New Member Handbook
For over 100 years this Local Union has served workers in Philadelphia and the vicinity. We’re proud of our history and look forward to building a stronger union with you. At Local 623 we pride ourselves on uniting all our members to build a democratic and fighting union.
In order for our union to grow stronger every member must be well informed. This handbook is meant to help you understand your rights, responsibilities, and duties as a new member of this Local Union and of the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters.
We hope it helps address questions you might have about your membership and participation in our union.
Welcome to Teamsters Local 623.
A union is an organization of your co-workers united together to fight for dignity, higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions. Your union, Teamsters Local 623, is the Local Union for more than 4,500 UPS drivers, warehouse workers, and Greyhound ticket and baggage agents in Philadelphia and the vicinity. The Local has a storied history within North-America's largest and most powerful union — the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).
The Union is the organization responsible for negotiating your contract or Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which sets the terms, wages, and benefits at your job. And your union representatives — stewards and Business Agents — are responsible for representing you in disputes with management. Local 623 is a democratic organization that strives to build unity and fellowship among working people to advocate for our interests and build a better world for working people.
The contract spells out in black and white all of the terms of your job, from pay rates and benefits, to a grievance procedure, your time off, your workplace rights and more. We cannot stress how important it is that you become familiar with your contract, that’s why we have provided digital copies of the UPS Master Contract, the UPS Local 623 Supplemental Agreement, and the Local 623 Greyhound Contract for members to download.
If you would like a hardcopy of your contract book you can ask your Business Agent or come down to the Union hall to pick one up.
Read your contract and become familiar with it. The better you know your contract the stronger this union gets. Knowing your contract will allow you to defend yourself and your Teamster sisters and brothers against management harassment, protect yourself from excessive discipline, forced overtime, and other violations.
NEGOTIATING THE CONTRACT
You’ll notice that the contract has an expiration date, that’s because it is a living document that gets negotiated by your union negotiating team every three years for Greyhound and every five years for UPS.
Before your contract expires Local 623 officers and staff will organize in person meetings and solicit surveys to hear from members about what workplace issues need to be addressed.
Once the negotiating team hears from the members it proposes changes or additions to the contract and begins to negotiate the terms of the next agreement. The Union and the company have to reach a tentative agreement in order for the new contract to be voted on by the membership. Once a tentative agreement is reached, the bargaining unit meets to vote on whether they accept the new contract. This is called the ratification vote. The contract only goes into effect if a majority of members in the bargaining unit approve the agreement. If workers do not approve the agreement the negotiating team goes back to the table to try to get a better deal.
ENFORCING THE CONTRACT
Once a contract agreement is reached the new contract must be enforced. The Company may agree to a number of new protections and workplace rights on paper but if the Union cannot adequately enforce the terms of the contract the members will never see those benefits. This is why it is so important for members to know their contract, it is the only way to ensure you and your Teamster sisters and brothers get all the benefits you fought for.
Your Shop Steward & Business Agent
Your shop steward is your go-to union representative at the workplace. Teamster Stewards are the backbone of the Union and the first line of defense against management. Shop stewards monitor and enforce the Contract. They advocate for their Teamster brothers and sisters by investigating workplace issues and bringing concerns and formal grievances to management’s attention. He or she has a number of responsibilities, from assisting in grievance procedures, to keeping members informed and motivated about their union.
You have a right to union representation at ANY meeting with management. You should NEVER agree to meet with management without your steward or designated alternate steward. Stewards are experienced union representatives and the company recognizes the right of stewards to represent you in disciplinary meetings. For more on stewards rights see Articles 4 & 47 in the UPS Contract and Article XXV in the Greyhound Contract.
Find your steward at: teamsterslocal623.org/stewards
623 stewards are leaders. These are elected positions and all members are encouraged to participate in elections and to consider running themselves. Stewards are elected for three year terms by the members in their center.
In addition to stewards , members are also represented by Business Agents (or BA’s). 623 Business Agents are full-time union representatives who assist in contract enforcement, investigate grievances, and ensure that all deadlines for processing grievances are complied with. Your Business Agents can also assist with a number of other issues. Like stewards, each Business Agent is assigned to a particular work area and/or shift. Business Agents and their assignments are listed here.
Grievances are the way we enforce the contract and protect the rights of workers on the job. The grievance procedure is the most valuable and commonly used section of the contract, and it is our responsibility to use it as effectively as possible.
Grievances are defined as:
“any controversy, complaint, misunderstanding or dispute arising as to interpretation, application or observance of any of the provisions of this Agreement or Supplements hereto.” — Article 49
Most grievances are about violations of the contract, such as when management allows supervisors to take Teamster work or when members are sent home without meeting their daily guarantee. In these instances the company has broken their agreement with the Union and the grievance procedure is there to ensure that all the workers affected are remunerated and that the issue is resolved.
GRIEVANCE OR GRIPE?
If you feel any part of the contract, and/or your rights on the job, have been violated talk to your shop steward. Sometimes your steward may be able to settle the issue outside of the formal grievance procedure if it’s not clear whether the contract has been violated or if there is not enough evidence to sustain a formal grievance. Other times a grievance is necessary to fix the problem. Either way, as Business Agent Norm Cowlay often says “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”
“Closed mouths don’t get fed.” — Norm Cowlay
Recording Secretary & Business Agent
Teamsters Local 623
Members should speak up if they are having trouble with a supervisor, if they feel they’re pay has been shorted, or even if personal issues are causing problems at work. The more your union representatives know, the better than can defend your rights and protect you on the job.
WILL I BE RETALIATED AGAINST FOR FILING GRIEVANCES?
No. It is illegal for the company to retaliate against any member for filing grievances and following the agreed upon grievance procedure. In fact, when Teamsters don’t enforce the terms of the contract through the grievance procedure they leave themselves more vulnerable to supervisor harassment and other violations.
There is strength in numbers. If you feel your rights are being violated, chances are so will other Teamsters. The more you speak up to enforce the contract the more you inspire others to do so as well.
Six W’s of Grievance Handling
Writing an effective grievance is the first step to winning a good settlement. Whenever writing a grievance you should make sure to include information on the six W’s: Who, When, Where, Why, What and Witnesses. Always ask your steward or Business Agent for help with grievances.
Seniority protection is a Teamster core value. The seniority system ensures fairness and equal treatment to all members. Seniority is pretty simple, the length of time that any member has contributed to the company gives them certain privileges when it comes to new job bids, vacations, and other benefits.
Members attain seniority through continuous employment and maintaining their membership in good standing. After working thirty (30) days within a ninety (90) consecutive day period, a new worker shall be placed on the seniority list.
Importantly, time worked from November 1 through December 31 of each year (peak season) does NOT count toward seniority.
Once any member has achieved seniority it can only be broken by a discharge, quitting the job, a layoff of more than three (3) years, or failure to report to work for three (3) consecutive days without notice.
More information on seniority is available in the contract under Article 46 and Article 50
Your union needs you. Make sure to attend meetings and get involved in Local 623 educational, political and social activities. Every month we have General Membership Meetings, meetings for Local 623 Retirees, regular New Member Meetings, monthly steward meetings and more. We also host a number of social events throughout the year including a yearly Christmas event and summer picnic.
General Membership Meetings are usually held on the third Saturday of the month at the Union hall (4369 Richmond Street, Philadelphia PA 19137) unless otherwise noted.
Attendance at meetings is critical. This where we make decisions, where you can meet other members, where your questions can be answered, and where we get organized.
Local 623 is a democratic union. That means members discuss, debate, and vote on their shop stewards, their contracts, their leadership and more. As a member of Local 623 you will have plenty of opportunities to participate in votes and elections and may even consider running for steward or leadership.
Dues & Fees
Dues are the money paid to the Local in exchange for union representation. Your dues are paid weekly at a monthly rate of 2.5 times your base rate of pay. On your paycheck each week you will see this amount deducted from your pay.
New members are also required to pay an initiation fee of $200.00 and an assessment fee of $50.00. However, you may get your assessment fee refunded by attending and signing into a quarterly New Member Meeting.
You owe dues unless you are on leave, disability, FMLA or otherwise eligible for an “honorable withdrawal.” If for any reason you may not be working for a period of time you must request a “withdrawal card” in order to freeze your dues liability, otherwise you will owe dues for the period you are out of work. To get a withdrawal card you can download the request form on our website at: teamsterslocal623.org/forms_and_documents
If you have any questions about your liability for dues and fees you can call the Union hall at (215) 289-0580.
Leadership & Structure
There are over 1.4 million Teamsters in the United States and Canada. The Teamsters union is organized at the International level, and is made up of “State Conferences” organized by state; “Trade Divisions” organized by industry or craft; and regional Joint-Councils which are made up of Local Unions.
At each level elected Teamster officials govern the organization. Teamsters Local 623 is an affiliate of Teamsters Joint-Council 53 and the PA Conference of Teamsters.
Our Local Union is governed by an elected Executive Board. Elections for Local leadership are conducted every three years. The Executive Board for the term of January 1, 2020 - December 31, 2022 are listed here.
The Executive Board governs the day-to-day affairs of the Local and ensures the legal compliance and financial health of the organization. The officers also preside over monthly General Membership Meetings and Executive Board meetings.
623 leaders and officers are not like managers or supervisors in a corporation. They are NOT “bosses” appointed by company executives. 623 leaders are elected by Teamster members to protect and serve the interests of workers, not the profits of Big Business.
Your local leadership is always open to you. Should you have concerns about union business or just general comments and questions don’t hesitate to reach out
Healthcare & Pension
All full-time and part-time employees will receive health coverage through TeamCare after nine (9) months of active employment. Members are entitled to individual, spousal and/or dependent coverage through the health plan.
TeamCare services your short-term and continuing disability claims. If you need to go out on disability you will need to file the short-term disability form you can find the form on at teamsterslocal623.org. Always be sure to file a withdrawal request if you are going on disability. Call the Union hall for more information.
You can find out more about TeamCare at myteamcare.org.
All full-time and part-time employees are eligible for a pension plan as well. Full-time workers will be covered under the Teamster Health & Welfare Funds of the Philadelphia Vicinity. Information about your full-time pension can be found at teamsterfunds.com or by calling (800) 523-2846
Part-time workers are covered under the UPS Part-Time Pension Plan. Information about the Part-Time Pension plan is available by calling: 1 (404) 828-6044.
“Dues make you a member, actions make you a Teamster” — Richard Hooker Jr.
Secretary Treasurer & Principal Officer
Teamsters Local 623