Teamsters union hounds delinquent members for back dues

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A Teamsters union is choosing a struggle with an unlikely enemy — its personal members.

In a rare transfer, Teamsters Local 707 has despatched delinquency assortment notices to off-track-betting employees and different members it says are in arrears for union dues totaling a whole bunch and even hundreds of {dollars} a pop.

The focused members have been on maternity depart, medical or incapacity depart or furlough through the coronavirus pandemic. While union dues are routinely deducted from employee paychecks, that isn’t the case when members are off the payroll.

If the members don’t cough up what’s owed, Teamsters 707 warned that it’s going to instruct the Nassau County OTB and different employers to double the union dues taken from the employees’ salaries till they’re paid up.

“Are [union officials] acting like a debt collector? I think it’s worse. It’s more like extortion,” stated OTB cashier Rosie Schwab, an worker since 1998 who was instructed by the Teamsters that she owed $1,452.50.

Teamsters Local 707 Secretary Treasurer John Zirpoli wrote in a letter to the OTB employees, “A assessment of our information signifies you’re delinquent in your dues funds to Teamsters Local 707.

“It is the members responsibility to continue to pay union dues when out on either compensation, disability, FMLA, LOA or furlough because you are still considered an active member member who will be returning to work without loss of seniority at some point in time, according to Article XVIII Section 6A of the International Constitution,” he stated.

A letter to at least one employee stated, “As of this date, the quantity of union dues/charges owed to deliver your account updated is $1,545.50.

“This amount will pay you through the month of November, 2021. Please remit a check or money order payable to Local Union 707 to cover the back union dues/fees owed. If your dues/fees are not paid your employer will be instructed to deduct double dues/fees until your account becomes current.”

Schwab raged, “I don’t suppose anybody making the amount of cash we make ought to should pay this debt to the union.

“Absolutely not. It’s unthinkable,” she stated.

Schwab hung out on employees’ compensation after getting injured in a fall.

Susan Oddo, an OTB department supervisor in Valley Stream, LI, who has labored for OTB since 1997, pays about $80 a month in union dues. She bought a letter that claims she owes greater than $800 to Teams Local 707.

“I’ve never heard of this before. The Teamsters leadership is trying to strong-arm members. Kevin McCaffrey is trying to strong arm us,” Oddo stated, referring to the union president, who can be a Suffolk County legislator.

“It’s horrible what they’re trying to do to us. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s right. It’s ridiculous.”

The aggressive debt comes a troublesome time for Teamsters 707. Its membership has plummeted 21 p.c from 2,249 members in 2015 to 1,759 members final yr, based on information filed with the US Labor Department.

Teamsters Local 707 represents freight drivers, ambulance drivers and Off Track Betting workers in New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley.

Local 707 is a part of Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents 120,000 employees in downstate New York and in Puerto Rico, together with within the metropolis Sanitation Department, NYCHA and public colleges. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has 1.4 million members nationwide.

One labor skilled stated the transfer smacks of desperation — and could possibly be unlawful.

“Nassau OTB should not, under any circumstances, make anyone pay the Teamsters against their will. The First Amendment protects all public employees, including OTB workers, from being forced to pay a union,” stated Ken Girardin, a analysis director on the Connecticut-based Yankee Institute.

“This is why government should never be acting as a union’s bag man.”

Even veteran union lawyer Arthur Schwartz stated Teamsters 707’s aggressive delinquency goes too far.

“Is it smart? No. That’s extremely heavy-handed,” stated Arthur Schwartz, a lawyer for Transport Workers Union Local 100 and different unions.

TWU Local 100 briefly misplaced its proper to computerized dues assortment from transit employees they characterize after happening an unlawful strike in 2005. Only about half of its members have been paying dues voluntarily at one level, he stated. Non-paying members have been barred from voting in elections.

Schwartz stated the speed of dues-paying progressively jumped to 93 p.c, as transit employees voluntarily agreed to catch up by rising their dues collections after payroll deductions have been restored.

Teamsters 707 President McCaffrey defended the notices despatched to delinquent members.

“I don’t agree with the criticism. We’re just following the Teamsters International union constitution. We have an obligation to make an effort to collect from members who are in arrears,” McCaffrey stated.

He additionally stated it’s not honest for the overwhelming majority of union members who’re present on dues funds to let delinquent members off the hook from paying up, after they hold seniority and advantages after they go off the payroll on incapacity, medical or household depart.

“There’s not a lot of sympathy from dues-paying members for those who don’t pay,” McCaffrey stated.

He stated the union is providing a compromise of getting delinquent members on suspension pay $250 to “start from scratch” and rejoin the union and settle the debt.

“”It’s a good compromise,” stated McCaffrey, who urged delinquent members to name the union and settle up as an alternative of complaining to the press.

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