The 340,000 Teamsters union members at United Parcel Service have spent the past year preparing to strike when their contract expires Aug.1, but they probably won’t need to employ the strike weapon this go-around.
“We demanded the best contract in the history of UPS, and we got it,” Teamsters President Sean O’Brien announced July 25. “We’ve changed the game, battling it out day and night to make sure our members won an agreement that pays strong wages, rewards their labor, and doesn’t require a single concession.” (teamster.org)
In the lead-up to Aug. 1, UPS workers have engaged in scores of militant actions designed to unite and mobilize the rank-and-file. They held rallies and worksite meetings, wore T-shirts and buttons indicating their readiness to strike, and held “practice pickets” across the U.S.
In the face of such dogged determination to win the contract workers believed they deserved, UPS agreed to major improvements in pay, benefits and working conditions.
Among full-time UPS workers, the lower pay tier for lower-seniority employees known as “22.4s” has been eliminated. The hourly pay gap between full-time and part-time workers has been narrowed, with current part-timers getting a 48% average pay increase over the life of the contract.
The agreement mandates “the creation of 7,500 new full-time Teamster jobs at UPS and the fulfillment of 22,500 open positions, establishing more opportunities through the life of the agreement for part-timers to transition to full-time work.”
For the first time, UPS Teamsters will have Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday. Forced overtime on scheduled days off is no longer allowed. Critical health and safety improvements include air-conditioning in UPS vehicles.
The contract has some shortcomings. Future part-time workers will still make much less than current full-time workers. When the contract expires in five years, this situation can and should be fought over. Getting Juneteenth, June 19, as a paid holiday, raised in these negotiations, lost, but can be pushed for again.
UPS workers will soon begin voting on this tentative agreement; the process may take about three weeks to complete.
The Teamsters union, through militancy and engagement of the rank-and-file in every step of the bargaining process, has won more in this past year than decades of labor-management cooperation could ever have secured in the past!