HARVEY, IL | The Teamsters Local 710 members at the Parsec rail yard in Harvey, Ill. stood strong together in the face of an employer who tried and failed to push a substandard contract on their employees. The 170 Operators, Spotters, and Groundmen successfully secured an unprecedented contract on November 23, 2021.
Negotiations began in May this year after the yard, which is run by the Canadian National Railroad and was managed by ITS ConGlobal, was put up for bid and won by Parsec. Local 710 successfully organized the yard under ITS nearly 4 years ago, and the members there secured their first Union contract in less than a year. When Parsec won the yard, nearly all ITS employees were hired back and unanimously decided to stay with Teamsters Local 710. Again, they went to the bargaining table for another first contract, this time with Parsec.
After bargaining for a few months, the company-backed tentative agreement was put to the membership to vote, despite the Union committee explaining to the company that it was not good enough and would not pass. It was overwhelmingly voted down, and the parties returned to the bargaining table. At the same time, the company proceeded to commit numerous unfair labor practices, promising improved benefits and increased wages if the employees voted the Union out.
“Being that our members are true Teamsters, they knew that the company was lying through their teeth,” said Business Agent and Organizer Justin Vaughn, a former Operator from ITS himself. “They know what having a Union means, and they fought hard to get it – they weren’t going to lie down and give it up now.”
Upon continuing negotiations, Parsec offered an insulting fifteen cent wage increase, clearly showing that they didn’t listen to the first rejection of the contract. So, Local 710 immediately stopped negotiations and took a strike authorization vote, which was approved unanimously.
“Once the employer realized that our members would not be bullied into a subpar contract and were ready to go on the street, their attitude changed instantly,” said Secretary-Treasurer Mike Cales. “The threat of a strike finally put serious fear into both the employer and the railroad that you could see in their faces, and they finally started making movement in the right direction.”
A final tentative agreement was reached on November 3, and the Local 710 bargaining committee went to work right away to thoroughly go through the agreement with the members ahead of the ratification vote. The contract was overwhelmingly ratified more than 3 to 1. The Union successfully secured unprecedented improvements that were top issues for the members, including:
- Elimination of forced 6th day work and 16-hour days
- Significant wage increases front-loaded and retroactive to June 1, 2021
- Increased employer contributions to the members’ 401(K) plans, doubling from the previous agreement once employees have eight or more years of service
- Increased starting rate
- Premium pay for Trainers and Lead Men
- Two paid sick days upon ratification, with the ability to accrue six paid sick days per year
“This vote was a big deal – even management and the railroad attended the ballot count, which doesn’t happen. You could tell we really struck a nerve with our strike authorization,” said Vaughn. “I am so proud of how all of our members came together, and 710 had their backs all the way. This was a perfect example of showing just how much sheer power our members have when they stand up for what they deserve.”