Will Local 952 take on UPS?

February 17, 2010

Edgar Esquivel, a former teacher and a UPS worker for nearly 12 years, explains why Teamsters Local 952 members are organizing against the company's contract violations--and challenging union leaders.

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif.--Under a weakened and corrupt Teamsters union led by James Hoffa, the officers of Teamsters Local 952 in Orange County, Calif., have become divorced from their constituency. But now, UPSers in the local--concerned over a series of contract violations by the company and concessions--are determined to take their union back.

The key issue is enforcement of the contract. Beginning with one of the most regressive deals in the history of UPS Teamsters in December 2007, the Teamsters at the Laguna hub have suffered the consequences of an apathetic local unwilling to enforce the contract and rightfully represent its members.

Management's breaches of the contract range from the failure of the company to replace vacant positions left after retirements to the elimination of full-time jobs guaranteed under Article 22.3--which was drafted into the 1997-2002 agreement that was won after the historic 1997 strike against UPS. Production harassment--attempts to discipline workers for failure to complete a set amount of work--are also on the rise. Management has also repeatedly violated the contract by forcing drivers to work 9.5 hours several days in a row.

Teamsters Local 952 members on strike against the Orange Country Transportation Authority in 2007
Teamsters Local 952 members on strike against the Orange Country Transportation Authority in 2007

Defending the jobs of Teamster members starts with enforcing the contract and taking on subcontracting--a matter that is certainly not on the agenda of Local 952 Secretary Treasurer Patrick Kelly and President Bob Hahn, who recently conceded 60 jobs at the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA).

As the local grows soft on maintaining the contract and working Teamster pay flattens due to concessions, Kelly and Hahn have helped themselves to outrageous six-figure salaries. Kelly's total compensation in 2008 climbed above $200,000, while Hahn's exceeded $150,000. Worse yet, a total of seven representatives at the local grossed over $100,000 for the year. The figures for the year 2009 have not been reported yet.

UPS HAS used the economic downturn to justify contract violations. Hence, officials at Local 952 sided with Big Brown in claiming that the company has the right to eliminate jobs. But as the affected members have rightly argued, there's no clause in the contract that gives UPS the right to eliminate jobs due to an economic recession or loss of volume. Kelly and Hahn have yet to prove the rank-and-file wrong.

In any case, UPS isn't losing money--on the contrary. UPS CEO Scott Davis, who last year awarded himself a $5 million bonus, stated, "UPS has emerged from the worst recession in decades leaner and more focused." Just last quarter, UPS raked in $757 million in profits--nearly tripling its earnings over the same period last year. Overall, UPS generated $2.15 billion in profits for the year 2009.

UPSers at the Laguna hub have raised concerns over the local's lack of action. A grassroots movement of UPS members at Local 952 organized a campaign to raise awareness about both the company's violations and the disarray in the local. And for the first time, part-timers and full-timers at UPS joined forces to protect themselves from harassment, layoffs and an apathetic local unwilling to meet the demands of its rank and file.

Now, UPSers at the Laguna hub are preparing to spread their concerns to their Teamster brothers and sisters at the Anaheim hub, where President Bob Hahn is the local's business agent. Better yet, the grassroots movement from Laguna has expanded its boundaries and begun to form an alliance with Local 952 members who work for other companies, including Coca-Cola, OCTA, UPS Freight, FOMAX, Albertsons, Disneyland and others.

This grassroots movement of energized, pragmatic and ambitious Teamsters is also studying the possibility of running a seven-member slate against Patrick Kelly's old guard in the fall.

It's clear that the status quo in Local 952 isn't working. That's why a conscious new movement within the union--made up of young members and greatly supported by veterans--is determined to rebuild the power of their local. They are getting involved because they've found that the democratization of their union doesn't come from the top, but from the bottom.

These new activists are sending a message from the rank and file of Local 952 to Patrick Kelly and Bob Hahn: "Get to work--or you're gone in the fall!"

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