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Workers report difficulty voting at UPS Workers Rank-and-File Committee meeting

Teamsters declares ratification of UPS contract

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Teamsters declares ratification of UPS contract

The Teamsters declared the national agreement was ratified by 86 percent, in a statement released around 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time. According to the union, all regional supplemental agreements, save for one small one in the state of Florida, were also ratified. General President Sean O’Brien is scheduled to address an online webinar about the vote tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Workers are widely suspicious of the claimed margin of victory, given the existence of widespread opposition to the deal. “A bunch of BS,” one worker said on Facebook. “We all know that contract was already signed and dated. Many of my co-workers didn’t even accept the ballot. Teamsters work for UPS. We know the game.”

One worker said, “There’s no way that we went from a 97 percent vote for a strike to 86 percent in favor of this deal. There are holes in this story.”

But whatever the case may be, it is undoubtedly true that the Teamsters bureaucracy relied on deception and intimidation in order to ensure the contract’s passage. It was prepared months in advance with a theatrical “strike-ready” campaign designed to frame the deal that had already been worked out as the product of rank-and-file pressure.

However, the Teamsters bureaucrats continuously violated their own red lines, including their pledge to strike by August 1 unless a deal was ratified and in place by then. They also deliberately isolated UPS workers from freight drivers, ramming through a contract at ABF and even canceling a strike at Yellow only days before the company declared bankruptcy, leading to the layoff of 22,000 Teamsters members.

During the vote, the union subjected workers to a massive propaganda campaign, including misleading and even outright false claims. “Very little info was handed out at my hub,” one worker said. “The stewards just kept hammering away that everyone would get $7.50 an hour and pension increases. And when you asked them, what did we give up? They said, ‘no, we didn’t give anything away.’ That’s BS. You always give something up in a negotiation, and if you won’t admit to it, that means it was important. They just want to keep it under wraps as long as they can.”

Meanwhile, after claiming they had been prepared to call a strike, the Teamsters turned around and threatened workers with loss of income due to a strike if they voted the contract down. Workers campaigning against the contract reported regular harassment and intimidation by union officials.

Even those workers who voted in favor of the contract will quickly find that it is not what they were led to believe it is. The real character of the contract was shown by the response in the corporate press. The morning newspapers and TV networks were full of worried headlines that the contract might be rejected. “US economy holds its breath ahead of UPS Teamsters contract vote,” Reuters declared. By the afternoon, these sources were all breathing sighs of relief.

More UPS workers speak out on contract, working conditions

UPS Chicago Area Consolidation Hub (CACH) in Hodgkins, Illinois (Photo: WSWS media)

A worker from the UPS Chicago Area Consolidation Hub (CACH), the company’s largest ground hub, told the WSWS: “I voted no! Only a $2.75 raise, that’s ridiculous. I definitely think they need to make some more changes. We do so much, and then you opened my eyes saying the difference compared to back then,” referring to the fact that UPS part-timers made $7.75 in 1978, equal to more than $37 today. “Also, we got new security systems to walk through and put our bags through” at CACH, he said. “It feels like we’re going through TSA.”

Another CACH worker said: “People are speculating that they voted it down because rather than announcing today, there’s a web meeting at 7:00 p.m. So speculation is that it got voted down. Fingers crossed! But that’s all the information right now. They were supposed to announce it, but apparently that has changed.”

More workers in New York City also spoke with the WSWS over the weekend.

A driver and former part-timer said he believed that management harassment was a tactic to try to bully workers into accepting the contract. “Their micromanagement includes use of the phone they give us that we are supposed to carry with us everywhere,” he said. “If we go to work in the back of the truck and leave the phone in the front, they will discipline you for that.

“We are supposed to honk the horn two times at each stop we make, and they discipline us for not doing two honks. And we have to scan a package as we walk from the truck to the customer’s door, but if we only scan the package at the customer’s door, they discipline for that. As for getting AC, I think they bought hundreds of trucks last year, which they have parked somewhere, and they will release them to replace older trucks. They will never have to put air conditioning in these vehicles because the contract says they only have to put AC in new trucks.”

Some in New York City have also sent reports to the WSWS about co-workers not receiving voting instructions until the last minute. “I just heard back from my shop steward now that I am not the only one who didn't receive a ballot, and he gave the phone number to most people.”

Another worker told the WSWS over the weekend: “Four of the workers I’ve checked with have not gotten the materials to vote. The shop stewards in my area are keeping their mouths shut because the vote ends tomorrow. They don’t really care at this point because they think the contract has been ratified.”

One driver said he voted for the contract but still had reservations about it. “UPS shies away from part-timers from getting enough hours. They do this so they don’t have to pay benefits. The company also keeps full-time driver trainees from ‘making book’ [being able to enroll into the union], which takes 40 days. They can lay off drivers after 39 days.

“Part-time and full-time workers should get the same pay if they are doing the same work. And our pay never keeps up with inflation. It’s all part of the system.” He concluded, “We need rank-and-file committees. The only people who will challenge the system is ourselves. Uniting workers is difficult. Unions are a culture. And if we are going to make committees to oversee union elections and negotiate contracts, then they have to be people we know, from the rank-and-file.”

Polls close for UPS contract

A United Parcel Service driver sorts his deliveries, on New York's Upper West Side, Saturday, July 15, 2023. [AP Photo/Richard Drew]

Voting closed Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern Time on the contract covering 340,000 UPS workers in the United States.

While the Teamsters bureaucracy, led by General President Sean O’Brien, claims the contract is the best in the history of the company, in fact it falls far short of workers’ demands, creating a second tier of part-time workers and freezing the company’s pension contributions in many areas of the country. UPS workers are determined to make up for decades of declining living standards now that the company is making record profits and a broader working class movement is emerging throughout the US and all over the world.

Voter turnout spiked over the final weekend of voting from around 35 to 51 percent, according to internal union figures shared with the WSWS. This brings turnout to just above the level in the 2018 contract. Five years ago, the Teamsters imposed the contract even though a majority voted against it, using a since-abolished loophole requiring contracts to be rejected by a two-thirds supermajority if turnout is below 50 percent.

But while that particular provision has been abolished, there are other concerns being raised about the integrity of the current vote. Groups campaigning for a “no” vote have reported significant harassment and intimidation by Teamsters officials. In addition, some workers, especially part-timers, report scrambling in the final days to figure out how to cast a ballot. While voting is taking place online, individualized registration information is being mailed out to each member.

This creates the possibility that many workers might not be able to vote because they never received their information. In last year’s election for United Auto Workers top officers, which was conducted by mail, more ballots were marked “undeliverable” than were actually cast. Will Lehman, a socialist autoworker who ran on a platform of abolishing the bureaucracy, has filed a lawsuit to demand the election be rerun.

UPS Workers Rank-and-File Committee holds public meeting on eve of vote result

The UPS Workers Rank-and-File Committee held a successful public meeting Sunday evening which was attended by dozens of workers and their supporters across the country.

In his opening report, WSWS writer Tom Hall explained that while the committee was urging the contract’s rejection, “The central purpose of this meeting, however, is to discuss the following question: What comes next?”

“You face a union bureaucracy, not a few bad apples at the top. You have no control whatsoever over this apparatus, which is hostile and terrified of the workers they claim to represent,” Hall said, before reviewing the nearly half a billion dollars in assets—drawn from workers’ dues money—which the International union alone controls.

“The bureaucracy is sitting on your chest. You have to chase out the whole thing, smash it and replace it with democratic structures which Teamsters members themselves control,” he concluded. Hall pointed out the powerful position that workers are in, and that if they reject the vote, it would set the stage for a united struggle with 150,000 autoworkers whose contract expires next month.

But even if the Teamsters declared the contract ratified, “you will face the same problem, only in a slightly different form,” he warned. Given the conduct of the vote itself, workers would have to organize a rank-and-file audit of the vote to document incidents of intimidation and voting irregularities. The enforcement of whatever contractural protections still exist and the fight against management abuses would still require independent organization by rank-and-file workers.

A leading member of the Rank-and-File Committee from UPS Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky then spoke. “We’ve been down this road many times before,” he said, “with many sellout contracts. The bureaucracy we have before us is no different than the one we have behind us.

“We are urging everyone to vote ‘no.’ The reason for that is because it does not address our core issues… We are in the middle of inflation that we haven’t seen for forty years. We might see more of the same in the future. So this contract doesn’t deal with the economics for everyone at UPS … if this contract isn’t good for someone in the Western region, or the Southern region, then it isn’t good for anyone. That goes for everyone, from the part-timer … to the 35-year veteran.”

He continued: “We have the most leverage that we have ever had. We are seeing all over the country and the world, the working class rising. There is a movement going on right now. … there are more of us that are joining each and every day. Not just at UPS, but other rank-and-file committees all across the world. The time is now for us.”

A lively discussion followed. One UPS worker from Portland, Oregon described his experiences campaigning against the contract. He also singled out in particular the weak contract language protecting Market Rate Adjustments (MRAs), in which the company increases wages beyond the contractual level in order to attract enough workers in more expensive areas of the country. Many workers are concerned that UPS may try to offset general wage increases for existing part-timers by eliminating these MRAs, he said. While the union has tried to assure workers that this is not the case, “that is simply not in the agreement,” the worker said.

A package car driver also spoke out about how management is encouraging drivers to take time off, in order to use it against them later for discipline or to count against their pensions. A part-timer in New York City also explained that he had not been told until a couple of days ago that there even was a contract vote, and had been scrambling to try to find out how to vote.

The meeting also heard reports on the class struggle in other industries. Autoworker Will Lehman, who ran as a socialist candidate for UAW president, spoke on the upcoming contract for Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), and how UAW President Shawn Fain was following the same “strike ready” theatrics employed by the Teamsters to get in front of rank-and-file opposition. However, Lehman explained, Fain deliberately isolated and sold out the Clarios battery workers’ strike earlier this summer, and the UAW even instructed assembly workers to handle scab batteries.

Kimie Saito, a writer for the WSWS, spoke on the contract vote last week for West Coast dockworkers, emphasizing in particular the role played by the Biden administration in preventing a strike and brokering the agreement. Alden Woodson, another WSWS reporter, spoke on the massive restructuring program at the US Postal Service, where tens of thousands of jobs are being cut and wages for rural letter carriers slashed by up to $20,000.

Teamsters’ propaganda blitz headed by PR firm which helped ram through 2015 autoworkers contract

The Teamsters bureaucracy is spending significant amounts of workers’ dues money on a slickly produced propaganda campaign on social media to push the UPS contract. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” one worker with decades of experience told the WSWS. The campaign includes a series of videos purporting to be of rank-and-file workers and “informational” graphics containing distortions and outright falsehoods. For example, one recent graphic on Twitter misleadingly claimed that wages for existing 22.4 “hybrid” drivers would double over the life of the new contract.

Information has come to light suggesting that that this campaign is being run by PR firm BerlinRosen, which counts many major trade unions as its clients. According to the latest Department of Labor filings, the Teamsters paid the firm almost a million dollars last year alone, which does not even include money spent directly on the contract campaign.

BerlinRosen became infamous among autoworkers in 2015 when the United Auto Workers hired it to conduct a $115,000 media campaign, after Fiat Chrysler workers rejected a sellout contract by more than two-thirds. The firm also has close ties to the former Obama administration and was hired by the Ford Foundation to promote the “grand bargain” used to slash pensions and benefits for public employees as part of the Detroit bankruptcy in 2014.

The 2015 campaign BerlinRosen produced was designed largely to attack social media posts by workers, as well as the World Socialist Web Site, whose writing against the contract attracted an extremely wide following, as “fake news,” preceding by nearly a year the first widespread use of the term in the 2016 US Presidential election.

The UAW bureaucrats who hired the firm were later found to have accepted bribes and embezzled dues money, including UAW Vice President for FCA Norwood Jewell, then-president Dennis Williams and his successor Gary Jones, and several others. In a wide-ranging federal corruption probe, one FCA executive described the purpose of the bribes as keeping the bureaucrats “fat, dumb and happy,” making clear that the contract BerlinRosen helped promote, as well as several others before it, were the product of corporate bribes.

New York City UPS workers describe difficulties casting ballots

On Friday evening, UPS workers at the company’s Foster Avenue hub in Brooklyn spoke with a team from the WSWS about the contract. Many expressed their dissatisfaction with the deal as well as difficulties casting their votes.

One driver reported, “I have just gotten back from vacation, and I have not gotten my letter to vote. I would say 35 percent of the workers at Foster Avenue have not gotten their letters to vote.” When asked why he thought this was, he said, “Because I hear a lot of complaints from all over the hub.”

A part-time warehouse sorting worker explained that he was not informed of the vote until recently and was working diligently to get his vote in on time. “I just found out there was going to be a vote,” he said.

“When I read the first sheet on the $21-an-hour wage increase, there was no mention of a vote. I only found out when I asked my shop steward why I wasn’t getting the raise from August 1. Then the shop steward told me about the vote, told me I should have a ballot to vote with and gave me a phone number to call. There are maybe seven to nine people I work around, and I don’t think they know about the vote either.”

Several other employees also spoke to WSWS reporters on difficulties getting a ballot or not receiving one at all. Several workers also expressed their intention to vote “no” on the contract.

A 22.4 driver with two years experience commented on UPS’s abuse of split shifts. “There are not supposed to be split shifts for 22.4 drivers,” he said. “UPS also manipulates the part-time system. I was a part-time worker here for a year. If you come in, and they tell you there is no work, they prevent you from getting the four-hour shift time you are required to get under state law.”