May 1, 2007: Nichele Fulmore has been a package car driver at UPS in Lumberton, North Carolina for over 12 years. She is a member of Teamsters Local 391 and has been a full-time steward for two years. She began organizing to reform the Teamsters when she realized that “things weren’t right, especially when members are kept in the dark.”
As part of our ongoing “Women Leaders in Our Unions” series, read more about how Nichele is standing up for the women, and men, in her local.
Labor Notes: How many other women in your local do the kind of challenging physical work you do?
Nichele Fulmore: There are only two other women drivers in my building, out of about 40 drivers. I was the only woman for at least five years.
The work is really tough physically—we have to be able to lift up to 70 pounds and the older trucks don’t have power steering. The job just wears you out when you’re out driving and lifting all day long, sometimes for 10-12 hours at a stretch. I think the fact that this is such a challenging job physically deters a lot of women from taking this job. I grew up working, so I was pretty sure I could manage it.
LN: UPS is pretty demanding when it comes to the physical requirements, isn’t it?
NF: Yes. When I was pregnant my doctor put me on a 20-pound weight restriction and UPS just treated me as if I had an off-the-job injury. So the best I could get was short-term disability through the union while I was off work, but when that ran out, I spent all my time trying to figure out how to keep my head above water financially. I filed a grievance with the union, but we lost it.
TDU (Teamsters for a Democratic Union) put me in touch with other women at UPS who had the same problem. We tried to build a campaign around this issue because it’s happening to pregnant women everywhere—except in California, where the law says that you are allowed to request light duty while you are pregnant. It’s tough to get women organized around this issue because we are such a minority in the trucking industry and we’re all afraid for our jobs, especially in the South.
It’s good we raised this issue though, because it made people more aware of this injustice. Anytime you try to change something that is wrong, there is going to be a struggle. We have to continue to get more members involved—including men—so that we can tackle this issue, and others, more effectively.
When I talked with my male co-workers about it, I asked them, “Would you want your mom, wife, or sister put out of work just because they are pregnant?” It’s an issue for everyone.
LN: How do you and your women co-workers deal with the male-dominated culture at UPS?
NF: We’ll talk amongst each other as much as we can, to give each other support. I’m the steward also, so if they have problems then they take it up with me. We definitely started to stick together more once we got so we would trust each other.
In the beginning you want to see if someone will respond to favoritism from management, by accepting easier routes and stuff like that. So even among women you need to prove yourself. It does make it harder for women though, because we are also having to prove to the men that we can do “their” jobs as well as they can. So you’re working harder, making sure you follow the book, and not complaining about your job.
LN: I know that you also spend a fair amount of time connecting with workers in other unions. Why?
NF: That’s right. I’ve been trying to make contact with different unions in my area. We’re—organized labor, that is—a minority here in North Carolina and so it’s important to try to build some solidarity between us. So I did some picket line support with the striking Goodyear workers recently together with some other rank-and-file Teamsters. We bought a hog and cooked it on their line and also donated some turkeys for Christmas.
Lately I’ve also been going out to meet meatpacking workers at Smithfield. I was just there a few weekends ago. Some Spanish-speaking guy came up and hugged me. I don’t speak Spanish, but we understood each other. I never felt so much inner joy as at that contact. The only difference among people that exists in the world is between men and women; all the other differences we create and we need to work to break those walls down.
LN: If a woman asks you for advice on becoming active in her workplace and union, what would you tell her?
NF: Know your stuff, and educate yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you know is right. Take leadership positions, run for steward and such, when you can, as that will encourage other women and will start to focus the labor movement on issues that are important to women.
And look for role models and try to learn from them. I did a lot of reading on Dr. King. I’m still amazed at the kind of stand a woman like Viola Liuzzo took during the civil rights movement—she was a white woman from Detroit whose husband was a Teamster and who traveled down to Selma, Alabama to join Dr. King on his march to Montgomery, only to be shot by KKK men soon after the march ended. She wanted to come and make a difference and that really inspires me.
by Marsha Niemeijer for Labor Notes magazine
Read more at Labornotes.org.
April 12, 2007: More than 20,000 Teamsters in California have won an $87 million victory versus UPS.
On April 9, a California State judge officially approved a settlement of a class action lawsuit filed against UPS for forcing employees to work off the clock. One result is that package car drivers are seeing less forced, excessive overtime.
“For me this was never about the money. This is about the change. I wanted UPS to start abiding by the law and respect the contract.” said Local 70 Teamster Kim Marchant, a 21-year driver and class rep in the lawsuit.
“I have drivers coming up to me now and saying I love that I can go home at a reasonable hour and not be harassed to work through my lunch,” Marchant said.
Under California law, employees have to be given a meal break within their first five hours of work. Employees who work more than 10 hours a day are entitled to a second meal period and three paid 10-minute breaks.
UPS package car drivers covered by the lawsuit who worked more than ten hours a day routinely worked through their lunch and “paid” breaks. Drivers also had to wait more than five hours for their first meal break.
Drivers turned to the courts after being told by Teamster officials that nothing could be done about the company’s wage and hour violations. As a result, 23,000 drivers are millions richer—with the bulk of that money going to 10,000 who were the most effected by the company’s violations. Some drivers were awarded as much as $20,000.
An additional $4 million in unclaimed money is going to food banks in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Last summer, UPS management tried to undermine the members’ lawsuit by getting the California Legislature to pass a bill that would give unionized transportation companies (like UPS) an exemption from laws requiring lunch breaks during specified times in work shifts.
In an effort to get the governor to sign the bill, management instructed Teamsters to sign letters in support of the legislation and give them back to supervisors in unsealed envelopes. UPS management’s lobbying effort failed and Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill last September, helping to pave the way to this week’s $87 million victory.
The same law firm York Law Corp. is currently representing Teamster members in a lawsuit against Waste Management for similar violations of California wage and hour laws.
April 2, 2007: Our Teamster negotiators have exchanged proposals on language and economics with UPS. Now it’s time for them to exchange information with the members.
Our negotiators and UPS suspended further national bargaining until May after swapping proposals on wages, pensions and benefits. Bargaining over local supplements and riders will be held throughout the month of April.
UPS has dug in on critical language issues, and the toughest part of negotiations still lies ahead. The challenge is not just to win record increases in benefit contributions—but to win enough to reverse the benefit cuts imposed on us under the “Best Contract Ever.”
To win the language and benefit gains we need, our negotiators need to end the “Brown Out” and tell us where we stand on the critical issues after more than six months of negotiations. And our union needs to begin uniting Teamster members to show the company we are serious about winning a strong contract and benefit improvements.
Involved Members Build Our Bargaining Power
In 1997, we won labor’s biggest victory in 25 years. Teamsters were kept regularly informed with bulletins that got into the specifics of contract demands. We didn’t just get told when the next bargaining sessions were being held.
The International Union organized a mobilization campaign that united the membership and won overwhelming support for our union’s bargaining demands.
Ten years later, UPS Teamsters are being kept in the dark. And the IBT has taken no action to build public support around key issues, like retirement security, that resonate with all working families. Why aren’t we applying the lessons of the 1997 victory?
Management needs to see that members are informed and involved and ready to take action if we have to.
Six months into the 2002 negotiations, our union had already held more than 50 rallies plus a nationwide truck caravan. Early bargaining on the 2008 contract has now lasted longer than the entire 2002 negotiations—and the IBT has not sponsored a single rally, petition, sticker day or unity-building activity of any kind.
Help Make UPS Deliver
Concerned Teamsters at UPS are working together to win the contract we deserve. Through the Make UPS Deliver website and campaign, we are building a network to share information and build rank-and-file unity.
UPS management is under pressure from stockholders and shippers to reach an early agreement. That gives our union leverage, but only if UPS sees that members are prepared to stand up for the contract we deserve.
We are all going to have to live with the results of the 2008 agreement. Invest some time in your future. Contact www.MakeUPSDeliver.org or call TDU. Get involved with our rank-and-file network. Together, we can send UPS and Hoffa the message that we won’t settle short again.
More UPS Coverage:
- Central States Fund Expands to $21 Billion
- Three Demands that Can Help Defeat the Cuts
- UPS Feeder Drivers Demand a Snow Plan
April 2, 2007: UPS’s $4 billion profits and new pension fund rules mean the company will pay record contributions toward our benefits in the 2008 contract.
But our union has other bargaining demands that are just as critical if we’re going to beat the pension cuts and win better benefits.
Include All UPS Part-Timers in Teamster Pension Funds
Part-timers are already included in Teamster plans, including two of our strongest funds, the West and Upstate New York. Now our negotiating committee is demanding that ALL part-timers be included in Teamster funds.
This will put tens of thousands of younger Teamsters into our pension plans and add hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions every year. Contributions made for part-timers who leave before they are vested will go to help other Teamsters, not to fatten the company’s bottom line.
This change would also mean higher benefits for part-timers who stay on at UPS and go full time because their part time years will be worth much more—instead of the low reciprocal benefit they currently get.
Put UPS Freight Employees in Teamster Pension Plans
UPS employs around 15,000 nonunion drivers and dock workers at UPS Freight.
Unionizing these workers nationwide and bringing them into Teamster benefit plans would add some $180 million in pension contributions to our funds every year.
15,000 Full-Time Jobs
Every full-time job at UPS means more contributions and stronger pension funds. We need to create 3,000 full-time jobs a year in this contract, to strengthen our pension plans and bring full time opportunities to all UPSers.
April 2, 2007: The Central States Pension Fund ended 2006 with a $1.4 billion gain in assets, reaching $20.7 billion—up from just $15 billion a few years ago. The fund projects that by the end of 2007, assets will be up to $21.2 billion, with expected investment returns. With better returns, the Fund projects that they will surpass $22 billion.
These figures are in the fund’s Financial and Analytical Reports obtained by TDU in February 2007.
This big gain in assets at Central States shows the impact of benefit accrual cuts imposed on members, and diversion of money from health and welfare to the pension fund for the third year in a row.
In addition, 2006 was a good year for investors, with the Fund’s investments earning 14.5 percent.
What Will it Take To Restore Benefits?
Last fall, UPS chief negotiator Ken Hall met with representatives from the Central States and other Teamster funds to get briefed on what it will take to protect and improve our benefits over the life of the UPS contract. The same figures will apply to the 2008 National Master Freight Agreement.
To date, that information has been kept secret from the members.
In December, the fund informed all Locals that all new contracts negotiated must contain eight percent annual increases in pension contributions, or those members will be kicked out of fund participation.
This mean that in the UPS contract there must be pension contributions of at least 40¢ per hour the first year, then 50¢, and then 60¢ by the fifth year if the contract is that long. These are minimums required to stay in the fund, not to restore benefit cuts.
Members Launch Petition for Retirement Security
The new rule means that UPS and freight employers will pay record contributions in the 2008 contracts. But so far only top officials at the IBT and Central States (and management) know how much we need to bargain to improve our benefits.
Some Central States Teamsters at UPS have started a petition drive to demand this information and to stand up for our benefits.
The “United to Win Strong Pensions” petition states, “UPSers work hard and we deserve strong pensions, not cuts. We will not vote to approve any contract unless it delivers the retirement security we were promised in 2002.”
The petition puts forward a program that Central States Teamsters can unite around:
- Immediately restore affordable retiree healthcare
- Give Central States Teamsters a timetable for full restoration of the 2003 pension cuts
- Inform members in writing what our benefits will be before we vote on any contract
- Include part-timers in our pension fund to improve benefits for full and part-timers alike
- Reasonable reemployment rules adopted by the Central States Pension Fund
April 2, 2007: After a late-winter blizzard pounded the Midwest, Feeder Drivers in the Kansas City area are asking UPS management to institute an emergency road plan for winter weather conditions. Road drivers are fed-up with a policy that intimidates and coerces operations in impossible or hazardous winter storm conditions.
UPS drivers are routinely forced into winter storms, even blizzard conditions, under threat of firing (for job abandonment). Then, if there is an accident, the driver could be fired as well. You’re “damned if ya’ do and damned if ya’ don’t”! We call for a policy to protect the safety of our employees as well as the motoring public.
Emergency plans for building operations, i.e. fire, tornado, earthquake, etc. are an acceptable and necessary requirement (OSHA-mandated) of business operations. Why should we who work our nation’s highways accept anything less?
We’re asking for a reasonable policy that gives discretion to drivers to pull off the road in dangerous conditions. Presently drivers have to rely on outside help (such as Paul Taylor of the Truckers Justice Center, and TDU), or collective self-help (if many drivers refuse to operate in unsafe conditions, they are a lot more protected). UPS has professional drivers; they should treat them accordingly when it comes to highway safety in dangerous conditions.
To get a copy of Paul Taylor’s article on your rights in snowy weather, contact TDU: (313) 842-2600 or click here to send a message.
—Michael Savwoir is a UPS feeder driver in Local 41 in Kansas City, Mo.
April 2, 2007: President James Hoffa has been briefed by the different Teamster benefit funds on what we need to win in the UPS and freight contracts to increase our benefits. This information needs to be shared with Teamster members.
In 2002 and 2003, Teamsters were promised that our benefits would be secure for the life of the UPS, freight and carhaul contracts.
Later, court documents revealed that the Central States Pension Fund repeatedly warned President Hoffa during the UPS negotiations that Teamsters would face severe cuts if sufficient benefit contributions were not negotiated.
Members were never told about these warnings or what we needed to negotiate to avoid the cuts. This year members need to be informed.
Hoffa knows what we need to win in bargaining to pay for benefit improvements in the different funds that cover Teamsters at UPS and in freight. Management has the same information.
The only possible reason to keep members in the dark is to give our negotiators room to settle short again.
This is our contract and these are our benefits. It's time for Hoffa to tell us what benefit contribution levels we need to win in our 2008 contracts.
March 19, 2007: The attack on our pensions began while the ink was still drying on Hoffa’s promise that our benefits would be secure under the ‘Best Contract Ever.’ First came the pension cuts in 2003. Then the misnamed Pension Protection Act.
After three years of attacks, contract negotiations give us the chance go on the offensive and win the pension improvements we need.
To help Teamsters make the most of this opportunity, Make UPS Deliver will be helping to organize meetings and workshops to bring UPS Teamsters and pension experts together to talk about:
?What's at Stake in UPS Bargaining—and What Can Be Won
?How the Pension Protection Act Will Affect Our Benefit Funds
?What Teamsters at UPS Can Do To Protect and Improve Our Pensions
Every Teamster benefit fund has been affected differently by the attack on our retirement security. Teamsters in the Central States, for example, face specific challenges based on new policies adopted by the fund after the 2003 cuts and the agreement trustees made last year with the IRS. Other funds face different issues.
Each workshop will address the particular issues affecting your pension fund—the challenges that apply as well as the opportunities to win improvements.
Now is the time to act. The next UPS and freight contracts will determine the future of our Teamster benefits for years to come. Get informed. Know your rights. And get involved. Your participation now can make the difference.
This article is from Make UPS Deliver. Click here to visit MakeUPSDeliver.org.
March 19, 2007: Six months have passed since our union kicked off bargaining with UPS. Early bargaining has now lasted longer than the entire 2002 talks—and we’re still being kept in the dark.
Here's how you can help.
Our union has now been in intensive negotiations with the company for nearly three months. During that time, the IBT has issued just two bulletins. Each one has told us nothing, except when the next bargaining dates are. That’s not acceptable—not when our pensions, benefits, wages and workplace rights for the next five years are on the line.
Never before have Teamster members been kept this deep in the dark. Negotiations do not need to be held behind closed doors—unless there's a reason to hide what's being discussed.
March 30th Deadline Looms
In January, lead negotiator Ken Hall announced that he has no intention of meeting with the company past March 30. That’s two weeks away and Teamsters at UPS have not gotten a single meaningful report from our negotiators on
?The key issues that are being negotiated
?What progress has been made on language issues and where UPS is opposing the improvements we need
?What our union is demanding to protect and improve our pensions and benefits and what the company’s response has been
Reportedly, our union negotiating committee and UPS have not even exchanged proposals on pensions and healthcare. That’s strange because both Hall and General President Hoffa repeatedly pledged that, “We will tackle these critical issues before addressing other key issues such as work rules, safety and wages.” (President Hoffa, Teamsters Kick Off Negotiations for National UPS Contract, 9/19/2006).
No Info and No Action
UPS is making record profits and stockholders are pushing for an early settlement, preferably before the company’s 100-year anniversary on August 28. We have leverage to strengthen our pensions and our rights on the job on a host of issues: excessive overtime, subcontracting, fairness for 22.3s and part-timers, and more.
Management needs to see that members are informed and involved and ready to take action if we have to. Six months into the 2002 negotiations, our union had already held more than 50 rallies plus a nationwide truck caravan. And that was 2002, which by any measure was quiet compared to our contract campaign in 1997.
The current negotiations have now lasted longer than the entire 2002 talks—and the IBT has not sponsored a single rally, petition, sticker day or unity-building activity of any kind.
According to officials familiar with the talks, UPS is taking a hard line. This is all the more reason our union needs to be informing us about what’s going on and organizing actions at the hubs and centers to demonstrate to the company that we won’t settle short again.
Make UPS Deliver
The Make UPS Deliver campaign was launched to inform and unite UPS Teamsters to win the contract we deserve.
We’re prepared to get behind any campaign by the International Union to mobilize Teamsters at UPS and increase our bargaining leverage. But we can’t afford to wait for Hoffa and Hall. That’s why Make UPS Deliver will continue to build our rank-and-file campaign, to spread the word and to arm Teamsters with the information we need to win a strong contract.
We need your help building our information network. Sign your co-workers up to receive email updates. The bigger our network, the bigger the impact we can have.