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UPS Teamsters, We Can Fight for More: Vote No on the Tentative Agreement

The tentative agreement between Teamsters and UPS is not enough. As UPS workers, we urge UPS Teamsters to reject it and use the momentum we’ve built to fight for more

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(Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

If you are a UPS worker who is voting no on the Tentative Agreement, we want to hear from you. Email us at [email protected] or message us on facebook or instagram.

Last week, six days before nearly 350,000 UPS workers were set to strike for a better contract, the leadership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) announced that they had reached a Tentative Agreement (TA) with the company for a new five-year contract. If UPS workers had gone on strike, they would have joined nearly 200,000 writers and actors who are currently fighting for their rights. Workers will now read over the agreement and vote between August 3 and 22 to either ratify or reject it. The contract has been hailed as a “historic win” by union leaders and Democratic Party politicians, but in many respects, the contract falls far short of what workers deserve. 

We are UPS workers: Luigi works as a part-time warehouse worker and Ben is a former driver who is fighting to get his job back after being fired in retaliation for his union activism. We have been involved in strike preparations, discussing with our coworkers, participating in union meetings, and flyering at our workplaces, sometimes as early as 3:00 a.m., when many part timers clock in. We have been moved by the unprecedented support from students and other sectors of workers standing in solidarity with our demands, and by the practice pickets that gave the bosses a taste of our power. We are happy that people are finally talking about our terrible working conditions and the massive profits made from our labor. 

As we continue to parse through the details of the full tentative agreement and discuss with our coworkers, especially the most precarious among us, like warehouse drivers and helpers, it’s clear that despite some important advances, this contract is far from “historic” and falls short on many counts, especially for part-timers. 

Throughout the contract and strike campaign, our union has emphasized the need for us UPS workers to push back against the divisions of our classifications and fight with one fist. Just last week, the Teamsters posted, “Full-timers are standing up for part-timers because we are one union — no one gets left behind.” It’s time to make good on that promise, unite our ranks, and fight for a contract that delivers for all workers.

In that spirit, we urge our Teamsters siblings to vote no on this tentative agreement and use this unprecedented momentum to fight for a contract that leaves no one behind.

Some Gains 

For decades, UPS Teamsters have been subjected to concessionary contracts brokered by the old leadership of James P. Hoffa Jr., who cared more about playing nice with the bosses than delivering gains for workers. Wages stagnated, and UPS workers earned less money for the same work. Conditions severely deteriorated inside the warehouses, not only for part timers but also for clerks, full-time helpers, and “22.4” drivers working terrible split-shifts to avoid complete layoff. 

This contract campaign brought important new energy into our ranks as we faced the possibility of harnessing our power to not only roll back previous concessions, but also to fight for more. Important demands were made to remove some of the worst contract language: the two-tier system among drivers and forced overtime and layoffs, to name a few. Sectors such as the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) popularized the call for a $25 hourly wage for part-time workers, which would meaningfully improve our lives. 

The tentative agreement does make some important advances. It would get rid of the 22.4 classification, eliminating the most egregious aspects of the two-tier system among drivers. It would also get rid of the forced “sixth punch” wherein workers can be forced to come in on a sixth day and work overtime. Newly-purchased trucks would have air conditioning, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day would become a paid holiday.

However, one of the biggest tensions of the new contract is that, far from uniting the workforce to fight against “part-time poverty,” it would continue to keep part-time workers precarious, maintaining a vast wage gap between drivers and warehouse workers. The broadest form of the two-tier system would be maintained — drastically different pay and conditions between full-time drivers and part-time workers who load, unload, and sort packages. 

Part-Time Workers Deserve Better

Part-time workers labor in grueling conditions. Backbreaking shifts begin in the middle of the night, and workers receive only a 10-minute break, even amid boiling summer temperatures without air conditioning. Part-timers are also guaranteed only 3.5 hours of work per day and are given few opportunities to secure full-time work, besides becoming a driver. Because they earn poverty wages, many part-timers also work second and third jobs. This contract does not sufficiently change these conditions.

During the first year of the proposed contract, part-timers would get $21 an hour, not the $25 minimum many have been fighting for. Additionally,the catch-up raises for workers with seniority would amount to only $0.50 for every five years of work, and these raises would be capped at $1.50 after 15 years of work. Part-timers who have been at UPS between five to ten years will go up to $21.50, just $0.50 more than a new hire. 

The TA establishes that part-timers who are hired or reach seniority after August 1 of this year would start at $21 an hour and, within 48 months, reach $23 an hour. 

While $21 is an important bump from the current $15.50 minimum hourly wage, part-time workers in many parts of the country have already received Market Rate Adjustments of the same rate. This provision would only match their current wage, rather than provide a significant bump. Furthermore, in places like New York City that didn’t receive MRAs, $21 an hour is not enough given the exorbitant cost of living, increasing rents, and subway fares. The wage progression also doesn’t keep up with inflation. At a time when many workers are feeling the effects of inflation on their pocketbooks, this increase is completely insufficient.

While it’s easy to boast about removing the two-tier system among drivers, this agreement continues to foster the other real “two-tier system”: the wage gap between warehouse workers and drivers. Under the proposed contract, drivers would receive a top pay of $49 an hour by the end of the contract, while a warehouse worker hired after August 1 would cap out at less than half that amount — just $23 an hour. For every improvement the bosses give drivers, we need to fight for the same for our union siblings working part-time.

With billions in profits year after year, UPS has more than enough money to pay decent wages and benefits for all workers. Whether a driver or a preloader, we all break our backs and bodies every day to make record profits for our bosses. We are one union, one International Brotherhood of Teamsters. We need to unite our ranks and make it clear: our lives matter more than their profits. This is not just an issue for part-timers — drivers and part-timers must stand together, loudly proclaiming that an injury to one is an injury to all. 

Shortcomings for Drivers, Too

This contract also has significant shortcomings for drivers. While the 22.4 classification would be eliminated, there would still be divisions among drivers over benefits like access to work schedules and protections against overtime, based on when drivers become Regular Package Car Drivers (RPCDs). Although workers would no longer be forced to work on scheduled days off, the contract makes no provisions towards shortening the excessively long 10- to 12-hour days drivers already work on their normal schedules. The TA also leaves the door open for 7-days-a-week operations, and maintains the use of Personal Vehicle Drivers (PVDs) during peak season, which further precarizes the workforce.

Although air conditioning is touted as a big win, AC will only be installed in package cars bought after January 1, 2024. This gives the company the chance to stockpile cars before that date, especially since it would only need to implement air conditioning in 28,000 package cars (about a third of the fleet) during the agreement’s duration.

The growing sentiment among workers is that we can fight for more, and that actually going on strike can be the path to a greater victory. Solidarity was growing all over the country as practice picketing ramped up across the Teamsters Locals, the media attention was at its peak, and we felt that Teamsters were at their strongest position in decades. The IBT must go back to the negotiating table and prepare to strike.

Vote No To Fight For More

UPS made over $100 billion in revenue just last year on the backs of our labor. The CEO and board members have been paid millions of dollars, their shareholders like The Vanguard Group and JP Morgan are among the wealthiest and largest investment funds in the world. Yet the company claims that this is the best contract we can get. They claim they can’t provide part-timers more than poverty wages.

We know that’s a lie. 

UPS bosses want to keep making massive profits while fostering divisions between part-timers and drivers and making us fight over crumbs.

For weeks and months, in rallies, in practice pickets, in parking lot meetings, and more, UPS workers have been showing up and standing shoulder to shoulder, making clear that we stand together in this fight for a better contract and are ready to strike against Big Brown for it. Drivers, warehouse workers, helpers, and clerks alike — we are all prepared to take this fight to the picket lines because we know we deserve more. 

Indeed, the pandemic showed us as much. While the bosses quarantined, we were the ones who put ours and our families’ lives on the line and came to work, making the record profits they boasted about to their shareholders. It’s time for us to vote down this tentative agreement and renew the fight for more.

A contract worth voting for would include some of these demands and more: 

We are not alone in this struggle. Already, from New York to Texas to Georgia, UPS workers across the country are beginning to organize the fight for a better contract as they announce their intention to vote down this agreement. We call on all UPS Teamsters to join in this fight, to reject divisions between part-timers and drivers, and fight for the contract we know we can win. 

It took a credible threat of a strike for our union leadership to reach this TA; with our full power, we need to take up the strike once again and fight for the contract we want. 

Towards a Campaign Decided By and For Workers

UPS’s record profits, year after year, are enough to guarantee decent wages and conditions for all workers, whether out in trucks or sweating in warehouses.

We need to take the struggle into our own hands, organizing our ranks on the shop floor to fight for the contract that we rightfully deserve. This contract is for workers, so workers should be the ones to decide on its outcome. We need democratic parking lot meetings where we can participate and discuss the agreement with our coworkers, and organize our ranks towards the fight for a better contract. We need to be clear: our enemies are not other workers — whether they vote yes or no on this contract — but the bosses who steal the fruits of our labor.

UPS is not going to give up anything that hurts their profits for the benefit of workers without a struggle. For drivers, warehouse workers, clerks, and all other classifications, we need democratic spaces to organize our own ranks and continue strike preparations, even as the TA is being voted on. Indeed, our ability to impose our will depends on our organization, in the rank-and-file and in democratic spaces.This organization would build power towards a strike to impose our will on Big Brown.

Critics might say this is a pipedream; that such shop-floor power simply doesn’t exist today. That’s not true. UPS workers are strong: we move 6 percent of the country’s GDP. We are essential to the functioning of the country’s economy. We are more mobilized and energized than we have ever been. 

Let’s stand up and demand better. Let’s fight for the contract that gives us more than crumbs. Let’s set an example for every worker in the country to see what unity and union power looks like. 

If you are a UPS worker who is voting no on the Tentative Agreement, we want to hear from you. Email us at [email protected] or message us on facebook or instagram.

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Luigi Morris

Luigi is a UPS Warehouse Worker - Teamster Local 804. He is also a member of Left Voice, freelance photographer and socialist journalist.

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