UPS Teamsters should say no

June 12, 2013

Donny Schraffenberger, a member of Teamsters Local 705 who works at the UPS CACH facility outside Chicago, argues for a "no" vote on the tentative contracts at UPS.

THE TENTATIVE national contracts at UPS for 2013 to 2018 are a big "fuck you" to all the hard-working UPS Teamsters across the country. The present contracts expire on July 31. The UPS and UPS Freight contracts cover 250,000 Teamsters. UPS has racked up massive profits over the last five years. While most of the economy has been wretched, UPS, on the other hand, has been expanding across the globe.

Last year, "Big Brown" made $4.8 billion in profits. Chairman and CEO Scott Davis earned over $13 million in 2011. That's 383 times what the average worker makes in a year!

Instead of giving us, the Teamster employees, a bigger share for all our work that made these profits possible, UPS management is instead trying to impose massive attacks on health care for us and for retirees.

Over the last 30 years, starting pay for part-timers has risen only 50 cents, from $8 an hour to $8.50. Starting pay for newly hired part-timers will now reach $10 an hour, but that's still ridiculously low--it will fall under the minimum wage in some states within the five-year length of the contract. Nonunion workers from Walmart to Whole Foods are demanding $15 an hour. Newly hired UPS part-timers need $15 an hour, too.

Teamsters in Louisville, Ky., campaign for a "no" vote on the UPS contract
Teamsters in Louisville, Ky., campaign for a "no" vote on the UPS contract (Teamsters Local 89)

The five-year agreement calls for an inadequate $3.90 raise spread out through the contract, 10 cents less than the previous contract.

The company only guarantees part-timers 3.5 hours a day in a five-day workweek. Part-timers live on starvation wages, while top shareholders have seen their dividend checks get larger and larger.

While part-timers struggle to get hours, UPS package car drivers are scrambling down the road, drowning in boxes with far too many stops. They don't get to see their families or have a social life during the workweek. We need more package car jobs and a reduction in the number of stops to allow an eight-hour day.

Management has whittled down the workforce, squeezing more out of fewer workers. And if they don't have enough union workers to do the job in the ridiculously short span of time that upper management has allocated, the lowly part-time supervisors dash into a trailer to load or unload the packages, in violation of the contract.

"THESE AGREEMENTS are a 'win-win-win' for our people, customers and shareholders," said Scott Davis, UPS chairman and CEO. "The fact that we have reached agreements well before our current contracts expire is a testament to the skills and determination of all those involved in these negotiations."

The proposed contract will create 2,350 new "22.3 full-time jobs" for the whole country. Named for an article in the 1997 UPS contract that followed a successful strike, 22.3 jobs combine two part-time jobs into a better-paying full-time job. The proposed number of new 22.3 jobs amounts to approximately one for every 60 part-timer--that's barely a drop in the bucket.

While Scott Davis boasts that this is a winning contract for everyone, many workers see it otherwise. The wealthy shareholders who do nothing have been enriched by our hard work. UPS top executives brag about the company's growth in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Yet when it comes to compensating us, the reverse has been true. We are the ones boiling in the trailers during a July heat wave or freezing during subzero winter days.

UPS is an unsafe work environment. The brutal conditions ensure that many of us get injured. Some of us even die at work--like CACH worker and union brother Stephen Michel, who died two years ago from the 130-degree heat in his trailer.

Our current health care plan is very good, but could be even better. Instead, management wants to give us a plan that is far worse--and they are doing this with the help of Teamster General President James Hoffa and General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall.

UPS is playing off sections of the country with different health care plans, hoping that the sections that don't get hit as hard will vote yes. Around 140,000 Teamsters, including all part-timers, will be paying lot more out of pocket if the contract is ratified.

Family deductibles at present are zero, but will rise to $400 a year. Prescription drugs, MRIs and emergency room visits will cost more. Dental coverage will be more limited. Overall, UPS is moving more of the cost of health care onto workers' shoulders, with plans to shift even more of it onto us in the future. The time to make a stand is now.

Not content with screwing its present employees, Scott Davis wants to go after those that built this company, the retirees. Under the present deal, retirees pay $50 a month for health care for themselves and a spouse. By the end of this contract, they will be paying six times more--$300 a month!

Hoffa and Hall claim this as victory, stating that UPS wanted the retirees to pay $750 a month, but got talked down. With victories like these, who needs defeats?

BY VOTING "no," we will send a clear message to UPS and to our Teamster leaders that support this crappy deal that we want more, not less. Then, we should demand that contract meetings be held, a strike vote taken, and real preparations made for a well-coordinated strike that involves us, the rank and file.

There is resistance to this contract spreading throughout the country. The executive board and stewards of Local 89 in Louisville, Ky., the biggest hub in the country, have unanimously recommended a "no" vote after a meeting where they went through the language of the tentative deal. Workers in Louisville and throughout the country are wearing homemade "vote no" T-shirts, making flyers and signs, and decorating their cars with the "vote no" message.

UPS is so afraid Local 89 will vote no that management is offering an additional $1,000 to all Local 89 UPS members--an outright bribe for a "yes" vote if the contract and separate air rider passes.

The UPS Freight contract is also terrible, with only a $2.50 raise over five years. UPS Freight Teamsters also have to pay for their own health care, the only Teamster-represented trucking company that does this.

Some UPS ballots and UPS Freight ballots have the wrong information on them. This almost seems intentional by Hoffa and Hall, and if not intentional, shows their utter incompetence to run our union. UPS ballots are due June 20.

I've been working at UPS for over 15 years. I now work as a 22.3 full-time worker at the giant CACH facility outside Chicago. In Local 705, we have a separate contract that is still being negotiated. We need to make our voices heard that we won't accept anything that remotely resembles this deal.

We need more full-time jobs. Workers in our hub have been waiting for 14 years for an inside full-time job. And it is the same, or even worse, around the country.

We need to keep our health care at the present or better level, not worse like the national deal. We need a minimum of 1,000 new 22.3 jobs in Local 705, and more package car jobs, too. We need to implement the OSHA ruling on the Stephen Michel case, so that no other worker gets injured or dies because of excessive heat in the building.

We need $15 starting pay for newly hired part-timers, with a substantial bump for current part-timers to close the gap between part-time and full-time pay. We need to ensure the retirees keep their health care at the present rate, and aren't given the the slap-in-the-face deal that Hoffa and Hall agreed to.

Jesus Figueroa, a 14-year veteran at CACH, sums it up like this:

UPS is making more and we shouldn't have to bow down to UPS management. We need to go on strike. We should have went on strike the last contract. We work a physical job. We will probably end up with a physical disability. We earned our health care. It was not given to us. A strike would benefit us since the company is doing so well because of people buying and shipping products from online purchasing.

And if UPS does not meet our demands, we should walk out on August 1!

E-mail alerts

Further Reading

Latest Stories

From the archives