Some Teamsters unsatisfied with UPS “sell out” agreement
Written by WSLR News on Thursday, August 3, 2023
Last week, the Teamsters union celebrated a major nationwide victory for UPS drivers. But not all of the drivers are satisfied with the agreement, and are calling for the ousting of Teamster boss Sean O’Brien.
By Ramon Lopez
Original Air Date: August 2, 2023
Johannes Werner: Last week, the Teamsters union celebrated a major nationwide victory for UPS drivers. However, some UPS drivers don’t like the agreement. WSLR reporter Ramon Lopez sat through one of the dissident’s meetings to find out how likely a rank and file vote for the agreement is.
Host: The UPS workers Rank and File Committee is a splinter labor group at the major U.S. parcel delivery company. They watched as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Negotiating Committee and UPS hammered out a tentative contract agreement last week. It averted an August 1 strike by 340,000 UPS workers and would have crippled delivery service for businesses and households here in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and for millions of others nationwide.
The last-minute negotiations averted what would have been the largest single employer strike in U.S. history. Teamsters Union boss Sean O’Brien said it sets a new standard in the labor movement. He added, “We demanded the best contract in the history of UPS, and we got it.”
The tentative pact still needs union rank and file approval. Voting on the new contract begins August 3, and runs through August 22. If approved, it would provide full and part time union workers $2.75 more per hour this year, and $7.50 more by the end of the five year contract.
A roadblock in the negotiations had been starting pay for part time workers. New part time workers at UPS will now get $21 per hour from $16. A pending contract was endorsed by Teamsters for a Democratic Union, an activist group that has pushed the national union to be more militant. The Party for Socialism and Liberation said it was a “major victory for the labor movement.”
But the UPS workers Rank and File Committee held an online meeting Saturday night to launch a campaign opposing what they claim is nothing more than a sellout by the Teamsters Union. The splinter labor group disputes Teamster boss O’Brien’s claim of a major victory for UPS drivers, so says the committee’s Jerry White.
Jerry White: They presented this agreement as “historic,” but it is only historic in the extent to which is has betrayed and sold out the interests of rank and file workers.
Host: Jerry White listed the tentative pact’s shortcomings.
JW: It includes and maintains the poverty wages for more than 200,000 part time employees, starting wages just barely above what are paid at the non-union Amazon for package delivery truck drivers, a 15% wage increase over five years which is below the rate of inflation.
Host: Tom Hall, another Rank and File Committee leader said the tentative pact is a bad deal overall.
Tom Hall: UPS paid $100 billion in revenue last year for the first time ever. Every dollar of that profit represents money being sweated out of workers. Conditions are becoming intolerable. Part time workers have recently told the WSWS that they’ve been going days without eating, and bunking three to a room in their apartments to make ends meet.
Another feature this movement is that workers are colliding head-on with the trade union apparatus. Even assuming modest inflation over the next five years—and that is a big assumption—by the end of the contract, part timers will only be making, in real terms, what they made in the early 1990s before the 1997 strike. They’ll be making about $20 less an hour in real terms than what they made in 1978. In other words, it does not come close to making workers whole.
Host: Tom Hall called for a no vote and end O’Brien’s leadership of the Teamsters.
TH: There’s a lot of justified anger about this tentative agreement with UPS. Momentum is building quickly for a no vote. O’Brien and the Teamster apparatus as a whole have lost the right to lead. The no vote has to be the starting point. The struggle by workers themselves—that is, you—to smash the influence of this apparatus.
We think you should join the UPS workers Rank and File Committee and take up this fight to develop the independent alternative in opposition of bureaucracy.
Host: Joe, who drives a brown UPS delivery truck in congested Chicago traffic, had nothing nice to say about O’Brien, and is gearing up for an internal union fight.
“Joe”: SOB lied about the contract. He said we would be on strike, 8/1, if we didn’t have a contract. Then he baited and switched it so we had a tentative agreement. I was on the other webinars, and he let it slip that he had no intention of implementing a strike.
So, the way I look at it is, we need to organize the vote no to start with, and that’s what I’m doing, I’ve organized vote nos in the past. The workers needed to take control of this, because otherwise they’ll try other ways to force the contract on us. We need to organize to the point where we’re able to wildcat when we need to, to get what we want. I’m going to be doing the vote no fliering, if anybody in Chicago wants—on social medias, if anyone wants to help out with that.
But I’m going to be organizing the vote no and fliering at the Teamster local 705 facilities. There’ll be signs, vote no signs around the place, I’m going to be fliering, doing social media. But the thing is, 705 has a political machine. It’s going to be difficult at 705, they’ve got a political machine, they’ve got DSA and Fresno members that are gonna be TDU members—Teamsters for a Democratic Union members—most likely trying to solve the contract. But all we’ve got is us now, rank and file members, to organize the vote no.
Host: The splinter labor group called on all UPS workers to join the UPS workers Rank and File Committee and form local committees at every hub. It called on UPS drivers to reject the tentative contract. It said the Teamsters Negotiating Committee must be thrown out and replaced with one composed of individuals chosen from and accountable to the rank and file.
But the dissidents are navigating a rough road. The Teamsters said on July 31, that Teamsters local unions voted 161-1 to endorse the tentative contract. But of the 176 local unions with UPS members, 14 affiliates failed to show up at a meeting in Washington DC to review the tentative agreement.
This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.