October 17, 2014: “I had to take unpaid leave during my pregnancy which caused me to lose my health insurance,” says Nichele Fulmore, a UPS package driver who became pregnant in 2003. “Most companies treat pregnant ladies as an off the job injury. It is because of a lady being pregnant that we all are here in the first place—no company should force a pregnant woman out of work. They should provide light duty for her.”
UPS Teamsters across the country have their eyes on a crucial case that the Supreme Court will take up this December on pregnancy discrimination at UPS.
The case could impact thousands of women who load trucks or deliver packages at UPS, and millions more working women in the U.S.
The case involves Peggy Young, a pregnant UPS Teamster who requested an alternative work assignment so she would not have to burn her vacation and FMLA leave before the birth of her child.
UPS management refused, saying that Young did not qualify for light duty because she had not suffered an on-the-job injury.
Angry Teamster women have fought UPS’s unfair pregnancy policy for years. The Hoffa administration has refused to take up the issue.
Now the Supreme Court is taking up Young’s case, which will swing on the court’s interpretation of the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which bars companies from discriminating against pregnant women.
UPS argues that forcing pregnant women to work at their regular positions is not discrimination because UPS also denies alternate work to male employees (who can’t get pregnant).
Peggy Young, thousands of UPS women Teamsters and women’s rights activists say the PDA says the same benefits (“light duty” or alternative work) should be made available to all employees according to their ability or inability to work.
Pregnant women should not be held to a different standard than other employees who are offered light duty because of an injury.
Teamster Local 554 member Sarah Miles, the daughter of another Nebraska UPS Teamster Jeff Benson, found out what UPS management thinks of its pregnant workers. Put on a weight restriction by her doctor, Sarah was told by UPS that no light-duty work was available, and that she did not qualify for Family Medical Leave.
And Sarah isn’t the only one. When North Carolina UPS driver Nichele Fulmore was told by her doctor that she could not lift more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy, she assumed that UPS would make accommodations so that she could continue working, as they had done for others in the past at her center.
But UPS said they would not provide light duty work. So Nichele found herself out of work, and after 26 weeks on disability, out of health benefits, with three months to go until her due date.
These are not isolated incidents. UPS is imposing a company-wide policy change that denies pregnant woman with health restrictions the right to perform alternate duties. In the process, UPS management is denying women access to medical benefits (which run out after six months on disability leave) and, frequently, the right to use their Family Medical Leave (FMLA) benefits.
FMLA lets employers deny benefits to workers if they have fewer than 1,250 hours worked in the previous year. The majority of UPS’s workforce is part-time. That means that many women who are planning to use their FMLA benefits after the birth of their child may come up short on hours if they are refused the right to keep working during their pregnancy.
In the past, UPS generally provided light-duty work to pregnant employees with work restrictions. This practice was written into the union contract in 1997. But now UPS claims that they only have to honor the contract in states that have their own laws regarding pregnancy and light-duty work. It’s a good deal for them: the only state known to have such a law is California.
The IBT has refused to fight over the issue, claiming that a bad arbitration decision makes it a done deal.
But members and families see it differently, and aren’t ready to give up. Last month, Sarah Miles’ mother Susan Benson conducted a one-person picket in front of UPS in Omaha, Nebraska, and got noticed by UPS management in the process. She went back the next week, this time after notifying the media. Management really started paying attention.
“They just ticked me off,” Benson said. “You don’t take a young woman who’s worked hard for you for three years, and kick her into the street with no pay and no insurance because she’s pregnant. My husband works for UPS, and we’ve had to deal with them for 24 years on insurance issues. Now they’re hurting my daughter.”
Getting management’s attention is one thing, getting this issue resolved is another. Pressure needs to be brought to bear on management, through the union and the public. UPS’s actions need to be brought out in the open.
To make that happen, we need to gather information. If you have been affected by UPS’s policy or know of other pregnant UPS Teamsters who have been, please contact TDU.
October 17, 2013: The IBT Annual Women's Conference was held in New Orleans on September 19-21.
Women Teamsters from all over the U.S. and Canada, and different Teamster industries—from UPSers and truck drivers to warehouse workers and public workers—got the chance to meet one another, share experiences and form friendships.
Seminars included "Be the Arbitrator" where members go through different grievance scenarios from beginning to end as seen from the arbitrator’s point of view, shop stewards training, stress at the workplace, organizing in a multi-generational workplace, and many more.
Kioma Forero, of New York Local 804 and a steering committee member of the NY-NJ TDU Chapter, said the conference "educates you and empowers you. Females often feel left out in the male-dominated world of Teamsters, but we are a driving force in the labor movement. If you want to feel unity, this is the place to be. I encourage you to talk with your local and try to get there next year."
Cindy Stricker, a steward at Dorada Foods and TDUer out of Oklahoma Local 886, said she is still energized from the experience. "The fire, the energy is just so unbelievable. It's been 3 weeks and I still have a charge from it. Women are starting to emerge, starting to shine. The bonds you make are so amazing. The classes were informative. We can take this back and bring it to our members."
Our union needs to tap this energy, and encourage more women to take leadership roles.
TDU believes that a strong union involves everyone. Click here to get in touch with our Women's Caucus.
August 9, 2013: Women Teamsters continue to emerge as leaders and activists in our union. Meet them at the TDU Convention this November in Chicago.
"I'm very excited to meet all the fellow TDUers from all over the country, to see my extended Teamster family in Chicago. I'd love to see more and more females attend. I like to share stories and learn about how other people have dealt with issues. I can't wait for the workshops. Knowledge gives us power, as members and as a union," says Sandra Cabral, a Local 251 Teamster at Rhode Island Hospital.
TDU is Teamsters helping Teamsters. The convention is a place to learn and it's a place to get empowered.
"TDU takes action to bring women into full participation in sharing equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. With a company like UPS, who think they're above the law and don't show their workers any kind of respect, we need to organize to keep up this fight," says Rozalind Coleman of Local 688 in St. Louis.
At the TDU Convention, Teamsters meet, network, and share strategies for addressing workplace issues, building power on the job and becoming more active in the union.
"A lot of members don't know anything about what's going on because our union and our locals like to keep us in the dark. Unless you go seeking the knowledge for yourself, you're not going to get it. TDU is a great resource of information. The people who attend the TDU Convention are more educated than most. I look forward to getting knowledge and information I can bring back to help my co-workers," says Rhonda Hanshaw of Columbus, Ohio, Local 413.
TDU and the TDU Women's Caucus encourages women Teamsters to attend our convention in Chicago on November 1-3. Click here to learn more.
September 6, 2013: A Local 802 Teamster celebrates her 15th year as a groundbreaking Teamster and "troublemaker" for fairness.
The first Teamster woman at her grocery warehouse, Arlena Dean filed a grievance to force her employer to create a locker room for women employees only to be told that she was forbidden to use it.
Management at her Bronx-based grocery warehouse banned Arlena, who considers herself a "proud African-American lesbian Teamster," from using the women's locker room. The bosses ordered Arlena to change in a broom closet across the hall from the men's bathroom instead.
Dean filed a discrimination grievance and launched a support petition. More than 100 co-workers signed in solidarity.
Dean's persistence and solidarity paid off. The company built a new union locker room for all Teamster women employees—gay and straight.
"I've never lived my life in the closet and I wasn't about to change in one," Dean said. "I've put up with a lot of harassment and discrimination. I wasn't going to stop until I got justice."
September marks Dean's 15th year as a proud Teamster.
"I've proven I can do my job as well as anyone else and I just want to be treated equal to everyone else too," Dean said.
The 17th Biennial Coalition of Labor Union Women Convention is taking place November 13-16 in Reno, Nevada.
From their website...
The women's movement and the labor movement are facing some of the biggest challenges in our history, with battles on every front. This is our opportunity to engage those in the labor movement and our friends who are not part of the labor movement and to learn how we can Move the Working Women's Agenda Forward.
This convention is about working together to set new goals and frame our objectives from the founding principles that guide the work of our organization. Progress is made possible by networking, sharing information and developing ideas to form new programs and policies.
To participate in the convention with voice and vote you need to be a regular national CLUW. Find out more about CLUW and their convention here.
The IBT's annual women's conference opens on Thursday, Sept. 19 and goes through Saturday, Sept. 21. The conference will be in New Orleans at the Hilton Riverside.
The IBT will release more information on hotel reservations and registration soon.
Contact your Local Union about sponsoring your trip.
If you are going and interested in meeting other members of TDU send us a message and we'll put you in touch.
Download a "Save the Date" leaflet here.
Texas Woman Awarded $600,000 for UPS Discrimination: Why Didn't The Grievance Procedure Get her Job Back?
Jurors hugged an Odessa woman who sued UPS for gender discrimination after two days of testimony that included lewd phrases directed at her.
Amber Ibarra claimed she was fired from UPS after being harassed because of her gender, and won $600,000 in a federal civil trial this week.
She now works for FedEx.
Ibarra worked with the Odessa UPS package center from June 1996 until July 2009 and said in a federal lawsuit that her supervisors and coworkers made offensive comments and discriminated against her because she was a woman, leading up to her firing.
Brian Carney, one of Ibarra’s attorneys along with Holly Williams, said in an interview that she worked her way up to be the only full-time woman driver at the facility, while fellow drivers made disparaging remarks about women being inferior to men.
“During that period, they had this kind of environment there where they made derogatory remarks about women,” he said. “She performed the job. No one had a complaint from UPS about how she did her job. No matter how they tried to run her off, she did what they asked her to do.”
Specifically, according to the federal complaint, Ibarra was routinely expected to make more deliveries than the male drivers and was ordered to deliver six 100-pound packages while pregnant that her manager “saved” for her.
It was when Ibarra was involved in an accident on June 23, 2009, when her vehicle struck a utility pole that her performance was scrutinized and she was ultimately fired, according to the complaint.
No one attempted to see whether the truck was drivable, according to the complaint, and several other drivers had been in accidents worse than hers but had not been fired, including several accidents involving fatalities.
Carney said the attorneys for UPS first said the appeals process out of the Midland/Odessa area did not reinstate her in defense of the dismissal.
The next defense, Carney said, was that the accident was the cause for her firing. Finally, he said, UPS attorneys argued that had they not fired her for the accident, they would have dismissed her for taking her personnel file without permission.
“It provides some closure and some vindication to what she’s been doing for the last four years,” Carney said.
The judge can still award Ibarra money she would have earned continuing to work at the business, Carney said, but has not yet made a ruling on that issue.
After the trial, Carney said jurors asked Judge Harry Lee Hudspeth if they could hug Ibarra.
The judge allowed them to after they were dismissed, Carney said, and all but one juror spoke with and hugged Ibarra after the trial.
Attorneys for UPS did not return a call for comment Thursday afternoon.
January 11, 2013: In the early 1900s workers in the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts faced terrible working conditions toiling away 60 hours a week for very little pay. They were lodged in substandard and unaffordable housing and faced extreme poverty. These workers were largely immigrants, most of them women, even some children.
For years the conditions continuously worsened. The workers decided they had enough and started to organize their neighborhoods block-by-block, and with the Industrial Workers of the World.
Then on January 11, 1912, a law was passed in Massachusetts that shortened the work week, reducing weekly pay as a result. This meant that dinner wasn't going to be on the table some nights.
For a community already suffering from malnutrition, this was the final straw that sparked the historic "Bread & Roses Strike" 101 years ago today. 25,000 workers went on strike. The strike lasted 9 weeks, cost 2 lives, and over $1 million dollars.
By organizing together the workers were able to win wage increases, overtime pay, and no discrimination for strike activity. The bravery and militancy demonstrated by these women, children and men contributed to the strength of the early labor movement in the U.S., setting the stage for unions today.
We honor their memory by working together to build a stronger and more democratic labor movement, which benefits all working people.
Click here to read more about the Bread & Roses Strike.
September 14, 2012: I really enjoyed the Women's Conference, my first one.
The speaker that stands out mostly for me was the San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, it was very uplifting. I recall when she was sworn in as the first women fire chief in 2004.
I had a hard time picking out my favorite workshops because they were all important. My first work shop was, "It's OK to be OK" which was about overcoming workplace trauma. I went there hopeful to gain some tools for myself and my co-workers. The environment at VWR, where I work, can be scary. People go off on each other daily and many have lost jobs. What I got out of the class "It's OK to be OK" was to keep my co-workers laughing. We are all victims at work and even outside of work. Stay strong and be a survivor, not a victim.
Second workshop was history on Eleanor Roosevelt and the American worker. I loved it. We need to learn about our past. I chatted with the instructor, Brigid O'Farrell. We spoke briefly at the end. I said they need to teach labor history in school because they need to learn the struggle we went through to get where we are at. In the state of California labor history is allowed as a lesson in school, but not pushed. This is something to work on.
I joined other Teamster women for lunch with the Sandy Pope, president of Teamsters Local 805. It was an honor. It was truly a joy having lunch with her and other women, like Claudette Begin from Local 2010. We discussed basics on my workplace and how my co-workers have been without a contract for over two years. If anyone gets a chance, like I did, to hangout with Sandy, don't turn it down! She's really a great person and truly cares about our union and everyone she comes in contact with.
Sandy invited me to come along with her for dinner she was having with some Teamster sisters from Oklahoma. We all went site-seeing, shopping, and just had fun. She attracts good people. I can't wait to hang out again in New Orleans at next year's Women's Conference with all my new Teamsters sisters.
Joan Beighley, VWR
Local 853, San Bruno, Calif.
Click here to contact the TDU Women's Caucus.