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LA Teamsters solidarity rally in leadup to potential UPS strike

By Diana Terreros

Los Angeles, CA – Chants of “Who are we? Teamsters!” and “Union power!” filled the street on July 19 at the UPS Olympic hub during a strike solidarity rally.

400 Teamsters, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), WGA (Writers Guild of America), SEIU, CWA, and UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles) members gathered at the hub, shutting down traffic at the intersections of Blaine and Olympic. A semi-truck branded with Teamsters logos served as a stage, and a giant inflatable cat that represents UPS corporate greed was on the scene.

Sean O’Brien, the general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, addressed the crowd, saying, “Buckle up!” and, “Do as we do in Boston: if you see a picket line, don’t cross it!”

Jared Hamil, a driver and union steward for Teamsters Local 396 spoke about the long hours UPS drivers had to work during the COVID-19 pandemic when they were delivering everything, including vaccines. “We didn’t get time to rest and more importantly, we didn’t get time to spend with our families. And for me, I have a toddler at home. I didn’t get to see her the first year of her life. Meanwhile, this company padded their pockets, they made record profits. So I’m here to say enough is enough! I’m here with my sisters and brothers and we’re standing strong in this fight!”

Hannibal Aguilar, another driver and union steward, spoke about the dangerous working conditions at UPS that put workers at risk of dehydration and heat stroke. He said, “UPS tells us to work safely yet they put profits first, pushing our bodies to the limit until they break down.” He ended with, “If we don’t get what we want by July 31, we’re gonna shut it down!”

Part-time employees make up around 65% of the UPS workforce but are paid a fraction of what full-timers are. Most UPS workers struggle to make ends meet.

Jennifer Bekenstein, part-time UPS worker and union steward for Teamsters Local 396, spoke about working hard in hot, sweaty facilities, lifting heavy boxes and dealing with management harassment every day. “We come in the middle of the night and work hard every day, all so that UPS can make billions of dollars in profits every year,” Bekenstein said, “We may be part-time UPS workers, but we are full-time Teamsters, and we are ready to fight for the contract that we deserve!”

“It was a great turnout for today's rally,” said Ricardo Contreras, Teamsters 396 union steward at the Olympic hub. “We’ve shown the company that we want a fair contract for all UPS Teamsters and that we are not fucking around.”

Teamsters are poised to strike in less than 12 days, unless a satisfactory deal is reached. Within hours of the rally, it was announced that negotiations would resume for next week. After weeks of practice picketing and the threat of a strike, the 340,000 Teamsters are aiming to win a strong contract. It remains to be seen what UPS may offer at the bargaining table, but one thing is for sure – the Teamsters will give them a real fight if UPS management doesn’t bring a proposal to that significantly addresses the issue of part-time pay.

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