Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Teamsters seem to want to maintain the ability to terrorize East Bay with strikes and unsafe drivers

Waste Management Dispute Update:

It's Day 17 of the dispute between Waste Management and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

On July 2, Houston-based Waste Managment defensively locked out approximately 500 drivers and equipment operators in an effort to get a contract renewal that both its customers and the company could live with.
In this case, the term "to live with" can be taken literally since safety is one of the major issues in the dispute.

The main sticking points in the dispute are the union's refusal to enter into a contract that contains a "no strike" clause--which means the union agrees that it will not strike during the life (or duration) of the contract, as well as the union's refusal to agree to the company's propsals on safety.

"This contract comes down to two things," said James Devlin, WM's Area Vice President. "This is about labor peace and safety. We are willing to overlook millions of dollars of inefficiencies in the contract because that's how strongly we believe in those two issues. We are ready right now to sign one of the richest contracts in waste management history."

Waste Management say workers would be able to honor the local, sanctioned picket lines. However company officials do believe it [a "no strike clause"] would protect the company against any collusion a union such as Local 70 may take part in with another union, such as Local 396 in Los Angeles, whose contract with Waste Management expires Sept. 30.

For a company to propose a contract wherein the union agrees not to go on strike during the life of the contract is not abnormal. In fact, "no strike" clauses are the norm in the overwhelming majority of union contracts in America.

Regarding the safety issue, it would appear that the Teamsters prefer to force the company to keep unsafe drivers on its rolls--even in the case where a driver kills someone.

That's one of the main reasons the company introduced new "life critical rules" in the proposed new contract. If a driver violates one, he is suspended for five days. The second violation can result in termination. Company officials said the rules are nothing more than traffic laws everyone else on the road must follow, such as obeying speed limits in school zones and wearing seat belts.

"It's not up to the Teamsters to dictate societal rules," said Devlin, adding the workers would still retain a grievance and arbitration process to appeal any penalty.

Both unions and employers have what are referred to as economic weapons. Although lockouts occur less frequently than strikes, a lock out (like a strike) is where the employer has chosen to deploy its economic weapon.

In this case, it's ironic that the company had to deploy its economic weapon to avoid the Teamsters from using its economic weapon anytime it wants to.

Look at it this way. Since the union doesn't want to peacefully holster its weapon for the duration of the contract and wants to maintain the ability to terrorize both the company and its customers by striking whenever it wants, the company decided to shoot first. Not a bad strategy, is it?

In the meantime, the union has geared up its PR machine and is trying to drum up support across the labor movement, as well as with the liberal media and politicos (an easy find on the Left Coast).

A word of caution though: For all you lefty's supporting the Teamsters in this battle, you might want to think about sitting this one out.

You see, supporting the Teamsters in this battle means that 1) you are supportive of a union that seemingly wants to hold the citizens that the company serves hostage by striking the company whenever the union bosses get a bug up their bums, and 2) supporting a union that would rather keep an unsafe driver on the road--even if he kills other people--than allow him to be terminated.

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