BNA Daily Labor Report: UPS Freight Begins Talks with Machinists

May 12, 2008: Representatives of UPS Freight and the International Association of Machinists are scheduled to begin negotiations June 23 on a first contract that would cover about 200 auto mechanics and support personnel organized by IAM at 13 of the company's freight terminals in 11 separate states, management and labor representatives told BNA.

The union hopes through card-check authorizations to extend the contract's coverage to as many as 1,000 mechanics and support personnel at 90 terminals nationwide.

The negotiations are the direct result of a card-check and neutrality agreement reached between the parties in 2006, according to Norman Black, a spokesman for United Parcel Service, UPS Freight's parent company. The agreement was modelled on a higher-profile agreement between UPS Freight and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which led to the April 7 ratification of a first contract covering almost 10,000 truck drivers and dockworkers, Black said (67 DLR A-12, 4/8/08).

Under the card-check and neutrality agreement, IAM organizers are able to solicit union authorization cards from the company's mechanics and support workers without interference or opposition from UPS Freight managers, according to IAM spokesman Boysen Anderson. Once the organizers have obtained authorization cards from a majority of the workers in a bargaining unit, the cards would be submitted to an independent arbitrator for verification. Upon verification, UPS Freight would then recognize IAM as the authorized bargaining agent, without a National Labor Relations Board-supervised election, he said.

Part of the agreement with IAM was that the actual start of organizing and the collection of employee authorization cards among mechanics would not begin until late 2007, after the IBT's similar card-check and neutrality agreement went into full effect, Anderson said.

"The agreement has worked well, and we've moved fairly quickly to the start of negotiations. I am confident that we will reach agreement on a first contract fairly soon" after the start of formal negotiations, Anderson said.

Initial Talks Will Cover 13 Terminals

Anderson told BNA that the union has an agreement with UPS Freight that the initial talks will cover 13 terminals where IAM already has been recognized as bargaining agent, or where recognition is expected soon.

The number of employees in the 13 bargaining units currently is about 200, Anderson said, but the negotiations potentially could affect other UPS Freight employees if they become represented by IAM in the future. He estimated the total number of auto mechanics and support personnel eligible for IAM representation to be about 1,000.

Anderson compared the initial IAM and UPS Freight negotiations to the first talks that took place between IBT and UPS Freight over truck drivers and dockworkers at the company's Indianapolis terminal last year (196 DLR A-7, 10/11/07). That contract, which covers only 135 employees, "provided a road map" for the much larger contract that was negotiated later, he said.

IAM bargaining units included in the upcoming negotiations are located in Bridgeton, Mo,; Chicago; Detroit; Harrisburg, Pa., Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee; Newburgh, N.Y.; Northborough, Mass.; Providence, R.I.; Richmond, Va.; Reno, Nev.; Springfield, Mass.; and Toldeo, Ohio, the union said.

IAM organizers have gathered a sufficient number of authorization cards for union recognition at an additional 19 terminals, Anderson said, although those bargaining units will not be part of the initial contract negotiations with the company.

UPS Freight spokesman Ira Rosenfeld told BNA that the company currently operates 215 terminals nationwide, but only 90 of these terminals employ mechanics.

IAM's Unusual Organizing Opportunity

Anderson said the origins of the IAM organizing effort at UPS Freight were unique.

Like the Teamsters, IAM had a long-standing contractual relationship with parent company United Parcel Service at the time that the company purchased Overnite Transportation in 2005, and then renamed it UPS Freight, Anderson said. The union represents about 3,000 mechanics at the parent company's facilities nationwide.

The next year, Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa announced that the union had negotiated a card-check and neutrality agreement to cover the truck drivers and dockworkers at the new UPS Freight subsidiary (125 DLR C-1, 6/29/06).

"Obviously, when we saw that, our reaction was, 'If the Teamsters are entitled to card-check neutrality at UPS Freight because of their relationship with United Parcel Service, then certainly we are too," Anderson said. "And I give credit to UPS because they immediately saw the logic of that, and we moved quickly to an understanding."

UPS Freight spokesman Rosenfeld said the company was pleased that negotiations aimed at a first contract with IAM are set to begin soon and that the company is looking forward to a productive relationship with the Machinists.

By Bruce H. Vail

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