Rallies kick off Teamsters union national contract battle at UPS

By Deborah Liatos
May 1, 2023
Hundreds of Teamsters, supporters, rallied April 15 in Orange, California, as 340,000 package delivery and warehouse workers prepare for national contract battle with UPS bosses.
Militant/Deborah LiatosHundreds of Teamsters, supporters, rallied April 15 in Orange, California, as 340,000 package delivery and warehouse workers prepare for national contract battle with UPS bosses.

ORANGE, Calif. — Over 600 members of the Teamsters union from various workplaces and locals throughout Southern California and their supporters rallied at the Local 952 hall here April 15. The union is gearing up for negotiations with UPS Inc. bosses on a new contract to cover 340,000 package delivery and warehouse workers nationwide.

Negotiations started two days later. The Teamsters contract at UPS is the largest private sector collective bargaining agreement in North America. The current five-year agreement expires July 31.

Negotiations come just months after UPS reported record profits, with revenue exceeding $100 billion for the first time.

The Teamsters are fighting to guarantee better pay for all workers; eliminate two-tier wages; increase the number of full-time jobs; end excessive overtime; address safety and health concerns, especially around heat in trucks with no air conditioning; and provide stronger protections against company harassment.

“We need to get rid of 22-4s,” Sean O’Brien, Teamsters general president, told the rally. These so-called junior driver positions were created in the 2018 contract. They get lower pay and are the first to be laid off. “I joined a union 33 years ago to work next to men and women who do the same job, to get paid the same and have the same protections. That’s a strike issue.”

“We also need to eliminate PVDs. PVDs need to go,” he said. PVD stands for Personal Vehicle Drivers, seasonal workers who use their own vehicle, a category that was put into the earlier contract. “That’s a strike issue.”

“In late November to January, UPS hires PVDs,” driver Felix Ortega told the Militant. “They get more hours than us and get paid less. For me the major issue is part-time pay.”

“Part-timers are the backbone of this company. They represent the majority of the employees,” O’Brien said. “We need to make sure that we drive that starting rate of pay up.

“And we also need to create more job opportunities, full-time job opportunities for part-timers.

“If they attempt to get inward facing cameras in this contract,” O’Brien said, “that will be a strike issue.”

Eric Sanchez started as a loader/unloader at UPS making $10 an hour eight years ago and has been a package driver for three. “During COVID they got away with a lot. The workload was nearly impossible to finish. This contract is really important because of COVID and inflation,” he told the Militant. “There is a two-tier for package drivers with a four-year progression to the full wage. If you have a family it’s hard and the majority have families.”

“It is physically demanding,” said Bryan Reyes, who has worked at UPS as a loader for two years. This was his first union rally. “This is my future. For me it is a big deal. I’m planning to stay here long term.”

We have to stick together

Eric Brown has worked at UPS 38 years and is a feeder driver. His ex-wife is a teacher, and he joined her on the school workers’ picket lines during their recent three-day strike. He said he also joined supermarket workers on their picket lines in 2003.

“I never crossed the picket line to deliver but on my lunch break I’d walk the picket lines with my picket signs I had in my truck,” Brown said. “I think it’s important that a fight for one is a fight for all. As workers we have to stick together. My daughter, who works for a supermarket, is in a union. My other daughter works at Starbucks and is involved in organizing a union there. She wears buttons. They tell her to take them off and a few days later she puts them back on again.”

Santiago Rosales is a shop steward on the job. “I do it for the passion of it, not because I get something out of it. And this rubs off on others. A lot of social issues are pushing us to be more unionized,” he said.

Teamsters Local 63 organized a rally on April 14 at the huge UPS facility near the airport in Ontario. It drew 150 workers and their supporters.

Demetrius Freeman, a member of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 30 and chief steward at the Borax mine in Boron, joined the rally. “My dad was a truck driver and retired from Local 63,” he told the Militant. “In 2010 we were locked out for three months. We have to pay it forward in the labor movement. An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Freeman also spoke at the rally. “I was raised in a Teamsters household. In 2010 the company locked us out for 3 ½ months and the Teamsters came out to support. So we’re here to support you,” he said.

More rallies are projected nationwide as Teamsters at UPS step up their fight for a new contract. To give solidarity to this important union battle, contact a Teamsters union local near you.