On June 16, the Teamsters officially voted to authorize a strike at UPS if their demands are not met by July 31. The UPS Teamsters union, which represents 340,000 workers across the U.S., are fighting for better working conditions, higher wages, against forced overtime, and for an end to the two-tier system for drivers. Part-time workers inside the warehouses are paid as little as $15.50 an hour (a little over minimum wage in some states), have little to no job security, and work under grueling conditions. Among other demands, they are also fighting for making Juneteenth and MLK day paid holidays. The national vote passed by an overwhelming margin — 97 percent voted to authorize the strike — making the possibility of this incredibly disruptive strike more possible.
The struggle at UPS has huge potential for the entire working class. Higher wages at UPS would lift wages across the logistics sector and help set a new standard for all workers across the country. But UPS is dedicated to stopping the Teamsters from winning any of these demands in order to continue to make massive profits off of this system of hyper-precarity and exploitation that keeps their workers in poverty.
This strike also has the potential to shut down supply chains in the U.S., and to disrupt huge sectors of the U.S. and world economy. UPS workers are not only numerically strong, but their labor is essential for the functioning of the U.S. economy, moving 6% of the nation’s GDP, and over 3% of the global GDP. A strike against the logistics giant would deal a huge blow to the bosses, and can inspire, cohere, and mobilize the millions who are a part of a new generation of workers fed up with low wages and oppressive working conditions. This is especially true for the young workers who have come to be known as Generation U, who are organizing union drives across the country. It is important that the Left, workers and community organizations support and defend the UPS strike.
Left Voice member Luigi Morris, an active member of the Teamsters and a warehouse worker at UPS, has been organizing for a better contract and the possible strike. Morris was recently quoted in an interview with Fox News stating: “This strike will affect one million people. We are hoping to set a standard for workers in the logistics industry. Amazon workers, FedEx workers. To improve their lives and the lives of their families”
A key element in ensuring this struggle is successful is uniting the warehouse workers — those “inside workers” who sort the packages, load the trucks, and start their shifts in the very early morning — with the drivers of UPS. Inside workers tend to be the most marginalized sectors of the workforce — overwhelmingly Black, Brown, and immigrant — and are given fewer hours, worse conditions, and much lower pay. These workers are the ones who are often forgotten in discussions about the conditions at UPS, and the teamsters must ensure that their demands are taken up just as centrally as the demands of the drivers.
As Morris explained: “This is a historical opportunity for all UPS workers to fight for a better contract. For us, part-time warehouse workers, we have the chance to drastically improve our working conditions by fighting for $25 minimum starting wages, catch up raises for current part timers, longer breaks, more work hours and more full time jobs. We wake every day around 2am to go to work under grueling conditions, fast pace and lack of respect. We load four or more trucks, minimum 800 packages and we are barely guaranteed 3.5 hours per day. We are essential workers but our starting wages are $15.50, which means poverty wages. We handle all kinds of products including material for hospitals, schools, small business, etc. We guarantee that the trucks you see all over the country are full with their packages. We deserve respect and much better working conditions. Enough is enough. We, along with the drivers, are the ones who make UPS run and make their profits for them. The bosses want to divide us as UPS workers but this strike vote is a sign that we stand together. We outnumber them and we are stronger than them, as long as we stand together in this struggle.”
Left Voice will be covering the strike and using its resources to provide solidarity to the Teamsters of UPS. If you want to help us with our coverage, get in touch at [email protected], and if you want to support our on-going coverage of the UPS struggle please consider joining our patreon.