Teamster militants pushing ‘Vote NO’ on UPS contract as balloting continues
Jacksonville, FL – A critical vote is underway on the largest private-sector union contract in the United States. Beginning on Sept. 11, hundreds of thousands of Teamsters at UPS and UPS Freight began receiving ballot information in the mail to vote on their respective tentative agreements, regional supplements and local riders.
But unlike previous years, the outcome of this contract vote is anything but certain. UPS Teamster militants across the country have hit the gates of their warehouses and urged coworkers to vote no on the contract. Both the Teamsters United movement and the Teamsters for a Democratic Union reform caucus have spearheaded these efforts, along with Fred Zuckerman, president of Local 89, and Sean O’Brien, president of Local 25 and the Teamsters United candidate for general president in 2021.
Citing the introduction of a two-tier, lesser-paid package driver scheme – the so-called 22.4 drivers – pitiful and insulting raises for part-timers, and more, the Vote No movement has brought together rank-and-file militants and reform-minded local union leaders fighting for a better contract.
“We’ve flyered at our building, as well as most buildings in western Florida,” said Bill Aiman, a UPS Teamster in Local 79 out of Tampa, Florida. “By and large, Teamsters here feel this is a bad contract. And we deserve a whole lot better.”
UPS made $4.9 billion in profit in 2017 and received an extra $1 billion in the tax bill passed by President Donald Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress. UPS Teamsters, whose labor created these profits, went into contract negotiations hungry for a better contract.
Negotiations between the companies and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) began earlier this year. The union brought a set of serious proposals submitted by the rank and file, which would have substantially raised wages for part-timers, protected package car drivers from forced overtime, added harsh monetary penalties for harassment and more.
Over time, however, IBT chief negotiator Denis Taylor abandoned these proposals in favor of massive concessions to the company. Even after taking a strike authorization vote in June, on which 93% of UPS Teamsters and over 90% of UPS Freight Teamsters voted in favor, Taylor still brought forward a tentative agreement full of givebacks for the company.
“We’ve stood outside our building and talked with everyone – part-timers and full-timers,” said Fernando Figueroa, a UPS Teamster in Jacksonville. “There’s so much outrage at this contract that it’s driven a lot of folks to get more involved in our local union and spread the word to vote no. When your manager or supervisor is telling you to vote yes, you have to ask yourself, ‘When has my manager ever looked out for my best interest?’ It’s clear who benefits and who loses from this contract.”
Both the IBT leadership and UPS management have pulled out all the stops to convince UPS Teamsters to approve the contract. They have sent out expensive glossy pamphlets in the mail and repeatedly robocalled members’ phones with invitations to vote-yes conference calls. Both the company and the union bureaucrats developed their own propaganda apps – UPSGo and UPS Rising, respectively. But the Vote No movement has countered these efforts with boots on the ground.
“We have been hitting the gates and speaking to the members one-on-one about the importance of voting no, especially part-timers,” said Dave Loobie, a UPS part-timer in Teamsters Local 804 out of New York. “If this contract gets passed, all the part-timers in NYC will be at $15 per hour come January 1, 2019 anyway. The only raise they will get from the contract is $0.50 the last year of the contract – 2023!”
In many parts of the country, including New York, the minimum wage has already risen above the proposed $13 per hour starting wage. The new contract does not include any catch-up raises for part-timers with three or more years of seniority, who already at least $13 per hour.
For Loobie and his coworkers in New York, the city’s minimum wage reaches $15 per hour next year, meaning new part-timers in NYC will only receive a $0.50 raise in 2022 at the end of the contract’s five-year starting rate progression.
“Some newer part-timers think the contract is good because of the starting rate increase to $13,” says Aiman speaking about their experience talking to part-timers in Tampa. “But when we tell them that higher seniority part-timers will get just a $0.70 raise, they agree it’s unfair. They want more anyway since $13 isn’t a living wage, but they’re also willing to support their coworkers. That’s solidarity.”
Voting will continue through October 5, when a third party will count ballots and announce the results. If the UPS contract does not pass by a majority, the company and the union will likely return to the negotiating table.