UPS Contract Falls Short of "Best Ever"

Just five years ago UPS Teamsters energized the labor movement with a campaign and strike considered one of the biggest union victories in decades.

The 1997 campaign was unusual in two important ways. It was built with a rank-and-file driven campaign model. And it had the audacity to challenge management’s right to control the workplace by placing the creation of full time jobs at the top of the list.

Jump ahead to the 2002 UPS contract and things are quite different. The IBT has run a top-down campaign with no rank-and-file mobilization. And far from taking on UPS over control of the workplace, Teamster President James Hoffa has fashioned a contract offer that relies heavily on standard wage increases and falls far short on the issues that will make or break union strength at UPS in the coming years.

$9.00 AN HOUR IN 2008

The IBT’s media campaign focuses on the wage increases for full-timers-about three percent a year, or $5 over six years-and calls the contract the “best ever.” But the tentative contract, released on July 16, has some serious shortcomings, according to Teamsters for a Democratic Union:

• A six-year contract. Union proposals called for a three-year agreement. The 100th anniversary of UPS is in 2007. So even a four- or five-year pact would have been preferable, ending with maximum bargaining power during the anniversary build-up and celebrations. UPS is a rapidly growing and changing company. Shorter contracts make far more sense.

• A tiny 50 cents per hour increase in the new hire rate from $8.50 to $9.00 per hour. In 2008, part-time new hires will still be making $9.00 per hour. Non-union FedEx today pays part-timers over $13. The wage gap between part-time and full-time wages will increase over this contract.



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• A pension benefit freeze of 11 years for members in the largest fund, the Central States Pension Fund. Hoffa has agreed to protect UPS from rising medical costs by placing a higher priority on health and welfare and leaving pensions in the lurch.

• A two-year moratorium for UPS in converting part-time jobs to full-time jobs. It appears that 10,000 full-time jobs (the same as in the 1997 agreement) will be created over the last four contract years. Meanwhile, part-timers will have far fewer chances to go full-time and the part-time to full-time job ratio will start growing again.


• Nothing about winning card check and neutrality at UPS Logistics, the company’s non-union operation that handles order fulfillment, parts distribution, and similar services for other companies. Because UPS Logistics is growing so rapidly, it will be increasingly difficult to organize in six years time without card check and neutrality agreements. This poses a significant threat to the unionized sections of the company.

Unlike 1997, not a single rank-and-file voice has been heard in the IBT media campaign. Only top union officials repeating, for the most part, management’s pre-agreement reassurances to shippers that everything would be ok.

Both company and union have enforced an information “brown-out” during bargaining. Complete language of the national agreement and regional supplements was not being released before a July 22 meeting for representatives of every UPS local. Following that, members will attend meetings about the contract in their locals. Ratification ballots will be sent out soon after, with results expected in mid to late August.

David Pratt is an organizer for Teamsters for a Democratic Union.