The Upsurge Podcast: UPS Contract Negotiations Have Begun ... Sort Of.
While CEO Carol Tomé has insisted that the company and the union are “not far apart on the issues,” some workers feel that their behavior at the bargaining table paints a different picture.
Teddy Ostrow and Ruby Walsh
You can read the full transcript of this episode below.
Negotiations on the national labor contract at UPS have begun. And while CEO Carol Tomé has insisted that the company and the union are “not far apart on the issues,” some workers feel that their behavior at the bargaining table paints a different picture.
In this episode, we bring you inside and outside of the bargaining room. On the inside, we speak with two of the most militant Teamster principal officers in the union, Richard Hooker Jr. and Vinnie Perrone. On the outside, you’ll hear from Teamsters general president Sean O’Brien, as well as from rank and filers at rallies in Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, and New York.
The clock is ticking to August 1.
The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.
Tom Mari: This is what the Teamsters do. This is who we are. We are united more than ever before. And UPS better wake up. This is where we get shit done, is in Boston.
Teddy Ostrow: On April 2nd, in a sea of brown, there we stood in a parking lot rally of the 120-year old Teamsters Local 25 in Boston, Massachusetts. Packed like sardines, hundreds of UPSers were revved up, waiting for their union president, Sean O’Brien, to climb onto the back of the flatbed trailer serving as a podium, and to address the members of his home local.
Sean O’Brien: I am so proud when I talk to people and they have fire in their eyes, they’re got incredible fortitude. They got a burning desire in their stomachs to take on this company. Our wages stayed the same. In some cases they went down, but their balance sheet kept expanding. They made $100 billion off the pandemic. 100 billion dollars with a “B”. And what did we get? We got nothing. Well, that’s gonna change April 17th.
Teddy Ostrow: Hello my name is Teddy Ostrow. Welcome to the Upsurge, a podcast about UPS, the Teamsters, and the future of the American labor movement.
This podcast unpacks the unprecedented labor fight this year at UPS. In July, the contract of over 340,000 UPS workers will expire and if those workers strike, which is a real possibility, it will be the largest strike against a single company in US history.
Sean O’Brien: July 31st when Big Brown is shut down, you’re gonna see supply chain solutions.
Teddy Ostrow: The Upsurge is produced in partnership with In These Times and The Real News Network. Both are nonprofit media organizations that cover the labor movement closely. Check them out at inthesetimes.com and therealnews.com where you can also find an archive of all our past episodes.
And one more, quick thing: Please remember, we are an entirely listener-supported podcast. We don’t play ads. We depend on you to keep the show going. So if you like the show, please become a supporter of our Patreon at patreon.com/upsurgepod. You can find the link in the description.
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Alright, enough of that, onto the show
Sean O’Brien: When we fight, we win. When we fight, we win.
Teddy Ostrow: That is the sound of a rally my co-producer Ruby Walsh and I attended on April 2 in Boston. It was a kick-off action to put pressure on UPS and build engagement among union members ahead of April 17.
That’s the day national contract negotiations at UPS began.
And in this episode of The Upsurge, we’ll take you inside and outside the bargaining room.
Now, you can’t see it but I’m putting the word “began” in air quotes. And that’s because, well, negotiations at the national level actually haven’t really begun.
And that’s because the union leadership has put UPS on notice. As a power move, Sean O’Brien has said that they will not negotiate with the company on the national contract until the supplementals, basically UPS’s smaller regional agreements with different locals around the country, until those are done.
And while UPS’s CEO Carol Tome is insisting that everything is fine and that the company and the Teamsters are “not far apart on the issues,” if you talk to any worker, you’ll hear what the reality is on the ground.
UPS Worker: I feel like the negotiations started off good and now UPS is dragging their feet the same old thing, playbook. They’ve done every contract since I can remember.
Rosie Stedronsky: They’re not at the bargaining table. From what we’ve understood. We’ve seen pictures of them not showing up.
Teddy Ostrow: We’ve seen them. They are not doing what they need to be doing. That’s right… photos posted to social media by Teamsters across the nation show long conference tables. One one side sit union officers and rank and file UPSers, arms folded, visibly frustrated. On the other, empty chairs.
And when UPS does show up to negotiations, the conversations aren’t going as hoped.
Sean O’Brien: UPS is not even trying to bargain in good faith, actually regressive bargaining.
Vinnie Perrone: If I gave them the majority of what they wanted, my local would be gutted completely. It would be worthless.
Teddy Ostrow: The five year collective bargaining agreement at UPS expires on July 31. Now, during contract negotiations at any union there’s usually one of three things that can happen if a new contract isn’t settled before the old one’s expiration. First, the company and the union may temporarily extend the old contract until they can come to a new deal. Second, the company may initiate their own work stoppage, preventing workers from going to work in what’s called a lockout. And third, the union may call a strike and the workers, if they’re ready, wil hit the picket line.
Now, it’s increasingly looking like that third option is what’s gonna happen. And that’s why we’re seeing the Teamsters around the country take the negotiations outside the bargaining room, and into the workplace, with rallies, parking lot meetings, trainings in 25 cities for these kinds of actions and more.
You’ll hear from UPSers in Rhode Island, California, Massachusetts and New York.
But the union isn’t the only party that’s taking negotiations outside the bargaining room. Here’s package car driver Carlos Pina and part-timer warehouse worker Maya Morris in Boston.
Carlos Pina: UPS is, putting their foot on the gas and disciplining over unnecessary things more than ever. Now, you know, you, you walk in, they say, oh, you don’t got the right shoes on.
All right, take the day. They just, they’re, they’re nitpicking all these little things on us, um, just to, you know, try to shake up us a little bit, you know?
Maya, Local 25: The company’s like dragging us through the mud basically.they’re using us as kind of the chess piece is in their game, taking hits at us to take hits at the union.
And so, for instance, a lot of us are being laid off. People here are being laid off. Um, we’re having our hours cut
Teddy Ostrow: In this episode, we wanted to bring you inside the bargaining room, as well as outside of it. But admittedly the former has been a bit difficult.
And that’s because, well, there’s often an air of secrecy around contract negotiations. Either for lack of trust of the membership or worse, unions aren’t always the most open about what’s going on behind closed doors, so the rank and file and the rest of us can feel pretty left out.
Thankfully, we got to talk to two of the most open leaders in the entire Teamsters union. You’ll hear from them shortly, but first we thought maybe we should take a couple steps back.
Many workers, perhaps yourself included, don’t even labor under a contract at all. And most of us, certainly not under a collective bargaining agreement. That is, a labor contract that is negotiated not on an individual basis, but collectively through a union that represents the workers.
So as a first order of business, we thought we’d ask someone, what even is a contract?
Dean Doss: It’s the agreement on your employees are going to show up and do this; you as a company when your employees show up and do that you as a company you’re going to do this you’re going to pay them to do their job
Teddy Ostrow: That is Dean Doss. Out of Teamsters Local 63 in Ontario, California, he drives tractor trailer trucks for UPS, where he’s worked for 37 years. And that’s his barebones explanation of the contract, but I gave him a call because he’s known in the union as a guy who kinda just knows things.
I’m just curious of you all how’d that all come about. Have you you assumed this role as a Teamster historian of sorts?
Dean Doss: It’s that I read a lot.
Teddy Ostrow: Dean is a self-described nerd. He’s probably read about every book on UPS out there - both the pro-union and pro-company ones. He even collects print copies of the UPS contract.
Dean has since gotten his hands on some of those old copies: from 1993, 1997, 2002, and so on. And he doesn’t just collect them, he reads them too.
Dean Doss: I like to go back and see You know going back to the older contracts and see the one
Teddy Ostrow: Now that’s no easy task. When you have a company as big as UPS, the contract can get pretty complicated. And There wasn’t always just one grand master agreement that covers all UPSers nationally. Dean explained why:
Dean Doss: The history of the company was started in Seattle went to the west coast went to New York went to Chicago and then from there spread out to the rest of the United States. While all that was happening all those different places were just negotiating with just the locals that were in those areas It wasn’t one huge co cohesive unit negotiating
Teddy Ostrow: But eventually, Dean explained, the Teamsters realized they’d have a lot more bargaining power if they negotiated together, like Teamster workers in the freight industry, so in 1979…
Dean Doss: The Teamsters got together and said, hey we’re gonna have a National Master Agreement just like the National Master Freight Contract; and so they they got together and did that but a lot of the locals didn’t wanna do that. They said no we want our autonomy. We want to maintain some of our area, So they offered them the chance to have their supplementals and their writers for their individual areas.
Teddy Ostrow: So basically what Dean’s explaining is that in addition to the national contract, there are other agreements that UPSers fall under that vary by region. Dean, for example, falls under the Western Region supplement, alongside a number of other states on the West coast.
During my video call with him, he showed me the pages of his contract books, which were color-coded, each shade representing a part of the whole.
Dean Doss: The National Master Agreement is the white section, and it’s half of half of the contract book that I have.
Teddy Ostrow: That’s the section that covers all UPS workers, then there’s the one for supplementals, and another for what’s called riders.
Dean Doss: The western region is the yellow, yellow pages. And so like when we’re stewards and we’re talking, we’re like, well, it’s in the yellow section. Oh, it’s in the blue section…
Teddy Ostrow: Now, speaking to Dean, it became clear that having a contract is one thing, but having an organized union membership enforcing that contract is another.
And that means workers, and especially shop stewards like Dean, know the national agreement and their relevant supplement inside and out.
That’s because while the language for the national is the same across the workforce, the language for different supplements and riders, they can be quite different.
Dean Doss: So it’s interesting to go through that and read who has what.
And you know, ooh, they have better language over there than we have. Oh, they have worse language over there than we have. So, everybody’s paid break time. Everybody’s paid holiday. Is a little bit different from supplement to supplement.
Teddy Ostrow: And it’s not only break time and paid holidays that differ. Overtime protections, top pay rates for certain jobs and other issues vary too. So across the country, different locals may be dealing with different issues.
But despite the complexity of the contract, I had to ask Dean a simple question: How would you feel if you didn’t have a contract?
Dean Doss: At UPS? I can’t imagine. What they expect out of the employees, the time standards and, and all that, that they have, it’s difficult to, impossible to achieve those time standards. I can’t imagine not having the contract.
Teddy Ostrow: I’ve heard this take from UPSers before, that the company wouldn’t be as efficient without a union contract, but Dean also emphasized that without it, well, working conditions and pay would definitely be worse. Mirroring perhaps those of the mostly non-union Amazon and FedEx.
Now, remember what I said near the beginning? That it is these supplemental and rider contracts that Teamsters leadership is demanding must be finished across the country before they move on to bargaining the national.
Bare with me for a second, I know this stuff is a little wonky, but it’s important to understand that this is a power move by the Teamsters. Before this year, the national contract was usually bargained first, and supplements later. But the new Teamsters president Sean O’Brien made the strategic decision to flip it.
Vinnie Perrone: I think that the company UPS is totally taken aback and confused by the way these negotiations are happening
Teddy Ostrow: That’s Vinnie Perrone, president of the powerful Teamsters Local 804 in New York. In addition to negotiating his own local’s supplement, he’s on the negotiating committee of the national contract.
Vinnie Perrone: Because since I could remember, and I, I started in 1994, the. Supplements were negotiated after the national was already done,
So with Sean coming out and saying that the supplements have to be done before the national contract is uh, negotiated, I think that really threw, uh, UPS for a loop.
Teddy Ostrow: The reason is because in the past the international union would pressure its various locals like Vinnie’s to hurry up and finish their supplements after the national’s done, forcing them to make some concessions to the company along the way. But now, the onus is on UPS to take negotiations seriously, to finish them up before the national contract expires and the union threatens a strike.
Now, Vinnie of 804, he’s probably one of the most vocal and open local presidents in the entire Teamsters union. So I thought I’d ask him, what does bargaining for his supplement even look like?
Vinnie Perrone: You know, we routinely had 20 people there. The company had 14, 15 people there, we had to rent a conference room in a hotel. It’s set up where it’s basically long tables on one side and long tables on the other, and we square.
Teddy Ostrow: By square off, Vinnie means that each side will go back and forth presenting proposals, asking questions and making clarifications. The union or company may call a caucus, basically a break to discuss issues privately on each respective side.
On the Teamsters side in addition to lawyers and union officers, rank and file from each job classification sit in on bargaining too.
Vinnie Perrone: There are 10 members on our rank and file committee.
Uh, most of them are shop stewards, a few are not, and we expect them to go back and tell the membership what’s going on in negotiations.
Teddy Ostrow: 804 and other locals across the country have been inclusive of rank and file in negotiations for some time. The point is to keep the members engaged and garner their expertise on their own jobs.
But for the first time in 26 years, actual workers are joining national negotiations. too.
Now while some workers feel that the union still deals with transparency issues, that’s a big deal for a union that has for so long under conservative leadership pretty much shut workers out entirely, in what UPSers have referred to as a “brown out.”
Now, besides the logistics of bargaining we also wanted to know how it actually feels to be in that room.
Richard Hooker Jr: So it starts off cordially. You get their proposals, then it becomes frustrating. Then that’s when attention comes in…
Teddy Ostrow: That is the militant Richard Hooker Jr., secretary-treasurer of the Philadelphia Local 623. I spoke with him about his supplements negotiations too.
Richard Hooker Jr: Because now, they begin to show you who they really are.
And so when you, when you go into that mindset, you also become irate and frustrated, but you can’t let that stop you from doing what you need to do while you’re there.
You don’t want to get emotional, you know? You don’t want to get emotional.
Teddy Ostrow: Is it hard not to?
Richard Hooker Jr: Oh my God, yes. It is because you, you, you, you can see and feel the disrespect every time they open their mouth, right?
Teddy Ostrow: But Richard and Vinnie keep their cool. They have to. For their bargaining committee and the thousands of union members they’re representing at the table.
There’s a number of issues they need to address. Major ones like part-time wages and the abolition of the two-tier driver system, those will be handled at the national level.
What Richard and Vinnie are fighting for include longer breaks for part-timers, MLK Day and Juneteenth as a paid holidays, better language related to discipline, and other things particular to each of their locals.
And while some progress has been made, for the most part, UPS is playing hardball.
Richard Hooker Jr: UPS is not even trying to bargain in good faith, actually regressive bargaining.
Teddy Ostrow: Around the country, the union has been hearing the same song from UPS. That they will only engage in “cost-neutral bargaining.” You may be wondering, what the heck is that?
Vinnie Perrone: Well, this is not the first time that they’ve done this. Besides cost neutral, they have used the term, well, it’s, it’s gotta be one for one. Give you something, we need to get something.
Teddy Ostrow: Richard gave me an example.
Richard Hooker Jr: So right now, we have the day after Thanksgiving or Black Friday. You get paid for that holiday, right?
So what they’re saying is, We’ll give you Martin Luther King Day, but we gotta get that day back that that Black Friday day, that’s cost neutral. If you want us to give you this, you gotta give us that.
Now, the company claims that package volume is down and they can’t put more money on the table. But Richard and Vinnie are calling their bluff.
Vinnie Perrone: That’s been their mantra for the last 10 years that I’ve experienced it.
Richard Hooker Jr: Every year they make a record profit. So now, which is it? There’s no new money. You know, you’re not making more money. Which is, which is a lie because. They report everything to their shareholders, right? You know, we just made this company 318 billion in the lifetime of this contract, and now they’re asking for more.
Teddy Ostrow: They want more concessions. What did our members get during, during the pandemic? Was there any hazard pay? Man, we had members that died. UPS didn’t care. They was out there. They was out there delivering, torting, and loading. They didn’t care. So we don’t care.And “cost-neutrality” as a phrase, they explained, is pretty misleading.
Vinnie Perrone: Frankly, you talk about cost neutral. There has, there’s been no, no cost neutrality for the last 20 something years. We’ve gone backwards. Our part-timers have suffered, you know, the minimum wage goes up and we have minimum wage earners in a, in a teamster union.
That’s a shame. It’s a crime.
Teddy Ostrow: But cost-neutrality is not the only corporate-speak that’s echoing across bargaining rooms around the country. They’re also demanding “flexibility.” On its face that sounds friendly enough, but in reality, Richard and Vinnie explained it’s just another way to exploit the workforce.
Richard Hooker Jr: They want to be able to schedule workers anytime, any place throughout the week. That’s what it means.
They want to be able to tell you, you can work Monday and Tuesday. Um, Wednesday, come back to work Thursday off Friday, or something crazy like that. They want to be able to manipulate the schedule however they want to and have the members work.
Teddy Ostrow: Yes, you heard that right. UPS wants to be able to schedule workers any five days out of the seven day week. You can imagine, that’s pretty sweet for UPS, but it makes living a normal life nearly impossible for the worker.
Well, what about your family? How can you live your quality of your life? How can you plan your life around an inconsistent schedule? You know?
Another iteration of “flexibility” UPS is gunning for, is the expansion of independent contractors, basically delivery drivers that are worse paid, less protected and non-union.
Vinnie Perrone: They’ve been doing this for a number of years and we actually, um, took them to arbitration on it with their, you know, basically, Uber Eats type driver that delivers out of their own personal vehicle. They want a gig economy type workforce.
Teddy Ostrow: But there is another prime example of this concessionary flexibility. And that is of course the introduction of the two-tier driver system which we discussed in Episode 4 — As a reminder, that’s the creation of new twenty two four delivery driver jobs but for worse pay, less protections and a Tuesday through Saturday schedule.
Now, Richard told me about something even worse that UPS is proposing this time around, and they’re playing dirty to try to get it.
It all started when Richard thought that the union and the company were actually coming to an agreement on one issue in the contract.
Richard Hooker Jr: So, We have this, this provision in our supplement about full-time jobs and how they’re administered and, and, um, part-timers in how they get full-time jobs.
So we wanted to clean that up because it’s a problem. So we worked it out, we cleaned it up. Everybody was in agreement at the table,This was another major victory that we were going to get. I mean, we had it nailed down.
So we come back to meet, to give us this paper, the proposal, the TA that we had, and they slid in. What I liken to two twenty-fours on steroids, right?
Teddy Ostrow: To be clear, Richard is saying that after the union and the company had explicitly agreed on a specific proposal, UPS tried to sneak in some extra language that created a whole other classification of driver. Basically, the twenty two fours but much, much worse.
Richard Hoooker Jr: So if you, if you look at twenty two fours now, at least they gained seniority, full-time. Seniority, right. Things like that. What, what they tried to do was have these other, these other twenty two fours on steroids that I’m calling it, they’re not gaining in seniority.
Teddy Ostrow: They’re not full-time. They’re going to eat up all the overtime from our regular package car drivers and it was just going to be a complete mess. As for the twenty two fours on steroids, the maximum flexibility and cost-neutral bargaining, Vinnie, Richard and negotiating committees around the country are telling UPS no way.
Vinnie Perrone: that’s not what the teamsters are interested in
Richard Hooker Jr: We said, no, we’re not doing that. You, you, you guys are regressive. You guys are entering in again, regressive bargaining because we agreed to something and then you, you snuck this in there to make it worse.
Teddy Ostrow: Now, with the Teamsters union explicitly saying it will go on strike if there’s no contract by August 1, I asked Richard what he thinks UPS’s strategy is, bringing to the table proposals that the union simply won’t agree to?
Richard Hooker Jr: I think UPS. As cocky and arrogant as they are, they don’t believe that we are committed to the fight. if UPS was concerned at all, then they would, they would act a lot differently than what they’re acting.
You only got 12 weeks left. That’s all you got. You mean to tell me that? I know as a company, everything is dependent on my workers and I’m not even coming to the table. In some places that means that they don’t care and they don’t think that we have. To fight back, but, but they, they are in for a rude awakening.
I’m telling you, if this thing is not done August 1st, they’re going to find out the hard way. And to me now, they just think like, oh, well they’re, the teams are gonna be the teams.
They’re gonna fight each other. They’re gonna bash each other. They’re not, they’re not taking this. But they’re gonna find out. They’re gonna find out.
Workers & Sean O’Brien: When we fight, we win. When we fight, we win.
Teddy Ostrow: Back outside, rank and file around the country are taking it to the streets to fight for the issues that matter to them. Here’s Rosie Stedronsky from Local 63 in California and Abraham Jules from Local 804 in New York.
Rosie Stedronsky: I want the part-timers to finally get the contract that they deserve. It’s time that the part-timers get paid. And it’s not just money. They need language.
Abraham Jules: We need strong language for the part-timers. I’m here to speak on behalf of all the twenty two four drivers, in pretty much a two tier system where the company is paying a generation of drivers much less than a regular package car driver.
Obviously, we all see that it’s unfair. You know, we’re working longer hours, delivering higher volumes, and we’re just looking to eliminate that and put a change to that.
Teddy Ostrow: Workers are hitting the gates, handing out leaflets before and after workers’ shifts, holding pre-work parking lot meetings, and even conducting trainings so that workers in less active locals, can learn how to build bottom-up power.
Here’s Corey Levensque, a 15 year Teamster out of the militant Local 251 in Rhode Island.
Corey Levensque: We’re here today to show the company. We’re united, we’re together across all classifications. Whether we’ve got guys that are starting off their career or ending their career, we’re united and we’re ready to fight for the contract that we deserve.
You know, this company, throughout the entire pandemic, they called us heroes. They had no problem telling the public that we were essential. Yet when it comes contract time, we’re no longer essential. It just doesn’t, it doesn’t compute with me.
Teddy Ostrow: On the other side of the country, part-timer Jose Francisco Negrete, who you heard from in episode 3, well, he was kind enough to speak to a range of Southern California UPSers who rallied by the hundreds at his home Local 952.
Workers: Hello. I’m here with members from 542 at San Diego Local out of San Diego. So what are you doing here at the rally? Today we’re fighting for unity, creating solidarity with, with the members coming to support, uh, our president and, uh, what he’s doing in negotiations for the contract.
And back in Boston, we ran into some familiar faces.
Antonio Rosario: You see this kind of energy. I personally haven’t felt this kind of energy since I was 22 years old in 1997.
Teddy Ostrow: Yes, that’s, Teamsters Local 804, from Episode 1.
Antonio Rosario:All right? When Ron Carey came down the Local 8 0 4 and gave his speech and told us that we were gonna be ready to hit the streets, that’s what I felt here today, man. You could feel it. It’s electrifying, you know?
Politicians, community groups, and most importantly other workers, non-union and union alike, have also been coming out to show their solidarity with their Teamsters siblings.
At a Local 804 rally in my hometown of Brooklyn, I had the chance to speak with an Amazon worker, Connor Spence. He’s an rank and file organizer with the Amazon Labor Union, which successfully organized the company’s first and so-far only unionized facility in Staten Island. He explains why he supports the Teamsters.
Connor Spence: we’re currently engaged in a fight for our own contract. Having won our union election over a year ago, we still can’t get Amazon to come to the table and start negotiations.
And really the only way to do that is to go on strike. So of course, if UPS those workers go on strike in the course of trying to negotiate their contract, that’s 300,000 workers that we can point to as an example for our workers and say, Like, this is how it’s done. You know, just take a look at what they’re doing and we can model what we want to do after that.
Teddy Ostrow: When you talk to UPS Teamsters they’re aware of the stakes of these negotiations. And back in Boston, we got to ask Sean O’Brien what the UPS contract means for the future of the Teamsters union and the broader labor movement.
Sean O’Brien: It is the future of the Teamsters Union. We’re gonna set the tone on every single negotiation.
We’re gonna utilize this as a template to make certain that every single employer knows that if they don’t respect their workers, that they’re gonna be treated just like UPS is moving forward. And look, everybody says we want a strike. No one wants a strike. If they don’t give our members what they want and they deserve, and they’re worthy of, they’re gonna cause a strike, not the Teamsters.
Teddy Ostrow: Now, while there’s a lot of excitement around the country right, there’s also a great deal of frustration. And that’s because well, the Teamsters aren’t the only ones taking negotiations outside the bargaining room.
Workers: you hear it all across the nation. They’re cutting routes. In my building personally, they stopped giving the twenty two fours overtime on Mondays, and they’re, they’re actually bringing people from other buildings to take our overtime.
They’re, you know, sending people home. They’re claiming volumes down. Then all of a sudden, like a random Friday, we get killed with, you know, extremely heavy days. So we can kind of see the games are starting to be played.
Teddy Ostrow: We heard stories like this everywhere. And in Boston, as Ruby and I zipped around the rally, we noticed a group of young UPSers, huddled in the back of the parking lot.
It turned out they were all part-time warehouse workers. And they had a lot to say. Here’s Harry Schofield and Maya Morris:
Harry Schofield, Local 25: Pretty much our facilities, they just decided that we’re not getting enough work at our facilities, our packages, which from my coworker’s point of view, the trucks down the line, there was no reason for me to be laid off. With me gone, the splitting goes to the next person, and those people have to load two, three trucks a piece. They can’t keep up.
Maya Morris, Local 25: They see, you know, the potential of their bottom line of being affected. And so what’s the first to go? Labor. So they’re cutting costs. That means they’re cutting our hours in our jobs.
Harry and Maya that they feel like pawns in UPS’s larger game.
Harry Schofield, Local 25: I think we’re being used as a chess piece isn’t a way, you know, they’re trying to attack the union because they see that the strike is gonna happen.
And so by attacking the union, they’re trying to attack US workers.
They’re cutting over and above the amount that package volume has dropped so that people are working the job of two, three other people. That’s insane.
Do you guys feel safe doing that type of stuff? It’s really not that safe. I mean, I’ve had times at my facility where, since they’ve laid off so many people, the boxes come down the belt and they are flying off of the belt.
They’re almost hitting other people.
Teddy Ostrow: Now, speaking to other UPSers, it was clear that layoffs weren’t just affecting part-timers. Here’s Fabrizio Matrascia, a full-time helper in Brooklyn.
Fabrizio Matrascia: I’m a full-time helper. Basically full-time helper is just, being on the truck with the driver doing everything the driver does, just minus the driving basically.
What is happening to me personally and other people like me is like we’re getting displaced. Meaning they took us off the road and put us in the warehouse to do basically part-timer jobs,
But they’re split shifting us. Where, in order to make our eight hours, we have to come four 30 in the morning to eight 30, go home, come back four 30 to eight 30 at night.
Teddy Ostrow: Fabrizio explained that this kind of schedule takes a serious toll.
Fabrizio Matrascia: So a lot of times we’re getting very little sleep. Uh, we’re getting overworked because they’re just shoving down packages down our throats.
So we’re touching at least a thousand packages. So with the lack of sleep and the over amount of work, we’re getting exhausted cause we’ve been doing this four months now, and for doing it four months straight, it just wears your body down to a point where it’s like, at any moment you feel like your body’s just gonna break.
Teddy Ostrow: Back to the part-timers in Boston. When we asked these young workers what they were fighting for, Ruby and I were surprised by how quick they were spin their fight to a broader struggle for workers across the US.
Maya Morris, Local 25: Beyond just each individual thing in the contract, I think it’s really like being able to revive the labor movement with the scale of UPS workers, the amount of them all within this union.
Teddy Ostrow: It was clear that Maya Morris, with only a few months under her belt at UPS, was a magnetic leader. As she spoke, everyone listened, and you couldn’t help but feel that the future was in these young workers’ hands.
Maya Morris, Local 25: You know, there’s an ability to really shake up this country, and to show people that it’s possible to be able to take a stand, and to, you know, extend that fight as long as possible until we get our win. And then if we show that that has ripple effects into the society, that has ripple effects and it affects the other workers in other industries that are also getting shafted by their employers to say that, you know what, we actually wanna stand for our dignity.
We wanna stand for the ability to not just get a little bit more crumbs out of this employer that’s taking the lion share of the things that we produce, you know?
Teddy Ostrow: You just listened to episode 6 of The Upsurge. Now, I just wanted to say that negotiations are currently happening and a lot can change quickly. As I recorded the bulk of this episode, I was told that Vinnie Perrone’s Local 804 actually came to a tentative agreement with the company, but we don’t have details yet. Meanwhile roughly 15 supplemental agreements out of 40 still haven’t been settled. Without those, national negotiations will not start.
So please, stay tuned. We’ll have some updates on our end when those national negotiations get started.
The Upsurge is produced in partnership with In These Times and The Real News Network. Both are nonprofit media organizations that cover the labor movement closely. Check them out at inthesetimes.com and therealnews.com where you can also find an archive of all our past episodes.
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But the best way to show your support is by becoming a patron of the show at patreon.com/upsurgepod. We are listener-supported and can’t continue without you. You can find a link in the description.
Now before our patron shout outs, I just wanted to give special thanks to Jose Francisco Negrete of Local 952 who sent me a ton of audio from the rally he attended there. And also I want to thank Rand Wilson, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, Teamsters Local 251 and Corey Levensque for the audio they contributed to this episode.
On to our special thank yous and shout outs to our patrons at the Business
Agent tier or higher.
and Timothy Kruger
The podcast was edited by Teddy Ostrow.
It was produced by NYGP and Ruby Walsh.
Music is by Casey Gallagher.
The cover art was done by Devlin Claro Resetar.
Teddy Ostrow is a journalist from Brooklyn covering labor and economics. He is the host of The Upsurge podcast and his work has appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TeddyOstrow.
Ruby Walsh is an audio producer from Brooklyn. She is a co-producer of The Upsurge podcast and a development producer for Giant Grin LLC. Formerly, she was the associate producer of Moyers on Democracy and wrote for BillMoyers.com.