Teamsters Mobilising Against ‘Flawed Pensions Bill’

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The US Senate could take up the so-called Pension Protection Act, H.R. 4, by today, warns the Teamsters union.

A Teamsters statement said: ‘This bad pension legislation would allow vested benefits to be cut, and the Teamsters are continuing to mobilise against the bill in an attempt to stop the attack on retirement security in the United States.

The House (of Representatives), in a political manoeuvre late last Friday, passed the pension bill and sent it to the Senate.

‘The original pension legislation, H.R. 2830, got stalled in Conference Committee with House and Senate negotiators unable to agree on a final version, including whether to add tax cuts to the bill.

‘So GOP House leaders put the pension legislation in a new bill, H.R. 4, and got it to the floor for a vote. It passed 279-131.

‘Now, the fate of the pension bill remains uncertain in the Senate.

‘Teamsters need to weigh in and be heard on the issue.

‘This flawed pension bill undermines our retirement security, and nobody has the right to take away the pensions we’ve earned.

‘Call your senators and tell them to vote “NO” on H.R. 4.’

After last Friday’s votes the union said: ‘Destructive pension legislation that will allow vested benefits to be cut passed the House on Friday night after Republican leaders teamed up with the Bush White House for some political manoeuvring.

‘The original pension legislation, H.R. 2830, got stalled in Conference Committee with House and Senate negotiators unable to agree on a final version, including whether to add tax cuts to the bill.

‘So GOP House leaders put the pension legislation in a new bill, H.R. 4, and got it to the floor for a vote. It passed 279-131.

‘Voting for the bill were 203 Republicans and 76 Democrats, while 16 Republicans joined 114 Democrats and 1 independent to oppose the bill.

‘The fate of the bill remains uncertain in the Senate, where two powerful chairmen and members of the pension Conference Committee, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, and Michael Enzi, R-WY, were excluded from the last minute legislative manoeuvring.

‘Grassley wanted certain tax cuts included in the pension bill, but the House did not do so.

‘Instead, the House passed a separate bill early Saturday that included the tax breaks and a reduction in the estate tax for millionaires, and tied it to an increase in the minimum wage.

‘Senate Democrats have vowed to stop the estate tax bill, but the fate of the pension bill is uncertain.

‘If the Senate fails to act on the pension bill this week, it will not come up until September.

‘We are assessing the situation and will continue to provide updates as quickly as possible.

‘Meanwhile, this flawed pension bill undermines our retirement security, and nobody has the right to take away the pensions we’ve earned.’

Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa had warned last Friday: ‘The so-called Pension Protection Act passed by the House tonight will devastate important retirement security protections for millions of workers in this country and shatter the foundation of our nation’s private pension system.

‘The pension crisis in the United States is very real, and this flawed bill will only worsen it.

‘Americans who have worked a lifetime to secure a stable and dignified retirement will have those promises ripped from their hands in the form of a “red zone” provision that allows for a reduction in vested benefits of multi-employer plans.

‘No worker should be forced to live in fear of losing pension benefits they have already earned.

‘The 1.4 million hardworking Teamsters and their families will not stand by and allow Congress to give corporate America the green light to dump its retirement obligations to enrich the bottom line.

‘The Teamsters have embarked on one of the largest grass-roots legislative programmes in the history of our great union to defeat this bad legislation.

‘We are mobilising our 1.4 million members to take unprecedented action to stop the destruction of secure retirement in this country.

‘This pension bill shows that politicians in Washington have lost sight of the people they represent.

‘I call on every member of Congress to prove their commitment to working families by doing everything they can to defeat this bill.

‘Should Congress pass this anti-worker legislation, the Teamsters Union will not forget those who choose corporations over workers in November’s mid-term elections.’

l For the second time this year, on Wednesday an independent arbitrator ruled that Quebecor World Inc., the second largest printing company in the world, has violated an agreement with the Teamsters Union to remain neutral and allow its employees to make their own decision to be represented by a union.

The ruling came after the workers narrowly lost their union election for representation with the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters at a plant in Brookfield, Wisconsin, last February.

The arbitrator labelled the company’s conduct as ‘a coordinated effort to convey . . . opposition to unionisation,’ in direct violation of the agreement they negotiated with the Teamsters. 

‘This company has no respect for its workers and will go to great lengths to silence their voices,’ said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa.

‘The repeated violation of the neutrality agreement proves it.’

The arbitrator took the extraordinary step of issuing a cease and desist order giving the union the right to review any literature that the company plans to distribute to employees in future union election campaigns.

The arbitrator noted that, ‘the type of improper influence on organising campaigns that tainted the Brookfield campaign and the previous campaign’ can be prevented by ‘such prior review.’

‘Once again, the company’s misconduct has been exposed by a neutral outside arbitrator,’ said George Tedeschi, President of the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters.

Last May, the company had agreed to the union proposal for a less adversarial process after two-years of a hard-fought campaign to bring union representation to the workers at Quebecor World’s North American plants.

Within weeks of signing the agreement, Quebecor began its campaign of ‘improper influence.’

‘We will continue to hold the company to its word and insist that it live up to the commitments it has made to workers and their union,’ Tedeschi said.

Last Friday, 28 July, a coalition of faith-based and labour groups held a rally calling on Quebecor World, Inc. to submit to an independent investigation of a mock lynching aimed at African-American union supporters, which took place at Quebecor’s Olive Branch, Mississippi plant in February 2006.

Coalition spokespersons provided details of the incident (which workers said occurred in full view of plant management), in which first-hand witnesses reported that a worker took a stuffed animal in the union’s colour, and strung the animal up from a pole.

When management finally investigated the event after an initial delay, they claimed it was ‘fabricated’ but failed to interview key eyewitnesses.

When community leaders pressed for further investigation and demanded the eyewitnesses be interviewed, management concluded that the event was only ‘horseplay.’

The Southern Faith, Labour, and Community Alliance gathered over 200 people to call on Quebecor to send a strong message to its management not to tolerate racial discrimination or anti-union intimidation at the Olive Branch plant by submitting to an independent investigation and abiding by its results.