The Teamsters and UPS Are Returning to the Bargaining Table. Will They Reach a Deal In Time?

Since negotiations broke down on July 5, Teamsters leadership has been touring UPS facilities around the country to rally the rank-and-file.

Teddy Ostrow and Ruby Walsh

UPS workers hold placards at a rally held by the Teamsters on July 19, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Read the full transcript below.

With one week till the strike deadline, UPS and the Teamsters have agreed to resume negotiations on July 25. A deal is still possible and workers’ pressure is proving effective.

The Teamsters have already won tentative agreements on several key issues. UPS has pledged to end two-tier pay for drivers, install air conditioning in new trucks, and curtail forced overtime. But the Teamsters aren’t celebrating yet. Instead, there is cross-classification unity for the union’s remaining demand: higher pay for part-time workers. If UPS refuses this demand, then, as Teamster President Sean O’Brien puts it, they are choosing to strike themselves.”

In the first part of this episode, we bring you to one of several rallies happening at Teamster locals all over the country. In Long Island, solidarity abounded as Teamsters general president Sean O’Brien, Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and the new president of the UAW Shawn Fain rallied for a just contract at UPS.

Next, Rand Wilson, a Teamsters for a Democratic Union organizer from Episode 2 returns to the show, alongside Misty Baker, a ten-year part-time UPS worker out of Local 651 in Lexington, Kentucky. You’ll hear about the organizing going on around the country, the remaining issues in contract negotiations, and the propaganda UPS is putting out to pit worker against worker, and worker against consumer. 


This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Misty Baker: Every part-timer has to work two or three jobs to make a living. Well, I mean, that’s why I left years ago. I couldn’t work three part-time jobs and take care of my children as a single mom. But now coming back, the schedule is so inconsistent

Teddy Ostrow: In high-profile negotiations over the past month, UPS Teamsters have won several tentative agreements on key issues: two-tier work among drivers will end, air conditioning will be put in new package trucks, and forced overtime will be curtailed. However, on July 5 negotiations halted over one crucial issue: raising the poverty wages of part-timer UPS workers. But full- timers and part-timers together are threatening to strike if UPS doesn’t pay up.

Rand Wilson: So many drivers started in preload or started in the sort and have that experience, and they understand the oppression and the stress and strain of working at UPS part-time.

Misty Baker: We all have families. We meet people across the nation, like talk to em. All they have to do. Talk to everybody. Tell everybody how UPS does you.

Teddy Ostrow: Unity and solidarity are the strengths of labor. And with them, UPS workers may just win the battle for hearts and minds.

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. At the end of this month the contract of over 340,000 UPS workers will expire and if those workers strike, which is a real possibility, it will be the second-largest strike against a single company in US history.

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 inthe​se​times​.com and the​re​al​news​.com where you can also find an archive of all our past episodes.

You may have noticed that our intro is slightly different from previous episodes. Friend and previous guest of the show Barry Eidlin brought to our attention that a UPS strike in 2023 would not be the largest strike against a single employer in US history, as we and mainstream media have trumpeting. Rather it would be the second-largest strike of the sort.

The largest single-employer strike was actually the one at General Motors in 1970, involving 400,000 UAW auto workers. It’s truly mind-boggling to think there were that many UAW members at just one company at the time. 

I’ll throw the article Barry sent me about the strike in the description of the show. Something Barry emphasized to me personally and later online is that this doesn’t detract at all from how important the potential UPS strike is for today’s labor movement. And to move forward we need to ground ourselves in an accurate historical record. So I’m sorry that I have boosted that inaccuracy. 

And now our short episodic plea: We are a listener-funded podcast. We cannot do this work without you. We are almost at 100 monthly patrons. This podcast takes a lot of work. So please, if you like the show, you have a few bucks to spare every month, please help us out by heading over to patre​on​.com/​u​p​s​u​r​gepod and becoming a supporter today. You can find the link in the description. 

I’ll repeat, keeping the show going after the UPS fight is certainly in the cards, but it depends on your support.

One last thing: The Upsurge will be doing a livestream next week on Tuesday, July 25 at 7pm Eastern Time, with The Upsurges partners, The Real News Network and In These Times. We will be speaking with four Teamsters about the past year, what’s going on now in the contract campaign, and all of the demands and issues that we’ve been covering on The Upsurge over the past seven months. 

I will be co-hosting it alongside Maximillian Alvarez, the editor in chief of The Real News. You’ll be able to tune in at their YouTube channel, and the video will be posted on the websites of In These Times and The Real News. You will also be able to hear the audio on the podcast streams of The Upsurge and The Real News. So please, join us live, or tune in after the show next week. It’s gonna be an exciting livestream.

Alright, onto the show. 

This week is an update episode on the state of the contract campaign and negotiations. The Teamsters and UPS will return to the bargaining table next week after two weeks of hiatus.

First we’ll bring you to one of the several rallies that were happening at Teamsters locals around the country in the meantime. I drove over to Long Island from my hometown of Brooklyn, NY to hear from UPS workers, as well as Teamsters general president Sean O’Brien, Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and the new president of the UAW Shawn Fain. 

Next, Rand Wilson, the Teamsters for a Democratic Union organizer from Episode 2 returns to the show, alongside Misty Baker, a ten-year part-time UPS worker out of Local 651 in Lexington, Kentucky. You’ll hear about the organizing going on around the country, the remaining issues in contract negotiations, and the propaganda UPS is putting out to pit worker against worker, and worker against consumer. 

Before we get to all that, let’s take a ride to Long Island, New York. 

Over the past two weeks, the Teamsters have upped the ante on practice pickets, parking lot meetings, trainings, webinars, and rallies to put pressure on UPS and make the strike threat of 340,000 workers credible. UPSers are also drumming up public support. Drivers are running their regular routes to inform their customers of what’s going on, and to ask them to stand in solidarity with the Teamsters.

The union announced on July 19 that negotiations will resume the following week, and a deal that will prevent a strike is certainly still possible.

But since negotiations broke down on July 5, specifically over the wages of part-time workers, Sean O’Brien and General Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman have been touring UPS facilities and Teamsters locals around the country to rally the rank-and-file, and to preach unity at this critical moment leading up to July 31st.

One of their stops was in Long Island, New York to rally with UPS Teamsters from Local 804. So I hopped in my mom’s car and drove to the union hall of Local 282 in New Hyde Park, where the rally was being held. 

When I arrived, there was a kind of giddiness in the air. The main hall of the local quickly got packed with Teamsters from various locals, as well as United Auto Workers, Starbucks workers and others who attended in solidarity. 

Mind you, this was only one day after 160,000 screen actors represented by SAG-AFTRA launched their own strike, joining over 11,000 writers of the WGA, and 15,000 hotel workers of UNITE HERE on the picket line. 

Something is happening. Corporate America is pleading poverty, but workers around the country are calling their BS.

AOC: They’re trying to say that we can’t afford part-timers to pay them a living wage. I don’t think so. I don’t think so. 

Teddy Ostrow: One the rally’s esteemed speakers, Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez from New York.

AOC: However, we know that if it wasn’t for you all standing up, that is always the nexus. If we don’t stand up for ourselves, no one will stand up for us. Okay? No one will stand up for us.

You all are the essential ingredient. Your courage is the essential ingredient to this. Your solidarity is the essential ingredient to this. And what we’re here to do is to make sure that we’re able to go out and organize the rest of our communities, our constituencies. And I can tell you that New York’s 14th Congressional District in the Bronx and Queens, everybody has your back in this.

Everybody does. So keep it up, keep going. 

Teddy Ostrow: Next on the podium was Sean O’Brien.

Sean O’Brien: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. We are taking on the biggest organized crime syndicate in the world, white collar crime syndicate known as UPS. Now, just a little bit of history, when we decided to run to take back our international union, it was important that we came together as one. Whether you were with a certain faction or another faction, the one thing we needed to do to win and to keep winning is to make sure that we collaborate.

Collaborate with another, regardless of what our politics were or are or what they’re gonna be, regardless of who you voted for, who you didn’t vote for. The one thing that was certain that we needed to come together as one unit, one vision, one mission is that to make this unit bigger, faster, and stronger, and I think we’re on the verge of having a tremendous victory.

If not, we’re gonna have a tremendous fight. Either way, we’re at peace with our decision. Our members have spoken loud. 340,000 deep, 97% strike vote. It’s a coincidence that 97% of our members voted for the strike, and the last time UPS had a strike was 1997.

Teddy Ostrow: As he has on several news broadcasts over the past two weeks, O’Brien turned to the linked struggles of part-time and full-time workers at UPS.

Sean O’Brien: For the last two contracts, the one thing that’s certain is that our part-timers have been left behind. Our part-timers are the unsung heroes of UPS. Now, the full-timers are very, very important. They’re vital in this fight.

And you know, UPS is going around telling everybody our full timers make $93,000 per year. Well, do the math. How many hours does it take to be away from your family to make $93,000 per year? What they don’t tell you is that people are missing little league games. They’re missing dance recitals, they’re missing quality time at home. And then what UPS is trying to do in the media right now, it’s saying that the part-timers make $20 an hour. That’s the first lie. The second lie they told is that the package car drivers and feeder drivers make $39 an hour, and that the part-timers make $5 less.

I said, if that’s the case, I’ll take that deal right now. Right? They suffer from a bad, bad disease that’s called lie-abetes. Right? They need a little truth-sulin. And we are their truth-sulin.

This is about the entire labor movement.

We have battles going on everywhere right now. This is gonna be the biggest one. We provide 6% of the supply chain. We deliver 6% of goods and services through this country. If UPS chooses to strike themselves because they’re greedy and they’re loyal to Wall Street, not Main Street, they will throw this country into a recession. 

And people say to us all the time, well, if you strike UPS, don’t you fear you’re gonna lose jobs? No, absolutely. We’re gonna lose jobs. But you know what? We’re in it for a little. There’s gonna be some short pain for long-term gain. We will come back bigger, faster, and stronger.

Teddy Ostrow: O’Brien then addressed what’s been on many Teamsters’ minds since a strike of 115,000 rail workers was preemptively broken last year by Joe Biden and Congress. Will Biden intervene and force UPSers back to work under the Taft-Hartley law?

Sean O’Brien: I’ve made it clear to the White House that the neighborhood that I grew up in, if two people are fighting in the street, you have nothing to do with it. You keep walking. We will solve our own problems regardless. I can promise you this, regardless of what happens if anybody tries to limit our ability to strike this company, we are not gonna stop. I would rather ask for forgiveness than permission.

UPS understands that the clock is ticking right now. They have no allies, but they create enemies every single day. And when you create enemies every single day, it makes it hotter and hotter and hotter. We are gonna be corporate America’s conscience.

We are gonna win this fight. And I got a message for UPS. Put your helmets on. Buckle your chin straps, full contact sport. Thank you very much.

Teddy Ostrow: The excitement was infectious on the floor of the hall. Attendees mobbed O’Brien as he left the podium. But I wanted to know what the workers were thinking. Here’s Emil Biganov, a driver in Brooklyn from Local 804.

Emil Biganov: I felt very great to see all the support that we’re getting from local officials, from the public, from the other unions.

It brings so much energy and I’m very confident in this leadership that we got now and that we was waiting for this so long and now it’s finally coming through that we’re gonna see big changes.

Teddy Ostrow: Kioma Forero, another driver from Brooklyn and an activist with Teamsters for a Democratic Union, said that she’s itching for a strike.

Kioma Forero: I was just saying to the young lady that works with the organization, TDU with all of this excitement, all of this craziness, and like, I just wanna do it for one day. As a worker, like myself, I’m a driver, but I was also a part-timer. You don’t want the company to stop because this is the way we feed our family, technically speaking.

But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. 

Teddy Ostrow: Do you feel ready to strike at this point? 

Kioma Forero: Oh, hell yeah. I’ll get up extra early just to be there early.

Teddy Ostrow: Now, O’Brien wasn’t the only labor leader to be mobbed at the rally. Workers were lining up to shake the hand of the other labor Shawn - Shawn Fain, that is, the new president of the United Auto Workers union. He and a number of other UAW leaders attended the rally. And It was significant because high-profile negotiations between the UAW and the Big 3 automakers - Ford, GM and Stellantis - had begun earlier that week. 

And Fain has made it clear that only a month and half after Teamsters may strike UPS, he’s not afraid to lead 150,000 auto workers out onto the picket line if their demands are not met in new contracts. I had to ask him:

Why was it important for the UAW for you to come here at this time to be with the Teamsters? 

Sean O'Brien speaks as Teamsters members join members of the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild outside Amazon Studios in Culver City, California, on July 19, 2023. CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images

Shawn Fain: The Teamsters fight is our fight. Our fight’s gotta be theirs. Labor has to come together no matter what sector, no matter what division, no matter what the work is. You look at the Teamsters path, you look at our path, it’s, it’s parallel.

We have the same issues no matter where you go in a union. It’s the same issues. These companies wanna pay poverty wages, they want to utilize a temporary workforce with no commitment to anything babysit, and it’s gotta stop. So we’ve gotta end the tears. You know, we’ve gotta get economic justice for not just our members, but for the working class.

And we have an obligation as union leaders to make that happen. With our membership, the membership’s fed up. The membership at UPS, you can tell, is fed up and Sean O’Brien is doing a hell of a job leading that. And our paths are paralleling very much and we have to come together and lead that fight.

We’ve had a lot of our members going to support their practice pickets and all that they’ve been doing. And I mean, I’m proud of that. I mean, we want our members out there supporting the Teamsters and if it comes to that for us, then I know we’ll get the same thing from them. So that’s what it’s all about, standing together.

Teddy Ostrow: Now clearly, the show of unity among Teamsters, and the solidarity from other unions, politicians, as well as over 3,000 UPS pilots, who are represented by another union but have vowed to not to cross the picket line during a strike, is having an effect. 

The Teamsters and UPS will return to the bargaining table next week. 

While on July 5, UPS told the union they had no more money to give, after all the pressure of the past two weeks the corporation noted in a press release We are prepared to increase our industry-leading pay and benefits, but need to work quickly to finalize a fair deal that provides certainty for our customers, our employees and businesses across the country.”

It’s important to note that while previously the union has stated that they will strike on August 1 without a ratified contract by the end of the month, it appears now that they are willing to delay a strike if a tentative agreement is reached before then. At that point, it would take roughly three weeks for the membership to vote on it. 

And at this point, really anything could happen. We’re at a wait-and-see moment. 

But prior to the news about negotiations resuming, I spoke with Rand Wilson and Misty Baker about the past two weeks when the union has upped their pressure on UPS. 

You’ll remember Rand Wilson from Episode 2, one of our most popular episodes, when we covered the 1997 UPS strike. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already. Rand was the communications coordinator of the 1997 UPS contract campaign and now he is an organizer with the organization Teamsters for a Democratic Union. 

Also joining me was Misty Baker, a rank and file part-time UPSer and activist with TDU out of Local 651.

I wanted to talk to Rand and Misty in part because much of the heavy lifting of organizing and members around the country has been pushed by TDU. Misty told me offline that she’d have very little support without organization. 

Plus, I wanted to get Misty’s perspective as a part-timer at UPS, given that negotiations now hinge on raises for workers like her.

Misty Baker and Rand Wilson, welcome to The Upsurge.

Misty Baker: Hello. 

Rand Wilson: Hey. Great to see you. Teddy, 

Teddy Ostrow: Maybe we can start with you, Rand. From a bird’s eye view, negotiations broke down. The Teamsters are ramping up their pressure on UPS right now. What are we seeing from UPS Workers Teamsters, all around the country?

Rand Wilson: Well, it’s been amazing to see the practice picketing. And the effort that’s being made to bring part-timers and full-timers together for good jobs and to win a contract, that’s a win for everybody.

And the practice picketing has just taken off. I was looking at video footage this morning of members up in Presque, Maine on the Canadian border in a tiny UPS center there. And they were practice picketing and they got great coverage on the local TV station for the work that they’re doing. And you know, rank and file members talking about the importance of unifying membership to come together to win the best possible agreement.

Hopefully avoiding a strike, but saying that they’re ready to strike if necessary. It’s very exciting. 

Teddy Ostrow: Right. And we’ve also seen rallies as the Teamster leadership have been going around the country. I just went to one in New York, and I believe there’s one in Los Angeles today when we’re speaking.

But Misty, we haven’t had you on the show before. Thanks so much for joining us. You guys did a practice picket two over at your local, you’re in Lexington, Kentucky. Can you tell us about what the energy’s like, what you’ve been doing to organize, just your general sense, you know, are you ready to strike the company if you have to?

Misty Baker: It is contagious. The energy is very contagious. The picket went well. I think it went really well. 

I think that everybody’s engaged. Most definitely. They’re asking questions. A lot of people still have a lot to learn.

I mean, part-timers are a revolving door, you know, not a lot of people make a career out of part-time at UPS. I hate to say that out loud, but some of us do. Some don’t. They’re learning and we kind of teach, you know, teamwork makes the dream work.

So we all do it together. We’re gonna stay together, we’re gonna stick together, we’ll blow our whistles together, we’ll chant together. Everything’s together. 

Teddy Ostrow: So talks broke down on July 5th, and they broke down over part-time wages specifically. Now this conversation about part-time wages often hinges on starting pay for part-timers, and this is very important of course. Teamsters for Democratic Union has been pushing for $25 an hour. Sean O’Brien, I saw him at a practice picket last Friday. He told me personally, they’re pushing for above 23. But regardless, you know, we’re talking right now about raising people out of poverty, who are in part-time jobs, current part-timers, and. And part-timers who also have been at the company for a long time, they’re also looking for wages.

We’re talking about market rate adjustments. These are the raises that UPS is giving starting part-timers, around the country in order to compete with other employers. So there’s a spectrum of issues right now, and I was hoping, Misty, you’ve been working part-time on and off for about 10 years. Can you help us understand what part-timers are dealing with? What are the part-timers dealing with on your shift? And what would you guys like to see?

Sign up for our weekend newsletter
A weekly digest of our best coverage

Misty Baker: As the chief steward on preload, the biggest issues I hear, this morning we have a gentleman, he’s, well, several actually, that have been there for 13 years and making $20.80.

The part-timers are, and he’s part-time. The part-timers coming in as new hires with the market rate adjustments that UPS provides is $18. I know that they put on Facebook or wherever they put all their social media that the part-timers are making $20. And in our building that is not the case. And without the MRA that they can take any time, and they do, they’ll give it, they’ll take it at their convenience.

It gets everybody up in arms, but it’s the same. I mean, it’s just horrible. It creates division. But without that, our contractual rate would be $16.65. That has to change. And the new contract that was negotiated in 2018, I don’t know if I should say this out loud, but you know, that administration was corrupt.

They sold us all out, so now we’re asking for catch up raises. These guys should have got that. Then, you know, I’m speaking for the people I work with, and even myself. Five years this time around at UPS, I’m making the same amount as people that have been there 15 years. And that’s just not right.

We’re doing the same work and it sucks for them. Well, it sucks for me when a new hire comes in the door making the same and more because they’ll give em attendance bonuses on top of that. I know a lot of the part-timers, they want catch up raises. as far as a specific pay rate.

They haven’t really clarified, but they’d like to see it $20 or above. And the one thing that they have said is that if the MRAs come into effect, they need to stay, that UPS shouldn’t be able to give and take them. 

Teddy Ostrow: And you also mentioned to me previously that scheduling is an issue.

You know, a lot of people work part-time because they can’t, you know, work full-time. Some want full-time jobs. There seem to be a range of issues related to this. 

Misty Baker: Yes. As a part-time employee, when you’re hired at UPS, they tell you you’re guaranteed three and a half hours. It’s normal.

Every part-timer has to work two or three jobs to make a living. Well, I mean, that’s why I left years ago. I couldn’t work three part-time jobs and take care of my children as a single mom. But now coming back, the schedule is so inconsistent. Well, peak season every year, November through January, you’re forced to work six days a week.

So you have to tell your second and third job, I’m sorry, UPS demands that I work for them. So you lose the job more than likely, that’s what happens. You lose your second job. So the part-timers are constantly rotating through second jobs. To the point where they won’t have rehire em.

I mean, UPS comes first if they schedule you to work three to nine, well, this week you’re gonna start at three o’clock next week you might start at four the next month you might start at 1:00 AM It’s just you have to keep your schedule free for them from 12:00 AM to 12:00 PM on my specific shift like.

Teddy Ostrow: They have a very inconsistent schedule, so I actually get tired of hearing part-time hours because it’s full-time responsibilities at a part-time job, including the inconsistent schedule. You know, something I wanted to also talk about with you guys, something important in these critical few weeks before July 31st, you know, especially as negotiations hinge on these part-time wages, what we’re talking about, is the unity between part-timers and full-timers who have often been at odds, a consequence I think of the company stoking division, and the union in previous leadership perhaps allowing that to happen. Can you guys talk about the unity across classifications that we’re seeing and why that’s so important? 

Rand Wilson: Well, I think, I think the division is a little overblown. So many drivers started in preload or started in the sort and have that experience, and they understand the oppression and the stress and strain of working at UPS part-time. Sometimes we need to remind some of the longer term guys that you know from where they came from.

And then, you know, a driver depends on a part-time worker to load their truck and to load it correctly. It’s not like, oh, you just stuff a bunch of packages into a truck and then the truck takes off. No, it’s gotta be loaded in a certain order so that, that route. unloads correctly as the drivers, making their trip.

So drivers have an appreciation for the part-timers, and there’s a close relationship, especially between the pre-load and the driver to get the job done. You know, the issue, I think is what we have not seen in a long time is the union taking a strong stand. On behalf of the part-timers, what is so exciting right now is to see the National Negotiation Committee and Sean O’Brien and Fred Zuckerman really standing up.

And with the whole committee voting unanimously to reject the company’s offer July 5th and take a stand for the part-timers. And, you know, I think it resonates with the public that the part-timers are contributing to the success of this company just as much as any driver or feeder.

And, you know, this is their time. they’re overdue. And as Misty pointed out, You know, they’re overdue since 2018, when they didn’t get what they deserved. So, it’s been a long time coming and UPS needs to acknowledge the good work and the important value that these people contribute to the bottom line of this company.

Misty Baker: I mean, he said it. I think preloads and package car drivers do have a special bond. The regular package car drivers, those guys are the ones who had to do part-time work for years upon years before they could nail that position.

I don’t know how long, I think some of them have said that they’ve had to wait eight to ten years before they could go into that job, so they had to work part-time. That long before they could have the opportunity to be full-time at UPS. Then in 2018, that administration, they allowed 22-4’s to come into play.

The 22-4’s are also a full-time position, paid at a lower rate. Of course, that’s gonna cause division. They’re doing the same work that these other guys are doing. Quite a significant amount less, and in turn causes a little division between the preloads and those guys, because the 22-4’s, they don’t have the same perks, but they also didn’t put in the grunt work as part-timers, so they don’t understand what we necessarily do. We’ve matured together and some people are just still learning. 

And I can’t wait for the 22-4’s to be gone so that we can all be just a little, love each other a little more. 

Management struggles to manage. I don't see 'em being able to do much else.

Teddy Ostrow: Smoothing over some of these divisions seems like a really important part of this contract. Whether it’s like the secondary drivers, whether it’s bringing part-time wages up closer to what full-timers make, the unity just seems so important right now.

Something I wanted to ask you, Rand and you can hop in too, Misty, is, in addition to stoking divisions between workers or trying to, the company appears to be trying to stoke divisions between workers and their customers, some of whom are workers too. The media is sounding the alarm about this quote unquote Looming UPS strike”. They’re emphasizing all this potential damage that’s gonna happen and all this harm to consumers. And this sort of puts all the responsibility in the workers’ camp, at least from how I understand it.

But Randy, you worked as a communications coordinator during the 1997 UPS strike. I imagine that you were pushing up against this sort of framing. How would you respond to that kind of framing? How should listeners and how should workers be responding to that kind of framing?

Rand Wilson: Well, I think Sean O’Brien’s put it pretty clearly that the company’s gonna be striking itself and that the burden for preventing a strike is on UPS, not on the workers. It’s nice to have that clear leadership. The relationship between the customer and a driver isn’t as tight as it used to be.

Back in the day, the driver did the writeup of the order, essentially selling the service to the customer. Now that’s all done online, before the, before the driver gets there either for the pickup or the drop. But still, the relationship between the customer and the driver is a strong one.

That’s who they count on, and that’s the person that’s in their community. They know that that job is kind of community sustaining. Those are family wages that drivers are making and customers understand that that’s part of creating a strong economy in this country.

And I think UPS consistently underestimates that relationship. They can buy all the ads they want, they can do all the social media they want, but the reality is nobody gives two hoots about corporate executives in Atlanta, or, you know, big shot, high earning managers, they see the driver and that’s who they relate to, and that’s who they count on to get their packages. And that’s where the sympathy of the public lies. Think about the context right now. The writers are on strike. The actors are on strike. The nurses are on strike. Yesterday, some fast food workers at Waffle House went on strike. This country is seeing an upsurge that I haven’t seen in my lifetime. This is a special moment in American history with a resurgent labor movement.

UPS has gotta pay attention to the context that they’re bargaining in. Now’s not the time to nickel and dime part-timers or to try to break this union. The public is on our side, customers are on our side, and the context has never been better. 

Teddy Ostrow: Right. And I think maybe the customers know their local UPS drivers.

I was talking with Misty offline about how we are seeing these media stories and we’re hearing about UPS wanting to train supervisors to do UPSer’s work. What do you think about that, Misty? Is that gonna work? Do you think they can do your jobs?

Misty Baker: Management, they’re all up in arms supposedly. Their bosses sent them an email and they told the managers that they had to fill out an application in order to drive. And if they did not, there would be consequences.

And I kind of giggled. I’m like, well, what are the consequences? Like how do you all feel about her treating you the same way that she treats us? Like do you, are you okay with this? So most of the management actually supports us and well, people say union people are lazy, but they’re lazier than we are.

So, you know, I just kind of made a couple jokes and said, you know, do you all have short term [disability]? Because when we come back, I foresee a lot of back issues. I mean, just whiny, but I don’t think they’ll be able to do it. I don’t. What is the average volume that we push daily? Nationwide? The rumor is 15, 20 million.

20 million or so I heard. I don’t know the actual number, but their goal is to push 5 million. I mean, on average, a part-timer alone in the building, we handle a thousand to 1500 packages a day or a shift within three and a half hours. Management struggles to manage. I don’t see em being able to do much else and drive a truck if they know how to fuel it.

So I know that’s mean. Some, some will, but others will struggle. Mm-hmm. And I, I hope that I’m standing there to watch. 

Teddy Ostrow: Right. I wanna give you guys a chance to say anything. Cover anything that we didn’t cover that you think is important for people to know, in these last really important weeks, as we perhaps march towards a potential strike or, or a potential tentative agreement?

Maybe I’ll throw it to you first. Rand.

Rand Wilson: It’s important that listeners understand that we’re very close to a final agreement. That part-time issue is outstanding and there’s a week to resolve that or roughly a week to get it resolved.

And there’s plenty of time for the company to come to its senses and reach a fair and equitable agreement with the Teamsters. What I see as commendable right now is that the National Negotiating Committee is taking a strong stand for more than half the workforce that work part-time and it’s long overdue.

That’s energizing not just for UPS Teamsters, but throughout the rest of the union and throughout the labor movement, because if we can elevate the work of part-timers to the real value that they create for this company or anything approaching the real value that they create for this company that’s going to lift all workers, because one thing we’re seeing in America today and around the world is the gig economy and the level of insecurity that workers are forced to be in. Misty talked about how she has to choose between the demands of UPS and a second or third job.

If corporate America had their way, they’d have everybody be part-time. Everybody is an on-call gig worker and we’re standing up against that. And if we can win this contract, that’s gonna have such a positive impact on other Teamster contracts and on other labor agreements across the country.

It’s long overdue. 

Teddy Ostrow: Misty. Any last words? 

Misty Baker: I hear a lot of people, they’re, they’re worried that UPS management will take our work, will do our work.

And I’m not quite sure what the fear is. I guess I see it in a different way, I just see a different way than they do. There are 340,000 Teamsters across the nation. I think Sean O’Brien said that over a hundred thousand of those were part-timers. More than half of the 340,000 Teamsters work part-time.

And they’ve done a pretty good job of educating, the education has improved greatly since they’ve taken office. and part-timers are definitely more educated and aware. Over half are working part-time jobs. The other half are driving, they’re meeting customers.

We all have families. We meet people across the nation, like talk to em. All they have to do. Talk to everybody. Tell everybody how UPS does you. I mean, I don’t see that being a fear that people should have right now if they talk, 

I just don’t think that that should be a fear with people that management will take over our jobs or the gig workers, like they can’t do what we do. And if we keep the word out, then they’ll support us even more.

Teddy Ostrow: Misty Baker and Rand Wilson, thanks for joining me on The Upsurge.

Rand Wilson: Thank you, Teddy. What a pleasure, 

Misty Baker: Thank you, Teddy. Thank you, Rand. I hope to see you all soon. 

Additional information

Hosted by Teddy Ostrow

Edited by Teddy Ostrow

Produced by NYGP & Ruby Walsh, in partnership with In These Times & The Real News

Music by Casey Gallagher

Cover art by Devlin Claro Resetar


Support the show at Patre​on​.com/​u​p​s​u​r​gepod.

Follow us on Twitter @upsurgepod, Facebook, The Upsurge, and YouTube @upsurgepod.


Read about the actual largest single-employer in US history: Timothy J. Minchin, “A Gallant Fight’: The UAW and the 1970 General Motors Strike,” International Review of Social History, Vol. 68, no. 1, April 2023, pp. 4173

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 Bill​Moy​ers​.com.

Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.