(en) Was UPS strike a victory for workers?

Aaron (aaron@burn.ucsd.edu)
Sat, 11 Oct 1997 03:22:35 -0400

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Comrades, et al.,

I have reproduced here the last of three items from a mailing by Michael Eisenscher. It is likely that even many readers who received said mailing might not have noticed this (IMNSHO rather important) item.

If the information presented below is accurate, the outcome of the UPS strike was a sellout masked as a victory. It was a sellout because provisions harmful to the class were sneaked in without the workers being made fully aware of them. Would they have supported the contract if they had known what was in it, or would thay have wanted to fight on until real victory was achieved? We'll never know. What we do know is that Ron Carey, the darling of the reformist left, isn't qualitatively different from the rest of the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy.

BTW, I don't consider Carey's fund-raising games -- other than using union money for an intra-union fight -- to be a signifigant factor in judging him.

- In solidarity - Aaron

Date: Thu, 2 Oct 1997 08:52:17 -0700 (PDT) From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.apc.org> Subject: US Labr On The Offensive; Tough Time for Labor; IWW on UPS Strike

[first two items deleted]

From: Jon Bekken <jbekken@igc.apc.org> Newsgroups: labr.teamster Subject: Was UPS settlement a win? Date: Tue, 30 Sep 1997 06:31:48 -0700 (PDT)

Was UPS strike a victory for labor?

The following article appears in the October issue of the Industrial Worker, monthly newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World:

While most reports claim that the Teamsters won a sweeping victory in their 15-day strike against United Parcel Service, on closer examination the proposed settlement looks to be more of a draw.

The Teamsters clearly won on pensions, defeating UPS' efforts to pull out of the union's multi-employer pension plans and forcing UPS to increase its pension payments. Although the union stressed part-time jobs in its public relations campaign, the pension plans may well have been at the heart of the dispute. Many Teamster plans might have collapsed without the UPS payments, given the dramatic decline in union trucking (and hence truckers paying in) over the past two decades. And a substantial number of UPS part-timers (though a distinct minority) took those jobs in order to maintain their pension rights after being laid-off from other Teamster jobs.

However, most UPS workers are not covered under the pension plan, because of extremely high turn-over among the part-timers who make up nearly two-thirds of UPS workers.

The other significant gain under the proposed 5-year contract -- which Teamsters are voting on as we go to press -- is a provision requiring UPS to promptly correct short paychecks. Many workers say UPS routinely shorts their pay by under-reporting their hours.

But on the question of part-time jobs, the proposed contract appears to be at best a draw. While the actual contract language is not available at press time, it appears that UPS agreed to promote at least 10,000 part-timers into full-time jobs as they open, and to create another 10,000 new full-time positions through expansion and consolidation of existing part-time jobs.

The first will cost UPS nothing, as these jobs will open through normal attrition. The 10,000 new jobs are also largely meaningless. UPS added 8,000 full-time jobs (and 38,000 part-time ones) during the four years of the last contract, so the company has merely agreed to continue adding the same number of jobs each year for the next five years. Even this promise may be illusory. A contract summary distributed by UPS stresses that "Increase in full-time jobs is subject to continued volume growth." (No such escape clause is mentioned in the Teamsters' summary.)

While a handful of part-time workers will have the opportunity to bid into full-time jobs, the proposed contract does nothing about UPS' practice of defining "part-time" not by the number of hours worked, but rather by what it is willing to pay. Thousands of UPS "part-timers" put in 30, 40, 50 or even 60 hours a week, but are paid at the bargain-basement part-timer rate the Teamsters negotiated back in 1982 -- and which hasn't increased since.

The proposed contract does include a 50" an hour increase in starting pay for part-timers, and a 40 percent pay hike for current part-timers who stay on the job for the full five years of the contract. However, part-timer turn-over is so high that few workers will actually see much of this increase. Full-time workers will see pay hikes about equal to the current inflation rate.

While the contract does restrict subcontracting outside of peak seasons, the Teamsters agreed to greater labor "flexibility." The new full-timers would handle more packages and be shifted to ancillary work if supervisors think they are not busy enough. The company also determines where to create the new full-time jobs, forcing workers to compete against each other to see who can work fastest and be the most docile.

Many of the workers who will be upgraded to full-timers are known as "air drivers." They work nights loading packages that arrive by air and must be delivered to customers before noon. Often these part-timers, after sorting and loading for several hours, jump into a truck to make the deliveries, adding several hours to their shifts. Under the new contract, their salaries as newly minted full-timers would rise to $17.50 an hour over five years, from as little as $11 an hour today. That is still well below the $20 an hour and up earned by UPS' traditional delivery drivers, who handle parcels that go entirely by truck. The proposed contract would allow "air drivers" to handle ground packages as well.

While the wage gap between full-timers and the relatively small number of part-timers with several years on the job would narrow substantially under the contract -- in part by cutting full-time wages -- UPS will have a strong incentive to increase its already high turn-over rates, since part-timers will start at $8.50 (about a third of the rate paid to experienced full-timers) for the life of the contract.

The settlement evidently contains no protections against reprisals, as scores of Teamsters learned when they returned to their jobs to find they had been fired or disciplined for union activity. The Teamsters are grieving these case-by-case.

Nor does the proposed contract speak to health and safety issues -- other than preserving the current limit of 150 pounds on packages, and workers' right to request assistance for packages of more than 70 pounds -- despite UPS' appalling injury rate. Last year UPS workers suffered 33.8 injuries for every 100 workers -- an injury rate two and a half times the national transportation average. With managers constantly pressing part-time loaders to work faster, injuries are inevitable. When these part-time workers get injured, they are simply tossed aside and new, cheaper workers hired in their stead.

We hope to publish a more detailed analysis of the contract in our next issue.

Can Carey Survive?

Meanwhile, IBT President Ron Carey has been forced into a second election after Hoffa forces documented that at least $221,000 was taken from the Teamsters treasury through illegal kickback schemes and funnelled into Carey's re-election campaign. (Why Carey, who owns $2 million in UPS stock, could not simply finance his re-election himself is unclear.) As we go to press, federal officials are considering a request to bar Carey from seeking re-election based on the massive violations. The Carey camp has also asked that opponent Jimmy Hoffa Jr. be barred from the race.

If the election does go forward, Carey seems likely to run on the strength of his "victory" over UPS. The Hoffa camp claims the reballoting has been rigged in advance, with no contested regional races in their Midwestern stronghold (where the Hoffa slate won the initial election, and would remain in place).

Some consultants involved in the kickback scheme are reportedly bargaining with prosecutors and may turn informer, implicating top Carey aides -- and possibly Carey himself. Carey's reputation as a reformer has already been badly tarnished by the scandal, and it may yet cost him his office.

Subscriptions to the Industrial Worker are $15 a year,
from IWW, 103 West Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti MI 48197.

---------- mailto:aaron@burn.ucsd.edu http://burn.ucsd.edu/~aaron

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