Pension Grievance Nets $120,000 From UPS For Two Local 162 Members

Teamsters Local 162 members George Meadows and Ken Lopez both honorably served lengthy tours of duty in the Army including service in Iraq while employed at UPS. They returned from active duty in 2009 and both received promotions to full-time package driving jobs and are now full-time feeder drivers at the UPS facility in Portland, Oregon.

However, after a recent discussion with Local 162 feeder shop steward Walt Lawson, Meadows was advised to contact the pension office to make sure that UPS made the required pension contributions for his term of military service. Lawson also advised Meadows to contact Local 162 President Mark Davison if the pension contributions had in fact not been made. In Portland, Teamsters at UPS are covered by the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust.
Unfortunately, the appropriate payments to both Meadows’ pension had not been made. A grievance was filed by Meadows and processed by Local 162 and Davison. Meadows then spread the word to fellow military veteran Ken Lopez and encouraged him to also call the pension office. It was discovered that UPS had also not made pension contributions on Lopez’s behalf and he also filed a grievance at Local 162. Ultimately, it was found that UPS had failed to properly apply the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) rule with regard to return to work and pension rights in both cases.
USERRA was signed into law in 1994 by President Clinton. The law grants reemployment and benefits rights to any member of the uniformed services. This includes the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserves, Army and Air National Guards.
Key rights under USERRA include protecting an employee’s job while serving in the military and the payment of pension contributions for an employee’s period of military service upon their return to work. For Teamsters working at UPS the payment, of pension contributions is a significant issue as the hourly rates negotiated by the union into the pension plans are the highest in the transportation industry.
The end result of Local 162’s grievances on behalf of the members has amounted to pension contributions in excess of $120,000 to the Western Conference Pension Trust. These contributions grant Meadows and Lopez not only a higher monthly pension check but also the ability to retire several years sooner.

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Teamsters pension plan warns thousands of beneficiaries that the checks may get smaller

Len Boselovic
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
lboselovic@post-gazette.com
6:45 AM
Oct 23, 2017

What is Bill Lickert’s reward for a lifetime of looking out for truck drivers, municipal employees, hospital workers and thousands of others covered by the beleaguered Western Pennsylvania Teamsters and Employers Pension Fund?

It’s being the person whom thousands of workers and retirees covered by the severely underfunded pension plan call to vent their anger and frustration as they wrap their heads around the idea that their monthly pension checks could be significantly cut.

The Western Pennsylvania Teamsters fund — which has about 48 cents for every $1 in benefits it owes to retirees and workers — notified participants in April that it is considering cutting benefits in order to insure that the fund doesn’t become insolvent. The plan is expected to pay out nearly $129 million in benefits this year but will collect only about $54 million in contributions.

If the current level of benefits is maintained, the fund is projected to run out of money in 2028.

While trustees of the pension fund decide how much to cut benefits, they appointed Mr. Lickert, a 69-year-old retired truck driver and former president of Teamsters Local 205, to represent more than 17,000 retirees currently receiving benefits, former workers who haven’t started drawing benefits yet, and beneficiaries of deceased retirees.

Mr. Lickert said he does not represent another 4,200 workers covered by the fund who are still on the job.

Employees of UPS and Giant Eagle are among those covered by the plan.

Since Mr. Lickert’s appointment, he has heard an earful, fielding as many as 90 calls a day from outraged retirees.

“It’s down to about seven or eight a day,” said Mr. Lickert, who retired in 2011. “I have the same frustration. I was told when I retired, ‘Don’t worry. Your pension is secure.’”

‘I’m going to be cut the same as everyone else,” he added.

Mr. Lickert, whose father was president of Local 205 for more than three decades, isn’t paid for the thankless task. But the pension fund is paying for him to hire a lawyer and an actuary to analyze whatever benefit reduction proposal the trustees suggest. Only the trustees, not Mr. Lickert, will vote on the proposal.

“Bill isn’t taking money from anybody. He’s a shoulder to cry on,” said Jason Mettley, the Meyer, Unkovic & Scott attorney Mr. Lickert hired.

Thousands of other people covered by so-called multiemployer pension plans in the U.S. have already had their benefits slashed or could have them reduced in the future.

The cuts were made possible by 2014 legislation that was rushed through Congress with little debate. The law was designed to prevent the troubled plans from bankrupting the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal agency that insures the pension benefits of nearly 40 million Americans covered by almost 24,000 private sector pension plans.

Those protected by the PBGC include about 10 million workers and retirees in multiemployer plans, which were created by collective bargaining agreements. The plans generally cover workers who are in the same industry or who are represented by the same labor union, such as the Teamsters or the United Mine Workers. Collective bargaining agreements determine how much companies contribute to the plans.

Like pension funds that cover only workers at a specific company, multiemployer plans were damaged by the bear markets that followed the dot.com bubble and the 2008 financial crisis.

UPS workers are among those covered by the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters and Employers Pension Fund. (Associated Press file photo)
But they were also hurt because employer funding of multiemployer plans is based on the number of active workers and how much work they do.

Recession-induced layoffs slammed many multiemployer plans. Should the teetering plans of the Central States Teamsters and the UMW go under, it would deplete the PBGC fund that ensures multiemployer plans.

The PBGC projects that fund will be exhausted in 2025, three years before the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters fund is expected to go under.

If that happens, “Their safety net essentially goes away,” said Mark Johnson, a Grapevine, Texas, pension consultant.

The fact that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. may not be there to pay at least a portion of their pensions weighs on the minds of the people Mr. Lickert represents.

“I think, after a while, people will realize that if we don’t do something, there’s going to be nothing left,” he said.

The 2014 legislation requires troubled multiemployer plans to submit benefit reduction plans to the U.S. Treasury for approval. So far, 15 funds have submitted proposals, including four that submitted a second plan after withdrawing their first proposal.

Only three proposals — covering iron workers in northeastern Ohio, furniture workers and New York Teamsters — have been approved.

Benefit cuts for those workers and retirees varied. Some saw their monthly check reduced by about 13 percent, while others saw their benefits reduced by as much as 60 percent, according to the Pension Rights Center, a privately funded organization that promotes retirement security.

Treasury has rejected five proposals, largely because they relied on too-optimistic financial assumptions for rescuing the plan. For example, the Central States Teamsters plan assumed that assets in the pension fund would earn 7.5 percent annually — an unrealistic rate of return according to most pension consultants.

“Treasury has been pretty consistent in how they’ve handled them,” said John Lowell, an actuary with October Three in Woodstock, Ga.

Mr. Lickert and Mr. Mettley speculate that trustees for the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters fund will submit their proposal to Treasury no later than the first quarter of next year.

If Treasury approves it, benefits could be cut late next year. Under the 2014 law, retirees over 80 would be exempt from the cuts and those between 75 and 79 would receive smaller reductions than younger retirees.

“I have no idea how much it’s going to be cut,” Mr. Lickert said.

He encouraged those who want more information to visit the website he has set up: www.wpatrr.com, or email him at bill@wpatrr.com, or call 724-382-4956.

“I’m here almost every day,” he said. “I’m trying to be straightforward and honest with people as best as I can.”

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Local 767 Wins Two Major Arbitration Cases Against UPS

Teamsters Fight Back & Win Against UPS Attacks on Grievance Filers
Sister Marie Torres is going back to work. The Waco, Texas UPS package car driver has just been reinstated with full back pay, benefits and seniority.

And she’s not alone.

Brother Muhammed Farhan, a part-timer who was discharged in April of 2016, also got his job back at the UPS Dallas center. Torres and Farhan are members of Teamsters Local 767 in Ft. Worth, Texas and they both filed grievances against UPS for wrongful termination.

What makes the stories of Sister Torres and Brother Farhan so similar – and disturbing – is that their terminations were clearly an attempt by the company to crackdown on union activity and the grievance process.

“These are both significant victories for our UPS members and, frankly, for UPS Teamsters nationwide,” said John Shorts, President of Local 767. “By discharging our sister and brother in these two cases, it was clearly the intent of the company to create a chilling effect among our members who file grievances in accordance with their rights in the National Master Agreement.”

Both Sister Torres and Brother Farhan were discharged for alleged dishonesty. But the only thing dishonest that the arbitrator found was management’s agenda against Teamsters who file legitimate grievances.

Demanding Due Process
Sister Torres, a 21-year UPS employee, was fired in 2015. Local 767 Business Agent, Brother Chris Gourley, helped her file a grievance and eventually brought the case to arbitration. While UPS cited Article 52 in arguing that she was fired for dishonesty, the union proved that the company’s baseless accusations were in fact related to her union activity, including supervisor-working grievances she had filed.

“This is not just a victory for me, it’s for all of us,” she said. “Thanks to the membership and the dues we pay, the process works and we were able to win this case.”

Sister Torres’ case is a reminder of how arduous the arbitration process can be. Local 767 remained steadfast in fighting for her until she got her job back with full back pay along with all the benefits and seniority she would have accrued since her December 2015 termination.

Brother Farhan, a 15-year part-time UPS employee, was similarly discharged in 2016. The company cited Article 52 and accused him of filing dishonest supervisor-working grievances.

UPS also said Brother Farhan lied during a management-run investigative meeting. He was subsequently discharged and filed a grievance. Local 767 Business Agent, Brother Ray Bell, fought the case all the way through arbitration.

The company produced a number of witnesses to make statements that Brother Farhan lied about the facts in the grievances he filed. Union steward Sister Veronica Mangrum testified that at least one of those witnesses was coached by management before making a statement.

“What became clear in Brother Farhan’s case was that the company was singling him out for what it saw as a high volume of grievance filing at the Dallas facility,” said Sister Courtney Shorts, a Local 767 business agent and attorney who, along with outside counsel Rod Tanner, presented Brother Farhan’s case to the arbitrator.

“Unfortunately the company’s actions have had the intended effect of reducing the number of grievances filed – people were scared because they saw what happened to Brother Farhan,” Bell added.

Before even looking at the merits of the case against Brother Farhan, the arbitrator took issue with the company’s procedures in investigating and terminating him.

UPS Labor Manager Sergio Castro essentially played the role of judge, jury and executioner. He was listed as the company officer filing charges against Brother Farhan as well as the lead officer gathering evidence, witnesses, determining culpability, and accessing discipline.

“The evidence of record did not reveal that the grievant was provided a full opportunity to tell his side of the story or to make his case – to include questioning his accusers – prior to the decision to assess the discipline. The investigation by the company did not even approach the usual standards of investigatory proceedings that require a thorough, fair and impartial investigation,” the arbitrator wrote in his decision.

Thanks to Local 767, Brother Farhan will have all discipline expunged from his record. And like Sister Torres, he will be reinstated with back pay, seniority and any other fringe benefits he would have earned during the time he was out of work. The company will also be reimbursing Brother Farhan for out-of-pocket medical expenses he incurred during that period.

“I’ve never lied on my grievances and I never asked anyone to lie,” Brother Farhan said. “I believe that when supervisors steal our work it hurts my colleagues as well as me. It’s not fair.”

The victory in Brother Farhan’s case is especially significant as it addresses two common problems at UPS: retaliation for protected union activity as well as violations of due process and ‘Just Cause’ in discharge cases.

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Teamsters Call on Locals to Gather UPS Contract Proposals

UPS/UPSF Contract Updates
The Teamsters UPS National Negotiating Committee has sent out notices to all UPS and UPS Freight locals requesting contract proposals from members. Proposal forms have been sent out to locals who will be putting together meetings with UPS members in the coming weeks.

“It is great to see so many Teamsters passionate about the upcoming negotiations – we are seeing a lot of ideas from members on social media about what they would like in the next contract,” said Sean O’Brien, Director of the Teamsters Package Division. “But in additional to social media, it’s extremely important that members get with their locals to fill out these proposal forms.”

Separate proposal forms for the UPS Master Agreement, supplements, riders, addenda and the UPS Freight Agreement have been distributed to locals around the country. The forms, which must be submitted through your local union, are due back to the IBT by August 31.

This is a critical part of the process as we prepare to fight for a strong contract in 2018. If you have proposed contract changes, talk to your local and make sure you fill out a proposal form as soon as possible. To win, we need all UPS Teamsters involved and united in this fight.

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