Category Archives: Union

How to Grow the Union

It’s important that we grow the company because it makes our jobs and our pensions more secure. But it’s equally important to grow the Union. Many people don’t know how to grow the Union. They think it takes a big organizing campaign to bring in new workers under the Teamster umbrella. But there are many things you can do everyday to grow the Teamsters Union. Here are a few of them.

        First, take your full lunch everyday. We are requiered to take an hour for lunch each day. Every minute you don’t take and choose to work for instead is work that should have been dispatched to another car. Our building dispatches about 300 routes a day and if just 16 of those drivers skip half of their hour  lunch, they have ran an entire route that should have been dispatched and run by anotherTeamster. Don’t let the company reduce our ranks and undermine our power by skipping part of your lunch. Every Teamster on the payroll is another person making our union stronger. Make it grow
        Use your 8-hour requests. Each driver in Denver gets three 8-hour requests per month. Our center has 45 drivers. If each one reduced their dispatch by one hour (from 9 to 8 hours), 3 times a month, that’s 135 hours a month or the equivalent of over 3 weeks of work that we could generate just by taking what’s is rightfully ours to enjoy. We could add a driver in our center if everyone used all of their 8-hour requests.
        Refuse to work excessive overtime. We have strong 9.5 language in our contract. Use it. Keep your hours under control and the company will need more drivers to cover the routes that we are running ourselves right now by working 10 to 11 hours a day. Just 8 drivers working an extra hour per day are absorbing a route that another Teamster should be running. Excessive overtime weakens our union and hurts our families.
        Don’t work off the clock. Every time you work off the clock you are giving the company a false impression of how long and how many people it takes to get the job done. Don’t give away precious minutes that someone should be paid for. UPS made $3 billion profit last year, you don’t have to work for free to keep them afloat.
        Stop supervisors from doing our work. Go to your steward every time you see a supervisor working and have him investigate the reason for this violation. Sometimes the reasons are legitimate, sometimes not. If not, then file a grievance. Time slip grievances encourage the company to put on more people. See the next blog entry here for the steps to follow when you see a supervisor doing our work.
        And finally, grow the business. The company consistently refuses to hire more people because the growth is flat. They say it would be bad management to add people when the business isn’t growing. So, grow the business and grow the Union. 

        None of these simple ways to grow the Union require a degree in organizing or long weekends spent talking to unorganized workers. These are things we can do everyday at work to grow our Union. Do your part, grow the union.

How to Win a Supervisor Working Grievance

        Supervisor working grievances are filed under two articles of our contract; Article 3, section 7 of the National Master Agreement and Article 1, section 2 of the Central States Supplement. Both state that the job of the supervisor is to supervise, not to do the work of the person he supervises. The person who files the grievance gets paid for the hours worked by the supervisor. It’s easy to win a supervisor working grievance.
        You need 5 things. Who, what, when, where and why. Be ready to take notes when you see a supervisor working. 
        Take notes and winFirst, find out Who. When you see a supervisor working, you have the right to walk up to them and ask them who they are. They should be wearing a name tag. You do not have the right to inhibit the flow of packages in any part of the operation at any time. Be careful not to interfere, but go ahead and get their name. Tell them that they need to stop doing the work of the hourly employees.
        Make note what the supervisor is doing. Is he advancing the progress of the packages? They have the right to pull packages out of the system and audit them at any time, but should return the packages to the same location they pulled them from. They have broad powers when it comes to training and can help an employee being trained in an effort to keep the trainee on schedule. Examples of the work they should not be doing includes driving tugs with packages on them, sending home hourly workers and wrapping up themselves, delivering stops to ‘help’ a driver and shuttling out packages to drivers.
        Put down in your notes when the violation occurred. Note the day and time. Record how long you observed the work being done.
        Be specific on where the supervisor was working. Was he pulling from a box? Which box and which boxline? What center was he in when you observed him driving a tug and dropping off packages? All of this information will be important to your winning the grievance.
        Why? This is often the most important step. Most grievances are won or lost on the question of why. This is where you get your steward involved. Your steward will take the who, what, when and where and go find out the why. The company feels it has a responsibility to its customers to make service at any cost and uses this to justify supervisors working. When the Teamsters don’t show up for work and that shift is understaffed because of it, supervisors will be working and that’s a hard grievance to win. Let your steward find out why the supervisors were working. He can request staffing records and time cards. The investigation into why is the job of the steward.

        It’s not hard to win a supervisor working grievance if you keep good notes. Often, supervisors don’t want to be working and (while they may be afraid to say it) will welcome a grievance to hi-lite their own concerns. Feel free to accommodate them. Contract enforcement is everyone’s responsibility.

Supporting YOUR Union

For thirty some years I have been involved with the Teamsters Union. I’ve watched the internal political fights, and actually have attempted to make some changes from within. It is very daunting, and scary to the average rank and file guy. You can feel very out of control when dealing with the Speak upUnion. Even on a local level they can seem very aloof and detached. (Many times they are). In some ways they are absorbed with their own self interest much the way the corporatist’s are. The difference is when you (the rank and file member) slap them, they will at least look your way. Every one of you needs to become involved. The union was created to serve the membership, not be a gravy train for the self serving officer. You can help yourself by reading the information put out by the union both in print and on-line. Get information through the Teamsters On-line. Get opposing viewpoints. There are many, the biggest being TDU. It is the membership that ultimately drives this train. It is your apathy that derails it. Don’t depend on some other guy to direct the path of the Union. It may not go the way you want it to. It is the fear of you, (the rank and file), that forces our Union in the direction it needs to go. You pay for it. It is your Right. Let them know.

You can link to many of the informational sites from Denver Brown. Be sure to return here for more information, or better yet subscribe so that you get e-mail reports of updates.

10 Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some of the more frequently asked questions of the stewards with some general recommendations how to deal with the situation. As always consult your steward before taking any action to be sure of your rights.

  1. Can the company discipline me without a steward present, if no steward is available? The answer is a flat no. The company must provide a steward in any discussion with a union member if the possibility of discipline even remotely exists. Even if timeliness is an issue, the company cannot bring discipline without the presence of a steward.
  2. What does automatic protest mean on warning letters? Automatic protest means that the union and the company have agreed to place the warning letter under protest, and unless the issue comes up again, the letter will be withdrawn in 90 days, (unless some other time frame is agreed to). If the same issue comes up again, the union and the company have agreed to hear the warning letter issue before any more severe discipline can be implemented. I have expressed my displeasure with Automatic Protest in the past, but that is the system we live under today.
  3. What is the attendance policy for the company? My assumption is that the policy is consistent throughout the company, but here in the Rocky Mountain area you are allowed three attendance discrepancies in a running thirteen week period before you can be issued any discipline. The company must review each and every discrepancy in a timely manner with the steward present.
  4. Does the company have the right to dictate my appearance? The appearance issue has come up many times over the years. The company has the right to set appearance standards, and you have an obligation to abide by them. The only exceptions are if you are being singled out for a different standard than the other drivers, or the standard is discriminatory.
  5. Is it ever O.K. for Supervisors to do Union Work? Basically the answer is no. The only real situation is when management exhausts all possible hourly means to make service then the Supervisors can do the work. The problem arises when they get lazy and just resort to the Sups. as the first remedy. My recommendation is if you see them work, file, then sort it out later.
  6. Is it true I can be paid Double Time for excessive 9.5 hour days? Being paid Double Time for excessive 9.5 hour days is true, sort of.  You must inform the company of your desire to have your hours reduced, and give them the opportunity to correct the problem. If they don’t, you file under Article 12 Section 1. The first grievance will be resolved as “the company agrees to abide by Article 12 Section 1”. If you continue to be dispatched with excessive OT you will file again, and usually after the grievance goes through the entire process, you may be awarded double time. 
  7. I don’t like something the Union is doing, how do I make a change? Well most of you would first seek out the steward. If the steward does not satisfy you, don’t be afraid to go straight to the Business Agent at your Local union. If you still feel the need to go up the ladder, contact the Principle officer for your Local Union. Usually you will get results somewhere along this line. You still can go straight to the International Union, but that process is an article all of it’s own.
  8. I am being singled out for more severe discipline/harassment than the drivers around me. What do I do? Of course your first line of defense is your steward. Do not let management badger you without your steward present. Be very clear you want representation. That in itself is your most powerful tool, as the company will be much more careful what they say to you with the steward present. When all else fails resort to the grievance procedure.
  9. I have a good reason to be off work, but my manager is telling me no. What do I do? If you have a legitimate reason you need to be gone, and you’ve informed the company, and they are telling you no, then you need to take your lumps under the attendance policy above. If it’s a legitimate reason, (illness, doctor, dentist, family issue) simply call an hour or more before your start time. Of course you must fall within the 3 in a 13 week discrepancy or you may still be subject to discipline. It’s simple. The company needs you at work everyday. Try to be there, but in all of our lives things come up. You need to take care of things outside of the company as well.
  10. My steward is not taking care of my issues. What do I do? My first question to you is “are you simply expecting the steward to know you are having an issue, or have you taken the time to seek them out and let them know of your problem.” The steward can’t possibly know every driver’s problems in a big center. You must seek them out and verbalize your troubles to them. You can always go up the ladder to the business agent, but my bet is that if you simply communicate with the steward you will get results
These are simple answers to some complicated questions. Your union is in place to help you be treated fairly and to see to it that you are provided with a decent, safe, workplace. Educate yourself to your rights, and you will have a good career with the company. *