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On the picket line

May 17, 2002 | Page 11

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United Parcel Service
University of Vermont

Los Angeles Unified School District

By Sarah Knopp, UTLA member

LOS ANGELES--The Los Angeles School Board imposed severe cuts on the 735,000-student school district on April 30, attacking teachers and students.

In response to a budget crisis caused in part by the public bailout of power companies last year, state officials told the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to cut at least $428 million from its budget.

The effects will be devastating. Students in grades four through 12 will see two extra students in their already overcrowded classrooms next year. Programs such as special education will see an increase in student-to-teacher ratio and a reduction of aides.

Teachers--members of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA)--are under attack. About $52 million was cut from the health and welfare benefits of LAUSD employees, and teacher salaries could be frozen. This comes after teachers took a 10 percent pay cut in 1992!

And the State Board of Education will be auditing 10 of the school district's "worst-performing" schools. But the board's idea of "reform" is to force teachers to accept "loyalty oaths" and dress codes.

UTLA President-elect John Perez promised that the union would fight--but has done little so far. But teachers are organizing. More than 100 UTLA members picketed the school board meeting last month to protest the cuts.

"We need to start talking about the possibility for real social change," Ted Webber, a teacher at Logan Elementary, told Socialist Worker. "We need to start mobilizing."

Some 50 teachers at Mount Vernon Middle School have already held pickets to protest the loyalty oath and dress code. About 250 teachers at Roosevelt High School are refusing to sign the oath.

Teachers and students at the 10 schools targeted for reform plan a protest May 31. They say cut back--we say fight back!

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United Parcel Service

FOR FEEDER drivers at United Parcel Service (UPS), the most important issues in ongoing contract negotiations are subcontracting, double breasting and UPS's use of railroads. When the current contract expires July 31, feeder drivers are looking for improvement in all three of these areas.

During the pre-Christmas peak season, UPS bosses have a free hand to use nonunion subcontractors to move trailers from city to city whenever there is a volume "emergency." What "emergency" really means is that UPS keeps profits up by using lower-paid nonunion carriers rather than hiring more feeder drivers to drive UPS trucks and earn Teamster benefits.

UPS feeder drivers pulling double trailers earn as much $24.06 per hour and $36 an hour for overtime with company-paid medical benefits and company payments into the union pension. Most nonunion drivers earn $15 to $20 per hour without any overtime rights and must make their own contributions into 401(k) plans and pay for their own health care.

UPS is notorious for double breasting--the practice of a unionized parent company opening a nonunion shop. UPS owns and operates UPS Logistics Group, which handles freight not traditionally processed in the UPS system and runs parts warehouses for auto companies, among other things. UPS Logistics Group employees are nonunion, but UPS Logistics Group trailers are often loaded and unloaded by Teamster members at UPS hubs.

If UPS logistic operations were unionized, it would mean thousands of new Teamster members, and it would open up new job opportunities to feeder drivers.

Feeder drivers are really seeing red over the number of UPS trailers loaded on flat cars and shipped cross-country by railroad when they are experiencing layoffs, or on-call feeder drivers who are working one or two days per week. Every 48-foot trailer or two pup trailers transported by rail represents 2-10 feeder drivers who won't get work. "UPS should be forced to pull volume off the rail as long as there is one feeder driver on layoff," said a driver at a recent contract meeting.

Elimination of rail would create hundreds of feeder driving jobs across the country and create new openings for package car drivers and give other inside workers an opportunity to move up.

Subcontracting feeder work is a threat to every Teamster member at UPS. This contract needs to make subcontracting a thing of the past.

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University of Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt.--Chanting "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! UVM has got the dough!" 75 union members at the University of Vermont (UVM) rallied for a living wage. "We want them to pay us what we're worth," said maintenance worker and negotiating team member Tom Stout.

United Electrical (UE) Local 267, which represents maintenance, custodial and other workers at UVM, sponsored last week's rally to kick off contract negotiations. Workers say that they won't settle for less than a livable wage.

A livable wage in Vermont for a single person with no children is estimated at just under $11 an hour, but most UVM workers start at about $7 an hour. "I know people who have to collect empty cans and bottles in the dorms just to make ends meet," said chief steward and custodial worker Norma Sprague.

UE organizer Heather Riemer noted that some staff couldn't be present for the noon rally because they work a second full-time job. "They're working their first-shift job before coming here for their second-shift job," she explained.

The city of Burlington and another local college have enacted livable wage standards, and UVM can afford to pay a living wage, too. In fact, a recent financial audit completed for the faculty union shows that UVM has socked away around $100 million in unrestricted savings accounts with names like "liquid plant assets." And UVM posted a net income in 2001 of $24.1 million.

Stout said he's watched in recent years while university administrators have given themselves 8 and 9 percent raises while staff members get 1.5 percent--or less. But that won't work this time--UVM can't claim it has "budget woes" while operating at a profit!

"We will stand up and get it!" Stout told the cheering crowd.

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