Teamsters union hunts down delinquent members for arrears
A Teamsters union is fighting an unlikely enemy: its own members.
In an extraordinary gesture, Teamsters Local 707 has sent delinquent collection notices to off-track betting workers and other members who it says have union dues arrears totaling hundreds, if not thousands of people. dollars per pop.
The targeted members were on maternity, medical or disability leave, or leave during the coronavirus pandemic. While union dues are automatically deducted from workers’ paychecks, this is not the case when members are not on the payroll.
If members do not pay their due, Teamsters 707 have warned they will ask the Nassau County OTB and other employers to double union dues levied on workers’ wages until that they are paid.
“Are [union officials] act as a debt collector? I think it’s worse. It’s more like extortion, âsaid OTB cashier Rosie Schwab, an employee since 1998 who the Teamsters told she owed $ 1,452.50.
Teamsters Local 707 Secretary-Treasurer John Zirpoli wrote in a letter to OTB workers: âA review of our records indicates that you are late in paying your dues to Local 707. of the Teamsters.
âIt is the responsibility of members to continue to pay union dues while they are on Compensation, Disability, FMLA, LOA or leave leave, as you are still considered an active member who will return to the work without loss of seniority at any given time, in accordance with article XVIII, section 6A of the International Constitution â, he declared.
A letter to a worker read, âAs of this date, the amount of union dues / fees owed to update your account is $ 1,545.50.
âThis amount will be paid to you until November 2021. Please remit a check or money order payable to Local 707 to cover any arrears of union dues / fees owed. If your contributions / fees are not paid, your employer will be responsible for deducting double contributions / fees until your account is up to date.
Schwab raged: âI don’t think anyone who earns the amount we earn should have to pay this debt to the union.
âAbsolutely not. It’s unthinkable,â she said.
Schwab spent time on workers’ compensation after injuring himself in a fall.
Susan Oddo, OTB branch manager in Valley Stream, LI, who has worked for OTB since 1997, pays approximately $ 80 per month in union dues. She received a letter saying she owes Teams Local 707 over $ 800.
âI’ve never heard of this before. The leadership of the Teamsters is trying to strengthen the membership. Kevin McCaffrey is trying to forcefully arm us, âsaid Oddo, referring to the union president, who is also a Suffolk County lawmaker.
âIt’s horrible what they’re trying to do to us. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair. It’s ridiculous.”
Aggressive debt is a tough time for the 707 Teamsters. Its membership has fallen 21%, from 2,249 members in 2015 to 1,759 members last year, according to records filed with the US Department of Labor.
Teamsters Local 707 represents freight drivers, ambulance drivers and Off Track Betting employees in New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley.
Local 707 is part of Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents 120,000 workers in upstate New York and Puerto Rico, including the city’s Sanitation Department, NYCHA and schools public. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has 1.4 million members across the country.
A labor expert said the move smacked of desperation – and could be illegal.
âNassau OTB should in no way force anyone to pay the Teamsters against their will. The First Amendment protects all public employees, including OTB workers, from being forced to pay a union, âsaid Ken Girardin, research director at the Connecticut-based Yankee Institute.
âThis is why the government should never act like the hangman of a union. “
Even seasoned union lawyer Arthur Schwartz said the Teamsters 707’s aggressive delinquency went too far.
“Is that smart? No. It’s extremely brutal, âsaid Arthur Schwartz, lawyer for Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union and other unions.
TWU Local 100 temporarily lost its right to the automatic collection of dues from the transit workers it represents after going on an illegal strike in 2005. Only about half of its members were paying dues voluntarily at any time. given, he said. Non-paying members were not allowed to vote in elections.
Schwartz said the rate of dues payment has gradually increased to 93% as transit workers voluntarily agreed to catch up by increasing their dues collections after payroll deductions were reinstated.
Teamsters 707 President McCaffrey defended the notices sent to delinquent members.
âI don’t agree with the critics. We are simply following the constitution of the Teamsters International union. We have an obligation to make an effort to collect arrears from members, âsaid McCaffrey.
He also said that it was not fair for the overwhelming majority of union members who are up to date with their dues to let delinquent members not pay, when they retain their seniority and benefits when leave the payroll in the event of disability, illness or family leave.
âThere isn’t a lot of sympathy from the paying members for those who don’t pay,â McCaffrey said.
He said the union is proposing a compromise whereby suspended delinquent members pay $ 250 to “start from scratch” and join the union and settle the debt.
“” It’s a fair compromise, “said McCaffrey, who urged delinquent members to call the union and settle instead of complaining to the press.