At stake in Chicago UPS deal

September 24, 2008

CHICAGO--Members of Teamsters Local 705 who work at Chicago-area UPS are mailing in ballots on a proposed five-year contract, with votes to be counted on October 4.

Local 705 has a separate contract with UPS independent of the national agreement. The concessionary national contract was settled early last year, and no doubt set a bad precedent for the 705 negotiations.

The national deal has no newly created full-time jobs. Instead, UPS management is trying to curtail and roll back the already existing Article 22.3 full-time jobs created from the 1997 national strike, and the last contract. Start pay is still an obscene $8.50 an hour for newly hired part-timers.

UPS is a robust company that has seen its profits grow over the last six years.

In 1997, the company was against creating full-time jobs for part-timers. UPS thrives on using part-time workers for hard, fast and backbreaking labor, guaranteeing them only three and a half hours of work, and betting that most of them quit before they start making decent wages.

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)

The 1997 strike kicked the door open for far better-paying full-time jobs that at least offered an average working-class living, instead of poverty wages. Although these jobs are tough, have lousy schedules and pay five to six dollars less than the old inside jobs, they are still a vast improvement.

The last two 705 contracts had specific timetables for new full-time jobs. The new contract has vague wording about 500 full-time jobs. If we actually have won these jobs, then it will be 500 more than the rest of the country. This would be a significant gain, but the inadequate pay increases, especially for part-timers, still warrants a "no" vote.

We need far more full-time jobs. We also need to raise the pay of part-timers. Instead. the proposed agreement keeps new hire part-time pay at $8.50 an hour--which means it's only gone up 50 cents since the early 1980s!

The cost of living has skyrocketed the last year. Our raises are not adequate to pay for the high price of gas alone. Instead of getting a mandatory raise every year, our raises are split into six-month segments that will cost us thousands of dollars over the life of the contract.

Ballots must be returned by noon on October 3, and will be counted on October 4 at 9 a.m. in the basement of Teamster City. Ballot counting will be open to the membership.

In July, almost 3,000 705 members went to the union hall to vote to go on strike. Many of us expected a confrontation and were ready to take on UPS. Secretary-Treasurer Steve Pocztowski's business agents passed out pro-strike T-shirts. Workers wore them on the job.

We need to go back to the negotiating table, demand a minimum of $12 an hour for part-timers, tougher language on these "500" jobs and at least a dollar more a year in raises (and not split in half over the year). And if UPS won't listen, remember peak season is coming soon, and we will have more leverage than ever if we need to strike. Vote no!

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