The death of UPS driver Chris Begley, 57, who collapsed in August while making a delivery in 103-degree Texas heat, was no isolated incident. Monitoring co-workers for signs of heat exhaustion has become a routine feature of the job, says fellow driver Seth Pacic, a shop steward in Begley’s union, Teamsters Local 767. Pacic has learned to discern over the phone when a co-worker needs to find air conditioning ASAP—and when they’re deteriorating so badly that he should call paramedics and brave management’s wrath.
On Tuesday, August 22, the Teamsters union announced that its members voted to ratify the national UPS contract by 86.3% – and with record turnout. Workers won significant raises, the abolition of the two-tier driver system, air conditioning in package cars, thousands of new full-time jobs, and more. In our previous episode, we discussed the gains of the tentative agreement and the years of Teamsters organizing it took to make them possible, including the past year’s contract campaign which built a credible strike threat. In this episode, we dug deeper into the various layers of members’ reactions to the contract, as well as what’s required of the membership to enforce it and build on it moving forward.
For the first time since I started working at UPS 15 years ago, it feels like unions across the country are on the rise. UPS Teamsters mobilized for a massive contract campaign to win the best contract we’ve ever had. Now it’s the Auto Workers’ turn. Like in the Teamsters, UAW members recently elected new leadership that will stand up for you—and more importantly, actually allow members to stand up for yourselves. I’ve been following the contract fights at the Big 3 automakers. You’re fighting for a lot of the same things we fought for: ending two-tier, a fair raise, and control of your time.
Some 323,000 U.S. workers have struck so far this year. Another 340,000 were in gear to strike, until their nationwide mobilization forced the company to concede. UPS Teamsters are voting on the deal through August 22. “After 25 years of [former Teamsters President James P.] Hoffa and his givebacks, we came out ahead,” said Eugene Braswell, a delivery driver and Local 804 steward. “This is the first time in all those years that I have a national contract that I can vote yes on.” How are UPSers making sense of their gains at the table? I spoke with two dozen rank and filers. Some were relieved they didn’t have to strike.
I’m a 34-year Teamster and package car driver for UPS, and I’ve been a steward for the past seven years. Since I’ve been with UPS for so long, I am very used to the constant harassment and intimidation this company has thrived on. I had the honor to be put on the national negotiating team for the UPS contract by my local union—one of the strongest in the country, Local 25 in Boston. After UPS walked away from the negotiating table in early July, I was at barns helping to run practice picket lines. The UPS center in Westwood, a suburb of Boston, has a new center manager from New Orleans named Brian Newman.
UPS Teamsters nationwide are voting on the tentative agreement for the largest private-sector labor contract in the United States. The vote will end on August 22. A majority decision will determine if the contract is ratified. In this episode, we explore the highlights of the tentative agreement (TA) and what its gains, such as the abolition of the driver two-tier system and substantial wage increases, mean for workers’ lives. We also dig into how the TA is proof that years of Teamsters organizing, including the past year’s contract campaign, have reaped significant concessions from UPS — something workers and other unions are already taking note of.
Amazon warehouse worker Paul Blundell has spent the past year talking to his co-workers about how UPS Teamsters were getting organized to strike. So recently, he had big news to share: “A few days before the strike deadline, UPS caved.” “Everybody’s jaw dropped” when they heard that night shift workers at the Philly UPS air hub will get an immediate raise to $24.75, Blundell said. “We top out around $20.90 after three years, so UPS is now starting well above that—with raises for the rest of the contract.” UPS part-timers also have low-deductible health insurance coverage with no premiums, and pensions.
With just a week to go before the strike deadline, UPS and the Teamsters announced a tentative agreement July 25. There will be no strike on August 1. It’s clear their strike threat paid off in a big way—to the tune of $30 billion, the union’s calculation of how much more UPS is spending on this contract than the last one. “This contract is going to show the Amazons and the Walmarts and the Targets that the Teamsters are here, there’s a shift, and they should be careful and start driving up their wages,” said New York City Local 804 President Vinnie Perrone, an international trustee who served on the bargaining team.
This Tuesday, UPS and Teamsters announced they have reached a tentative agreement for a new contract for UPS workers nationwide, a week before over 340,000 workers were set to go on strike across the country in what would be the biggest strike of its kind in U.S. history. Now that strike is on hold as workers read, debate, and vote on the tentative agreement. After years of stagnant wages and deplorable working conditions, UPS workers have been organizing around the clock to fight for their demands, including much higher starting salaries for part-time workers and ending the two-tier system.
Some 340,000 UPS Teamsters will see significant gains to pay and working conditions if they ratify a five-year tentative agreement announced by the negotiating committee on Tuesday. Rank-and-file workers were poised to proceed with what would have been the largest strike at a single private-sector employer in decades, and the resolve from workers over the past several weeks was key to getting UPS to agree to a tentative deal that meets their demands. Negotiations, which broke down on July 5, resumed July 25, after UPS said that it would be “prepared to increase our industry-leading pay and benefits.”
It’s early in the morning and Cesar Mendoza slips into his 20-year-old clunker of a car and heads for the UPS warehouse in Southern California when the thoughts swell up. Damn, I am stuck here, he thinks. I’m still working only a few hours a day and barely earning anything. And then, he reminds himself, as he does each morning, to try and think positively. But he can’t. Six years after starting out as a part-time UPS warehouse worker, he gets $17.85 an hour and when the hours are low, as they’ve been lately, he takes home about $300 a week.
In Griffin, Georgia, UPS warehouse worker Jess Leigh exemplifies the struggles of part-time workers. As a single mother of two, she has spent nearly six years on the preload shift making poverty wages and has worked in multiple positions from loading trucks to being a hazmat responder. Jess has been a firm advocate for part timers’ rights in these contract negotiations. She is a member of Teamsters Mobilize, a coalition of UPS rank-and-file workers whose main demand has been “a base wage of $25/hour, $0.75 in catch up raises for each year of service, and 5% raises over the life of the contract.” She has also earned a lot of recognition from workers across the States due to her role in organizing “Red Solidarity Fridays,“ a day where inside workers wear red as a show of unity in this fight.
With the possibility of 340,000 Teamsters going on strike next month at United Parcel Service (UPS) seeming more and more likely, the world will be looking to Louisville, Kentucky, where UPS headquarters and UPS Worldport, the largest sorting and logistics facility in America, are located. With over 25,000 employees, 10,000 of whom are members of Teamsters Local 89, UPS is by far the city’s largest employer. If the Teamsters and UPS do not reach an agreement by July 31, when the current contract is set to expire, the picket line outside these facilities could be the largest the city has seen in decades.
The clock is ticking on the August 1 strike deadline of 340,000 UPS Teamsters. It would be the largest strike at a private employer in decades. “People are actually paying attention,” said delivery driver Kioma Forero, a Local 804 shop steward in New York City. Customers along her route stop her to say, “I hope your negotiations go well.” The hosts are talking about it on Hot 97, the city’s top hip-hop station. A deal could still avert a strike—as we went to press, the Teamsters announced UPS had reached out to resume negotiations. The union bargaining team had dispersed to members’ home locals after talks broke down July 5, for practice picketing that has put on display just how ready to strike UPSers are.
The union representing UPS pilots says they will not cross picket lines if Teamsters drivers and package sorters walk off the job when the current contract expires Aug. 1, resulting in the immediate shutdown of the express logistics company’s global air operations. UPS (NYSE: UPS) has 3,300 pilots who are represented by the Independent Pilots Association (IPA), a separate union from the Teamsters. “If the Teamsters are on strike, we will honor that strike and we will not fly,” IPA spokesman Brian Gaudet told FreightWaves. UPS pilots are allowed under their collective bargaining agreement to honor primary picket lines and did that for 16 days during the Teamsters’ strike in 1997.