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Young UPS workers are fighting back

By staff |
March 18, 2014
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Tampa, FL - Young workers at UPS are fighting back against low pay, part-time work and concessionary contracts that attack employee health care. The “Vote No” movement at UPS, a rank-and-file revolt of Teamsters against the cutbacks pushed by UPS management and some sell-out union officials within the Teamster union, sparked young workers across the country to hit the gates of their buildings to leaflet and organize their coworkers.

“When we saw the proposed agreement, it did nothing to address the issues faced by thousands of Teamsters across the country. As a part-timer, I felt like I was being sold out. That’s when my co-workers and I found the Vote No movement and began leafleting our co-workers and speaking out at meetings against the contract.” said Dustin Ponder, 25, a part-time UPS worker in Tampa.

The agreement would hit young part-timers especially hard, introducing health care cuts, lower raises, no hope for full-time employment anytime soon, and moving the full-time pay progression from three years to four years for future drivers. “The IBT let us down in negotiations. UPS made billions off our labor while part-timers are being worn down and struggling against poverty. Paying more for insurance while cutting our raises is inexcusable. As a husband who is trying to take care of a sick wife, these concessions hurt us the most,” states Cory Oliver, a 24-year-old part-time activist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who has been with the company for six years.

The vast majority of the part-time work force at UPS are young workers between the ages of 18 and 30. Most make under $10,000 a year, and perform back-breaking labor, often without health insurance for their first year. Many of these workers, who are trying to support families, or pay their rent, are forced to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.

From the militant 1997 UPS strike to winning a national master freight agreement for truckers nationwide in the 1960s, the Teamsters union has long been at the forefront of worker struggles in the U.S. This new generation of fighters is hoping to continue making history of their own. They are trying to build a nationwide network of part-timers, working with Teamsters for a Democratic Union. They’ve created a Facebook group called “Part Time Power at UPS.” They are planning to start monthly nationwide contract enforcement campaign and create a set of national UPS contract demands for part-timers before of the next IBT [International Brotherhood of Teamsters] international elections and the next contract negotiations.

"The International only dealt with one issue concerning part-timers: the starting wage. The IBT, of course, only dealt with it in minimal fashion. Teamsters who work part time at UPS make up roughly more than half of the unionized workforce, and UPS Teamsters make up almost a quarter of Teamsters. If organized, part-timers could potentially pick the next IBT President and make both the IBT and UPS deal with part-time issues," states Charles Jordan, a shop steward active in the part-time movement in New York City’s Local 804.

2014 promises to be a year of growth in the young part-time movement. The group is encouraging fellow part-timers to get active in their locals by building campaigns to run young militants for shop steward and part-timers for local union offices with the aim to turn their locals into fighting unions that work for the interests of the workers themselves.