Labor Natalia Marques Worker's Rights

UPS & Teamsters Reach Tentative Deal, Averting Strike

As the deal reached Tuesday goes out to union members for approval, Natalia Marques points out four things about the last-minute talks.
UPS Teamsters at a practice picket in Manhattan, New York. (Wyatt Souers/Party for Socialism and Liberation)

By Natalia Marques / Peoples Dispatch

In less than a week the contract covering 340,000 UPS workers, organized by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), would have expired. Instead a tentative deal was reached on Tuesday. 

UPS workers had spent the past several months organizing to show their employer that they are 100 percent ready to strike if their contract expires without a successful agreement on a new one.

As the July 31 expiration date neared, these four major news provide background on the recent days of talks. 

No. 1:  UPS Misled on Part-Time Pay & Benefits

According to CNN,

“the union said that existing full- and part-time UPS Teamsters will get $2.75 more per hour in 2023, and $7.50 more per hour, or more than $15,000 a year, over the length of the contract. … Existing part-time workers,who the union said were making as little as $15.50 an hour as starting pay in some parts of the country, will be raised up to no less than $21 per hour immediately, and starting pay would be increased to $23 an hour during the life of the contract.”

Before they returned to the table, Union leaders had already successfully negotiated and won all non-economic worker demands, including air conditioning in UPS delivery trucks and the elimination of the unpopular two-tier 22.4 system

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Negotiations broke down earlier this month on key economic demands, including better pay for part-time workers.

“I don’t think that it’s fair that there are two tiers of workers at UPS, the part-timers and the drivers,” Gustavo Gordillo, a part-time UPS warehouse worker, told Peoples Dispatch at a practice picket in Brooklyn.

Gordillo makes around $16 per hour, and says many of his fellow workers make the same wage. “There are people who work at the warehouse who live in shelters,” he said. “It’s not a living wage. You can’t survive on that in New York.”

On the other side, UPS was selling a vision of part-time work that simply does not exist. Recently, UPS claimed in a Twitter thread that part-time workers make on average $20 per hour after the first 30 days.

As Teamsters point out, 100,000 part-timers made under this amount (around half of all 340,000 UPS Teamsters work part time). Teamsters President Sean O’Brien has said that a part-timer’s starting wage is actually on average around $16.50 per hour. 

Workers replied en masse to UPS’ claims on part-time wages. “Been with UPS for 10 months. Started at $15.50/hr, now at $16.65… but no sign of that supposed $20!” tweeted Luigi W. Morris, a UPS warehouse worker and member of Teamsters Local 804 in New York. “Considering that this future contract will last 5 years, if they’re already paying $20/hr and making record profits, why not start with $25/hr as starting wages?”

Part-timers at UPS were paid the same rate as drivers until 1982. According to Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a progressive organization of Teamsters that seeks reforms within the union, if part-time pay kept up with inflation since 1983, part-time workers would be making over $25 an hour.

Instead, UPS did the opposite by slashing market rate adjustments (MRAs) for thousands of part-timers last year. MRAs are higher wages that go beyond the contractual minimum of $15.50 per hour, which UPS implements to attract new hires. However, a year after profits grew nearly tenfold in 2021, the company decided to slash the MRAs and some workers saw their wages go down by as much as $6 dollars per hour.

UPS also released misleading claims about how satisfied part-timers were with current conditions at the company. Using a survey of only a paltry 1,000 plus part-time workers out of the 22 million nationwide, UPS tweeted that “85% of part-timers said working part-time was their choice,” and “72% said flexibility was the reason for their part time preference.”

Teddy Ostrow writes in Jacobin that, “While the total number of US workers working part-time who want a full-time job has declined significantly in the past two years, involuntary part-time workers have nearly doubled from 3.2 million in 2000 to 6.1 million in 2021.”

The Teamsters union replied and released their own statistics, which were gathered specifically from UPS workers. “80% of UPS part-timers want more full-time jobs (making part-time wages even more important when UPS won’t create these opportunities),” they tweeted. “More than 70% of part-timers say their top concern is UPS paying stagnant wages.”

Great people want great benefits,” UPS claimed. “A lot of companies have made part-time benefits a thing of the past; however, UPS’s part-timers value their opportunity to grow with tuition assistance, healthcare and retirement benefits.”

“The benefits of being a part-timer at UPS come from the hard-fought wins of the #Teamsters, never management’s kind heart,” the Teamsters wrote in response.

“Full-timers, we need to stick together and fight for these part-timers,” said President O’Brien at a recent Local 804 rally in Brooklyn. “We need to make sure that everyone is taken care of in these negotiations, and no one gets left behind.”

No. 2 — Hollywood Workers’ Solidarity

Thousands of workers, including striking writers and actors organized with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) respectively, showed up to a July 19 UPS Teamsters practice picket in Los Angeles.

“The entertainment industry is with you,” said SAG-AFTRA Executive Vice President Ben Whitehair at the practice picket. “Wall Street would love for us to think that factory workers, that delivery drivers, that hotel workers, that writers and actors have nothing in common, but you all know that that is not the case.” UPS Teamsters have also shown their support at SAG-AFTRA picket lines.

No. 3 — Negotiations

Negotiations had been on pause since early July after they broke down due to UPS’ unwillingness to meet workers’ economic demands. But Teamsters announced on July 19 that the company would resume negotiations with union leaders this week. “As thousands of UPS Teamsters practice picket, rally, and mobilize around the country, UPS bowed today to the overwhelming show of Teamster unity and reached out to the union to resume negotiations,” the union announced.

No. 4 — Nearly 200 Lawmakers Pledged Not to Intervene

Last year’s intervention by the federal government prevented rail workers from using their strike weapon to fight for sick days, time off and safer staffing levels was a shock to the U.S. working class. Even after disastrous train derailments proved the importance of reforming the railroad industry, workers had to settle for zero sick time

The worry of the same thing happening to the 340,000 UPS Teamsters if they strike, of being forced to settle for subpar pay by the federal government, was semi-assuaged by an open letter sent by nearly 200 Congress members, pledging non-intervention in a potential strike.

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Natalia Marques

Natalia Marques is a writer for Peoples Dispatch covering news relevant to poor & working class people in the United States and a tenant organizer in NYC.

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