APWU Private Mail Haulers Strike In Des Moines and Kansas City
03/23/2005 - More than 100 APWU members in Des Moines, IA, and Kansas City, KS, who are truck drivers for the private-mail hauler Mail Contractors of America, went on strike March 22, demanding the company negotiate a fair contract.
Workers are picketing truck terminals operated by Mail Contractors of America (MCA) in both cities. Union members are demanding an end to policies the companies imposed in September 2004 that reduced their pay by close to $10,000 per year.
“Our members are upbeat,” said Tony Olson, a truck driver from Kansas City. “We felt we had no choice but to strike.” The company has hired replacement drivers, he said, “but only six or seven trucks went out of the terminal today.” Typically there are about 75 routes driven a day, he estimated.
Last fall, MCA stopped paying a portion of health insurance premiums, forcing drivers to assume the costs — totaling approximately $5,000 for family coverage — if they wished to maintain their health insurance.
The company also began denying the drivers pay for required rest breaks — breaks they were paid for under a collective bargaining agreement covering the Des Moines workers that expired Sept. 30, 2003. The Kansas City workers, who have never negotiated a contract with the company, also received pay for breaks until Sept. 1, 2004.
Under Department of Labor regulations, truck drivers must be paid for rest periods of 20 minutes or less. But MCA has instructed the mail haulers that they must combine their breaks — so that the rest periods exceed 20 minutes. Over the course of a week the breaks total two to three hours, which the drivers are no longer paid for. The MCA drivers earn between $16.50 and $19.50 per hour.
“Drivers were told to leave their trucks — loaded with mail — by the side of the road during their unpaid breaks,” Olson said. “The Postal Service is supposed to protect the mail. They should not allow a private company to get away with that,” he said. “It’s their responsibility. They should put a stop to it.”
Olson also complained that the drivers hired to break the strike seemed to be working in violation of Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. DOT regulations prohibit truck drivers from working more than 11 consecutive hours without a 10-hour break, he said.
Mark Dimondstein, a field organizer for the APWU said, “We have been trying to negotiate a contract in Des Moines for two and a half years. The company walked out of negotiations on Aug. 6, 2004, after spending less than two hours discussing economic issues. Despite our repeated requests, they have refused to return to the bargaining table. In Kansas City, we’ve been trying to negotiate a contract since April 2003.”
MCA hired a new law firm in 2003, Dimondstein said, with the goal of crushing the union.
The Des Moines APWU Local has asked for financial support, as well as support on the picket line. Contributions should be sent to: APWU/MCA Strike Fund, Local 44, 1200 E. Euclid Ave, Des Moines, IA, 50316.
The APWU National Executive Board authorized the strike at its February meeting and approved strike benefits of $150 per week.