The striking Teamsters justly declare: "We reject being `Under-Paid Slaves.' We need full-time jobs, with decent pay and benefits, now!" But their fight goes deeper too. They are standing up for all working people to say: "We are human beings, not animals or machines to be disposed of."
This fight has struck a chord in the working class. Many have experienced the growing reality of companies hiring workers part-time to establish a second-class category of workers with much lower wages and few or no health benefits, and who can be forced to work unsafely. It's not uncommon for workers to hold down two or three such jobs to make ends meet. And employers use the part-time setup to foster divisions, pitting older and younger workers against each other. At UPS, this ploy has exploded in the bosses' face.
The unionists are sick of UPS's regimentation, where the bosses want to control every minute of workers' lives on the job with a sea of rules. "The company has a rule that every two steps should take three seconds. Try that with a 100- pound package," said Chicago driver Leonard Cornelius.
It was this back-breaking pace of work and callous disregard for safety that led to the one-day walkout against UPS in 1994, when the company arbitrarily raised the weight limit UPS workers had to lift from 70 to 150 pounds. That job action caught the bosses by surprise.
The UPS strike is part of a bigger pattern of resistance and combativity by our class today. After more than a decade and a half of retreat by a weakened labor movement, workers around the country are saying "no" to continued demands for belt-tightening or for postponing what's rightly theirs. This resistance ranges from the militant steelworker strike at Wheeling-Pittsburgh to the recent strike skirmishes at General Motors to the farm worker organizing struggles around the country.
Despite President William Clinton's pious statements, the government is not neutral in this conflict. It is working hand-in-glove with the UPS bosses short of directly intervening against the strike. In several cities the cops, whose job is to serve and protect the rich, have arrested strikers. The federal government's criminal investigation directed against Teamsters president Ronald Carey is simply a justification for intervening in union affairs - it's like putting a fox in charge of inspecting the chicken farm.
With the collaboration of airline and rail bosses, the U.S. government will seek to use its power, through the postal service and other means, to keep nationwide package delivery service from overloading and thus make it easier for UPS to take a strike.
The Teamsters strike is the fight of all labor. Workers
should encourage their co-workers to go with them to visit
the picket lines and help organize activities to get out the
truth about the fight against Big Brown. For other unionists
engaged in struggle, backing and linking up with the UPS
strikers is the best way today to strengthen their own
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