Another bank draws worker anger: Teamsters picket KeyBank for funding union-busting

CLEVELAND — Teamsters and supporters from Jobs with Justice and Working America picketed the corporate headquarters of KeyBank here Dec. 19, accusing the bank of funding a union-busting drive by Oak Harbor Freight Lines.

The action was in solidarity with some 600 drivers in the 13th week of a very tough strike in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The company, one of the largest and most profitable freight haulers on the West Coast, has hired scabs, cancelled retirees’ health care and violated U.S. labor law, the union charged.

“We are here today because KeyBank is underwriting this rogue company,” said Frank Burdell, president of Teamsters Local 407, representing truckers in the Cleveland area. In addition, he said, the bank is getting $2.5 billion from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (TARP) — the $700 billion bailout approved by Congress.

“That money is supposed to provide relief to those hardest hit in this economy, but instead they are using it to buy other banks and subsidize union-busting,” the union leader said.

After over a year of fruitless bargaining for a new contract, the Teamsters struck Sept. 22 when the company bypassed the union and tried to negotiate directly with the workers — a violation of labor law, Burdell said. The Teamsters have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board and are awaiting a decision.

Al Hobart, West Coast vice president of the Teamsters, called the company’s actions “the most intrusive I’ve been associated with” in 33 years as a union representative, according to a story in the Puget Sound Business Journal distributed at the rally. He said the dispute is at “the top of the heap” of national labor disputes.

To draw attention to the fight, Teamsters members on Oct. 21 rappelled down the side of a building next to the San Francisco headquarters of Gap, Inc., the clothing retailer, which was using Oak Harbor for deliveries. Since then Gap, as well as other big retail customers and the state of Washington have stopped using the company.

As demonstrators here chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho — corporate greed has got to go,” Nakeisha Gibson, a member of Working America, wearing a pig mask and a tuxedo jacket, made mock attempts to put her hand in their pockets and steal purses.

Similar actions were held in Buffalo, Indianapolis, Detroit, Portland and Seattle.