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Union Perseverance
Secures a Measure
Of Justice
For Local Leader


UE Local 112 President Lester Koch

Local 112 President 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 months earlier.

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.


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 procedure.

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 rule."

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 our fleet.")


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

Home -> UE News -> 2001 Archives -> Article

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