UPS Workers Disproved Corporate Media’s Narrative That Strikes Are Harmful

The Teamsters Union and UPS have reached a tentative settlement on a brand new contract to cowl the 340,000 Teamsters who work for the package deal transport large.

Based on a statement launched by the union, the brand new contract is “probably the most historic tentative settlement for staff within the historical past of UPS,” promising wage will increase, an finish to the two-tier wage system, new air con in autos, Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a full firm vacation, and extra.

Within the days and weeks to return, members will debate the professionals and cons of the proposal as 1000’s of UPS Teamsters vote on whether or not to ratify the contract. However one factor appears plain: Any important good points received by Teamsters towards a reluctant employer may have come about as a result of rank-and-file staff confirmed the corporate that they have been ready to strike.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a longtime member reform group pushing for extra militancy and rank-and-file democracy throughout the union, famous in a statement, “UPS walked away from the bargaining desk on July 5 after telling our union, ‘We’ve got nothing extra to supply.’” Within the following weeks, members ramped up “follow pickets” throughout the nation, making loud and clear their willingness to strike. “Administration learn the writing on the wall,” stated TDU, “and went from ‘nothing extra to supply’ to probably the most profitable contract in Teamster historical past.”

Whereas will probably be as much as members to resolve on the contract, at the least one lesson ought to be clear: Strikes, or the true risk of strikes, work.

However you wouldn’t know this in case you solely paid consideration to the company media’s reporting, which has principally contained doomsday situations on the potential strike that mimic the boss’s speaking factors. From CNN to The New York Times, from Fox News to MSNBC, the refrains have been fixed: UPS staff will disrupt the financial system by hanging. What if a strike causes a recession? UPS Teamsters have already got it fairly good. A strike will harm the corporate and profit rivals. What in regards to the customers!?

What the settlement reveals, nevertheless, is that it was exactly as a result of UPS staff have been ready to strike that they have been in a position to extract new and necessary good points. Furthermore, the company media’s criticism of strikes aren’t uniquely utilized to UPS drivers. They’re deployed each time staff threaten to strike. Academics, nurses, railroad staff, screenwriters: they’ve all confronted these assaults.

Previous to the announcement of the tentative settlement, Truthout spoke to a number of UPS Teamsters and their supporters in regards to the company media narratives surrounding the potential strike. They supplied starkly totally different arguments: of a company powerhouse that raked in over $100 billion in income final yr forcing a strike on itself as a result of it refuses to pay its mass of part-time staff an honest wage; of an organization that prefers billions in inventory buybacks over assembly affordable calls for from “important” staff who bore the brunt of upholding the nation’s very important supply infrastructure in the course of the pandemic; of UPS staff combating not merely for themselves, however to set a better bar for staff throughout the U.S.

“This isn’t only for each Teamster household,” Justin Alo, a UPS driver in San Marcos, California, member of Teamsters Native 542 and TDU member, advised Truthout. “That is for elevating requirements throughout the board.”

Blaming the Employees

“A large UPS strike may devastate the financial system.” So started one ominous CNN headline, expressing probably the most ubiquitous speaking level coming from the company media: that UPS staff would throw the U.S. financial system into disaster in the event that they went on strike.

Based on firm estimates, UPS transports round 6 percent of the U.S. GDP day by day. (Teamsters President Sean O’Brien says the quantity is 7 percent.) A strike would halt almost all of this.

UPS staff and supporters that Truthout spoke to acknowledged {that a} strike would briefly affect the financial system. Certainly, they are saying, that’s the purpose of a strike: to point out the indispensability of staff’ labor and to make use of the withdrawal of that labor as leverage to win well-deserved good points for working folks towards highly effective companies.

However they seen any strike as completely avoidable if UPS, which took in $100.3 billion in income in 2022 and over $13 billion in working revenue, would meet the union’s affordable calls for.

Any important good points received by Teamsters towards a reluctant employer may have come about as a result of rank-and-file staff confirmed the corporate that they have been ready to strike.

“It wouldn’t be a disruption led to by UPS staff getting grasping,” stated Sean Orr, a UPS driver, TDU member and Teamster store steward with Native 705 in Chicago. “The disruption would come about as a result of this firm is owned by main Wall Road companies that aren’t prepared to pay the employees, who transfer 7 p.c of this nation’s financial system each single day, sufficient cash to pay lease.”

Extra than half of UPS’s staff are part-time. Some at present earn as little as $15.50 per hour. In 2022, thousands of part-timers noticed their wages slashed, at the same time as the corporate took in document earnings. Based on the statement launched by the union, the brand new settlement features a wage enhance of $2.75 extra per hour in 2023 and $7.50 per hour over the size of the five-year contract for present part-time (and full-time) staff. Present part-time staff will instantly transfer as much as a minimum of $21 per hour, and new part-time hires will begin at $21 per hour and transfer to $23 per hour. Based on the statement launched by TDU, all present part-timers will make a minimal of $25.75 by the top of the contract.

In the meantime, UPS CEO Carol Tomé raked in over $45 million in complete compensation in 2021 and 2022. She holds 33,076 shares in UPS inventory, price over $6 million. In 2021, UPS’s CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 548-to-1, that means a UPS employee making the median wage on the firm must work properly over half a thousand years to earn as a lot as Tomé.

UPS frequently offers out quarterly dividends to its traders, most just lately a $1.62 dividend per share. The corporate spends billions on share buybacks to spice up its inventory worth. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, it introduced $5 billion for share buybacks, and in January 2023, it accepted another $5 billion.

The corporate’s two largest shareholders, The Vanguard Group and BlackRock, have a mixed 17.3 p.c stake in UPS, in response to its most up-to-date proxy statement. The 2 companies are the world’s high asset managers, collectively overseeing round $16 trillion in property. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink is a billionaire.

Alo stated the company media’s narrative round UPS staff wreaking havoc on the financial system with a strike reminded him of the protection surrounding the potential rail workers’ strike in 2022.

“They did the identical factor to the railroad staff,” he stated. “You stored listening to on the information that it was going to devastate the financial system, virtually as if the employees have been the grasping ones. They’re raking in billions in revenue, whereas the railroad staff have been simply asking for sick days.”

Orr stated UPS staff “acknowledge {that a} $100 billion company” can afford to fulfill their calls for.

“This comes right down to company hubris, greater than something,” he stated.

Lingering Anger As a consequence of Firm’s Pandemic Response

Barry Eidlin, a labor expert at McGill College and former organizer with TDU, advised Truthout that misplaced within the media frenzy a few disruptive strike is the bigger, ongoing disruption in staff’ lives perpetuated by employers.

Strikes are short-term, however staff’ lives are thrown into fixed chaos due to poverty wages that drive folks to work a number of jobs or unpredictable scheduling that disrupt household life, he stated.

“We have to weigh the potential inconvenience of every week or two weeks of a UPS strike versus the potential profit that might come from pushing again towards these extremely disruptive traits which have devastated staff’ lives,” stated Eidlin.

In making ready for a possible strike, an enormous motivating issue for UPS staff has been restitution for the pandemic, when UPS staff have been deemed “important.” UPS staff that Truthout spoke to grew audibly upset when discussing what they went via in the course of the pandemic.

Orr stated UPS staff have been pressured to work in the course of the pandemic with out “a penny of hazard pay,” all whereas the corporate was incomes document earnings and CEO Carol Tomé was taking in tens of hundreds of thousands in compensation.

“Employees received sick. We had coworkers die,” stated Orr. “Coworkers stop as a result of that they had autoimmune issues they usually didn’t need to die. They didn’t have an possibility.”

Alo remembers fearing that he may infect his relations, a few of whom have been high-risk, with COVID-19. Each time he returned dwelling, he’d take away his UPS uniform and spray it with disinfectant earlier than going inside.

“It was that critical,” he stated. “We virtually neglect about what we went via.”

Alo desires UPS to recollect what staff sacrificed in the course of the pandemic. “Our vehicles have been full virtually the complete yr, which is simply presupposed to happen in the course of the vacation season,” he stated. “However that was our workload for the whole yr.”

“That is payback from the pandemic, basically,” famous Eidlin.

Determined Circumstances

One other media speaking level round a possible strike was that it will harm UPS and profit rivals. This was echoed by folks like New York Occasions enterprise author Peter Coy, who wrote that, “FedEx sees the specter of a strike at UPS as a chance to get new clients.”

Orr dismisses this chance.

“UPS is such a juggernaut,” he stated. “We’re as integral to the financial infrastructure of this nation because the railroads and airports. No single competitor of UPS will profit from a strike as a result of none of them can take in our quantity.” Outside experts and even FedEx additionally level to clear limits in absorbing UPS deliveries.

One other media narrative is that UPS staff have already got it good, implying that staff are simply being grasping. Information retailers commonly invoke the corporate’s declare that drivers earn $95,000 per yr.

However Alo stated these numbers are deceptive as a result of they check with full-time drivers who’ve been with the corporate for years and work important additional time — upwards of 65 hours every week, in response to Teamsters President O’Brien.

Alo stresses the determined circumstances of many UPS staff, particularly part-timers who make up the majority of the corporate’s staff. “Quite a lot of us work a number of jobs simply to make ends meet,” he stated. He additionally factors out how bodily demanding the work is at UPS. Drivers have been hospitalized and died from warmth publicity whereas on the job. Employees are beneath stress as a consequence of firm surveillance.

Insofar as Teamsters have first rate wages and advantages, stated Eidlin, it’s come via wrestle — and certainly, strikes — not firm beneficence.

“They’ve what they’ve as a result of they fought for it, and since they’ve a union that may assist them combat for it,” he stated.

“They did the identical factor to the railroad staff…. You stored listening to on the information that it was going to devastate the financial system, virtually as if the employees have been the grasping ones.”

Whereas part-timers get well being care after 9 months on the job, their wages have stagnated for many years. “There’s no purpose that these staff ought to be doing the backbreaking work they do for barely over minimal wage,” Eidlin stated.

A Second of Political Training

Eidlin additionally stated that the media’s obsession with how a strike may hurt consumers is part of a bigger company “playbook” geared toward “attempting to scare folks into supporting the employer’s standpoint.”

“We have to do not forget that we’re not simply customers, and that a whole lot of us are staff,” he stated. A part of constructing a stronger labor motion entails “highly effective, disruptive strikes,” that “can result in long-term advantages for giant teams of staff that far outweigh the disruption that outcomes from a strike.”

Different teams of staff have seen this similar anti-worker “playbook” from the company media — and maybe none greater than academics.

Jackson Potter is the vice chairman of the Chicago Academics Union (CTU), which has waged main strikes, most just lately in 2019. Whereas the political institution and the mainstream media demonized academics for disrupting the lives of scholars and fogeys, the CTU framed its combat as one for communities in addition to academics, and subsequently garnered mass support inside Chicago. CTU’s present contract, received via the 2019 strike, consists of historic gains, akin to higher companies for homeless college students, extra nurses and social staff in colleges, and raises for the district’s lowest paid staff.

“I might say a very powerful modifications which have occurred, which are historic, to assist college students, are a results of our strikes,” Potter advised Truthout.

Potter sees clear parallels between UPS staff and academics, each deemed important staff in the course of the pandemic and have been “placing their lives on the road to ship crucial provides.” He’s spoken to UPS drivers at rallies who’re graduates of Chicago public colleges and have been impressed as college students by the 2019 CTU strike.

“They see that as a second of their very own political schooling,” he stated, “on why it’s so necessary to combat a wrestle towards the 1 p.c on behalf of the numerous, not the few.”

The CTU got here out in full drive to point out solidarity with UPS staff, issuing a statement of solidarity and attending follow pickets and rallies. Potter stated the end result of the present combat at UPS will affect all staff, from Amazon and Starbucks to Hollywood and the auto trade.

“This can be a second of reality,” stated Potter. “Our success as staff in America could be very a lot depending on the Teamsters negotiating a powerful settlement and people drivers having a typical of life that may raise all boats and function inspiration to others.”

Potter factors to the historic Nineteen Thirties CIO strike wave that paved the best way for mass industrial unionization that vastly improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of staff. “These have been excessive water marks as a result of we supported folks’s proper to prepare, disrupt manufacturing and right-set the financial system in ways in which replicate our collective pursuits slightly than simply the massive bosses and the rich,” stated Potter.

Placing for a Higher Future

As UPS Teamsters get set to vote on the brand new contract proposal, one factor feels clear: Any important good points have been received as a result of they have been prepared to make use of their foremost supply of leverage — the strike. That willingness to withdraw their labor, and the militant power behind it, stretches properly past UPS. Certainly, Orr believes that we’re in the course of “a terrific awakening on this nation” that’s reviving the labor motion.

“Working persons are realizing via this UPS combat, from what’s taking place in Hollywood and Amazon, that we don’t have to simply accept what Wall Road is deciding to do with this nation,” he stated.

“We don’t have to simply accept the best way that this financial system is run and the path this nation goes in. We’ve got the power to say ‘No, this isn’t the longer term we would like for ourselves and for our youngsters. We would like one thing that works for us.’”

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