YRC Teamsters in Chicago Vote Down Wage Cuts a Third Time
Despite pressure from Teamsters officials and YRC management, Chicago dock workers rejected a $1.16 per hour wage cut for a third time yesterday. City drivers voted no for the second time.
Teamster officials had told workers that floundering YRC, which employs 40,000 other Teamster drivers and dock workers nationwide, would go out of business if 1,500 Chicago workers did not accept the wage cut Teamsters voted up nationally last summer. But many members, as well as industry analysts, believe YRC is doomed in any case.
Chicago locals 710 and 705 have bargained separately from the National Master Freight Agreement for 45 years, usually getting the same wage increases but setting a better standard on some terms.
International VP Tyson Johnson and Local 710 President Pat Flynn, also an International VP, visited terminals to argue that it wasn’t fair for Chicago-area Teamsters to reject concessions that were accepted nationally. At the Chicago Heights facility the road show turned into a shouting match. One worker interrupted Flynn to ask who he was. Told he was the local’s president, the worker called him a liar: Pat Flynn never comes to the Heights night shift.
At the Holland McCook terminal the shouting was so loud that Johnson gave up trying to speak and walked out. Earlier, at the May Local 705 membership meeting, there were eight minutes of spontaneous chanting: "F&%# Hoffa, F&%# Hoffa."
NATIONAL TAKEOVER OF BARGAINING
On November 24, Johnson issued a memo saying the union’s executive board had taken the authority to abolish the Chicago-area freight contracts and impose the National Master Freight Agreement (and its lower standards). Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the reform movement, said the International had feared members would file a lawsuit if it imposed the concessions without a vote.
The vote count in Local 705 was low because balloting was held at the terminals during the day, when drivers were on the road. Teamster votes are usually taken by mail. Local 705 members voted 234 no, 132 yes, and Local 710 voted no by 337-319, with many challenged ballots. About 100 workers were brought back from layoff in 710 in hopes that they would vote yes. Earlier votes had turned the concessions down by 2-1 margins.
After the vote, Johnson issued a memo expressing “disappointment.”
A Local 705 rank and filer who asked not to be identified said that after a year spent watching “death by a thousand cuts,” workers are expecting YRC to fold. Will the company’s 50,000 shipments per day be taken up by non-union competitors?
“That’s on the Teamsters,” said the member, a veteran of earlier reform efforts in the local. “Had they been organizing the whole time, there’s 50,000 shipments that have to be gotten out that could have been taken over by union companies.”
Chicago Teamsters have a tradition of militancy. In the famous UPS strike of 1997, Local 705 UPSers stayed out two extra days for a better deal. In recent UPS negotiations, the local held out for better language and vacations.