Secures a Measure
For Local Leader
Lester Koch at the 65th UE
Convention in Erie
"The last line in that story is not written," said
Lester Koch when he stood before the 65th UE
Convention in Erie last August and told the delegates of his discharge three
It is now. Union perseverance gave the story a happy ending:
the UE Local 112 president is back on the job as a switcher (or yard jockey)
for Penske Logistics.
Brother Koch was discharged for denting the muffler on his
yard truck at the terminal, his third incident over a three-year period. As
usual, there’s more to the story.
The Penske truckers and dockworkers had been stuck in a
business union before breaking free and forming their own independent union.
That organization, the Bethlehem Drivers and Dockworkers Union (BD&DU),
affiliated with UE on Oct. 3, 1999.
'LESTER'S WORK RULE'
One of the three incidents the company attempted to use
against Koch occurred during the independent phase — a period when
management would remind the BD&DU that there was no contract in effect.
Koch filed a grievance questioning whether he was at fault — the first filed
by the independent union. The company recognized but refused to resolve the
grievance, denying Koch his right of due process under the grievance
The Local 112 president maintains that the latest firing was
an attempt to get rid of him by higher-ups, despite the good working
relationship established between the union and the terminal manager.
"We were forced to accept work rules when we negotiated
our current agreement that included a peculiar modification to one particular
work rule dealing with minimum safe driving requirements under the Motor
Carriers Regulations," Koch explains. "I have never violated any of
the DOT Motor Carrier Regulations which was the sum total of the original work
That peculiar modification consisted of the words, "and
Penske Logistics’ minimum hiring requirements." Nicknamed "Lester’s
Work Rule," this language became the basis of the discharge. (This work
rule is likely to haunt the company, Koch says: "If every contact between
trucks and trailers was caught and dealt with in accord with the work rules
now in place, we would be very short on drivers in no time, a fact evidenced
by the scrapes, dings, dents and broken lights on even the newest trailers in
Three grueling days of arbitration proceedings began Oct. 6
and ended on Dec. 29, 2000. Upper management’s determination to eliminate
the outspoken union leader made the proceedings difficult. The company
produced numerous witnesses and mounds of paperwork in its effort to keep Koch
fired. "The trivial nature of the company’s presentation and their
attempt to expand reality revealed their intent," Koch says. For the
union’s part, "We admitted each charge as fact, the unreasonable and
unjust measure of discipline was our claim along with the untimely and
inaccurate filings on the company’s part," the yard jockey says.
Brother Koch was awarded reinstatement in February with his
seniority intact but without back pay — what he calls "half
justice." Although Koch and Local 112 members were unhappy about the
arbitrator’s split decision, they are relieved that the union prevailed.
The yard jockey returned to work on Feb. 23 to an excellent
reception by co-workers, union and management alike. "If the ‘back room
boys’ would leave us alone we would be a shining star in the Penske
World!" Koch says.
Intl. Rep. Bruce Klipple argued the case on behalf of
Local 112 and Brother Koch.
UE News - 03/01