July 2006. Recently UPS management has quietly expanded a rural route scheme that they launched under the 2002 contract.
Members from North Carolina to California report that UPS is moving the starting locations for certain rural routes from the UPS building to vacant lots 50 or 60 miles away. Drivers are then forced to drive the extra miles on their own dime to get to work—or relocate, or just bid off the routes and let lower seniority drivers take them.
To get its foot in the door, management may make it seem that they are doing drivers a favor. In Bakersfield, Calif. they got the local to agree to one run because a driver lived far from the UPS building and liked the new arrangement. Then they added other runs to remote locations, forcing other drivers to deal with the extra commuting time and costs. North Georgia management took a similar approach by promising drivers eight-hour days and other goodies.
UPS has a trailer deliver to the remote location each morning. The drivers load their cars, deliver and return in the evening to off-load packages. The DIADs are turned in via a driver who comes by in the evening.
Asheville, N.C. Local 61 members saw five of their runs moved to a parking lot 50 miles from the center. Pressure forced management to provide canvas tarps for protection from the rain, but the runs remain. All of the high seniority drivers got off the runs, bumping back into what are sometimes more physically demanding routes.
Bakersfield driver and Local 87 President Dudley Stewart asked “With profits in the billions why does UPS have to try to save a nickel at the expense of their workers? They are spending thousands of dollars on things like videotaping drivers and then pinching pennies with the rural satellite system.”
When asked about the remote delivery set-up, IBT Small Parcel Director Ken Hall said that he had “sent a letter” to UPS management about the problem. Members dealing with this issue might want to request a copy of that letter from their local, file grievances, and ask the union to take aggressive action to protect our working conditions.
Management did come across with an agreement, which will now be put to a vote of the 2,500 pilots. Not all terms of the contract have been released. Pay for UPS pilots has lagged behind other cargo airlines. FedEx pay has been slightly better and pay at some cargo airlines is nearly $50 per hour more. The UPS pilots have also been concerned about benefits and protections from loss of work to nonunion operations.
October 18, 2006. On Aug. 31, UPS’s 2,775 pilots narrowly ratified an eight-year contract which will give them immediate raises of 18 to 26 percent. The contract was ratified with 56 percent voting yes. UPS pilots belong to the Independent Pilots Association. They were in the Teamsters but left in the 1980s to form the IPA.
UPS pilots got a 29 percent raise over the life of their last seven-year contract. For the new contract, the union set its sights on winning an industry-leading agreement, given UPS’s excellent financial position.
Many pilots hoped to match a contract for Ohio-based cargo carrier ABX Air. Senior pilots for that carrier are paid a rate of $239 per flying hour (UPS pilots were previously at $190 per hour) and pilots with similar seniority at FedEx are paid $201 per hour (before their new contract).
Prior to this new contract, UPS pilots made an average of $175,000 per year.
In July, Brian Gaudet, a spokesman for the International Pilots Association, said that UPS pilots were looking at ABX’s $239 hourly rate as a benchmark in their own negotiations.
“We’re looking at that $239 rate, and FedEx is looking at it and every other major cargo pilots union is looking at it,” Gaudet said.
The new contract includes signing bonuses—UPS captains will get a bonus of $60,000, first officers $40,000, and second officers $34,000.
UPSers Clear on Improvements Needed
October 18, 2006. UPS Teamsters are clear on the improvements we need to win in the next contract on issues like benefits, overtime, fairness for combo workers, part-time wages, and restrictions on subcontracting and supervisors working. What’s less clear is how early bargaining will give us the leverage we need to win these improvements.
Since the announcement, UPS has basked in glowing reports in the business press. Early bargaining, after all, means that the contract may not get anywhere near a real deadline that could make shippers antsy enough to pressure UPS to settle. It also means that the contract could be wrapped up before another critical time for management—the 100th anniversary next August. Bargaining is scheduled to open on Sept. 19.
“It would be terrible to settle before the anniversary year, when we have the potential to really disrupt things—if the members were involved,” says UPS part-timer Dawn Stanger in Vermont.
And while the IBT keeps busy with press releases, UPS management is getting supervisors into contract mode, preparing to swamp members with their take on issues and events.
A strong campaign is needed to counter management’s pressure, but so far that hasn’t happened. Recent contract proposal meetings were a case in point. Hoffa gave locals just two weeks notice for holding the proposal meetings in August, not exactly the best month for union meetings.
Turnout at contract meetings was lower than ever before. Some locals, like Local 384 in Philadelphia, didn’t even bother to hold meetings. Most went through the motions but failed to inspire confidence in UPS Teamsters.
“Some of the members came prepared with good ideas,” says Al Hildestad from Des Moines Local 90. “But a lot of people are skeptical whether any of the proposals will really get to the bargaining table.”
In spite of the skepticism, member opinions on issues are crystal clear. Benefits, overtime, part-time wages, subcontracting and supervisors working were raised as top issues.
“One thing is for sure,” Louisville Local 89 steward David Thornsberry said about the contract, “any UPS contract is going down in the vote if it does not make major improvements in the areas where we have gotten burned so badly by UPS and Hoffa.”
The case stems from work that Teamster Local 177 has been doing with FedEx workers for a number of years. In 2005 the local won an NLRB ruling that FedEx drivers were employees, not contractors. Similar decisions have been issued over the years, which have confirmed that FedEx “contractors” are actually workers who are eligible for unionization.
Drivers at the Barrington, New Jersey terminal became the first FedEx unit to unionize. The new NLRB complaint cites FedEx for threatening and firing workers involved in organizing at the Barrington and West Deptford terminals.
Earlier this year a California court ruled that FedEx Ground single-route drivers in that state were employees and that they should be reclassified as such by April 2006. More than 30 class action lawsuits from contractor drivers are also pending in more than 24 U.S. states. Those lawsuits argue that drivers are not given full autonomy, and demands expense reimbursement, overtime and benefits. If FedEx, which earned $1.4 billion in fiscal 2005, has to classify all 14,000 ground-unit drivers as employees, the pretax hit could be in the neighborhood of $1.4 billion.
By George Kieffer, adapted from the www.denverbrown.com website.
October 18, 2006. UPS continues to get good press concerning its PAS system.
Everyone from technology journals to the main stream press have sung the praises of Package Flow Technology and the Preload Assist System.
Let’s look at a few of the stories about PAS to see how they compare to reality.
Optimize Magazine: “It helps managers ensure that drivers are not overdispatched and that last-minute load changes to a driver’s car are minimized.”
Well...UPS uses PAS to justify putting more work on each car. Drivers are consistently over-dispatched, but now it’s not your supervisor’s fault anymore. It’s “the computer.” Last minute changes are only minimized if your dispatcher keeps his fingers off the buttons. And last minute changes cause havoc to the load.
HighBeam Research: “The automated system...is designed to reduce the number of misloaded packages as well as headaches for drivers.”
Well...I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but misloads and headaches are as abundant with PAS as they were with the old system. Misloads may be worse than ever. And certainly more spectacular.
USA Today: “It lets them do what they do best, and that is to service our customers, build relationships with them.”
Well...One of the goals of PAS is increased productivity. That means more stops per hour. That means less, not more, time to spend with the customer.
Optimize Magazine: “This approach provides the customer with a consistent, reliable service provider.”
Well...With PAS, area boundaries are a thing of the past and routes fluctuate every day. There is no consistency to the stops and many customers see two or three different drivers a week. Of course, what’s a morning stop on one driver’s area may be an afternoon stop in the next route, so customers actually have less consistency with PAS.
Information Week: “This cuts down on the need for loaders to memorize different delivery routes, a skill that normally requires three months of training. With the new labels, training takes just a few hours.”
Well...The company may only be training it’s loaders for a few hours and the loads show it. What’s more surprising is when your loader calls in sick and a supervisor loads your car, the load is almost unrecognizable. I guess the supes must not be trained at all.
USA Today: “The technology also will cut millions of miles in travel for UPS drivers, reducing fuel costs.”
Well...That’s a nice thought, but the system gets bogged down by poor looping and lack of area knowledge. The routes were looped from maps and the wealth of driver knowledge was ignored. Consequently, the shortest and most of efficient way to run each area and save miles is seldom the PAS-looped way.
Material Handling Management: “The end-result of the program has been that it’s taken a lot of stress out of the job for the pre-loader and driver, and put more accuracy into the delivery process.”
Well...My God, are they talking about UPS?
October 18, 2006. This summer in California, UPS tried to enlist Teamsters in their effort to undermine litigation over the company’s practice of forcing employees to work off the clock.
Faced with a major lawsuit involving violations of California wage and hours laws, UPS got the legislature to pass a bill giving unionized transportation companies an exemption from laws requiring lunch breaks during specified times in work shifts. A law designed for UPS!
In an effort to get the governor to sign the bill, management not only asked members to write support letters, they also instructed Teamsters to give them back to supervisors in unsealed envelopes! UPS could use copies of such letters in court to show that some drivers did not support the case, which involves millions of dollars in pay UPS owes for overtime worked through lunch periods.
The bill was opposed by other industry groups, including the California Manufacturers and Technology Association. Other businesses probably would have welcomed the deal, but not a special deal for UPS. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill in September.
October 18, 2006. UPS learned a major lesson in 1997: that working Teamsters can unify and use their power. Then, like now, UPS did everything possible to divide members and keep our union on the defensive. Despite management’s best efforts, members took a strong and clear stand that got the attention of the entire world.
We have that same potential—and more even—today to take on and win a contract fight at UPS. Here are five reasons why.
1. The legacy of 1997 continues to pay benefits today. The strike is still fresh in the memories of management, the media, shippers and investors. UPS management’s eagerness to bargain early is a sign of how anxious they are to avoid coming close to a strike deadline.
2. The pension cuts are a threat to our members and union, but also an opportunity. Membership anger and expectations are high. That frustration needs to be shaped into a positive force for Teamster unity and power.
3. The 100-year anniversary takes place in 2007. The possibility of actions, leafleting and media outreach during the anniversary period is leverage that can be used.
4. Change at the top. Right now we have the chance to elect new leadership to the top of our union and put aggressive bargainers at the table with UPS.
5. UPS is still at the top of the heap. FedEx and DHL have expanded in recent years, giving UPS some cause for concern. But UPS is still and will continue to be in the lead. Their investments in Overnite and Menlo and their central position in China and other emerging markets put them in a strong position. They will want to capitalize on their position and not jeopardize it with a fight with the Teamsters Union.
We have power—if we are determined and have a leadership that knows how to use it.
Legacy of the “Best Contract Ever”
October 18, 2006. Mention the “best ever” contract of 2002 to UPS Teamsters and you’ll probably get a roll of the eyes. But the issues behind the contract are serious.
With Hoffa agreeing to early negotiations, now is the time to look carefully where our union stands relative to UPS management.
First-Ever Benefits Cuts
The top UPS priority is to turn back the clock on pension benefits. For the first time ever, UPS Teamsters covered by our largest and best pension funds have been hit with cuts. Thirty-and-out and 25-and-out benefits for Central States members have been eliminated (except for years already accrued by 2003). Changes in medical providers in many areas have resulted in health coverage cuts.
Some Teamster funds have so far avoided making cuts. But the overall trend in benefits has shifted from improving pension and health coverage for all UPS Teamsters to a establishing a multi-tier benefit situation, where members doing exactly the same work in one region receive worse pensions than members in other regions.
Part-time workers in the Central Region, Southern Region, North and South Carolina and Colorado are still stuck in the company’s pension plan, with no money going to support our union Central States Pension or Health and Welfare Plan.
UPS funnels the youngest and healthiest participants into their own fund. The Central States Pension and Health funds are robbed of much-needed contributions. As a result the Central States Funds are burdened unnecessarily and member benefits are jeopardized in the long run.
De-Skilling Jobs More than Ever
Meanwhile, UPS has implemented one of the most revolutionary changes in their operations in decades. The new sort and delivery systems (PAS/EDD) are an attempt to shift delivery knowledge and expertise from individual drivers to management. While the start up of the new system has been rocky, UPS has been able to ratchet up production demands for pre-load and package car members. In the process, package and preload jobs are gradually becoming more like assembly line work.
More Work than Ever from Fewer Workers
Package car drivers are all too familiar with the problem of excessive overtime. Despite some improved language on this issue last contract, the problem has become worse. Rather than hire more drivers, management forces some drivers to work days of ten, 11 or more hours. Requests for relief are ignored. Grievance panels, at best, only partially deal with the problem.
The age-old problem of supervisors doing bargaining unit work is another means that UPS uses to reduce the number of good union jobs.
Less Progress than Ever on Full-time Jobs
UPS has tried to make some Article 22.3 combination jobs as undesirable as possible. At the get-go in 1997 they refused to abide by the language. In 2002 the Hoffa administration gave UPS two years during which no jobs were created. Some members and locals doubt that all the jobs won have been retained. Supposedly 15,000 full-time inside jobs have been created to date, by combining some 30,000 part-time jobs.
First-Ever Changes Without Votes
UPS implemented schedule changes on Teamsters in New England and in Jacksonville, Fla. In both cases the International went along with the deal and refused to allow members the right to vote.
First-Ever Nonunion Expansion
Work erosion via subcontracting is not only on the increase but has entered an entirely new dimension, thanks to UPS’s new divisions (Supply Chain Solutions, etc.). For the first time ever UPS has a large and rapidly growing nonunion domestic operation. Overnite is the largest, but not the only nonunion subsidiary. UPS employs tens of thousands of nonunion drivers, warehouse and clerical workers who handle shipping, packaging, assembly and other work for major corporations. This cancer could seriously undermine our bargaining power unless it is dealt with now.
What Will It Take to Win Real Improvements?
The current (2002) contract has been a period of serious threats to UPS Teamsters. We need leadership that can chart a new and bold road forward. We need to mobilize every last bit of our potential power. We need real leverage, and we can’t give away the leverage we have by playing management’s game of settling early and ignoring the growing problems.