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Seattle Teamsters hold a practice picket, tentative agreement reached on contract

By Talison Crosby

Seattle, WA Teamsters hold practice picket.

Seattle, WA – On July 25, about 45 people participated in a practice picket outside a UPS warehouse in South Seattle shortly before 8 a.m. A UPS driver with Local 174, Giselle Neumann, led the crowd in chants of “Hell naw, you did us raw!” and “Hell no, pay me mo’!”

The group of rank-and-file Local 174 Teamsters was joined by workers and organizers from other local unions, along with community activists from all over the Puget Sound area. The group marched to a nearby busy street holding signs that read “Just practicing for a just contract” and “United for a strong contract” as both cars and other delivery trucks honked their horns in support of the practice picket.

This is just one example of the practice pickets that have been happening all over the country. Teamsters have spent the last several months preparing for a historic strike if a strong contract was not reached by August 1. Practice pickets were used to demonstrate to UPS that the workers were ready to strike.

Neumann explained why she was fighting, saying “I’m what’s called a 22.4. A 22.4 is a secondary subclass driver, it's a driver for basically 30% off. If I work max hours and overtime I’m making $57,000 a year. The CEO makes that every single day. I think she can afford to dig in her pocket and pay my part-timers a livable wage.” She went on to explain that some of her coworkers are currently living in homeless shelters. “America is deepening and dividing the classes so exponentially, I think that this time around this is the chance for America to listen: corporate greed has got to go.”

Nick Jarmon, another driver with Local 174, described why he’s been fighting: “The most important issue for me has been ending the 22.4 system. I was 22.4 for around a year, maybe a little longer than that. Right now we’ve got 22.4 drivers working over two years and essentially what we’re talking about is a tier in which drivers do the same work for less pay and no overtime protections. It’s unacceptable. We shouldn’t have allowed that to happen to begin with.”

When asked about the significance of the UPS contract campaign, Jarmon responded “This is a once in a generation opportunity, it sets a standard for the entire labor movement.”

Thomas Hill, an organizer with UFCW 3000 and community activist with Black Prisoners Caucus Community Group, expressed his thoughts about the practice picket, saying “It’s neat that for a lot of the people out here it isn’t the issues that necessarily directly impact them, but their fellow workers. And that’s huge. Solidarity is important moving forward.” When asked about the connection between the labor movement and his work with the BPCCG, Hill said “We’re attacking systems of oppression, whether it’s mass incarceration, whether it’s mistreatment of employees, we’re attacking systems and really community and labor is one and the same. It’s important that we have a common cause. It’s important that we support each other when we can.”

Hill, like many of the non-Teamsters at the practice picket, was invited by a member of a UPS Strike Solidarity Committee, a local group made up of union activists across numerous sectors that formed to support the Teamsters in their fight for a strong contract.

After an hour and a half, many of the rank-and-file Teamsters returned to the UPS building to begin their shift, and, at about 9 a.m. Pacific Time, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced that they had struck a tentative contract with UPS.

This contract, if accepted, will guarantee many of the hard-won demands of the Teamsters.

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