On the Road to Union Power?

March 27, 2008: The IBT leadership argues that we need to give DHL concessions to help the company compete in the future with UPS and with FedEx.

But many Teamsters are asking what these concessions will mean for our future and our union’s. The proposed contract will let DHL convert over time to a company where the majority of the jobs are low-wage, dead-end jobs.

History has shown that these concessions will increase company profits. But they will also undermine our benefit funds and union power.

As DHL Teamsters debate how to vote on the proposed contract, we need to ask ourselves: is our union on a road that will build power for Teamsters in trucking?

Devil’s Pact with UPS

In 1982, our union made the part-time devil’s pact with UPS—and allowed the company to create $8/hour part-time jobs. By 1997, nearly two-thirds of UPS Teamsters were part-timers stuck in low-wage, dead-end jobs.

The wage and benefit divide weakened Teamster unity. The 1997 UPS strike victory was about reversing the slide to a weaker Teamsters union. Over the last ten years, that victory eliminated 42,000 low-wage part-time jobs and combined them into 21,000 new full-time jobs. (20,000 in the national agreement plus more in the Local 705 and 710 agreements.)

That clause has brought UPS back from being majority part-time to approximately 50-50 full-time and part-time.

Hoffa’s UPS Giveaway Set the Stage for DHL

If the full-time job clause had been maintained in the new UPS contract, a total of 64,000 part-time jobs would have been replaced with 32,000 new full-time jobs, and the balance would have been tipped to a clear majority of full-time jobs.

Instead Hoffa surrendered our 1997 strike victory and gave UPS a five-year deal where they don’t have to create a single full-time job by combining part-time jobs. That set the stage for DHL.

The union officials who argue that DHL has to compete with UPS by converting all inside operations to part-time should look in the mirror. Many are the same who supported the UPS give-away.

Wrong Direction

When evaluating a contract we have to ask: what does it deliver now and what does it position us to win in the future?

The part-time giveaway in the proposed DHL contract will boost the company’s profits and it will boost our union treasury with part-timer’s dues and initiation fees. But these gains will come at the expense of union power—and of Teamster benefit funds.

One highlight of the proposed deal is higher pension contributions, but that alone will not strengthen our pension funds if our employers are allowed to convert to a majority part-time operation with most employees locked out of Teamster pension funds.

We’re on the wrong road. Many Teamsters know it—including tens of thousands of Teamsters at UPS, in freight and at DHL who have not supported the sweeping concessions in the contracts negotiated by the Hoffa administration this year and last.

TDU is about uniting us together to rebuild Teamster Power—by fighting for contracts that deliver improvements for working Teamsters today and a stronger union tomorrow.

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