Legacy of the “Best Contract Ever”
October 18, 2006. Mention the “best ever” contract of 2002 to UPS Teamsters and you’ll probably get a roll of the eyes. But the issues behind the contract are serious.
With Hoffa agreeing to early negotiations, now is the time to look carefully where our union stands relative to UPS management.
First-Ever Benefits Cuts
The top UPS priority is to turn back the clock on pension benefits. For the first time ever, UPS Teamsters covered by our largest and best pension funds have been hit with cuts. Thirty-and-out and 25-and-out benefits for Central States members have been eliminated (except for years already accrued by 2003). Changes in medical providers in many areas have resulted in health coverage cuts.
Some Teamster funds have so far avoided making cuts. But the overall trend in benefits has shifted from improving pension and health coverage for all UPS Teamsters to a establishing a multi-tier benefit situation, where members doing exactly the same work in one region receive worse pensions than members in other regions.
Part-time workers in the Central Region, Southern Region, North and South Carolina and Colorado are still stuck in the company’s pension plan, with no money going to support our union Central States Pension or Health and Welfare Plan.
UPS funnels the youngest and healthiest participants into their own fund. The Central States Pension and Health funds are robbed of much-needed contributions. As a result the Central States Funds are burdened unnecessarily and member benefits are jeopardized in the long run.
De-Skilling Jobs More than Ever
Meanwhile, UPS has implemented one of the most revolutionary changes in their operations in decades. The new sort and delivery systems (PAS/EDD) are an attempt to shift delivery knowledge and expertise from individual drivers to management. While the start up of the new system has been rocky, UPS has been able to ratchet up production demands for pre-load and package car members. In the process, package and preload jobs are gradually becoming more like assembly line work.
More Work than Ever from Fewer Workers
Package car drivers are all too familiar with the problem of excessive overtime. Despite some improved language on this issue last contract, the problem has become worse. Rather than hire more drivers, management forces some drivers to work days of ten, 11 or more hours. Requests for relief are ignored. Grievance panels, at best, only partially deal with the problem.
The age-old problem of supervisors doing bargaining unit work is another means that UPS uses to reduce the number of good union jobs.
Less Progress than Ever on Full-time Jobs
UPS has tried to make some Article 22.3 combination jobs as undesirable as possible. At the get-go in 1997 they refused to abide by the language. In 2002 the Hoffa administration gave UPS two years during which no jobs were created. Some members and locals doubt that all the jobs won have been retained. Supposedly 15,000 full-time inside jobs have been created to date, by combining some 30,000 part-time jobs.
First-Ever Changes Without Votes
UPS implemented schedule changes on Teamsters in New England and in Jacksonville, Fla. In both cases the International went along with the deal and refused to allow members the right to vote.
First-Ever Nonunion Expansion
Work erosion via subcontracting is not only on the increase but has entered an entirely new dimension, thanks to UPS’s new divisions (Supply Chain Solutions, etc.). For the first time ever UPS has a large and rapidly growing nonunion domestic operation. Overnite is the largest, but not the only nonunion subsidiary. UPS employs tens of thousands of nonunion drivers, warehouse and clerical workers who handle shipping, packaging, assembly and other work for major corporations. This cancer could seriously undermine our bargaining power unless it is dealt with now.
What Will It Take to Win Real Improvements?
The current (2002) contract has been a period of serious threats to UPS Teamsters. We need leadership that can chart a new and bold road forward. We need to mobilize every last bit of our potential power. We need real leverage, and we can’t give away the leverage we have by playing management’s game of settling early and ignoring the growing problems.