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UPS Teamsters remember sell-out contract, organize to change leadership

By Beau Hawk

Chattanooga, TN – Teamsters across North America are organizing around the union’s upcoming international 2021 elections to demand union leadership that fights the boss and fights for the members.

In 2018 many rank-and-file union members and leaders participated in a far-reaching campaign to win a “No” vote against a widely unpopular proposed national contract with UPS. They haven’t forgotten the Hoffa administration’s use of an obscure clause in the union’s constitution – known as the Two-Thirds Rule – to forcibly impose the contract, despite the members voting to reject it.

Now the Teamster Convention is coming in June and July 2021. At the convention, nominations for International leadership positions, along with proposals for amendments to the constitution, will take place. Delegates will be there to support both the reform-driven “Teamsters United” slate, led by Sean O’Brien and Fred Zuckerman, and backed by Teamsters for a Democratic Union, as well as the Hoffa-appointed old-guard-successor “Teamster Power” slate led by Steve Vairma and Ron Herrera.

Thousands of Teamsters continue to work under the imposed UPS contract which includes an unpopular 22.4 hybrid job classification, in which UPS workers are working more hours for less pay with fewer protections. The memory of the 2018 contract battle remains a clear driver of rank-and-file momentum for reform and better leadership. The contract expires in 2023.

Severin Mortensen, a Teamsters United member and steward at UPS in Lansing, Michigan said, “During the previous contract cycle, a two-tier wage system and a number of other concessions were on the table. The members rightly voted it down, but Hoffa, Dennis Taylor, and the other old guard leadership forced the contract through anyway. With the IBT convention and international elections coming up, we have an opportunity to remove the two-thirds rule that was used to impose the contract and kick out the company collaborators at the top.”

Those who are organizing to remove the Hoffa leadership say they need an amended constitution that respects the vote of the members and a stronger contract with UPS that no longer includes a two-tier wage system.

Thousands of rank-and-file Teamsters have organized against the massively profitable UPS and continue to rally around a broad coalition that supports the O’Brien-Zuckerman slate. They say they want to build an International Brotherhood of Teamsters that is ready and willing to organize, fight back and, when need be, strike, for all its members.

Beau Hawk is a steward and a member of Teamsters Local 519

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