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Teamster leadership hammers through UPS contract despite mass opposition by members

By staff |
April 24, 2014
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Atlanta, GA – On April 23, the leadership of the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters (IBT) announced that the concessionary national UPS contract will go into effect this Friday, April 25. The contract – the single largest collective bargaining agreement in the country – was overwhelmingly opposed by Teamster members in Philadelphia, Western Pennsylvania and Louisville, Kentucky, who voted down their local supplements and riders twice. According to the terms of the national UPS master agreement, the contract cannot go into effect until all supplements have been ratified by the members.

The unilateral move to hammer through the contract without full approval drew harsh criticism from Teamsters locals around the country. Teamsters Local 89, which voted down their concessionary supplement by 94% earlier in April called the move, “the greatest display of failed leadership and cowardice by [International Secretary Treasurer] Ken Hall and his cronies.” The statement, a press release posted to their website, continues, “By selling out thousands of their fellow Teamsters, Ken Hall and his cronies are complicit in subjecting UPS workers to financial hardships, reduced benefits and inferior working conditions. It is sad commentary on the state of a once great and powerful IBT when its current leadership grovels for table scraps of its corporate master UPS. The membership fully expects the Company to attempt to destroy the rights of its employees - that’s just how UPS does business - but the IBT directly attacking good wages, benefits and workplace rights is not only shameful, it’s treasonous.”

UPS Teamsters voted down 18 local riders and regional supplements during the first round of voting in 2013 and a whopping 47% voted against the negotiated contract. Members overwhelmingly opposed the contract due to its major concessions, which included major increases in co-pays and deductibles in the company health care plan. Other concessions include an additional year required for package car drivers to reach the top rate of pay.

Several supplements were subsequently passed in a second round of voting, but the supplements in Philadelphia, Western Pennsylvania and Louisville were repeatedly rejected by the members. Louisville hosts the largest UPS hub in the country, the Worldport, which handles huge volumes of UPS air traffic. Louisville Teamsters rejected the original supplement and then rejected them again after UPS came back with a worse offer that in no way dealt with serious problems facing members, like pension contributions and long commute times for workers through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints.

Ken Hall, the lead Teamster negotiator for the UPS contract, cited article XII of the IBT constitution in an unsigned fax, which announced the leadership’s decision to push through the contract without full approval. Hall argues that the members of the three local supplements rejected the supplements purely because of dissatisfaction with changes to the company health care plan, which he says gives the international leadership the ability to force through the contract.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), the rank-and-file reform caucus of the IBT, led the campaign to win the right to vote on contracts in 1991. Rank-and-file organizing, along with critical support by TDU, was instrumental in coordinating the “Vote No” movement on the most recent concessionary contract. At the time of this writing, the “Vote No on UPS Contract” Facebook group, which Teamsters around the country used to oppose the concessionary contract, had over 5500 members.

Bobby Curry, a member of f Philadelphia IBT Local 623 and one of the lead organizers of the Vote No movement,. "It's so wrong to have Teamsters’ voting power taken away from UPS Teamsters. This is definitely a low point in Teamsters history."

“Since the start of the Vote No movement, part-timers and full-timers at UPS have been fighting for a better workplace,” said Jared Hamil of Teamster local 79. “Teamster locals like 89 and 804 should be looked up to. They’re the ones fighting the boss to get us better conditions. This company wants to take away everything we have. They want to make it worse for us and now Hoffa, Hall and the other sellouts are siding with the company over fighting locals like 89. Teamster leadership should be fighting tooth and nail for a better workplace, not siding with the company. For us in Tampa, we’re not going to stop. We know that the company doesn’t want to help us and we need to keep fighting back!”

The locals that have had their votes on the supplements overturned by the national leadership are looking into appealing the decision.