Teamsters take a new tack Union urges boycott of Ryder over use of non-union labor.

March 25, 1992|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Staff Writer

A headline in Wednesday's Evening Sun incorrectly described why members of the Teamsters union were picketing a division of Ryder Systems Inc. They were protesting the company's use of unionized truck drivers who were not members of the Teamsters.

In the first nationwide job action by a newly reformed and more-courteous Teamsters union, about 50 unionized drivers protested quietly outside a Ryder System Inc. truck rental store on North Point Boulevard yesterday to call for a nationwide boycott of the Miami-based transportation company.

"We are not out to disrupt anything. . . . We are not going to do

the things the Teamsters have a bad name for doing. Those things didn't really make any sense," said Rodney Dize, secretary and treasurer of Teamsters Local 557.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Carrying signs that charged Ryder was "wrecking good American jobs," the truck drivers said they were protesting Ryder's formation of a non-Teamster division to deliver automobiles.

Besides renting trucks to do-it-yourself movers, Ryder is the nation's top hauler of automobiles. It delivers about 50 percent of the nation's vehicles, including many of the imports that land at Baltimore's port.

Although most of Ryder's car-carrying trucks are driven by Teamsters, Ryder has established a non-Teamster division that has started picking up cars here, the Teamsters said.

Mr. Dize said he has seen the number of unionized truckers who drive car carriers in the Baltimore area cut in half, to 1,600, in the past five years because of competition with non-Teamster carriers.

Ryder spokesman Art Stone declined to comment on the action yesterday, saying only that Ryder regretted the union's action.

The Teamsters' nationwide contract with Ryder and all other car carriers expired last summer. The industry and the union have been negotiating for months over a new contract.

One of the biggest sticking points has been language that would allow expansion of the non-Teamster divisions.

Although the union says it is eager to get a new contract, the Teamsters aren't going to strike Ryder or any other car carriers, Mr. Dize said.

Instead, the union is launching its first corporate campaign, aimed at persuading the 1.5 million Teamsters and the public to avoid Ryder. "We are going to cover every Ryder division," Mr. Dize vowed.

Although common to other unions, the use of consumer pressure rather than defiant picket lines and strong-arm tactics is a change for the Teamsters, who were taken over by the federal government in the 1980s because of organized crime's influence on the union.

Mr. Dize said the corporate campaign is a result of a new, reformist union president, Ron Carey, who took over Feb. 1.

To gain publicity for their boycott, the Teamsters rented a truck from the store at 201 North Point Blvd., then invited the news media to watch them return it -- unused.

Stunned clerks called their bosses as Teamsters poured into the little office followed by reporters and television cameras.

Officials at Ryder's headquarters instructed the office workers by fax not to talk to the reporters and to wait for the arrival of a supervisor, who was equally surprised.

Norman Kaylor, district safety manager for Ryder, took the truck back but added that his division rents trucks to individuals and has nothing to do with hauling cars.

Mr. Kaylor said afterward that he felt a little ambushed by the sudden and unexpected onslaught of protesters and cameras.

But, he said, the Teamsters paid for the truck, even though they didn't use it. "They volunteered to pay for it," Mr. Kaylor said.

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