Unite and Conquer: Notes from a UPS Part-Timer

Every day I walk to the time clock to punch in. On the way, I say “hey” to a handful of loaders, sorters, and a few clerks, but rarely a driver. At my shop, solidarity between UPS drivers and part-timers is the biggest and most overlooked issue. Management deserves credit for dividing us. In response, Teamsters must do an even better job of coming together on the shop floor. We may all work at the same hub, and be covered under the same Master Agreement, but UPS has driven a wedge between part-timers and drivers. That wedge is production standards, understaffing and the company’s daily violation of our union contract.

Production Standards Pressure Workers: A Classic Example

Management always tries to get the most work out of the fewest workers. Last week was a classic example. One day the whole supply chain was backed up. The guy I usually load my trailer with was home because of an injury so we were short one. On top of that, the newest package handler was not called in. So we were down two. Of course, that day we were slammed with packages and were 20 minutes late getting the trailer loaded. If the feeder driver is late, he hears about it from the supervisor. These kinds of things happen all the time at my shop, and create a lot of tension between drivers and loaders. What can we do together to confront management and not each other?

Meeting in the parking lot, before or after your shift, is a good way to open up communication between drivers and part-timers. Talk about what it’s like to work under these standards and how supervisors often do bargaining unit work instead of hiring more workers or giving current employees more hours. This is a direct violation of our contract and we should fight it.

Full Time Jobs Mean Union Power

Where are the full-time inside jobs required by the last contract? What is the union doing about it? How do full-time inside jobs benefit drivers? If more part-timers become full-time they will be more involved in the union, making it stronger. Many part-timers view their union dues as little more than a tax. In many locals, that is sadly all they are. With delegate and international elections around the corner, it’s more important than ever to make this an issue so as to find common ground between UPS’ Teamster employees.

Your Grievance Is My Grievance

Imagine if management had to face consequences inside for grievances drivers filed and vice versa. Workers should encourage their stewards to work with each other in filing and presenting grievances—especially when they are about the same issue like supervisors doing bargaining unit work or forcing production standards.

Setting up an informal get-together, even just once a month, will give brothers and sisters a chance to talk about what’s bothering them. When a part-timer becomes a driver is a good time to build bridges between the two sets of workers. Stay in contact and have the new driver speak to other part-timers who are interested in driving. Find out if the new driver is having problems or has filed any grievances. Encourage folks to attend local meetings and especially craft meetings at your local dedicated to UPS, if you have them.

Rallying around new job creation and holding the company to what they’ve promised is a way to both unite the workforce and to improve the quality of our workdays. UPS is a billion dollar company because of the work Teamsters do on the ground every day. But still we hear rumblings about things like the nonunion competition at Fed-Ex and an alternative pension to Central States. If we’re going to fight the concessions pushed by the company and sold to us by union officers who are too cozy with management, then we need a strong, member-driven union united across classifications.
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