The Road Ahead Runs Through UPS Freight

March 16, 2006: Have you seen the photo of Overnite’s new tractor trailers? The ones that say UPS Freight on them? Right there, in a snapshot, is the biggest threat facing our union. UPS is officially rebranding Overnite as UPS Freight.

The best-known name in trucking, and the deepest pockets in the business, are now behind our main nonunion rival in the freight industry. UPS Freight also gives management and UPS Logistics a home-grown nonunion operation where they can direct Teamster feeder work. And you can bet that management will use UPS Freight to undercut our leverage in any future strike—unless we organize UPS Freight and bring those drivers and dock workers into our Teamsters Union.

We really have no other choice. The road to rebuilding our union’s power, strengthening our pensions, organizing in our core industries—all these roads lead through UPS Freight/Overnite. Organizing UPS Freight will not only strengthen our bargaining power at UPS and in the freight industry. It will add at least 10,000 new participants to our union’s benefit plans—helping to reverse the trend that employers and Hoffa’s trustees have used to justify benefit cuts. When you realize the stakes, it becomes clear that Hoffa’s disaster at Overnite marks a turning point for our union.

In the 1990s, our union organized thousands of Overnite workers. Hoffa inherited that organizing drive and drove it right over a cliff. He called a reckless strike with no strategy to win, let it drag on for years, and then pulled the plug as soon as the 2001 Teamster election cycle was over.

UPS Freight is the legacy of that failure. We can overcome Hoffa’s failure. But we need a serious organizing plan to do it. We have to start by cutting dues waste and freeing up money for organizing. We have to train a minimum of 1,000 new member organizers.

If you look at our union’s history, our most successful organizing has been done by Teamsters who are proud of their union. We also must organize strategically to boost the bargaining power of our existing membership. Organizing isn’t just about adding members, it’s about supporting our existing contracts. We need to focus on organizing nonunion competitors like UPS Freight, FedEx, DHL, and other companies who are undermining our industry standards.

The Teamster Convention is three months away. Anyone who attended the last one knows what’s coming. In 2001, Hoffa made organizing Overnite a central theme of the Convention. There were speeches, videos, and resolutions—everything but a plan to win.

We can’t have a repeat in 2006. We can’t play politics when it comes to organizing UPS Freight. When Hoffa ran for General President in 2001, his campaign ads featured a picture of him on an Overnite picket line, promising to “never rest” until the Overnite strike was won.

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Look again at that photo of Hoffa’s broken Overnite promise. And look again at the UPS Freight photo. Those pictures sum up the Hoffa record. It’s time for a new direction. 

--Tom Leedham 

Teamster Voice: