UPS part-time workers demand raise in upcoming contract
Tampa, FL – Part-time Teamsters working for United Parcel Service (UPS) are angry because the starting pay has not changed in over 15 years. It is back breaking work, yet the starting wage rate is only $8.50 per hour. Part-time Teamsters are demanding their union fight for a substantial wage increase in its current contract negotiations with UPS. T-shirts reading, “End part time poverty” are springing up in UPS hubs around the country.
This anger has led to a group of part-time workers to start petitioning outside the gates of the UPS hub in Tampa, Florida. They are members Teamsters Local 79. “We’re talking to union members about our contract negotiations. We’re getting part-timers and drivers together to demand a strong contract. We won’t accept a contract that doesn’t secure higher pay and a living wage for part-timers,” said Dustin Ponder, a 24 year-old pre-loader.
UPS is the world’s largest transportation and parcel delivery company. “Part-time workers at UPS are fighting for a better contract. Production harassment has reached new limits. Starting pay is below minimum wage in some states, yet this company has earned billions in profit. We want to see good paying full-time jobs,” said Daniel Ginsberg, a member of Teamsters Local 344 in Milwaukee.
UPS reported revenues of over $53 billion dollars and a gross profit of $39.5 billion in 2011. After strong quarterly reports showing profits up in 2012, part-time Teamsters like those in Tampa and Milwaukee are fighting for an increase in the paltry starting wage. Over half of UPS’ 330,000 employees are part-timers, with the average part-time worker earning wages of $10,000 a year.
The contract between UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters will be a test for the U.S. labor movement. A major fight here could set standards for workers all over the country. With major corporations like Verizon and Caterpillar forcing through major concessions in 2011 and 2012, despite making billions in profits, the UPS negotiations could set union contract standards in 2013. Members of the Teamsters at UPS led one of the last major national strikes in 1997, winning significant gains, including the creation of thousands of full-time jobs by combining part-time work.
Many Teamsters believe that this kind of battle is called for again. Abuse of forced overtime could be solved by awarding more part-time workers full-time jobs. But UPS likes it the way it is, so it will take an organized fighting labor movement to win a fair contract at UPS.
Many workers in their mid-twenties are saying that they are ready to fight back. Dustin Ponder is one of those workers. “I hope we’re ready to go on strike again if UPS isn’t ready to pay part-timers fairly. We’re the ones who make them rich. I am ready to do whatever it takes.” He also noted the current contract negotiation’s national significance, “We need to look to the teachers in Chicago. They struck for education all over the country. Our contract is also a fight for workers all over the country. Fighting like the teachers in Chicago is the only way you can beat back the assault on working class people.”