UPS Workers Say Union Activists Are Being Targeted Amid Contract Negotiations

UPS Teamsters organized rallies in the country with thousands workers during the first week August. kick off their 2023 contract campaign. UPS workers will be fighting to meet their demands from now until July next year, when the current contract expires. They also plan to strike if they’re not met. Among those demands are: air-conditioned trucks, no more excessive overtime, an end to the two-tier system of “22.4s,” higher part-time pay, more full-time jobs, an end to harassment, and an end to outsourcing. If UPS Teamsters don’t reach a suitable agreement with the company, over 340,000 workers could go on strike, bringing UPS — which moves 6% of the U.S. GDP — to a grinding halt.

It’s not surprising that bosses are afraid. UPS has increased its union busting tactics, especially targeting activist workers, since the contract campaign started. The company’s goal is clear: to instill fear and weaken the collective power and organization of UPS Teamsters. UPS fired Rob Becker (and Ben Douglass) on Wednesday, August 24, in a clear act of retaliation.

Douglass has been driving for nearly two years and alternate shop steward for one for the past one. He has always stood up to his coworkers. Ben encouraged workers to support COVID-19 safety measures like temperature checks and on-site testing. During the heatwave, Ben fought for AC and fans, encouraging workers take breaks to cool off, hydrate and to stay safe. Ben, along many other union activists, has also taken on broader struggles for racial gender and sexual equality. He sometimes organized coworkers to march in Teamsters movements beyond the workplace. Douglass was fired by his management because he couldn’t complete a difficult route during a heatwave.

Becker has been with UPS for eight years. He works out of the Nassau Building on Long Island, New York. Despite his having been through the entire pandemic, Becker is being treated by the company as disposable. Becker has been targeted in particular because he helped sign his coworkers up to join the “9.5 list,” a contractual agreement that limits forced overtime. Becker was fired for not buying green tea during a heat wave. This is a particularly scathing retaliation, as it takes place against the backdrop of growing attention on UPS for failing to provide air conditioning in trucks during oppressive summer heat. This has led to drivers suffering heat strokes and even death.

As Douglass recently pointed out on Twitter, this retaliation is happening “while [workers]Many are forced to work in extreme heat without AC and sometimes without a fan. Many are hearing horrifying stories about UPS workers succumbing to heat exhaustion. Esteban Chavez, Jr. died because management refuses to prioritize safety.”

The retaliation isn’t just happening in New York, it’s occurring all across the country. According to Sean Orr, a UPS worker from Chicago, “management tried to crack down on us wearing union hats while on property” as a way to intimidate workers and hide the massive support from the workers. UPS workers in that facility responded to intimidation by moving their Teamsters meeting Thursday inside their facility, setting an example to workers across the nation. As Sean said, “Not one inch to the company!”

UPS is a multibillion-dollar company. Throughout the pandemic and even now, the company is posting record profits — profits which have come off the back of workers like Douglass and Becker. UPS, however, targets workers who are willing to fight for their basic rights and provides workers with safe working conditions or basic air conditioning in trucks during the heat.

UPS constantly searches for new ways to exploit its workers to maximize its profits. In the last contract, for example, UPS imposed a two-tier system which created a new “second-class” of drivers. These “combo workers,” classified as “22.4s,” do the same job as long-term drivers but are paid up to eight dollars per hour less, with fewer benefits. The bosses create a dangerous work environment by requiring a high volume and long hours of delivery in rush hour cities. But this isn’t limited to drivers alone — UPS also imposes grueling conditions on the warehouse workers who start their days as early as 1a.m. Guarantee that the trucks will be available to deliver packages across the state

From Amazon to Starbucks to Trader Joe’s and even UPS, bosses have ramped up their union busting because they are afraid. Workers know that they are essential and that they make everything run. They can win if they stand up and fight for their rights. It is crucial that we show solidarity to workers who are being harassed and fired.