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100 Teamsters join practice pickets at Elm Grove UPS in Milwaukee

By Adelana Akindes

Workers and supporters picket outside the Elm Grove hub.

Milwaukee, WI – On July 6, Local 344 Teamsters held practice pickets at the Elm Grove UPS location to gear up for the potential nationwide strike in August.

Just the day before, Teamster leadership announced that, after over 24 hours of negotiating, no agreement had been reached. UPS walked away from the table at 4 a.m. on July 5, continuing to rob membership, especially part-time workers, of a decent economic proposal. There were no further negotiation dates scheduled.

This news was relayed to the members at the practice pickets and the importance of being out on the picket line was heavily stressed.

“We are the tip of the spear, and we need to win all that can be won, not just for us but for future generations,” stated Kevin Schwerdtfeger, a Local 344 business agent and representative for the Elm Grove building.

Teamsters held signs with demands such as “Just practicing for a just contract” and calling for recognition of Juneteenth as a holiday.

Teamsters picketed by the road, shouting chants such as “Who are we? Teamsters!” and “UPS! Pay up!” One member had even brought a giant blue custom-made Teamsters flag, flying in the wind, while cars on the road honked in solidarity.

Two practice pickets were conducted – one at 8 a.m. for the drivers and preloaders, and another at 4:30 p.m. for the twilight shift. Combined, over 100 workers attended. Most were drivers and part-timers, wearing their uniforms and sporting red and gold “Pay up” t-shirts. A decent number of members from other unions and community members were there to show solidarity.

Jason Sanchez, a former part-timer and now driver of four years, stated, “I’m excited for a new contract and I’m excited to get our part-timers what they deserve.”

Local 344 is a statewide local, and in addition to Elm Grove, around 12 other buildings held practice pickets over the last week to show the company that members are taking the possibility of a strike seriously.

Dave Burgdorf, a 37-year Teamster, remarked in comparison to the ’97 strike, “This strike is so much bigger because we have a lot more employees now than we did back then. Corporations always want to take things away from the working class. Pensions, healthcare. It’s so important to get a good contract that sets the bar.”

He continued, “It’s time to tell corporations that it’s time to give back to the workers. CEO pay compared to hourly workers’ have exploded in the last 20 years. It’s the workers that make the huge profits for the corporations. This is a watershed moment for workers in the entire world and we’re not going to back down.”

Only 23 days remain before the Teamster contract at UPS expires. Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien continues to make it clear that if a contract is not voted in by that time, UPS Teamsters nationwide will be going on strike for the first time in 26 years. President O’Brien wants to see higher wages and more full-time opportunities for the 70% of UPS workers who are part time.

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