35 Years of TDU: 1997 Members Say ‘Part-Time America won’t Work!’

May 20, 2011: In 1997, Teamster members and leaders beat UPS in a two week strike—the biggest victory for labor in the past three decades.

Members held rallies, like this one in Arkansas, across the country to gear up for the strike deadline.Every step of the way, TDU members worked with the International Union leadership under Ron Carey to create and execute a winning plan.

Teamsters started gearing up for a fight a year before the contract expired.

The International brought 18 rank-and-file Teamsters on staff full time as national contract coordinators. Some locals recruited contract coordinators to cover particular buildings.

The union took on the divide-and-conquer tactics the company used to divide part-timers and full-timers. Contract coordinators explained to members that they had to stick behind each other’s issues if they wanted to get their own issues solved.

The company hoped that old guard Teamster officials would not support the Carey administration. Many locals enthusiastically built the campaign and got members involved.

Hoffa was working with old-guard locals against the member mobilization, but Carey and TDUers worked around obstructionist officials.

UPS demanded major concessions—including replacing Teamster pension plans with a company plan.

The union fired back with a set of demands designed to bring together part-timers and full-timers: increased benefits from Teamster pension plans, stronger work rules, and the creation of 10,000 new full-time jobs, by combining 20,000 part-time jobs.

Members were encouraged to get involved and take over the campaign. Members in every local knew the issues, and spoke to the local media. Package car drivers “walked their route” to give information on the issues to their customers.

The union rallied under the slogan “Part Time America Won’t Work,” and electrified public support.

Teamster members stayed out for fifteen days. Members were united, and they knew what it would take to win a strong contract. In the end, the union won across the board. Management agreed to pension improvements, a wage increase, and 10,000 more full-time jobs, because of the strength and unity of Teamster members at UPS.

“If I had known that it was going to go from negotiating for UPS to negotiating for part-time America, we would’ve approached it differently,” said UPS vice chair John Alden after the Teamsters won.

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