Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Teamsters’ non-discrimination contract proposal could help transgender UPS workers

By Simon Rowe

Tampa, FL – The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Parcel Service have reached agreements on multiple non-economic proposals, including more protections for transgender workers. If the Teamsters and UPS reach a tentative agreement by July 31, it will have updated language to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected identities under article 36, the non-discrimination section of the contract.

UPS has had a policy on paper to accept transgender workers since 2014. However, there is no method to enforce this policy. This is why the Teamsters LGBTQ caucus and Teamsters Human Rights Committee have pushed to include gender identity in the upcoming contract. When there is a contract violation at UPS, a worker can file a grievance to get their rights protected. The current UPS contract’s non-discrimination article does not mention gender identity, meaning it is extremely difficult for transgender UPS workers to challenge discrimination.

Discrimination against transgender people can take many forms in a workplace, from the hiring process to wrongful firings. This can include verbal harassment like misgendering, not using a transgender person’s pronouns, or deadnaming, referring to a transgender person by their name assigned at birth. At the most extreme, transphobia can take the form of physical or sexual violence.

“As a trans woman working at UPS, I have faced rampant harassment at work since coming out five years ago. It has escalated to the point of my safety being threatened before. With gender-identity inclusive non-discrimination language being included in the proposed contract, it will help me to feel safer on the job,” said Jerrica Hoey, member of Teamsters Local 79.

Transgender people are more likely to experience workplace discrimination. It is common for trans people to leave jobs to avoid harassment. The existence of federal laws, like policies from companies, do not guarantee that employers will respect transgender employees. When this harassment comes from someone in a position of power over a worker, like a supervisor, it becomes even more difficult to change the workplace into an accepting one.

Stopping harassment from management and strengthening grievance procedures are two major demands of the Teamsters. Using the slogan “United for a strong contract,” the Teamsters are bargaining for a better contract for all UPS workers and better ways to enforce the agreement. A contract alone does not protect a worker’s rights. A union that enforces the contract can protect workers from harassment and discrimination.

“Adding gender identity to the non-discrimination clause would keep me safe from any supervisor that would single me out or target me because of my status as a trans woman. Myself and all my trans brothers and sisters have an absolute right to be safe at work and UPS needs to make it happen,” said Hannah Keith, shop steward with Teamsters Local 396.

If there isn’t a new contract by August 1 and the Teamsters go on strike, this non-discrimination proposal can still be included in a contract. Teamsters would likely support a contract with strong economic and non-economic portions, which would benefit all UPS workers. This non-discrimination proposal’s inclusion in particular will empower transgender Teamsters to grieve discrimination against them.

“For too long I have struggled to feel respected or empowered on the job, and this new contract language will be a foundation for myself and other transgender UPSers to start getting the protections we need in the face of growing hostility towards our existence,” said Hoey.

#TampaFL #LGBTQ #Teamsters