One of the significant labor news stories that everyone had been watching for weeks, if not months, was the collective bargaining status between UPS and the Teamsters for a new agreement. A settlement was announced in July, just days before a strike deadline. The Teamsters at once claimed a massive victory, and the media seemed to agree with that headline.

“… The union went into this fight committed to winning for our members. We demanded the best contract in the history of UPS, and we got it,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien.

But there is more to the story. In this two-part story, our own Nancy Jowske takes a deeper look at the agreement and offers some thoughts on what the “historic” agreement delivers for union members represented by the Teamsters.

In the company’s announcement of a tentative agreement, UPS CEO Carol Tomé said, “Together we reached a win-win-win agreement on the issues that are important to Teamsters leadership, our employees and UPS and our customers.” For the past week, the media has been highlighting all the winning that represented UPS employees will be doing over the next five years, thanks largely to the yeoman’s efforts of the IBT communications department in generating boatloads of superlative-rich content. However, no one seems interested in what Tomé saw as wins for UPS and what the sole leader of the Teamsters won for himself.

Since the announcement, the focus has been on the gains made for represented employees. The wage gains are impressive, although not really all that “historic,” given the inflation rate since Hoffa negotiated the last contract in 2018. When the wage progressions, general wage increases, and pension improvements in the 2023 tentative are compared in 2018 dollars to the old contract, O’Brien doesn’t look all that powerful as compared to Hoffa, particularly given the financial strength of UPS post-COVID.

Apart from the new MLK paid holiday, the remaining employee wins seem more sleight of hand than solid gains:

  • We’ve done away with 22.4 drivers! (And replaced them with two tiers of part-timers and personal car drivers).
  • We won on air conditioning! (But two-thirds of you will still sweat it out in vans without air-conditioning five years from now).
  • No more forced work on scheduled days off! (Only if you are in an elite class of drivers that makes up about one-third of the bargaining unit.)
  • 7,500 new full-time jobs! (Most likely through the consolidation of two existing part-time positions.)
  • Sixty changes to the master agreement, more than any time in history! (Of which 50 or so appear to be changes in pronouns.)

It’s still too early to tell if the “Vote NO” contingent will accomplish much against the formidable O’Brien machine. With the Teamsters for a Democratic Union still fawning over O’Brien and the few surviving Hoffa partisans still locked in their safe rooms, there is no nationally organized resistance within the IBT anymore. However, ratification of supplementals could get sticky, especially as we still haven’t seen all that fine print. The leaders of Local 89, which represents 12,000 workers at the global hub in Louisville, have declined to endorse the master agreement; 89 is the home local of IBT Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman (ouch!) who has offered nothing but praise for the agreement, at least publicly. And 14 western locals simply failed to show up for the leadership endorsement vote last week, presumably because the tentative appears to punish current and future retirees for how well the Western States pension fund has been managed.

Click here for Part 2

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