Company drags its heels in negotiations with union
By Donny Schraffenberger, steward, Teamsters Local 705 | May 24, 2002 | Page 11
CHICAGO--Teamsters throughout the country voted last weekend to OK a strike at UPS by a 93 percent margin, five years after the successful strike that electrified the nation.
At the May 19 general membership meeting of Local 705, UPS workers voted 86 percent in favor of striking after a series of rousing speeches. "The strike authorization is a good idea," said Mike Sullivan, a 22-year veteran at the Jefferson Street hub. "We need to light a fire under UPS."
Bob Lutzka, a steward and package car driver declared, "Especially with a Republican in the White House standing behind UPS, backing them up, we got to show unity and vote yes for a strike." Lutzka was referring to President Bush's appearance at the Chicago UPS Jefferson Street hub May 13.
Bush spoke about UPS's "welfare-to-work" program to a crowd largely made up of managers. In protest, some Teamster Local 705 members handed out flyers denouncing the illegitimate president and condemning UPS's hypocrisy--and called the "welfare-to-work" program what it actually is, a "poverty-to-poverty" program. The flyer was a huge success among the drivers and inside workers.
The real reason Bush came to UPS was to show his support for management during contract negotiations. UPS corporate titans donated more than $300,000 to Bush's presidential campaign and expect to be rewarded for their generous bribe.
Although UPS management claims that they want an early contract, they are stalling national negotiations.
UPS's revenue has increased 36 percent between 1997 and 2001. The company is rolling in green--money made off the backs of its Teamster workers.
The 1997 strike forced UPS to create thousands of full-time jobs for part-timers. But while UPS has become the world's largest transportation company, its part-time start pay is a measly $8.50 an hour. But start pay was $12.00 an hour at UPS in the early 1980s!
Every year, UPS management tries to squeeze more productivity out of its workers by using constant supervisor harassment and intimidation. UPS management has made a science out of shaving minutes off workers' time by denying guaranteed work-hour minimums. Management also keeps a detailed record of employees to build cases to fire workers for small infractions such as being a minute late for work.
No wonder in 1997 the workforce exploded in anger at UPS management arrogance. The 15-day strike cost UPS $750 million, while two out of three Americans supported the Teamsters.
Now we need to get ready to take on the company again.
Is Hoffa serious about taking on UPS?
By members of Teamsters Locals 804, 174 and 710
TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT Jim Hoffa says that the union will do "whatever it takes" to win a good contract at UPS. But after doing little to build a contract campaign, the union was unprepared when Hoffa suddenly called a strike vote on less than a week's notice.
The vote showed that many local officials aligned with Hoffa aren't serious about taking on UPS. In New York's Local 804--the home of former Teamsters President Ron Carey, who was ousted from the union in a frame-up scandal--the now pro-Hoffa executive board didn't bother to hold a meeting for the vote. Instead, they just passed out ballots inside the buildings last week and told workers to give them back to a steward.
There was no explanation about why it's important to authorize the union to go on strike. Management could even have picked up ballots and voted themselves.
Even worse, lots of workers never got the chance to vote. In Chicago, Local 710 Secretary-Treasurer Frank Wsol refused to even hold a strike authorization vote. "I don't need to scare the hell out of people by saying the word 'strike,'" he said at the local's May 19 membership meeting. Wsol went on to encourage members at UPS to "protect" their work from FedEx workers, parroting UPS management's line.
Local 710 was the only Teamster local that refused to go on strike in 1997. In contrast to Wsol, a rank-and-file member spoke in favor of a strike authorization vote at the Local 710 general membership meeting and received hearty applause.
In Seattle, UPS workers in Teamsters Local 174 voted unanimously to grant strike authorization to their local leaders at a union meeting May 19. However, the mobilization for the contract is a far cry from what took place in 1997.
Local 174 is headed by Secretary-Treasurer Scott Sullivan, who took office when Hoffa backed his disputed election victory over longtime reformer Bob Hasegawa. Only 171 turned out to vote, compared to 500 in 1997.
Elsewhere, turnout was larger--as in Los Angeles Local 396, where some 1,500 voted. "It's about sending a message to the company," one veteran of the 1997 strike in LA told Socialist Worker. "It's a way to say we're united, and we want a better contract."
But Hoffa and his allies have yet to show that they're willing--or able--to do "whatever it takes."
We can't wait for them. It's time for rank-and-file union activists to step up the preparations we need to back our strike authorization vote with action.