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Rank-and-file Teamsters block deal with UPS

By staff |
July 1, 2013
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Tampa, FL - Rank-and-file members of the Teamsters union dealt a blow to corporate greed by blocking the implementation of a substandard contract negotiated between United Parcel Service (UPS) and union officials. Under Teamster rules the national contract cannot take effect until all the local as well as regional supplements and riders are passed.

The national contract passed with only a 53 % yes vote, the narrowest margin ever, but 18 supplements and riders have been rejected. This means that Teamster President Jim Hoffa and Secretary Treasurer Ken Hall will have to go back to the negotiating table.

The giant corporation reported $4.5 billion in profits last year. In April this year they bragged first quarter profits were up 7% to $1.04 billion. Despite this enormous corporate wealth, the company negotiated major concessions in healthcare from its largely part-time workforce. Teamster President Jim Hoffa and Secretary Treasurer Ken Hall worked hand in hand with UPS management to get the contract with all its supplements and riders passed. Glossy ‘vote yes’ literature was sent to all UPS Teamsters. Union meetings were held across the country where officials told workers to vote yes on contract, supplements and riders.

Under the agreement however, many full-time and all the part-time workers would have to pay substantially increased health insurance deductibles. “Many of us are only making $150 to $300 per week. Union officials were telling us what a ‘good deal’ this was yet when we saw the healthcare concessions, we started to organize!” said Jared Hamil a part-time member of Local 79 in Tampa, Florida, “Without us there is no UPS, yet they want us to continue to bust our butts while living in poverty.”

Workers in Tampa and across the country started organizing. A Facebook page popped up that thousands of UPS workers ‘liked’ and used to communicate. Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), the union’s national reform caucus, provided needed information about the contract in a timely fashion. TDU has also sent a letter to the International Union calling for a revote due to the improprieties found in the voting process.

UPS and many union officials were counting on ignorant workers, especially part-time workers, to blindly follow them. Many officials spoke of the “good UPS jobs” in a country still in economic crisis.

Workers and officials in Teamsters Local 89 in Louisville, Kentucky, where the contract was rejected by a vote of 483 to 3388, took another track. Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman told WDRB-TV, “If we don’t get the things that we want in Louisville we will continue to reject the contract.” When asked about a strike Zuckerman responded, “That is the only leverage we have in our business.”

The Louisville local represents 8800 workers at UPS Worldport Central Air Hub, a major nerve center for UPS. Of these workers, only 800 are full-time. Besides health insurance, creating more full-time jobs has been a major union issue that has not been adequately addressed since former International President Ron Carey led a strike at UPS in 1997.

The ‘no’ vote did not just come from part-time workers. Full-time UPS workers were also concerned about changes in health insurance, forced overtime, work rules and inadequate funding of pension benefits. “UPS Teamsters work awfully hard,” said Kas Schwerdtfeger of Local 344 in Milwaukee after traveling to UPS terminals across Wisconsin, “I have talked to drivers and to warehouse workers. They work so that they can provide for their family while ensuring a decent retirement. We will continue to vote down our supplement as long as we think that our future is in doubt.”