From Tough Talk to Contract Concessions

"We're not paying $90. We're not
paying $9. We're not paying 9¢.
We're not paying premiums
for health insurance for a company
that made $4.389 billion."

— Ken Hall, Conference Call with
UPS Shop Stewards, Feb. 2, 2013
"What we need to be doing is
sending a message and making
sure that our members understand
that we're not going to be talking
about concessions, we're going
to be talking about improvements."

Ken Hall
Speech on UPS Contract
IBT Convention
June 30, 2011

August 9, 2013: The UPS and UPS Freight contract negotiations were supposed to be the opening act in Ken Hall’s bid to succeed Hoffa as Teamster General President. But the show did not go according to script.

Hall started out talking tough. He vowed, "We're not going to be talking about concessions." Hall added that he hoped UPS made $10 billion in profits because, "the more they make, the more we take."

Members were ready to follow his lead. They turned out in huge numbers at contract rallies across the country to oppose healthcare concessions where Hall led chants of, "No way, we won't pay."

How did all the tough talk turn to contract concessions so fast?

Smoke and Mirrors

From the beginning, both UPS management and the Hoffa administration knew that Teamster members were never going to accept paying healthcare premiums—not when UPS is making nearly $4.5 billion a year.

But the company wanted to cut healthcare costs and control them for the future—and Hall wanted a contract that he could use to run for General President.

So Ken Hall scripted a UPS contract campaign designed to make him come out looking like the hero who stopped co-pays by "forcing UPS" to put members into a union health plan: Teamcare.

But when Teamster members realized the deal would hike their healthcare costs, they refused to follow the script—voting to reject a record 18 contract supplements and nearly overturning the national contract.

Since then, Hall has gone from talking tough about management to getting tough on Teamster members—telling members that healthcare is a done deal and making a full-court press to push through the rejected supplements.

Lessons for the Future

Winning good contracts takes more than a scripted contract campaign. It takes a plan to mobilize the union's power and pressure the employer. 

UPS is no pushover. But they depend on Teamsters to deliver their packages. They worry mightily about their public image and the threat of shippers bolting to nonunion competitors.

That gives UPSers leverage to win better contracts. But only if our union is willing to use it.

The UPS and UPS Freight contracts exposed the empty talk of Hoffa-Hall and other top Teamster leaders.

But the contract has also taught us something about ourselves.

Teamster members have shown we are ready to stand up to
contract concessions—more ready than the IBT.

Teamster members have shown the power of grassroots organizing—using leaflets, petitions, rallies, meetings, Facebook and the internet to share information and mobilize against givebacks.

And Teamster members have shown the power of linking up nationally. If we had voted down one or two supplements, this would all have been swept under the rug. Teaming up across the country gave members leverage and power.

That's why Hoffa-Hall are working so hard now to convince members they are powerless.

Rebuilding Union Power at UPS

Hoffa-Hall and UPS management want to put the contract behind them and get back to business-as-usual—big profits for UPS, and production harassment and weak contract enforcement for us.

UPS Teamsters can rebuild union power at UPS and the Vote No fight against concessions has shown us how.

TDU gives UPS Teamsters the tools to get organized locally and coordinate with concerned Teamsters across North America.

We don't have to be bystanders in our own union while Ken Hall performs his smoke and mirrors routine.

We can move to center stage and rebuild union power for the members.

TDU is looking for concerned Teamsters who want to work together to win contract improvements. Get involved today. Click here to contact the UPS Network. Contact the UPS Freight Network by clicking here.

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