Heat on UPS or Just Hot Air?

“Over 2,000 new jobs created” the Teamster magazine cover trumpets. Read on and we learn that these jobs came about as a result of the IBT “turning up the heat” on UPS over subcontracting and other violations.

Turning up the heat could be welcome, but is that really the case or is this just because of the International Union election this year? The contract has been in effect for three and a half years, so why has it taken so long?

Members, stewards and officers on the ground know the real story.

“FedEx is kicking UPS’ butt in some corridors,” Kansas City feeder driver Michael Savwoir explained. “This is about improved time in transit, that is where feeder jobs are coming from.”

For some time now UPS has been shifting volume off rail and onto trucks. Rail congestion and delays are one reason for the move. Another reason is the trend within the trucking industry to offer shippers ever-tighter transit time guarantees. A royal battle has resulted, with freight and small package trucking companies competing over this profitable sector of the market.

In Atlanta, UPS is adding 60 feeder positions, most as a result of a shift from rail to truck. UPS is also shifting its feeder network in the Northeast. Work is moving from the Alexandria, Va., rail facility to Parsippany, N.J., where numerous feeder jobs will be created. Providence, R.I., is also picking up feeder positions.

In the Midwest, UPS has added sleeper and mileage runs in the Kansas City area, including a 682-mile turn to Dallas. The Earth City building in St. Louis is getting new mileage runs.

“While hard to track fully, subcontracting is basically the same,” Savwoir said. “Members and stewards in many areas have kept the heat on UPS and the IBT about the problem for years. By getting better at documenting subcontracting, stewards in some areas are winning monetary settlements on grievances. But UPS still subcontracts.”

Some subcontracting grievances have been won, and every victory is welcome. But it will take a lot more of that to end the subcontracting. In some areas UPS is routinely using Mail Contractors of America to move trailers from rail yards to UPS buildings. Grievances are still pending over this contract violation.

Sometimes what is missing tells an important part of the story. A related issue, not mentioned in the Teamster magazine, is how and when UPS plans to integrate nonunion Overnite Transportation into its operation. Trucking analysts note that in the long run, it makes no sense to keep the operations separate. FedEx has been very successful in integrating its freight, package and air operations.

The Teamster leadership needs a plan to bring all UPS divisions into our union.

The growing number of mileage and sleeper runs, and their effect on the whole feeder operation is another issue for the future. UPS has a long-term plan for transforming the way feeder work is done.

Global Warming 2006: UPS Teamsters need to brace themselves for a major warming trend in 2006. Hoffa’s PR machine has started pumping hot air. The forecast for 2006, at least until the IBT election, is for the hot, sticky conditions to continue. The only relief will be an organized and informed Teamster membership.
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