Overtime Overload

We’re being buried in forced overtime because of understaffing. Management is making us work 60 and 70-hour weeks. How can we make management hire enough employees, instead of working us to death.

–Overloaded on Overtime

Dear Overloaded,

Unwanted, forced overtime is a growing problem for Teamsters. With benefit costs rising, companies would rather make fewer Teamsters work more. Some overtime can be good, but for many Teamsters it’s gone too far. Here are a few ways members are fighting back.

In some contracts, members have won restrictions on forced overtime. Grocery workers in Oregon Local 206 have contract language that bans mandatory overtime beyond two hours per shift. The UPS contract also contains language that restricts forced overtime.

Of course, any contract language is only as good as our union’s resolve to enforce it. If your contract doesn’t include these kinds of restrictions it’s something to fight for in the next negotiations.

In the meantime, members can still take action to reduce forced overtime. A group grievance or petition is a good place to start. A group of warehouse workers in Southern California took this a step further. Hundreds of them filled out forms along with their doctors to become eligible for periodic unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. A delegation of workers delivered the stack of forms, telling management “For every action, there’s a reaction.”

Management can play hardball too, forcing employees who take FMLA leave to use up their sick and vacation time while they are out. But an action like this, when done as a group, sends management a message and can obtain results.

Lots of times it’s our kids and spouses who are the hardest hit by unwanted forced overtime and they can play a part in solving the problem too. A batch of letters to management from kids who want to know why they never see their mom or dad can be effective—especially if management knows the letters will be going to the media next. There’s nothing like a group of kids passing out flyers offering a reward for returning “Missing Parents” to get the media’s attention—and management’s.

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