January 23, 2013: The UPS contract covers nearly 250,000 Teamsters and sets the bar for every contract.
The IBT is in contract negotiations with UPS, the biggest union employer in North America, and the outcome will affect every Teamster.
The stakes are high, but you wouldn't know it from the IBT's information Brownout.
Contract negotiations come only once every five years. They're the only chance we get to negotiate not just our wages and pensions, but the contract language that makes or breaks our quality of work life.
In a bad economy, the company has continued to haul in billions in annual profits by slashing full-time jobs and using technology, harassment, and excessive loads to squeeze more work out of a shrinking workforce.
While many drivers have too much work, part-time workers are denied the opportunity to work more guaranteed hours, earn overtime or get a full-time position.
The last time the Hoffa administration negotiated early with UPS, they delivered concessions.
The company walked away with split wage increases, longer progressions, a new substandard pension for 48,000 Teamsters in the Central Region and South, and concessions that froze starting pay and slashed benefits for new part-timers.
But it wasn't just the economics. The last contract also included weak language and gaping loopholes that has made it harder for members to protect themselves from production harassment, excessive overtime, and unfair discipline.
Chief negotiator Ken Hall told the Teamster Convention that the IBT would not negotiate early unless the economy turned around.
The economy is still on the brink, but we're at the bargaining table and UPS is predictably asking for concessions, including on healthcare and retiree healthcare.
Hall promised Convention delegates, "We're not going to be talking about concessions, we're going to be talking about improvements."
That's the right message. But it would mean a lot more if Hoffa and Hall hadn't built their careers on talking tough and settling short.
UPSers need to back our negotiators but do so with our eyes open.
We have the right to vote on any proposed contract settlement and that gives members the power to reject a weak offer and make UPS deliver a fair contract.