Teamsters Lose Jobs when UAW Signs Sweetheart Deal

More than 100 Teamster drivers in Louisville, Kentucky, lost their jobs when employers colluded with a United Auto Workers local to oust them and sign a sweetheart deal.

The National Labor Relations Board has taken unusual emergency action in the case. Instead of following the usual channels that take months or years, the NLRB filed for an injunction in federal court August 1. The Board says the employer should rehire the Teamsters and bargain a contract with their union, Local 89.

Employees of Jack Cooper Transport had driven newly assembled SUVs from Ford’s Louisville plant to staging areas near the factory. In February, Ford cancelled its contract with Cooper and awarded the work to Voith Industrial Services. Then, in a pre-arranged deal, Voith signed a cheap contract with UAW Local 862, which also represents the Ford workers.

To make sure this deal wouldn’t be rejected by the carhaulers, Voith refused to hire the experienced Teamsters, except for a token few. Instead management brought in new hires and told them they would be UAW members.

Teamsters Local 89 went to the NLRB and on July 22, took out two full-page ads in the Louisville Courier Journal, calling on UAW members to ask their union to stop its collusion in corporate union-busting.

Local 89 mailed a packet of information to every Teamster local, seeking support. Fred Zuckerman, who heads the local, said it was getting no help from the international.

Why No Support?

Teamsters President James Hoffa is a friend of UAW President Bob King. Why hasn’t Hoffa asked King to withdraw from the cheap contract deal and settle with the NLRB?

Teamster carhaulers have three answers to this question.

One, the international is ready to write off carhaulers. They tend to vote for the opposition, and carhaulers have a history of rejecting concessions.

Two, Hoffa won’t help Local 89 because Zuckerman ran on an opposition slate last year. Hoffa removed him as carhaul director after the election.

Three, Hoffa’s current carhaul director allowed Voith to pull the same deal last year at another Ford plant, in Wayne, Michigan. There the Jack Cooper yard workers lost jobs, and now UAW members do the work under a cheaper contract. It would be embarrassing if the Kentucky Teamsters won on the issue, after the Michigan local gave it away without a fight.

Attorney Barbara Harvey, after reading the NLRB’s motion for a rare 10(j) injunction against Voith and the UAW, said that Voith’s collusion with a union to form a tame union was “quite flagrant. They seemed to have been proceeding on the premise that there is no law.”

UAW officials in charge did not return calls seeking comment.

Voith already employs low-wage workers inside the Louisville Ford plant, doing janitorial work that used to be done by UAW members who had high seniority and needed to get off the assembly line. The Voith workers also belong to Local 862.



Ken Paff is national organizer of Teamsters for a Democratic Union. Jane Slaughter contributed to this article.