August 16, 2007: Labor expert Michael Schiavone credits rank-and-file mobilization and the influence of Teamsters for a Democratic Union with winning the 1997 contract victory at UPS.
“With this being the tenth-year anniversary of the Teamsters’ historic strike with United Parcel Service (UPS) it is a good time to revisit the strike and determine how it was won,” says labor writer Michael Schiavone, the author of Unions in Crisis? The Future of Organized Labor in America.
In a lengthy, investigative article for WorkingUSA: the Journal of Labor and Society, Schiavone writes that the Teamsters won a superior contract in 1997 to Hoffa’s “Best Contract Ever” because the Teamster leadership built power through “militancy, union democracy and rank-and-file intensive tactics.”
“The Teamsters adopted these tactics in a large part because of the influence of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU). In 2002, the Teamsters, with James Hoffa, Jr. in charge, employed a top-down campaign, with little rank and file involvement.”
Schiavone warns that, “there is a real possibility that the next UPS agreement will also be substandard,” but adds there is reason for optimism.
“If the rank and file pressure the Teamsters hierarchy for a greater say in the UPS negotiations, there is still hope for a good contract,” Schiavone writes.