.

The US Teamsters Union locals, the Canadian Conference of Teamsters and the truck drivers unions affiliated to the Confederacion de Trabajadores de Mexico need to work together - with an expanded, continent wide labor agreement as a major goal.

Is the Hoffa administration prepared to wage that kind of struggle?

Quite clearly, no, they are not.

Especially not the all important task of unity with Mexican truck drivers.

Is TDU prepared to wage that kind of struggle, in the unlikely event of a future Tom Leedham electoral victory?

Again, quite clearly, the answer is no - a Leedham administration would more likely than not be a second edition of the Carey administration (and we see where that led)

This is truly unfortunate - TDU still has a bit of residual credibility among dissident minded teamsters, and, if they actually had a program of struggle, they might just be able to make a difference.

Also, it would help if TDU (and Solidarity, the group that runs TDU) were to come out of closet and be honest and upfront about their socialist politics (in the present political climate, that might go over very well with many disaffected truck drivers - union and non union alike!)

Contrary to what some at Solidarity might believe, truckers are not stupid - and these days, with so many long haul drivers bringing their laptops along in their rigs, truckers are very well informed about their industry.

It only takes a few minutes on google to find out the political past of TDU's leaders.

So why not take this moment to admit their political orientation - and, hell, to be proud of it, instead of hiding their socialism like it's something to be ashamed of!

Especially these days, when Republican Party polls say 20% of Americans support socialism, does it really make sense for TDU and Solidarity to hide their beliefs?

At this time when American workers are under attack - and from a "pro labor" president elected with union dollars and union volunteers - America's workers desperately need leaders who are willing to fight for them.

And we absolutely do NOT have that right now.

A revival of truck driver unionism at this moment might be the spark that unleashes a class wide struggle.

Of course, that kind of struggle (and the revolutionary direction it might go in) are EXACTLY what both Junior Hoffa and TDU are afraid of!

But, that kind of working class struggle is exactly what truck drivers - and the class as a whole, desperately need right now.

Originally published on Tuesday, April 14, 2009