Strike vote at Chicago UPS local

July 30, 2008

CHICAGO--Teamsters Local 705 members turned out in large numbers July 20 to vote to authorize a strike at UPS. With their contract with the shipping giant set to expire August 1, just shy of 3,000 UPS Teamsters voted to authorize a strike. The turnout was impressive, with members lined up around the hall early on a Sunday morning, ready to vote.

Teamsters Local 705 has a separate contract with UPS, which is somewhat different from the national contract that was ratified very early last year. That national contract was a major setback. No new full-time jobs were created.

UPS has made record profits over the last decade. The company has expanded across the globe. It has a brand spanking new hub in Shanghai, China. It is swallowing up sections of one its rivals, DHL. It is a company with big ambitions.

Yet when contact time comes, corporate management, instead of rewarding its hard-working Teamster employees for the great job we have done, goes on the offensive to take away the gains we have made.

Teamsters on the picket line during the 1997 strike against UPS
Teamsters on the picket line during the 1997 strike against UPS (J.K. Condyles)

On August 1, approximately 12,000 Teamsters could be on strike throughout the Chicago district. Like the pitiful ratified national contract, UPS management's proposals offer no new full-time jobs. Most of its workforce is still underpaid part-timers who struggle paycheck to paycheck. Part-time pay is only $8.50 an hour. It has only risen 50 cents since 1982. Non-union Chicago FedEx workers start out with higher pay.

Originally, the company threatened to take away our cost-of-living allowance and offer us only 30 cents an hour yearly raises, while the union negotiators first demanded a $1 a year raise. Local 705 Secretary-Treasurer Steve Pocztowski called the offer "an insult" and told reporters, "We are done with them at 4:30 p.m. on the 31st," if an agreement is not reached.

There are other offensive cuts that are being ironed out, including issues of subcontracting. The main story is that the company is attacking its workers, yet in the mainstream press, management tries to pretend it cares for our well-being.

Full-time combination workers in my building, the 8,000-person CACH facility, are ready to strike. Many of them agree that striking in 1997 won them their full-time jobs and see strike action as a way to win more again. This enthusiasm for more militant action needs to be utilized to take on UPS.

Any deals that don't factor in the 3,000 Teamsters ready to strike to shut down Chicago and a big chunk of UPS North American operations will most likely fall way short of what the membership needs and demands.

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