Top Teamster officials move to ratify UPS contract, ignore majority ‘No’ vote by members
“The IBT needs to respect the will of the members and go back to the bargaining table.”
Jacksonville, FL – Just hours after UPS Teamsters voted down their tentative agreement in record numbers, union chief negotiator Denis Taylor announced he would ratify the contract anyway.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) announced on an October 5 teleconference that a 54% majority of UPS members had rejected the contract proposal: 50,248 no-votes to 42,356 yes-votes. The UPS contract is the single largest private sector collective bargaining agreement in the United States, representing well-over 230,000 Teamsters.
“Taylor and Hoffa’s move is a disgrace to organized labor,” said Dustin Ponder, union steward for Teamsters Local 512 out of Jacksonville, Florida. “It’s a slap in the face of every UPS Teamster, whether they voted yes or no. They made perfectly clear that they care more about the interests of UPS and Wall Street shareholders than they do about the workers they claim to represent.”
In the week leading up to the results, rumors circulated that Taylor had plans to shove the contract through in the event of a majority voting no. By following through on these threats, Taylor and IBT General President Jim Hoffa Jr. have angered thousands of UPS Teamsters across the country.
“Frankly, I’m furious,” said Bill Aiman, a UPS part-timer and active member of Teamsters Local 79 in Tampa, Florida. “We spent untold hours standing outside the warehouse gates handing out literature to our coworkers about the contract. We spent our own hard-earned money printing ‘Vote No’ flyers. Hundreds of rank-and-file Teamsters across the country took a stand because this contract would hurt us and we deserve better.”
Record member participation in the vote fueled this historic victory for the ‘Vote No on the UPS Contract’ movement. Voter turnout skyrocketed from 27% in 2013 to 44% in 2018, driven in large part by rank-and-file activists in the Teamsters United group and the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) reform caucus.
Taylor claims that the IBT constitution forces him to ratify the tentative agreement, regardless of the results, because voter turnout did not reach 50% and less than 2/3 voted it down. In a nasty e-mail sent to UPS Teamsters through the IBT’s UPS Rising app, an obviously distraught Taylor attacked rank-and-file members for not voting. Taylor claims that the IBT bent over backwards to engage members in the contract process and encourage voter turnout.
“But not enough members covered by the National Master UPS Agreement exercised their right to vote,” wrote Taylor. He added, absurdly, “And as we saw in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, winning the popular vote does not necessarily win the election when the Constitution requires you to win the Electoral College vote. As Teamsters, we too must abide by the rules in our Constitution. Thus, the National Master UPS Agreement has been ratified.”
But Taylor’s blame-the-members strategy is fake news. For one, voter turnout was the highest on-record for a UPS contract in the last two decades, rising dramatically from 2013. Of course, Hoffa Jr. and Taylor didn’t give low voter turnout a second thought in the 2013 yes-vote since it went their way. Some members complained about not receiving ballot information in the mail or having difficulties with the new, online voting system.
Taylor’s bigger claim – that he constitutionally must ratify the contract – is also bogus. The IBT constitution says that officials “can” ratify a rejected agreement if it’s a “final offer” from the employer. The UPS contract was a “tentative agreement,” and at no point did either the company or the union present the deal as a “final offer.”
Rank-and-file activists and reform-minded Teamster local presidents, like Sean O’Brien of Local 25 out of Boston, and Fred Zuckerman of Local 89 in Louisville, Kentucky, warned Taylor not to ratify the agreement against the members’ will.
“The winds are in our favor,” said O’Brien in a statement after hearing the vote results. “Teamsters at UPS are willing to fight. The economy is strong, UPS is profitable and we are approaching peak so real leverage is at our fingertips. The contract goals are reasonable and achievable. But only if Hoffa doesn’t follow through on his threat to implement the contract. Hoffa has set the table to argue he is required to implement the contract under the Teamster Constitution. THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE. It is time for our General President to stand with the members, not the company.”
Indeed, Hoffa Jr. and Taylor’s move to force through the UPS contract against the will of the members will hurt the Teamsters as a union along with the entire labor movement. By their actions, these sellout union bureaucrats have signaled to UPS their willingness to take any deal presented by the company, no matter how harmful it is to the workers they claim to represent.
But in an even broader sense, Hoffa Jr. and Taylor have played right into the hands of right-wing corporate lawyers and lobbyists pushing anti-union laws, like ‘right to work,’ in states across the country. Groups like the Center for Union Facts and the National Right to Work Foundation argue that unions only enrich union officials at the expense of the rank-and-file members. By trampling union democracy, Hoffa Jr. and Taylor outdid even the worst stereotypes of ‘fat-cat union bosses.’
Vote-No Teamsters are turning their outrage into action. They say the IBT should accept the results and resume a new round of negotiations with UPS for a better contract.
“There’s only one right thing to do here,” said Nick Godfrey, a UPSer out of Local 222 in Salt Lake City, Utah. “The IBT needs to respect the will of the members and go back to the bargaining table. We knew that contract they brought us was rotten, and that’s why we voted it down. UPS made $6 billion last year. There’s no reason we can’t win $15 per hour for part-timers, $5 catch-up raises and more full-time jobs.”
Several rank-and-file workers active on the Vote NO on the UPS Contract Facebook group have already pledged to start gathering petitions at their warehouses next week.