Now’s the Time to Organize Overnite

“We are hopeful that UPS long history as a company with Teamster representation will create new opportunities for Overnite workers to achieve their goals in the workplace.”
—James Hoffa, May 16 IBT statement on UPS-Overnite

“The Teamsters will never rest until workplace justice is a reality for our brave brothers and sisters at Overnite.”
—James Hoffa, August 2001 Teamster Magazine

Which is it, Mr. Hoffa: Hoping management will do the right thing, or promising a fight for workplace justice?

How about instead carrying out a plan to make it happen?

Experts agree that UPS needs to integrate a freight company into its operations. At stake is UPS position as the world’s leading transportation company.

Overnite is a $1.65 billion-a-year company. UPS plans to double Overnite’s size to compete with FedEx Freight. UPS has to make this acquisition succeed. This gives our union tremendous leverage, and we’ve got to use it to organize Overnite.

Shippers and stock analysts are closely scrutinizing the UPS-Overnite acquisition. Everyone knows that union representation at Overnite is a major issue. To be successful, we need to turn organizing rights at Overnite from an “issue” into a deal-breaker.

The Goal: A Free and Fair Choice

We know from experience that Overnite will spare no expense—and violate any law—to keep out the Teamsters in an NLRB election.

The IBT’s goal needs to be card-check recognition at Overnite with an enforceable neutrality agreement. A card-check would mean that if a majority of workers sign a Teamster card, then management would recognize the union. A neutrality agreement means that workers are free to choose whether to sign a card without a management campaign of fear and intimidation.

Campaign to Make it Happen

UPS didn’t buy Overnite to bring more members into the Teamsters union and our benefit plans. Management is only going to allow Overnite workers a free and fair choice on unionization if the alternative is worse.

What is such an alternative? A Teamster campaign that targets UPS and Overnite customers with information about Overnite employees’ right to organize. If necessary, we have to be ready to escalate to asking major shippers to drop UPS-Overnite. We may even have to target major shippers with pressure campaigns.

First Steps

Of course, no one is suggesting that we launch a corporate campaign tomorrow. But preparation has to start now. Some first steps would include:

Involving Teamster members: The IBT needs to launch a major internal campaign to inform UPS and freight Teamsters on what’s at stake for the future of our union, our job security, and our pension plans. We need to start building local Overnite organizing committees of UPS and freight Teamsters that are coordinated as part of an International program.

Outreach to Overnite workers:
Management will be hitting Overnite workers with all kinds of anti-Teamster, pro-Big Brown propaganda. Our union needs a worker-to-worker welcome program in place by the time of the merger this fall.

Tracking freight and building customer lists: We need to immediately start tracking freight and coordinating grievances. At first there may be little loss of volume from UPS to Overnite, but it will grow over time. We need a computerized plan that starts in every building and terminal and is coordinated nationally. As part of this program, we need to assemble a major customer list as well. This information will be worth a fortune for winning subcontracting grievances. But much more importantly, it will give us the ability put the hurt on the company if we need to.

Is this the definitive, winning plan? Of course not. But it is an outline of the kind of plan we need. A plan to win needs to come from the leaders working with UPS and freight locals, stewards and members along with Overnite workers.

No Time to Wait

Organizing Overnite cannot be put off until 2008. By that time UPS will have an ingrained and growing nonunion culture inside the brown machine, and some ready-made ability to undercut a potential strike.

Now is the time to move. Many Overnite workers are talking about their chance to get a union, since UPS already has 200,000 Teamsters under contract. We need to organize now to encourage UPS to do the right thing, by showing them the consequences of doing the wrong thing.
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