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With Strike Looming, UPS Teamsters Win Air Conditioning, Other Gains

Above Photo: Teamster parking lot rally prior to strike vote.(Fight Back! News/staff).

Tampa, Florida – Since national negotiations started in March, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has reached many tentative agreements in their national contract with United Parcel Service. These agreements that will benefit Teamsters include but are not limited to better cooling systems in package cars, strengthened grievance procedures, and the creation of more union jobs.

The current Teamsters contract with UPS was a five-year agreement which expires on July 31. Unless the Teamsters bargaining team reaches a tentative agreement with UPS for a next contract and the rank and file votes “yes” by July 31, over 300,000 Teamsters are set to strike on August 1. The This week, the Teamsters at UPS are taking strike votes to authorize the strike and holding parking lot rallies and meetings with their members to build for the strike. The initial wins in bargaining have not appeared to slow down the strike organizing on the shop floor.

The following are some of the initial wins the Teamsters have seen as results of their contract fight and strike preparations.

Many gains have been made around heat and cooling in package cars. They won significant gains around heat safety after UPS made national news last summer with its drivers reporting temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in package cars. This month the IBT reached a tentative agreement for air conditioning in every new vehicle, two new fans in all current package cars, and exhaust heat shields in all non-electric package cars.

“This is a great victory. Everyone has seen the countless workers who have been injured or worse due to heat. It’s time UPS takes this seriously,” said Gage LaCharite, a UPS driver and member of Teamsters Local 79 in Tampa.

Two tentative agreements address Teamster demands on automation and surveillance. Article 6, section 4 will require that UPS bargain with Teamsters before introducing driverless vehicles. Article 6, section 6 will ban inward-facing cameras and discipline based only on technology. “Historically the company has been able to automate jobs without any check from the union. This will allow us to negotiate how automation is used instead of UPS having a blank check to get rid of Teamster jobs,” said Bill Aiman, a part-time warehouse worker and steward with Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta.

The union has also won language to create more union jobs. In recent years UPS has been outsourcing packages to USPS through the SurePost system and has been hiring new workers off the street before promoting current workers. This has decreased the number of jobs for Teamsters. Language that has already been won for the new contract includes changes that will raise the percentage of SurePost packages at UPS from 42% to 50%, which would mean more work for Teamsters.

They also won language that will require that UPS hire Teamsters before posting jobs outside the company.

Another win is language around and stronger grievance procedures. The Teamsters say they want a strong grievance procedure that they can use to stop harassment and fix payroll errors, which will increase penalty pay reimbursement for part and full-time workers with payroll errors.

They also won language that will require supervisors to wear identification cards, making it easier for Teamsters to find the name of the supervisor they are grieving, and to increase the penalty pay reimbursement for harassment grievances from three days of wages to five days.

Another area where the Teamsters have already made gains in around gender equity. Women and LGBTQ people work at UPS and say they lack protections under the old contract. Language that the Teamsters have won will require UPS to provide places and time for breastfeeding and will amend the gender discrimination clause to include gender identity and sexual orientation.

While many things have already been won, there is one big issue for Teamsters up for negotiation which is a sticking point. That is the issue of wage increases.

The Teamsters are demanding an end to the two-tier wage system for drivers at UPS, which was introduced in the current contract, and higher wages for part-timers starting at $25 per hour. Other demands include higher pension payouts, ending subcontracting, and protecting union jobs through stopping the use of personal vehicle drivers.

While these agreements reached are positive, many Teamsters say they intend to vote “no” on any contract that does not meet their economic needs expressed in their demands. On June 16 the IBT internally released the strike authorization vote numbers, and the vote was overwhelmingly in support of strike authorization.

This vote shows that Teamsters are willing to strike in August to get a better contract. Tentative agreements do not guarantee there will be a national contract by July 31 or that Teamsters will vote yes. Unless UPS meets the demands of the Teamsters, in less than two months there will be the largest strike against a single company in United States history.

Simon Rowe is a UPS preloader and a rank-and-file member of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 79.

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