On September 23rd, Shuttle Bus Drivers at ABM overwhelmingly ratified their first Teamsters contract with just one “no” vote cast. At approximately 180 employees, this is the largest newly organized shop to be added to Local 89 in decades and is one of the largest organizing victories of any union in modern Kentucky history.
These drivers, who shuttle Local 89 UPS members to and from their work areas at the massive Worldport air hub, were first organized in March of this year. Local 89 swiftly held proposal meetings and began negotiations where progress proved steady, but slow. In August, ABM members unanimously voted to authorize a strike if their demands weren’t met. With enormous pressure from members, Local 89, and support from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a tentative agreement was reached on September 14th.
ABM workers chose to organize with Teamsters Local 89 after years without raises, substandard pay, harassment from supervisors, atrocious health insurance, and a lack of many other benefits that are typical in a Teamsters contract. Due to their commitment to making ABM a better place to work, they now have a life-changing first Teamsters contract that ranks among the best first agreements in our Local Union’s history.
“This is one of the strongest first contracts I’ve ever seen at Local 89, said Business Agent Jay Dennis. “And we owe that to the tremendous amount of teamwork those of us at Local 89 poured into this, as well as the phenomenal job done by our rank-and-file negotiating committee. Most of these folks had never been in a union prior to this, but they handled bargaining like they’d been doing it for years. They were very impressive.”
Workers received radical improvements in economics, including five dollars in raises over the four-year life of the agreement. The first two dollars of those raises went into effect immediately, and the third will be applied on January 1st of 2024, giving workers who hadn’t seen a raise in years a three dollar jump over just a few months span. By the final year of the contract, a full-time driver working a basic 40-hour work week will see their yearly income increase by approximately $10,000 dollars or more with overtime.
The largest economic gain, however, was easily in healthcare. Beginning January 1st of 2024, all full-time ABM employees will be eligible for coverage under the Michigan Conference of Teamsters Health and Welfare Fund, a broad and all-inclusive plan that includes medical, prescription, dental, vision, short term disability, and life insurance. The coverage in this healthcare plan alone is enough to radically change workers’ lives, as the plan previously offered by the Company was bare bones at best. The Company will be paying a significant premium for this new healthcare plan, anywhere from $137 dollars to $399 dollars per week per employee, depending on the coverage selected.
In addition to wages and healthcare, drivers also gained economic language for paid holidays, faster vacation accrual, reporting pay, daily guarantees, and much more. There were also substantial gains on non-economic items such as seniority rights, anti-harassment, a fair and consistent progressive disciplinary policy, safe equipment language, the ability to have cell phones at work, dress code improvements, and solutions to a host of other issues members had brought to light during contract proposals.
“We couldn’t be happier to have these shuttle drivers join our Local 89 family,” said President Avral Thompson, who was extensively involved throughout the organizing and negotiating process. “Our Local has a great team for first contract negotiations, and the way we pulled together to make sure we did the best possible for these folks really showed that. I’m very proud of our staff, our bargaining committee members, and this new contract.”
Local 89 attacked ABM’s first contract negotiations from multiple angles by assigning Business Agent Jay Dennis as the chair, but also including General Counsel Cody Hibbard for legal issues, Organizer Bryan Trafford to continue organizing the rank-and-file members around issues, and Communications Director Stephen Piercey to ensure ABM members stayed informed and engaged through the contract campaign. Support was also constantly being provided by President Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Cooper, Recording Secretary Craig Burns, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. This approach allowed for every issue to be tackled from multiple angles, from many points of view, and from several different areas of expertise, resulting in a very well-rounded agreement.
Finally, we would be remiss not to highlight the substantial contributions from our rank-and-file bargaining committee members; Curtis Durst, Nachell Beeler, Generia Samuel, Dan Pendleton, Edward Yarbrough, Brayton Phair and Bonda Shuff. These amazing brothers and sisters worked incredibly hard throughout the process to ensure their contract would meet the needs of their co-workers. The insight and dedication they provided were paramount in the creation of this impressive first contract.
From everyone at Teamsters Local 89, congratulations to our new members at ABM and welcome to our proud union family!