Is Early Bargaining the Answer for UPS Contract?

UPSers Clear on Improvements Needed

October 18, 2006. UPS Teamsters are clear on the improvements we need to win in the next contract on issues like benefits, overtime, fairness for combo workers, part-time wages, and restrictions on subcontracting and supervisors working. What’s less clear is how early bargaining will give us the leverage we need to win these improvements.

Since the announcement, UPS has basked in glowing reports in the business press. Early bargaining, after all, means that the contract may not get anywhere near a real deadline that could make shippers antsy enough to pressure UPS to settle. It also means that the contract could be wrapped up before another critical time for management—the 100th anniversary next August. Bargaining is scheduled to open on Sept. 19.

“It would be terrible to settle before the anniversary year, when we have the potential to really disrupt things—if the members were involved,” says UPS part-timer Dawn Stanger in Vermont.

And while the IBT keeps busy with press releases, UPS management is getting supervisors into contract mode, preparing to swamp members with their take on issues and events.

A strong campaign is needed to counter management’s pressure, but so far that hasn’t happened. Recent contract proposal meetings were a case in point. Hoffa gave locals just two weeks notice for holding the proposal meetings in August, not exactly the best month for union meetings.

Turnout at contract meetings was lower than ever before. Some locals, like Local 384 in Philadelphia, didn’t even bother to hold meetings. Most went through the motions but failed to inspire confidence in UPS Teamsters.

“Some of the members came prepared with good ideas,” says Al Hildestad from Des Moines Local 90. “But a lot of people are skeptical whether any of the proposals will really get to the bargaining table.”

In spite of the skepticism, member opinions on issues are crystal clear. Benefits, overtime, part-time wages, subcontracting and supervisors working were raised as top issues.

“One thing is for sure,” Louisville Local 89 steward David Thornsberry said about the contract, “any UPS contract is going down in the vote if it does not make major improvements in the areas where we have gotten burned so badly by UPS and Hoffa.”

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