August 5, 2022
  • August 5, 2022

DHL drivers on strike over high health insurance costs

By on July 6, 2022 0

This article has been updated.

PAWTUCKET — Dozens of DHL delivery drivers based in this city are engaged in an acrimonious confrontation with Northeast Transportation, the third-party contractor who employs them.

Drivers have been on strike for two weeks, seeking to cut health insurance costs and raise wages, and have been picketing outside the 24-hour distribution center.

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Matthew Maini, a representative for Teamsters Local 251, said an armed security guard chased him with a baseball bat on Friday. Pawtucket police arrested the guard and also arrested picketing union members, Maini said.

After this article was published, Local 251 senior officer Matthew Taibi said he was the one who was threatened with a baseball bat.

sergeant. Teddy Georgitsis of the Pawtucket Police Department confirmed there were three arrests at the facility on Friday, but declined to comment further.

“We have to stay neutral,” he said.

Phone calls to Northeast Transportation LLC, headquartered in South Carolina, were not returned on Tuesday.

“DHL is not a party to this labor dispute,” DHL spokesman Robert Mintz wrote in an email. “The union representing North East Transportation employees has called a strike in Providence, RI. North East Transportation is a DHL service partner that provides pickup and delivery services. The service partner has plans in place to emergency for Providence, and our services are currently business as usual for our customers.”

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Employees of Northeast Transportation, a DHL contractor, unionized with the Teamsters in 2017. Maini said the bargaining unit consists of about 70 people.

The drivers’ contract expired at the end of March and the workers went on strike on June 22 after failing to reach a new agreement with the company.

Why are DHL drivers going on strike?

“You can’t settle for less,” said Charles Reid, a driver who recently moved to DHL after being part of a long strike against liquor distributor Johnston Brothers. “You have to know what you are worth and go for it.”

Maini said the high cost of company-provided health insurance was the main driving factor behind the strike. The company’s “family plan” costs $340 a week, he said, while the average worker earns $19.80 an hour.

After the article was published, Taibi said the information was wrong: the hourly wage for couriers is $18 per hour and the “family plan” costs $370 per week, he said.

DHL workers and union supporters confront a driver entering the property with calls from

James Taylor, a courier and docker, said the company claimed it could not afford better wages and benefits, but was unwilling to provide evidence.

“They don’t leak their books,” he said. “They say we break them but refuse to prove it. They say it’s for security reasons, but that leads us to think they’re lying.”

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Drivers who walked the picket line on Tuesday also spoke of wider frustrations with the way the business is run, saying managers have unreasonable expectations about how much ground they can cover in a day. and send them down illogical and inefficient routes.

“A lot of these managers are sent from other parts of the United States,” Amber Fortier said. “They don’t know the area, and they don’t try to figure out how far everything is. They’ll take you from one area and send you to another to pick up and don’t realize how far they reject you.”

What drivers have to say

Rolando Flores, a driver whose route stretches from Fall River and Westport to Jamestown, said he leaves the Pawtucket facility around 9:30 a.m. and is expected to make up to 60 deliveries to six cities in two states while also performing pickups. in these communities.

If he doesn’t get back to Pawtucket by 6 p.m., he says, he’ll have to drive another hour north and take the truck back to Westborough, Mass., where there’s a larger distribution center.

“There is no organization on the spot,” admitted Theresa Duarte. “You’re basically setting me up for failure down the road.”

A Teamsters truck with inflated airship parked outside the DHL Pawtucket facility, in support of striking workers, in the foreground.

Duarte, 22, is one of the company’s youngest drivers. She said she’s been trying to get back to school, but working for Northeast Transportation leaves her with little free time. Even if she finishes her journey early, she says, she is asked to go and help someone else.

“I live here,” she said. “I visit home.”

Ana Meyer, a mother of two, said her typical route is to drive to and from Cape Cod, which makes it difficult to see her children.

“Sometimes I come home at 9 a.m.,” she said. “I’m leaving around 9:30.”

How did tensions during the strike escalate?

During the two-week strike, drivers picketed the distribution facility at 101 Concord Street in Pawtucket, near Route 95 and a short distance from the Providence line. The Teamsters say the picket is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they encourage people to stop and show their support.

Workers allege Northeast Transportation paid $55 an hour to untrained and unskilled scabs who make deliveries while drivers are on strike. Last week, Teamsters for a Democratic Union posted pictures on social media which appeared to show a DHL truck stuck under a bridge with low clearance.

“Why are you wasting all this money and not listening to your employees? asked Duarte.

On a recent Tuesday, a Pawtucket police officer was stationed outside the Concord Street facility. When a car with New York plates approached and began to pull into the facility’s parking lot, Teamsters members began whistling and shouting profanities at the “scab,” while the officer stepped in to escort the car.

Maini said the Teamsters members were arrested for “disorderly” behavior during a picket outside the facility, only for the charges to be dismissed by a judge because the activity is legally protected by the national law on labor relations.

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Georgitsis of Pawtucket Police declined to comment on Tuesday. Maini said the Teamsters are pursuing legal action against the department.

Maini said he and Teamsters Local 251 senior officer Matthew Taibi were picketing outside the Pawtucket facility on Friday when they were threatened by an armed security guard.

“He just got out of the car and snapped,” Maini said. “He grabbed a baseball bat and came after me and Mr. Taibi.”

Maini said the guard was arrested and was due to appear in court on Tuesday. He said he couldn’t remember if the guard said anything to him: “I was too busy wondering if I was going to have to break his jaw.”

Taibi, after this article was published, stated that Local 251 has no pending litigation against the City of Pawtucket or the Pawtucket Police Department. He said Maini was present shortly before and shortly after the guard wielded a baseball bat, but not during the incident. Other eyewitnesses were present, he said.

Georgitsis asked the Providence Journal to formally request the arrest report to learn more about the incident, saying he would confirm there were three arrests at 101 Concord St. on Friday, but would not could not provide additional information due to a desire to remain neutral. .

A Pawtucket City Hall records clerk said there was no record of an arrest at 101 Concord Street on Friday, and the records system only showed there was a call on duty. There are no records of arrests at this address in the past two weeks, she said.