Teamster leadership enforces UPS small-package contract over objections of several locals

Mark B. Solomon
DC Velocity
April 24, 2014

The Teamsters Union has imposed the UPS Inc. small-package contract on all 235,000 unionized UPS employees despite repeated objections by several Teamster locals, including the largest in the UPS system.

The move, disclosed in a memo dated yesterday, is considered unprecedented in the 111-year history of the Teamsters, according to Ken Paff, national organizer of the Teamsters For a Democratic Union (TDU), a Teamster dissident group. Never before have Teamster leaders overridden the sentiments of some of its rank and file and agreed to impose a collective-bargaining agreement, Paff said.

In late March, DC Velocity reported comments from TDU that union leaders were mulling a plan to impose the five-year contract by effectively stripping members of the recalcitrant locals of the right to vote on supplements and riders to the UPS master contract. Although a five-year contract was ratified last June, it has not taken effect because all locals had not ratified their respective riders and supplements. Supplements cover such issues as health care benefits, part-time wages, and the number of new jobs that can be created.

The union won the right in its 1991 contract with UPS to vote on all supplements and riders. Prior to that, the master contract and all supplements and riders were voted on at one time nationwide.

Yesterday's move came almost two weeks after members of Local 89 in Louisville, Ky., which represents workers at UPS global air hub known as "Worldport," rejected its contract supplement by a vote of 2,804 to 185. The local had already overwhelmingly rejected the master contract, and the April 10 vote marked the second time it rejected its supplement. With about 9,300 members, the local is the largest in the UPS system.

Besides Louisville, locals in Philadelphia and western Pennsylvania have rejected their respective supplements.

About 95 percent of UPS' unionized small-package workers have voted to approve their supplemental agreements, the Teamsters National Negotiating Committee said in the memo. The actions by the three locals are holding up the payment of about $300 million in unpaid wages and benefit contributions from UPS, the committee said.

In its memo, the committee said it could declare a contract to be in force if members are repeatedly rejecting a supplement or rider based on language already ratified as part of the national agreement. According to the committee, the main sticking point has been a shift in UPS' health insurance, an issue that had already been voted on and ratified as part of the master contract.

The three supplements take effect tomorrow, while the switch to the new health insurance becomes effective June 1, the committee said. The supplements represent UPS' best and final offers to the locals, the committee said.

However, in a statement last night, Local 89 officials said "many unresolved issues" remain besides the concerns over health coverage. Those issues include how many full-time jobs can be created, employee disability, and UPS' subcontracting policies, among others.

The statement blasted Ken Hall, the Teamsters' vice chairman and head of the committee negotiating the small-package agreement, for "selling out thousands of [his] fellow Teamsters" and for groveling "for table scraps of [his] corporate master, UPS." The local, which has been vocal in its displeasure over Hall's efforts, said he has "catastrophically failed in his duty to the membership" by mishandling contract negotiations and for failing to protect the members' right to strike.

Teamster officials declined comment. UPS, which at the time labeled the late March story in DC Velocityas "speculative," was unavailable to comment.

In March, Local 89 filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against UPS for unfair labor practices and "regressive" bargaining. The local said that UPS has reneged on contract provisions that both sides had already agreed upon.

Besides the locals in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, contracts covering 15,000 UPS Teamsters at two locals in Chicago and northern Indiana remain open. These contracts are separate from the national agreement, TDU said.

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