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UPS Teamsters in Tampa Bay organize for ‘no’ vote on proposed contract

By Jared Hamil |
June 8, 2013
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Teamster's truck in the UPS parking lot with a banner urging members to vote no.
Teamster's truck in the UPS parking lot with a banner urging members to vote no. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Tampa, FL – Around the country, 250,000 Teamsters are voting on a proposed 5-year contract between the Teamsters and United Parcel Service. With the ballots already out in the mail, rank-and-file Teamsters are doing what they can to reject the agreement. All ballots are due by June 20. Around the country, UPS workers have been organizing a “Vote No” campaign urging fellow Teamsters to vote against the contract.

As it stands now, the tentative agreement has many problems with it. The biggest issue, affecting 140,000 Teamsters, is the change in health care. Under the new plan, Teamsters would have to start paying deductibles and higher costs at the doctor’s office, which for those who have families can be hundreds of dollars per year. On top of that, the coverage would be far worse, limiting which doctors you could go to.

For both full and part-timers, the wage increases are worse than the current contract, at only $3.90 over the course of five years. On top of that, part-timers only get a 50-cent increase in their wages. The basic starting wage for part-timers right now is $8.50. In 1982, it was $8. That's a 50-cent increase over 31 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, $8 in 1982 would be worth $19.28 today, adjusted for inflation.

Many part-timers hope to become full time, and under the contracts in 1997 and 2002 they created 10,000 full-time jobs nationally over the course of each contract's lifespan. However, under this new plan only 2350 full-time jobs would be created nationally over the next five years. In the UPS Tampa building there are part-timers who have waited more than ten years for a full-time job and there are plenty still waiting for the opportunity. Many have expressed that 2350 jobs nationwide will just not cut it.

Right now, management and the corporate office are working hard to get the contract passed. Last year, UPS made $4.5 billion in profits, close to their record in 2007. 2013's first quarter revealed that they had made $1.04 billion in profit, up from $970 million last year. Meanwhile, UPS CEO Scott Davis took home almost $10 million last year. Profits increased for the company because of the hard work that the UPS workers have put in, with an increase in the amount of volume they handled in 2012, more than they had before. This new contract is not set to give the UPS workers what they deserve. In fact, it stands to benefit the corporation in many ways, including the move for the 140,000 Teamsters out of the company health care plan.

UPS is doing what they can to get people to vote yes. Teamster Local 89, the country's largest UPS local in Louisville, Kentucky, has urged its members to vote against this contract, with a unanimous decision by the local's executive board to reject the agreement. The Louisville Hub, also known as Worldport, is the worldwide air hub for UPS. Because of the local's rejection and the activity of the workers, management there is attempting to buy off votes by giving Teamsters a $1000 bonus for voting yes.

Around the country, people who are urging others to vote against these concessions have been subject to harassment and retaliation by management. In places like Tampa, management has spoken to all of the workers urging them to vote yes on the agreement.

Teamster President Hoffa and the contract negotiators are also urging members to vote yes. They have sent out three different letters to the 250,000 members, full of skewed information promoting this tentative agreement. Many leaders have expressed to the rank and file that they should be grateful for this contract, because of hard economic times and that wages are all generally low. All while UPS almost hits record profits.

Local 79 president and contract negotiator Ken Wood urged members to vote yes at May's general membership meeting. He has stated, “I feel confident that when the votes are in, our members will show us that we did exactly what they wanted us to do.” However, the rank-and-filers in Local 79 have been working hard to talk to fellow members about the concessions in the contract and the importance of voting no.

Around the country, the rank and file, along with Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a reform group within the Teamsters union, have been organizing a “Vote No” campaign. They have been explaining the agreement and its changes to the current contract. The campaign spread to the internet, as well, and uses social media as a tool for organizing.

In Tampa, Florida workers have been active in getting the word out. At the beginning of contract negotiations, part-time Teamsters started wearing shirts around the building which said, “UPS part-time poverty” . Part-timers who work at UPS are far under the poverty line with the wages they make. Bryant Rabell, a part-timer had this to say, “After six years at UPS and this being my third contract, this hands down is the worst one of them all. We part-timers are exposed to dangerous fumes, chemicals and human biological samples on a daily basis just so the company can turn a profit. I feel that due to those reasons, the company should pay 100% of our health care with no deductibles or premiums. I am voting no on this sub-standard contract!"

Once the tentative agreement was reached between UPS and the Teamsters, both full and part-timers leafleted outside the Tampa building with flyers that explained what was really in the proposed contract. This immediately riled people up and members around the building expressed their anger at the proposed contract.

During the Local 79 May general membership meeting, the rank and file applauded members who spoke out against the contract, before the discussion was shut down and brought to a smaller room after the meeting. Soon after, part-timers around the building started wearing “Vote no” buttons and shirts, which helped get people together to talk about the contract. From part-timers to drivers to mechanics the rank and file is going to vote against this contract in the Tampa Bay area. Neighboring cities, which fall under Local 79, are also doing what they can to get the contract information out.

On, June 8, Teamster Local 79 members went to local meeting to talk further about this proposed contract. Many people were mad and asked questions about the contract. Questions centered around health care costs to part-timers; low wage increases overall, the pension and the 9.5 language. As Local President Ken Wood attempted to sell the contract, he received many complaints from members. People left the meeting even angrier than before. They plan to go back to work to talk to their brothers and sisters about the contract and urging everyone to vote no.

Jared Hamil is a UPS part-timer

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