Victory at UPS

PORTLAND, OR -- In a big win for their members and all of organized labor, the Teamsters reached a new five-year agreement with United Parcel Service (UPS) on Aug. 18, ending a two-week strike. All the details of the contract will be sent to the 185,000 Teamster UPS workers for a mail vote, union President Ron Carey said.

"Workers have shown we can stand up to corporate greed," Carey declared. "After 15 years of taking it on the chin, working families are telling big corporations that we will fight for the American dream."

A key point the union stressed -- and that it won at the bargaining table -- was upgrading part-time jobs to full-time jobs. Including agency fee payers, the Teamsters represent 85,000 full-time UPS workers and 129,000 part-timers.

In the pact, UPS promised to convert 10,000 part-time jobs to full-time over the next five years, above normal job growth. It originally offered to convert 1,000 jobs. UPS also agreed to replace subcontractors with UPS workers.

In another key win, UPS dropped its proposal to pull out of a multi-employer pension plan, jointly run by the union and their members' employers, in favor of its own plan.

Carey said that by preserving the UPS presence in the multi-employer plan, pension money and earnings on investments would benefit retirees and not be funneled back into the company's pockets.

In addition to preserving the present pension plan, the pensions will increase. A UPS worker in the Teamsters' largest fund, the Central States Pension Fund, will be able to retire after 30 years' service with a $3,000 monthly pension -- a 50 percent increase.

Full-time employees will receive a $3.10 per hour wage hike over the five-year life of the contract. That 15 percent increase will produce a $23 per hour top rate in 2002. Part-timers, who now earn an average of $11 an hour, will get a $4.10 hourly increase. The contract protects workers handling heavy packages, too, guaranteeing that if UPS ever wants to raise the package weight limit again it must first negotiate an agreement with the union on a safe way to do it.

The strike began Aug. 4 after five and a half months of fruitless negotiations. It was the largest strike in the U.S. in a quarter-century and it drew strong support from the entire AFL-CIO -- in addition to the general public, who responded positively to the Teamsters' emphasis on part-time jobs.

National AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, whose federation guaranteed a $10 million weekly loan to the Teamsters to support strike benefits, hailed the pact as "a great win." He said it tells corporations "there is no justification for denying workers the good jobs they need to support their families."

The strike virtually shut down UPS, which estimated its losses at $600 million. Carey promised the union's next move would be to expand organizing in UPS' competitors, notably the non-union Federal Express, of which several workers in the Portland area joined UPS Teamsters on the picket line.

"Never before has this country seen the display of solidarity that was expressed in this strike," said Darel Aker, president of Portland-based Oregon Teamsters Joint Council 37.

"The public supported us, too, 55 percent to 27 percent in a nationwide poll."

At a victory rally at Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland, Brad Witt, secretary-treasurer of the Oregon AFL-CIO, told a crowd of more than 150, "The entire labor movement realized that you were fighting their fight and they came to your aid. That is the basic issue of solidarity."

Other help that the Oregon Teamsters received included:

Members of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers at Boise Cascade in Salem walked picket lines; Portland Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 8 arranged for UPS strikers to work on the docks, and classified workers at Oregon State University, represented by the Oregon Public Employees Union, protested a decision by the administration that would have forced them to take over on-campus deliveries that UPS couldn't perform during the strike.


Sept. 5, 1997 issue

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