Fighting Work Performance Harassment and Discipline

Teamster employers have many ways to wring greater production out of workers. United Parcel Service and grocery warehousing both have high levels of productivity demands. Many of these suggestions for dealing with production harassment will apply to any workplace.

1. Beef up contract enforcement overall.

Production harassment can flourish when management is given free rein. Members may feel they have to give in to pressure because the union is weak. An ongoing campaign of contract enforcement can show management (and coworkers) that the union is willing to fight.

2. Target contract violations by management that indirectly boost production.

Supervisors working is one example. Another, from UPS, is violation of the over-70-pound package provisions. Overtime protections, if in the contract, are another area. Health and safety standards can be especially effective, as speed-up often rests on a foundation of safety hazards.

3. Go on the offensive.

Stewards and locals that are willing to just say no to performance standards can take some heat off members.

Elements of an offensive plan could include the following:

  • Set up a rank and file production standards committee. Get members working together.
  • Do safety and health inspections on a routine basis. webmaster [at] tdu.org (Contact TDU) for suggestions.
  • File OSHA complaints to deal with hazards.
  • Use information requests to get ammunition and to tie up management (see more on this below).
  • 4. Enforce Weingarten Rights

    Anyone brought into the office should insist on having a steward with them. The steward is there to try to prevent management from putting you on the spot about work performance.

    Your right to do this is protected under federal labor law, and is called your Weingarten right.

    Management can refuse this request only if they assure you that the discussion has no connection with potential disciplinary action.

    Enforcing this right can prevent a worker from being bullied into making incriminating statements or agreeing to boost their production.

    5. Educate coworkers about dealing with production demands.

    The local or rank and file committee can organize special meetings or classes on this topic. New workers should be brought up to speed quickly. Emphasize that working quicker while being observed rather than meticulously following safe and proper procedures will only come back to haunt them later.

    UPS drivers need to understand how to act during full-day ride-alongs by supervisors (OJSs).

    Ask right at the start whether your performance during a ride or other evaluation will be used as a standard for future performance. If the manager says no, ask them to put that in writing. Either way, let the manager know that you’re going to accept no help. No cherry-picking of easy drops, no help spotting parking places, no held doors, and no help sorting, carrying, or delivering.

    6. Make note-taking a routine: order and use TDU Log Books.

    Taking notes consistently can save jobs, and is an important part of an offensive against production harassment.

    When confronted with possible warning letters for not meeting standards, the individual or steward must be able to show why the ride-along day(s) went unusually well (better parking, lighter packages) or why case counts were lower on a certain day (equipment problems, product not available). Were there roadblocks on the relevant days that the picker didnt get down time for? TDU’s Log Books are made for exactly this purpose. Order them and get coworkers using them.

    7. Use information requests to go on the offensive.

    Grocery warehouse production standards are based on time studies and flow charts that have been combined to establish standard times for every type of picking situation. Its the stewards right and responsibility to demand the information that went into these calculations. You can and should ask for:

  • Copies of all flow charts showing the current standard times for each Key Volume Indicator (KVI), and any updates to these.
  • All Master Standard Data worksheets used in these calculations.
  • Copies of any unavoidable-delay studies, summary sheets, and calculation worksheets so you can see how the unavoidable delay allowance was calculated.
  • Copes of any written policies or statements regarding rules for downtime (or indirect time), and who authorizes it.
  • A detailed description of all underlying methods and conditions used in calculating the standards.
  • Explanations for any of these materials you dont understand.
  • Important: If a member is written up for falling below production standards, demand evidence from management right away. Computer data is often dumped after one week.

    8. Ask the right questions in disciplinary grievance hearings.

    If work performance pressures lead to the worker being disciplined, the steward or member should be getting the answers to these key questions:

  • Was the method or standard clearly communicated to the employee? When?
  • Did management make it clear that violation of the standard could lead to disciplinary action?
  • Did the disciplinary action start with the lowest level of discipline reasonably related to the offense? Was there another way to help the employee modify their behavior?
  • What is the employees length of service? What is their previous performance record or disciplinary record? Are appropriate allowances being made for seniority, physical condition, or age?
  • Is the method or standard reasonably related to carrying out the employers business?
  • Is the employee being singled out for any reason, such as union-related activity? Have other employees with the same numbers been treated similarly?
  • 9. Fight for contract protectionthen implement the guarantees.

    Set long-range goals for winning contract language that protects workers from production harassment. Set up a production standards committee and contact TDU about a workshop or other help with production standards or contract campaigns.

    And come to the TDU convention in November and meet with other activists who are dealing with these same issues!


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