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“We Must Strike”: A Message from Greg Kerwood, a Rank-and-File UPS Worker Activist

With a little over a month left in what could be the most significant labor battle in decades, UPS workers across the country are preparing to strike. Here, we republish a message shared by a militant worker on the necessity of a strike.

Greg Kerwood

June 22, 2023
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UPS workers hold a sign that reads "United for a strong contract."

In the lead-up to what could be a historic strike by 340,000 UPS workers on August 1, Left Voice aims to amplify the most militant and class conscious teamsters who are taking up this crucial fight. 

Toward that end, with his permission, we are republishing a message from Greg Kerwood, a UPS driver and a member of Teamsters Local 25, that originally appeared on the UPS Teamsters 2023 Contract Group on June 17 and has generated considerable debate. Brother Kerwood initiated the Facebook group which has ballooned to over 12,600 participants.

We at Left Voice open our pages to UPS workers across the country as they prepare themselves for this potential historic strike. Write to us at [email protected], and tell us what this strike would mean to you, why you’ll be striking, and what you think it will take to win.

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It has become almost cliche to say that nobody wants a strike, as if it were somehow uncouth to stand up for one’s humanity without a qualifier. But wanting a strike is truly not the question. The question, rather, is do we NEED a strike? And the answer is an unequivocal YES!

We NEED a strike to unite our members at UPS, and our Teamsters Union as a whole. We NEED a strike to create a generation of militant Unionists, whose education will be the picket line, and whose graduation will be the launch of a new Labor movement. We NEED a strike to create the bonds that hold Labor together, that unite workers; those that can only be forged in the furnace of workplace action. We NEED a strike to energize the entire Labor movement; to show workers that they CAN stand up, that they CAN fight back, and that they CAN win. We NEED a strike to remind the corporations of the world just who generates the record profits they enjoy year after year.

Ending this fight at UPS without striking, even with a good contract, would be the Labor equivalent of a tie ballgame. We, as Teamsters, should not be playing for a tie, we should be playing to win. Surely no one believes this company will be taught a lesson, or change its behavior, without us withholding our labor. If the company is acquiescing to many of our demands out of a fear of a job action and loss of billions, if they are feeling the heat of a potential strike, then we must push further. The time has come to finally address the issue which underlies all others at UPS: power. Are we going to continue to be owned by this company each day, forced to labor until our lord and master sees fit to let us go? Or are we going to have control over when and for how long we sell our labor? I say the latter. Until we have a finite workday, both part time and full time, we will continue to be at the mercy of this company, and our jobs will continue to dominate our lives. This is not asking for the world. It is simply asking that our employer recognize our humanity. Recognize that we need rest and time to recover. Recognize that we have families and lives outside of work. Recognize that personal time is not a gift, but a basic human right. Until we have this, WE MUST STRIKE!

Make no mistake, striking a multibillion dollar corporation is not for the faint of heart. It requires strength, commitment and a willingness to sacrifice in the short term for long term gain. But I know of no workforce more suited to this task than the men and women who give their blood, sweat and toil to this company day after day, despite being consistently treated as replaceable cogs in a big brown profit making machine.

So the answer is simply this: if you want to change your workplace and your life, if you want to organize Amazon, if you want to empower workers everywhere to join a Union and fight back against the abuses of their employer, if you want to swing the pendulum of power away from corporations, and back toward the working class, then WE MUST STRIKE!

History is made by those who attempt the impossible, who fight the unwinnable, who believe the unbelievable; who ignore the voices of the naysayers, the pundits, the experts. This is OUR time to make history, to right the wrongs of the last four decades, and to return the rewards of labor to those who create them. If you want your workplace, your life, your community and your country to be better tomorrow than they are today, WE MUST STRIKE!

Solidarity!

Greg Kerwood

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