Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Teamster Leader: 'We are in the fight of our lives'

Brian Aldes, secretary-treasurer of  Teamsters Local 320 in Minneapolis, hits the nail on the head with his latest blog about the war on workers. We'll cross post it here in its entiretY:
We know that the Freedom of Employment Scam (Right-to-Work) was narrowly defeated last session, but only after intense lobbying at the Capitol and through direct lobbying by members who made phone calls and emailed their legislators. We know that the Public Employee At-Will Bill (HF 1974) passed both chambers of the legislature; luckily Gov. Dayton vetoed the bad bill! 
For those reasons alone we must be active in the upcoming elections, but if you have been following recent developments nationally involving cops, firefighters, and other public employees you can begin to see a countrywide trend develop that is very frightening. 
In Scranton Pennsylvania the mayor unilaterally paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to all municipal workers – firemen, police, public works, etc. A judge had previously ordered that the mayor could not violate municipal union contracts, including unilaterally changing the pay structure, but the ruling was ignored by the mayor. According to NPR, Roger Leonard, a Scranton employee and heavy equipment operator, gets a $900 check for two weeks of work. Last Friday, it was only $340! The various Unions involved are taking the mayor back to court to get an injunction and restitution from the City, but it could take weeks to get a final resolution. 
In Detroit, the City approved a plan to cut $100 million from its budget through concessions from police and firefighters. The concessions include a 10% pay cut and changes in work rules, such as limiting the benefits of seniority and drastically increasing employee healthcare contributions. Again, this has been done unilaterally in violation of union contracts; however; because of recent changes in the public employee laws governing workers in the state of Michigan the City is no longer obligated to bargain with its unions. This is a direct result of Michigan’s Tea Party governor and legislature. 
In the neighboring state of Iowa Tea Party Governor Terry Branstad has asked all state workers to voluntarily give up part of their pay to cover healthcare premiums.  For a newly hired State of Iowa worker with an average $24,169.60 starting salary, the plan would result in a pay cut ranging from 5% to 18%. For a newly hired State of Iowa correctional officer, Branstad's plan would cut their pay from 3% to 12%. I sincerely doubt Iowa state workers are lining up for a pay cut, but it just goes to show that the Tea Party will attempt anything to cut average workers’ wages. 
These three reasons are why we must fight together as a Union. If you don’t think it can happen here because Minnesota is a Union State please take another look!  Pennsylvania has had labor unions long before Minnesota became a state. Michigan is home to the United Auto Workers Union as well as the home of legendary Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, Sr. And Iowa is just next door. I cannot stress enough that we are in the fight of our lives this coming political season. We cannot drop the ball! That is why I promise to do everything in our power to preserve the gains our Union has accrued for members over the years. Rest assured, we will be prepared this Fall!