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UPS Teamsters kick off 2023 contract fight with national week of action

By staff |
August 7, 2022
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UPS Teamsters are stepping up their contract fight.
UPS Teamsters are stepping up their contract fight.

Chicago, IL - On August 1, Teamster locals across the country kicked off their 2023 contract campaign under the slogan, “UPS Teamsters United for a Strong Contract!” Members participated in rallies, parking lot meetings and t-shirt distributions throughout the week to show the company that Teamsters are ready to fight for a contract that includes part-time raises, an end to the two-tier 22.4 classification, an end to harassment, and safer working conditions. The current contract, which represents around 350,000 UPS workers, expires July 31, 2023.

August 1 marks one year until the new contract and also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the successful 1997 UPS Teamsters strike, when 185,000 UPS workers struck the company for 16 days and won 10,000 new full-time jobs, 50% union-controlled pension increases, restrictions on subcontracting and the biggest wage increases ever at that time. The strike was the largest of the decade and was won by mass member participation and public support.

The upcoming contract fight follows the historic change in leadership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) after 24 years of concessions under General President James P. Hoffa, during which many of the gains of the 1997 were given back. In a landslide win of two to one, O’Brien-Zuckerman (OZ) Teamsters United slate defeated the Hoffa-backed Vairma-Herrera slate and took office in March promising a bright, fighting future for Teamsters.

Consistent with that commitment, the Teamsters Package Division of the IBT carried out this week’s actions at UPS local unions, which is a positive step towards a member-led contract fight. The new IBT General President Sean O’Brien has threatened to strike in 2023 if necessary, which is a great contrast to the Hoffa administration’s consistent collaboration with the company and signing off on the 2018 UPS contract despite members having voted it down.

“With our new leadership we're ready to show UPS that Teamsters are willing to fight for what we deserve and when we fight, we win,” said member Adam Gerardo from Teamster Local 512.

The 2023 contract is being negotiated in the context of many Teamsters angry about years of being sold out by the IBT and brutal working conditions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Drivers have been experiencing almost three years of forced overtime throughout the pandemic despite the health risks for themselves and their families, and many have contracted and died from COVID. Part-timers in most states are paid minimum wage, and almost all workers never received hazard pay. Meanwhile, UPS has made record profits off of increased online deliveries from the pandemic.

In the past few months, UPS has gotten backlash for refusing to install air conditioning in their trucks despite workers reporting temperatures up to 120 degrees inside. On July 6, 24-year-old Esteban Chavez Jr. died in his truck, likely from heatstroke, in southern California and on July 24, another UPS worker collapsed from heat in Arizona. These incidents have sparked outrage across the nation, especially because UPS has instead began installing cameras into the package trucks as a way to surveil workers.

In response, Teamsters Local 804 took up a “Safety Not Surveillance!” campaign, demanding UPS remove the cameras, bargain any future technological changes, and commit to installing AC in every truck. Local 804 President and appointed Eastern Region Package Director Vincent Perrone wrote in a letter to members, “If they do not listen now, we will make them listen when we come to the table for contract negotiations in 2023. No more putting profit over people!”

In addition to signs reading, “UPS spies on package drivers!” and “No cameras, no concessions!” members held signs outside their facilities throughout the week that said, “Pay up for part time!” “People over packages!” and “Make UPS deliver for working families!” all popular demands that unite workers around issues to be taken up during negotiations.

Fernando Figueroa, a package car driver from Local 512, emphasized the importance of the 2023 contract fight, “Teamsters understand that we have been getting shafted for years by weak contracts negotiated by do-nothing officials whose primary concern was deciding which steakhouse to be wined and dined at by management. We chose the OZ slate by a greater than two to one margin because we knew that the way things were headed, there wouldn’t be a labor movement for our children to fight for.”

Teamsters are united in the struggle against our employer. UPS want to bake us inside in a truck-shaped oven. They want to subject us to 12 hours of work daily for six days a week. They want to surveil us, every second of every day, while they sit in air conditioned offices with closed doors. They want to crush our union, to divide us: part-time vs. full-time, feeder vs. package, old timers vs. new hires. We will not let them. 

The battle lines are drawn. 25 years ago, we showed UPS we wouldn’t roll over. It’s about time for a reminder.