THE FEBRUARY 24 UNION MEETING It was a beautiful Sunday morning when the members of Local 804 met in Lake Success to attend the February 24 General Membership Meeting. It was intended to be an hour of submitting the 2000 signatures gathered in order to change the bylaws to give the members more information about our pensions and during contract negotiations, as well as discuss the new contract we are presently working under. However, our Executive Board received us by siccing their spokesman, President Howard Redmond on the membership and ignoring our contract concerns. Redmond’s "President’s Report" was a tirade filled with curses, accusations, and name calling. It’s bad enough we get disrespected everyday by UPS management, but at our own union meeting by our own Board is just beyond the pale. Dialogue and Diatribe He began his tirade by complaining about members who were "handing out papers about how great other local’s pension benefits were." He seemed offended that the Convoy Dispatch did a comparison of pension benefits for UPS Teamsters in different parts of the country. Redmond claimed that "certain members" were "cherry-picking" the good things and leaving out the bad things with Local 294 in upstate New York. He pointed out that members up there can receive $5500 a month "only if they stay til they’re 65 years old." Well, Redmond was wrong. Those numbers stand up. It is a fact that members in Local 294 right now can retire with about $5500 per month after 30 years regardless of age. I think 25 year alternate shop steward Jim Reynolds said it best: " When Local 804 won 25 and out benefits, our pension fund established itself as the gold standard in our union." But now, he continued, "many UPS Teamsters get superior benefits to ours." Then Redmond continued attacking members "every year getting a piece of paper telling them what your pensions about...telling them whether it’s funded or not." He blamed the members for "not reading it." It is true, we were given the numbers every year, but without any context to what the numbers meant. It is the duty of the Executive Board to explain to the rank-and-file what those numbers mean (a leaked actuarial report revealed that our average investment returns over the past 5 years have been about 3% and over the past 10 years only 6%). They should have said to us that these numbers sucked and that if they didn’t improve, changes would have to be made. It is quite obvious that our Executive Board knew about it, but decided to keep us in the dark. What irony! Throughout Redmond’s tirade, he kept accusing some of the members of always criticizing but never having any solutions. Maybe in the last 10 years, experienced and concerned members such as Pete Mastandrea or Jim Reynolds or Tim S could have offered answers or solutions to our impending pension problems. Instead , they blame us , the rank-and-file, for not figuring things out for ourselves. Is this not a dereliction of their duty to us? Next on Redmond’s hit list was 28 year member and shop steward Tim S. He accused Sylvester of "digging in the garbage in raising the name of Ed Dougherty who died on the picket lines." Redmond went on: "You know the guy who said that wasn’t even in the God damned union at the time...He has know idea what the hell he’s talking about! That strike had nothing to do with pensions!" Was Redmond trying to infer that since Sylvester was not in the union at the time (the 1973 strike) , that he has no right to bring it up to make a point about concessions on pensions? I’m sure Tim S wasn’t around in 1776 but I know for sure he celebrates July 4th every year! It’s a bogus argument meant to drown out dissent! Moreover, Sylvester corrected Redmond by stating that in fact: " Go to the 804 Magazine (Spring 2003) ...it states ‘Doc Doughtery died over retiree pensions’...Howie, you printed it!" The point trying to be made was why give up any pension benefit that a man actually died for. Sylvester then went on to question why such a huge gap exists in 804's "official" history. In a method reminiscent of Stalin’s Russia, our "official" history mysteriously excludes the name Ron Carey as well as Carey’s surprise win in 1967 as 804's President, an unprecedented 25 and out pension for all members, and of course, his historical win in the first ever election as President of the Teamster’s International Union. It does, however, include and highlight the 2002 "Best Contract Ever." I cannot wait to see what they write about this recent "fair" contract. Will history once again be rewritten? Redmond ended the debate between he and Sylvester by ranting "You’ve made your in’ point...now sit down!" But Redmond was not finished. When 29 year Teamster Pete Mastandrea came up to the mic, he too was greeted with name calling. Redmond disrespectfully called Mastandrea "Pistol Pete" (in describing how Pete waved his arms as he walked down the hall aisle at the last Union Meeting in October). In fact, Mastandrea was actually responding to other rank-and-file members wanting to high-five him after taking the Executive Board to task over the contract. When Mastandrea was finally allowed to speak, he asked "Where’s the respect?" He then went on in support of Sylvester’s statements adding that in mentioning Dougherty, "that we shouldn’t even remember this guy?" The Members Respond At last , the President’s Report was over and on to New Business. Chris Sabatino , steward out of Elmsford, handed in the 2000 signatures to change the bylaws that were collected from all UPS Facilities in Local 804. As each amendment was read by the skeptical Board, a large cheer went out in support of the needed changes to our bylaws. If passed, they will allow the membership to get more information on our pensions at every General Membership Meeting and keep us more informed during contract negotiations Next up to the mic was Farmingville driver Bill Reynolds. He told us how back in October 2006, he was told by a senior member of the Executive Board that he could " rest assured that when he went to bed at night," his pension was "safe and secure." Well, we all know the rest of the story here. A month later, after the Local elections of course, we were told that the pension "was in trouble." What happened to "the books have been checked...." Redmond responded by saying "that was before the Pension Protection Act. The law changed!" Once again, our President has his facts wrong. The Pension Protection Act was signed into law on August 17, 2006. It was already a law when Reynolds was assured that the pension fund was fine. In reality, our pension fund was not safe and secure. The Executive Board was well aware that our pension fund was underperforming , they knew that the Pension Protection Act was the new law , and they knew there was a Pension Trustees Meeting coming up. Yet none of this was brought up at the October 6th Union Meeting! Why? What was spoken about at this key Union Meeting was that two of the Executive Board members were retiring and being replaced by two "friends of the Board" and that all eleven Board members would be up for "re-election" in November! Amazing...with this looming disaster in the background, nothing was mentioned, but keeping their high salaried positions was most important. After Redmond began ranting about how destructive TDU (Teamsters for a Democratic Union) was, Maspeth steward Liam Russertt gallantly stood up to defend TDU members and the right to dissent. Redmond hastily interrupted Russert : "What’s your point!" Russert continued that he joined TDU " to make sure this union is strong... a better union . We all want unity against UPS but we need more information from the Board." Once gain Redmond interrupted claiming "You are one of those guys handing out a lot of that on the pensions." Russert quickly responded by defending what makeUPSdeliver had put out on Local 294's pension benefits compared to ours as true as opposed to what "the Executive Board was told by others (the actuaries) that the pension was fine!" Russert wrapped up his time at the mic by forcefully stating: " I do not try to divide this union . I’m a former military guy...the truth should come out! This situation is like the Democrats and the Republicans, both parties work for the government but have different ideas on how to run it." RePete Performance Pete Mastandrea returned to the mic to address Redmond’s call for "solutions." Mastandrea reminded Redmond that the idea of getting the part-timers into our pension fund, an idea that had been around since the Carey days, would immensely help our pension fund without the pain. When Redmond disparagingly told him that "Ronnie didn’t deliver it did he", the room filled with loud sighs in response to this attack on Carey’s legacy ...this Local is still a Carey local! Mastandrea jabbed back saying that "If you would have stood strong in negotiations, we would have got the part-timers in the pension fund" with a loud cheer behind him! He followed up blasting Redmond for "not stating in his President’s Report how proud you were of the membership for knocking this contract down! Cause I’m God damn proud of everyone in this room...!" -to a thunderous roar! He finished up by castigating the Board for "discouraging a lot of people from saying what’s on their minds." In a strong nod to the bylaws changes, Mastandrea told the Board that "we are starving for information" and exclaimed that "TDU, though I’m not a member, we got more information on this contract from them then we got from you!" - once again to big cheers.