By Phil Snyder, Shop Steward, Local 406*, Will FitzGerald, Local 344*, Steve Capri, Local 249*, Nick Jones, Local 174*
*for identification purposes only
Workers have been hit hard by inflation, and unions have their highest approval rating in decades. Millions have been looking to the Teamsters negotiations with UPS and the potential for a massive strike that could bring business as usual to a halt and help rebuild a fighting labor movement. For months now rank-and-file Teamsters have been organizing their co-workers, attending rallies and practice pickets, and talking to their community about the importance of this struggle. There is a basis for an all-out fight to win the contract UPS workers need, not a negotiated deal that’s acceptable to UPS executives.
On July 25th the Teamster leadership announced a tentative deal with UPS. This deal now goes to the membership for an up or down vote from August 3rd to the 22nd. While the tentative agreement is better than the sell-out contracts negotiated by the corrupt Hoffa leadership since 2002, it is insufficient to meet the needs of UPS workers in a time of increasing insecurity for working people. UPS made profits of $13 billion last year alone on top of handing $10 billion to stockholders while driving down workers’ living standards for decades. This contract fight is the chance to make up for the losses of the past 20+ years. We can make huge gains if we continue the struggle. This momentum needs to be carried forward and escalated, with a strike if necessary, in order to win the best possible contract.
During the pandemic. UPS workers were praised as working class heroes, essential workers who kept calm and carried on throughout the horrors of the pandemic. While the billionaires made super profits, we never saw a penny in hazard pay or any other form of compensation for this. Now we face historic levels of inflation in an ongoing cost-of-living crisis. The proposed contract is 5 years long, and it only offers us an average of $1.50/hour raise per year. This doesn’t make up for the skyrocketing prices of housing, gas, food, and everything else.
There is language in the contract for a COLA (Cost Of Living Allowance – automatic increases linked to the inflation rate) but it only applies to workers who have reached the end of their wage progression and it uses a convoluted formula that pays far below the actual rate of inflation. We need Cost of Living raises that are directly linked to the consumer price index but built into every step of every pay scale. That’s the only way to prevent any potential raises from being eaten up by inflation, and to effectively represent a pay cut for many workers.
Changes like ending the two-tier “22.4” job classification, requiring newly purchased package cars to have air conditioning, prohibiting the use of inward-facing cameras, and recognizing Martin Luther King Day as a holiday for UPS workers are improvements over the status quo. But they do not add up to the game-changing, “historic contract” that Team OZ are claiming to have won.
While union leadership says this contract will end the hated two-tier system, multiple tiers are already baked into the massive wage differential between full-time and part-time workers and between drivers and inside workers. The TA does not create 10,000 new full-time jobs – a strategic victory for UPS executives. Additionally, the TA opens the door to creating a new low-paid tier of part-time workers forced to use their own vehicles to get more hours. We should be fighting to end the “Personal Vehicle Driver” classification altogether, not allowing UPS to expand it. UPS wants to use more cheap labor to get billions in profits, and we need to fight together against this attack on part-time workers.
Working on Sundays?
At last year’s TDU convention, Sean O’Brien said that the union should agree to Sunday working in order to “keep up with the times.” He was wrong to say this publicly without any consultation with the membership, because this sent a signal to UPS that he was willing to make this concession months before negotiations began. Now, despite the claim of Teamster leaders’ press release that they gave “zero concessions from the rank-and-file,” the TA would allow exactly that, giving UPS the right to implement 7 day deliveries anywhere it chooses with only 45 days’ notice to the employees. (Article 26, Section 1(e))
The new language gives up the union’s right to negotiate over this huge change, allowing only for it to meet and try to “resolve questions” while agreeing not to “unreasonably delay” the transition to 7-day working. This enormous concession explains why UPS CEO Carol Tome said that this agreement gives the company the “flexibility” it needs. Significantly, the Wall Street Journal reported that “The company isn’t boasting about it, but we’re told the agreement will allow more warehouse and delivery shifts on Saturdays and Sundays, which are currently understaffed.”
It is said, correctly, that, “the labor movement brought you the weekend.” Now is not the time to give up this historic gain which was won through generations of working class struggle. Sunday working isn’t “keeping up with the times,” it’s going backward to the Victorian era. As workers organizing at Amazon have said, “We work to live, we don’t just live to work.” UPS Teamsters should vote “NO” and stop Sunday deliveries in their tracks.
Vote “NO” – Continue Strike Preparations!
For all these reasons Workers Strike Back urges workers to vote “NO” and to join us in the fight for the contract we deserve. In the meantime there’s no reason why the union should not continue with practice pickets, strike plans, and community mobilization. On July 5th, UPS told the Teamsters that they had “nothing more to offer” to UPS workers. It was rank-and-file Teamsters – drivers, inside workers, and part-timers all working to prepare for the strongest possible strike – who created the pressure from outside of the bargaining table to improve the TA.
A Teamster strike would cost the company anywhere from $80 million to $170 million a day. According to their own figures, in 2022 UPS made $13 billion in profits on total revenue of $100 billion and it expects to beat this again in 2023. With record leverage to win a genuinely game-changing contract, a deep well of support from the working class public, and the wider labor movement watching closely, Teamsters should be fighting for all they can get, not just taking what’s acceptable to UPS.
Teamster leaders laid out a long process to discuss and adopt the tentative agreement, starting with discussions among regional leaderships, then going into discussions at locals and, finally, into the hands of members. However, with the TA now released, informal discussions are already taking place in every warehouse, breakroom, and parking lot. Organizations like Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which has had thousands of UPS workers attending meetings, should provide a structure for discussions on the TA, and more importantly, how to increase the pressure on UPS if workers want to vote “NO” and fight for more.
If you’re a UPS worker who wants to talk more about voting “NO” and organizing to escalate the struggle to win the contract UPS workers deserve, get in touch with us. Workers Strike Back is hosting a public meeting on Sunday, 7/30 at 3pm Eastern with rank-and-file Teamsters, Teamsters Mobilize, and Joe Allen, author of The Package King. Register here!
A strong contract would include:
- Base part-timer pay of $30/hour!
- Catch-up raises of 75 cents per year of service, 5% annual part-timer wage increases and a 4-hour shift guarantee for all part-time workers.
- Making MRA’s (Market Rate Adjustments) permanent and equal across facilities in a local, with contract raises and Cost of Living Adjustments added on top!
- Paid maternity leave – not just rooms for new mothers to express breast milk while their newborns are in daycare.
- Inflation adjustments for pension benefits.
- At least 10,000 more 22.3 full-time combo jobs nationally!
- New hires to receive health insurance after 30 working days, to be codified in the national agreement.
- 22.3s should get full time wages. There’s no good reason why 22.3 should not get paid the same hourly rate as RPCD, we’re all doing hourly work and we all have the same bills to pay.
- Air conditioning installed in all delivery trucks, without delay.