We are less than two weeks away from what could be the second largest single-employer strike in US history. As of this recording, contract negotiations between United Parcel Services (UPS) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have reportedly “collapsed”—and the clock is ticking until the current contract expires on July 31. If a deal is not reached and a strike occurs, what will it look like for 340,000 Teamster UPSers to walk off the job? What are the key issues that workers are prepared to strike over? And what can we all do to support them, whether a strike occurs or not? In this episode, we continue our coverage of the historic UPS contract fight by talking to Rikki Schreiner, a shop steward for Teamsters Local 638 in Minnesota who has worked for UPS since 1999, and Amber Mathwig, a part-time UPS warehouse worker and member of Teamsters Local 638.
Additional links/info below…
- M4M4ALL fundraiser for East Palestine residents
- Savage Joy-Marie’s Twitter page, Rokfin channel, YouTube channel, and Patreon
- Amber’s Twitter page
- Teamsters Local 638 website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- International Brotherhood of Teamsters website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- The Upsurge podcast Spotify page, Twitter page, and Patreon
- Teddy Ostrow & Ruby Walsh, The Real News Network, “For Women Workers at UPS, Fighting the Bosses Means Fighting the Patriarchy“
- Citations Needed, “News Brief: As UPS Strike “Looms,” Media Frames Working-Class Revolt as “Threat” to “The Economy”
- Teddy Ostrow, Jacobin, “Part-Time UPS Workers Say Their Jobs Are Brutal“
- Teamsters for a Democratic Union website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- Sean Orr & Elliot Lewis, Jacobin, “UPS Teamsters Are Ready to Strike“
- Working People, “Sean Orr
- Working People, “Teamsters in Boston Have a Message for UPS (w/ Thomas Mari, Jane Fallon, Rob Atkinson, JJ Rodriguez, Fred Zuckerman, Julie, & Sean M. O’Brien)
- Working People, ““If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Keep Working” (w/ Zakk, Gabriela, & Steve)
- Alex Press, Jacobin, “Inside the Teamsters’ Preparations for a UPS Strike“
- J.J. McCorvey, Adiel Kaplan, & Annie Probert, NBC News, “UPS Drivers on Track to Get Air-Conditioned Trucks for the First Time“
Permanent links below…
- Leave us a voicemail and we might play it on the show!
- Labor Radio / Podcast Network website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- In These Times website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- The Real News Network website, YouTube channel, podcast feeds, Facebook page, and Twitter page
Featured Music (all songs sourced from the Free Music Archive: freemusicarchive.org)
- Jules Taylor, “Working People” Theme Song
Music / Post-Production: Jules Taylor
Maximillian Alvarez: Hey, guys. This is your host, Maximillian Alvarez here.
Joy Marie Mann: And this is Joy Marie Mann.
Maximillian Alvarez: And we wanted to record this quick little update for you guys before we get onto today’s full-length episode which is a real banger. It’s going to be our final update on the potential UPS strike that we are going to publish here on the Working People feed before the current contract between UPS and the Teamsters expires at the end of this month. But we wanted to hop on, Joy Marie and myself, to ask you guys before we get onto today’s episode to please take a moment and help us spread the word and help us raise as many funds as we possibly can for a very important fundraiser that Joy Marie is working on for residents living in and around East Palestine.
As you guys know, here on the show, we have spoken with a number of residents living on the Ohio side and the Pennsylvania side, people who have been affected directly by the catastrophic Norfolk Southern train derailment on February 3 and the, quote-unquote, controlled release of vinyl chloride among other chemicals that were contained on that Norfolk Southern train.
You guys have heard firsthand both on this podcast and of the livestream that we did at The Real News and if you listen to Joy Marie’s essential YouTube channel, you have also heard her speak with many residents living in the area as well. Please go check out her channel and support the work that she does. She has been really, truly committed to these folks. She refuses to give up on them and I’m truly, truly grateful to her for the important work that she’s doing, including trying to raise money and get supplies for an upcoming resource drop.
So on that note, Joy Marie, hop in here and let people know a little bit more about yourself, how you got involved in this struggle for justice for the people living in and around East Palestine and what’s the deal with this current fundraiser. And what can folks do to help?
Joy Marie Mann: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. You’re one of three of us who actually talk about East Palestine. There’s myself, yourself, and one other channel at this point. It’s important that people with a platform get the word out about this, so I’m very appreciative. The events are going to take place this Friday and Saturday. Friday, we are going to a place called Darlington, PA. It’s only seven miles from East Palestine and they are severely affected as well. And a lot of them are trying to rehome but they do not have the means. They also are using bottled water to bathe, to drink, to cook.
It’s not an East Palestine thing, a lot of people need help, regardless. I’ve spoken with people up to 45 miles from the derailment. When you think about it in layman’s terms, there’s not going to be some barrier that is going to stop air and water from coming into other places; all of that is traveling. Many, many, many people are affected.
Typically, every July, we do actions in DC with March for Medicare for All. This time, when we were planning, – I’m over doing DC. I’m so over it.
Maximillian Alvarez: I can’t blame you there.
Joy Marie Mann: Yeah. To me, if you want to do electoral politics, go for it if that’s your thing. And if you want to vote, absolutely do it. But what has it gotten us and what has it gotten these people whose local, state, and federal government is still making them suffer six months later? Despite the fact that they are no short of begging daily for their help. At this point, I’m like, no. And as soon as the time came in April when we were deciding where to do the locations and such, I’m like, F DC, we are going to East Palestine.
Thankfully, I have some comrades who are going to be coming from all over the country on their own dime, to volunteer with me, to help get this mutual aid out. What first got me started is my BFF Jenna who lives in Pittsburgh. She’s the one who first notified me about all of this going on. She’s not very far at all. And then I became obsessed with it, honestly, from the health care perspective, the environmental perspective, and the class war perspective. These people’s median income is $27,000 a year for a family. These are poor folk and they are being discarded and we know if this happened in a nice rich area, this would be cleaned up ASAP.
Also, one of the things that inspired me to go help them was because their government and Norfolk Southern has been so generous that they have tried to placate them with $10 coupons for local businesses, carnivals, Easter egg hunts, all of this on contaminated land, on top of it. But also now they have voted unanimously to put an amphitheater in East Palestine right by all the garbage that’s in the air. This is what they’re focusing on. And they also had July 4th fireworks which, in fact, gave a lot of the residents PTSD. So there’s a huge mental health aspect that’s going on as well. It’s very traumatic. There are people still living in one-room hotel rooms, with families. There are children who have not been to their house in over five months. They weren’t allowed to bring anything with them; everything is contaminated. People’s homes that have been in their families for generations are now going to be demolished. There’s strife on every single level possible.
One of the reasons we’re going is to discuss 1881a and demand that. Essentially, there is a section in the Obamacare Social Security Act that states that any environmental disaster would immediately give free full health care. Is this something that is applicable? Absolutely. To be quite honest, it was applicable even during COVID. So this is applicable, not only to East Palestine, but to Flint and Missouri and all of the other places that are suffering. And we are going to be there to demand that. We are going to be demanding Biden sign this declaration of disaster that’s been on his desk for over two weeks now. We’re going to be demanding free testing for vinyl chloride because right now, the people are paying $700 out-of-pocket for each of those tests and have been waiting since April for the results.
We are going to demand weekly water drop-offs because there is no supply of water. They are still bathing in it, as I said, and drinking it and they’re waiting for people to donate and bring it in because there is none. We’re also demanding a $2,000 stimulus every single month, including back pay. We are demanding home testing for every single person who wants to reside where they were living or go back home.
A lot of the things that are also huge problems are, say one of my dear friends in East Palestine: Zuza. She lives with her son in a one-room hotel room. Now, a lot of people think, Norfolk Southern is paying for that. Not exactly. Everyone has to pay for everything on their own and then pray with their fingers crossed that they get reimbursed for it. And a lot of times they don’t because the people who get priority are people who are BFFs with the politicians and Norfolk Southern and who don’t make public noise. The facade that Pete Buttigieg was putting on two days ago saying, we need Congress help, is absolutely not true. Definitely look into it. This is something that Biden could do on his own immediately. He has these things called executive orders that everyone likes to pretend don’t exist.
There are so many elements to this and it’s a shame that all of us are coming from across the country to bring them these necessary items. But quite frankly, no one else has been. We felt obligated to step up on a humanitarian level to help these people who are legit begging. They’re being left to die, quite frankly. And they need help. We did have a goal of $12,000 and we have met that which is incredible. I will put a caveat on that though and state that there were multiple events that day. So not all of that money is going towards the event I and my other volunteers are doing in East Palestine.
Also, I have been very open with giving my phone number to all the residents and I have been getting a lot of texts from people personally asking if we can also provide, besides pallets of water and groceries, air filters, baby diapers, wipes and shoes for kids. A lot of these people were displaced in February. These kids are wearing winter pajamas, they’re wearing long pants, and things like that because all they had was what they were wearing. I’ve had a lot of requests for personal needs for things and I really don’t want to tell anyone no, at all, for any reason.
Maximillian Alvarez: Well I’m so, so grateful to you and to everyone that you’re working with for not forgetting about these folks. Because you and I were talking about this before we started recording, if you have a heart in your chest, you cannot talk to any of these folks and not stay committed to their struggle and not keep doing whatever you can to make sure other people don’t forget about them. And you are out there doing the work and I really, really appreciate it. I sure as hell know that the folks living there appreciate it. And I really, really want to stress to folks listening before we wrap up, please do whatever you can to help us spread the word about this. Please donate whatever you can.
Again, we are pushing this to the front of this week’s full-length episode because there is a time sensitivity here. As Joy Marie said, this trip to East Palestine is coming up at the end of this week. So, please don’t hesitate, as soon as you hear this, donate what you can, share it with as many folks as you can, and let’s try to get as much help as we can to the folks living in and around East Palestine. Please do not forget about them. And Joy Marie, really quick, tell our listeners where they can go to donate and what the best and easiest way to support you all is.
Joy Marie Mann: Sure. The easiest way to donate would be going to M-4-M-4, A-L-L dot org, so M4M4all.org. There is a donation link on there. You could also go to GiveSendGo and type in M4M4ALL East Palestine. And you could also go to my Twitter @SavageJoyMarie1 where I have a pin post of how you can donate. And I will say $5 is a case of water for a family. I know it’s trite but literally anything helps.
Amber Mathwig: My name is Amber Mathwig. I work at a UPS hub in Minnesota. I load trucks in the morning before they can head out and do their routes every day. And I have been a proud member of Local 638 for the last nine months.
Rikki Schreiner: My name is Rikki Schreiner. I have been employed at a UPS facility since September 1999. Yes, I am old. I originally started working there because of the Earn and Learn program and then I got what was called the golden handcuffs. And it’s hard to give up a full-time job making that money right off the bat. That’s all I’m saying.
Maximillian Alvarez: All right, welcome everyone to another episode of Working People, a podcast about the lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles of the working class today. Brought to you in partnership with In These Times magazine and The Real News Network. Produced by Jules Taylor and made possible by the support of listeners like you. Working People is a proud member of The Labor Radio Podcast Network. So if you’re hungry for more worker and labor-focused shows like ours, follow the link in the show notes and go check out the other great shows in our network. And please, support the work that we are doing here at Working People so we can keep growing and keep bringing you all more important conversations with our fellow workers every week.
You can support us by leaving positive reviews of the show on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. That really helps. And of course, you can share these episodes on your social media and share them around with your coworkers, your friends, and your family members. And of course, the single best thing you can do to support our work is become a paid monthly subscriber on Patreon for $5 a month. If you subscribe for $10 a month, you’ll also get a print subscription to the amazing In These Times magazine and you will also unlock all of the great bonus episodes that we’ve published over the past six seasons of the show. All you got to do is head on over to patreon.com/workingpeople. That’s P-A-T-R-E-O-N dot com slash working people. Smash the subscribe button and you will officially be a patron. And thank you so much to everyone who is already supporting us over there on Patreon.
My name is Maximillian Alvarez. And I am very, very excited to be on the call with Amber and Rikki today. You guys know, we are in the midst of an intense and intensifying contract fight between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the nearly 350,000 members working at UPS across the US and United Parcel Service. And we are recording this episode of the podcast on Monday, July 10. It’s going to come out middle of the month of July. And this is going to be our last big UPS-focused podcast before the deadline when the current contract expires at the end of the month. As you guys know from our previous episodes, we recently published a great interview that I got to do with the great Sean Orr, shop steward, and UPS’er down in Chicago. You guys heard the on-the-ground episode that we did from Boston a couple of months ago where Sean O’Brien and the IBT leadership were holding a rally to get members amped up about the current contract fight.
And of course, I’m sure everyone listening to this also listens to our friends and comrades over at the Upsurge Podcast. They’ve been doing great work covering this contract fight more extensively than anyone, putting it in context, showing how this contract fight connects to the last major strike at UPS in 1997, what it means for the labor movement, for the Teamsters, and for all of us. We’ve been doing our best to cover as many bases for you all as we can. And we are going to do more over at The Real News especially as we get closer to the end of the month when the current contract is set to expire. People are currently expecting that, if a deal is not reached between UPS and the Teamsters, as Teamsters have been saying, picket lines will go up on August 1. So, that is where things currently stand now.
The last update that we heard from last week is that negotiations, quote-unquote, collapsed between the Teamsters and UPS. Currently, both sides are pointing fingers at each other and saying that they’re responsible for the talks collapsing. So, you guys can do with that what you will. Again, we can read between the lines and figure out who’s responsible for the contract talks collapsing. But we will again try to include as many up-to-date links in the show notes for you guys so that you can read up on this as well. And we will be posting updates throughout the month from our social media on Facebook, Twitter, and so on and so forth. But as far as the podcast is concerned, this is our last big pre-strike episode. And I could not be more grateful to Amber and Rikki for making time to hop on the show and talk us through what’s going on right now and where things stand from their vantage points.
And before we get there though, I really, really want to get listeners more acquainted with you both. Amber, of course, we’ve had the honor of having you on the show before with a great episode that we did in the past about working-class folks in the military. If you haven’t listened to that episode, you absolutely should. It’s one of the best ones that we’ve done, really informative. Really, really great conversation. Amber, as always, was excellent on that podcast. But now, Amber is working at UPS. And I know you’ve got a lot of thoughts about the current contract fight.
So, enough from me, enough table setting. I want to dig into all of this stuff with you guys. But first, since we can’t do a full “get to dig into your backstory” conversation, I was wondering if we could still do a bit of a shortened version of the standard Working People conversation we have on the show. And if we could go around the table and each of you could introduce yourselves a little bit more to our listeners or reintroduce yourself to our listeners and tell us specifically how you came to work at UPS, what work you do there, and what that work looks like and why you’ve stayed at UPS for all this time.
Amber Mathwig: Long, convoluted backstory around how I ended up at UPS, which was not intentional at any point. But as Max already mentioned, I was in the military. After I got out, I went back to school. I ended up supporting veterans at a university that shall not be named. If you’re actually curious about it, you can google me and find out more about how I epically got fired after standing up for students and workers’ rights, ACAB, and all of that. I took a little bit of a break and as I was starting to run out of funds, the pandemic was starting and my middle brother was dying. So, I came back to Minnesota. And with all of that going on, I ended up making the decision to move back here permanently and being dissatisfied with a lot of the options. Temporarily was back in restaurants, but left that for reasons.
And then, I really wanted to get into the construction field and I had the opportunity to go through this class. It was really great. So this was 2022, last year. Last summer, I was getting a lot of help from one of the local unions to get into a construction job and was told to go apply at this place. Well, I get there and I’m filling out my application which is the exact same as the resume that they already had by the way, except for one little thing: They wanted to know what community and volunteer work I did. And I hesitated because I know that saying I’m on the board of an anti-war organization, that I do mutual aid, and that I support Indigenous resistance, does not bode well.
But one of the things that I am known for is always being honest about who I am and never covering up any of that. Needless to say, I did not get that job and suddenly, the union rep has no time for me as far as trying to help me find a job. So I ended up in a couple of non-union places. The first one I quit the very first morning during training because the trainer was so excited to talk about diversity. But their diversity was that they had hired somebody with a swastika tattooed on his forehead in the past and they were able to keep him five months before –
Maximillian Alvarez: Jesus.
Amber Mathwig: – He said something inappropriate. There was a lot going on there.
Maximillian Alvarez: Listeners can’t see our faces right now, but you can feel them.
Amber Mathwig: You can probably figure out what our faces look like. So then I got another job at another non-union place. And it was okay. I knew I couldn’t stay there. There were a lot of -isms and phobias going on right from the beginning. But I was like, let me get the experience. Let me keep trying to get in somewhere. Well, I once again bring up, what are the training expectations for me. When can I expect to learn things related to my job that are not assigning me and the other woman in the department to go clean up after you all, all the time? Because it’s not like I come in with zero experience. I have a lot of experience, just not professional experience. And so five business days later, all of a sudden, there’s these made-up scenarios about how I don’t receive feedback, how I’m a horrible employee and I’m out of a job again.
So, I take a couple of weeks off, realized it was peak season, right before the holidays, and decided to apply at UPS. And one thing I really love about UPS is it is exactly what most labor jobs should be. You fill out an application, they make sure that you meet the basic requirements, and you essentially show up to start working. Because you’re either going to decide that you want to be there or not because that is not an easy job. You do a trial interview by going to work and anything beyond that for a lot of labor jobs I think like, what are you doing? Why are you interviewing? Anyways, that’s probably a whole other thing. So I was going to stay there through peak season. They upped our pay for the market rate adjustment through peak season. I was making really good money. I was exhausted every day. I was cussing up a storm more than I’m used to which is a lot. But I was finding that I was starting to enjoy the work.
And even though I started to look at other places for either administrative jobs or back in construction, when I did the math, when I did the time, when I did the compensation, as long as UPS was still paying this market rate adjustment, it made more sense for me to stay there. So, when I was offered a permanent position in the middle of January of 2023, I absolutely stayed on. Plus, everybody loves me because I am a perfectionist. My trucks are neat all the time. I show up 99% of the time on time. I help out everybody. How did I start saying it? I’m a good worker, I’m a bad employee. Because I know my rights, I know everything that’s going on. And I’ve stayed there because it’s given me a lot of flexibility. I’ve had some of the military-related issues that I’ve been working through, like preloading, because I could come home and nap afterward before going on to something else. It worked out really well for me.
And there’s been this weird healing aspect as well because I’ve been out of the military longer than I was in at this point in my life. But I still held onto, I can’t ever let myself be seen as weak. I can never ask a man for help. Now, because the guys are so chill about it, I’ll turn to one of the younger ones or I’ll turn to somebody I know is super strong and I’ll be like, dude, I’m tired. And they will come and they will move the heavy box for me and they will turn on and go about their way. Not once have I ever been treated like shit because I need help at the end of a shift. They know that I’m older and they know that I am not as strong as them. That is a thing.
And if you can tell from my personality, my personality right now needs a union behind me because I speak up about everything. Whether it is the way assignments have been doled out for the day, whether it’s about seeing somebody be disrespected by a supervisor or another person on the line. And to be honest, my supervisor has at least one strike against him for being borderline inappropriate which is how he ended up being on our line. And I wasn’t going to allow that to happen. I’m like, I don’t know what they’re doing putting him over here. I was new so they didn’t know better at the time. But every single day, not as much anymore thankfully because he’s starting to chill out, but every single day, there was an -ism or a phobia that had to be addressed in some way, shape, or form.
And in the past, I’m used to losing my job because of that. Now, I know that the union’s got my back because we need to be a zero-tolerance workplace. We want to lift people up. And we want everyone to feel valued and respected when they are at work. And I’m going to wrap that up by saying we feel valued and respected with our market rate adjustment. A lot of us do. The pay that we’re getting right now. The fact that UPS thinks that they can drop it back down to this literal poverty wage and maintain workers and have the same output that’s going on right now. I normally work in the mornings. It’s pretty comfortable. It gets a little hot and humid in there. But I’ve gone and worked local sort the past few weeks in the evenings and I’m getting paid time and a half. And I’m like, there are things right now on the local sort that I don’t want to do for time and a half because it is wretched, wretched, sweaty, heavy labor. Check.
Rikki Schreiner: Originally, I came to UPS because of the Earn and Learn program which is where they will contribute money to your college education. And I had gone post-secondary. And as most of you probably know, college education is not cheap and I was looking at going to med school and that is really not cheap. So, I figured I could do my major enrolls through UPS and I started working there. I was waitressing part-time and going to college and I did that for a few years. And then the opportunity to go full-time came up and I would be making a better wage working full-time hours.
And I realized that the dream of going to medical school was maybe out of my reach. So, I went full-time at UPS. And I started in 1999 so I’ve been there for a very long time. I’m a proud union member. I’m the union steward out of my facility and honestly, it’s probably one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done in my life. Being able to help people and educating people about what their rights are and being involved in the union, I wish more people would stand up and do the same. I want them to realize how enlightening it really is, how powerful you really feel. So that’s how I ended up full-time. And I stayed there because of the health insurance because I do make good money. I’m a single female. I have my own house – Well, I’m engaged now – But I have my own house, I live alone. I can pay my own bills and I don’t have to rely on anybody else to do that. And that is important for me. Well, it’s important for everybody I realized. A blanket statement.
Maximillian Alvarez: No, but it really puts into stark relief, how few of us get that to the point that we start believing that we’re not worthy of it. And it’s like, no, you work, you deserve to keep a roof over your head. You deserve to have a living wage to be able to provide for yourself. And if you got a family to do that as well. We deserve so much more than what most workers in this economy get. And as I can already hear from you both as I’ve heard from other UPS’ers like yourselves, that’s why being part of the union is so important. It really teaches you, especially if you’ve never had that experience, about the difference it makes when you are part of that union when you know your rights in the workplace, and when you have each other’s backs.
I’m comparing what I’ve heard from folks at union warehouses to the work that I did as a temp at a non-union warehouse. And it’s night and day. Every day, we would go in expecting there was a 50/50 chance we wouldn’t come back tomorrow. They would work us to the bone for 12, 13, 14 hours and then we’d be sitting there or standing there on the floor dripping in sweat at the end of a day at a hot box warehouse in Southern California. And the managers would walk down the line and point to the people they wanted to come back the next day. And that’s why they stocked over 80% of their warehouse with temps because we could get paid a lot less, we could be fired at the drop of a hat, and didn’t have to deal with any pesky things like unions or union workers who believe that they deserve dignity on the job.
It’s such an important aspect of everything that working people go through on a day-to-day basis in this country and beyond to understand why we should expect to be able to provide for ourselves and to be paid a living wage and to settle for nothing less.
Rikki Schreiner: This is not a foreign concept. One of my favorite comments, especially from my fellow coworkers, is about how this generation is so lazy and I call bullshit. So this generation, they grew up with their parents struggling. Both parents had worked, if they had both parents. They sacrificed working 8 to 12 to 13-hour shifts to support a family if they got to spend any time with their family at all.
These kids didn’t grow up with the family that the generation before grew up with where one parent could work, the other parent could stay home and raise a family and they had dinner together, they spent time together. These kids did not have that. And they’re not willing to sell their souls to a corporation to live as their parents did. And the hope that someday maybe they could retire with dignity with what’s left of their bodies. But this is not a foreign concept. This was what our country was built off, the backs of laborers, the working class. This is not a foreign concept.
Maximillian Alvarez: I wanted to ask, Rikki, if you could say a little more about what your week-to-week looks like both as a worker and as a steward. What do you hear from your fellow workers? What are, I suppose, the responsibilities that a steward in your position deals with? What sorts of concerns are you hearing from your members? And how does that play into the current contract fight?
Rikki Schreiner: Probably one of my biggest is supervisors working. We have a policy where supervisors can work but they have to exhaust all union options. We have a list that they’re supposed to call down. Everybody who wants to double can sign up for it. They’re supposed to call everybody on that list in before they are allowed to work. And it’s not something that gets followed regularly. So we have problems with grievances for supervisors who work. Harassment, unfortunately, should not be an issue in any workplace, but we are no exception. I do get calls a lot – I’ve noticed this as a post-pandemic thing – I’ve had a lot of coworkers that are dealing with a lot of anxiety coming from the pandemic. We had a lot of people who went through tough times. We were working a lot of hours not seeing our families, going through relationship problems, and going through mental health problems. So, I get a lot of phone calls about FMLA and how to get that underway.
One of the underlying things we keep saying about being a union steward is a lot of what we have to do is, not only we are the steward but we are a therapist. We’re a therapist. We’re a lawyer. We wore a lot of things and a lot of hats that we have to wear. And on a regular basis, I could honestly say I have to deal with that at least once a night. So if I’m not there, I get phone calls. All hours a day, you are always on call as a union steward.
Maximillian Alvarez: And this is something that we’ve talked about a bit on the show before, but it really, really bears repeating. The work that stewards like yourself do and members like Amber do, active members, people who really believe in the union, believe in their members, and who really understand, that ultimately what a union means is workers having each other’s back at work and what that means to have one another’s back and to show up for each other. That’s such unsung and such necessary work. And I really, really wanted to shout that out because what you do on a week-to-week basis matters a whole hell of a lot. I interviewed the members who would be nowhere if they didn’t have someone to answer that phone at night when they’re going through a crisis or when they’re experiencing something horrific at work and don’t know who else to turn to.
So I wanted to lift that up and thank you for that work that you do and really encourage folks out there to do that work themselves and to support those who are doing it. And as we say all the time: not every union’s perfect, not every local’s perfect. If you’re not getting the support that you need, then be part of the change. Work with your coworkers to make the union what you need it to be because that is ultimately what needs to happen. And I want to turn that into a question about the current contract fight because as I said in the intro, you guys were in the midst of a very intense period that has been simmering and boiling for basically the past year, if not since the past contract. I know a lot of the anger and frustration has been rightfully simmering since the last time we had a contract negotiation.
So, before we talk about where things stand now and what folks should be looking ahead to for the rest of the month, I wanted to ask you if we could talk a bit about the current contract fight as you both have experienced it over the past months or the past year. Have you felt the Sean O’Brien energy on the shop floor? How have you and your coworkers been talking about the contract? What do listeners need to know about what the real central issues are and maybe what they’re not necessarily hearing about in mainstream media coverage?
Rikki Schreiner: As far as the energy, especially with this last little kerfuffle we’ll call it, where everybody walked away from the table or whoever walked away from the table, it doesn’t matter. But this has reenergized a lot of people at work. For the most part, everybody’s been following it. It’s great that we’re using more social media. We have an app now to follow. So, the membership now is more involved than they were in previous contract negotiations. But I don’t think it started to hit until the week of 4th of July. And people are really starting to realize, oh no, you know what? This is a real thing. This is going to happen. We’ve been preparing for it but in the back of your mind, you want to hope for the best but plan for the worst.
Amber Mathwig: Agree, agree, agree.
Rikki Schreiner: Yeah. Actually, a part of our app is a calculator on how to save money for the strike. So, they weren’t messing around like, be prepared. And you’re definitely feeling the energy. I’m honestly surprised at how many people I work with–
We have an older crowd there. I’ve been there for a long time, but I know people who’ve been there for 30, 40 years. And they are getting like, you know what? Screw this. Let’s strike. If this is where UPS is going to take us, then I’m ready. And it’s building. You’re definitely feeling more energy in these past couple of weeks than we have through the rest of the negotiations.
Maximillian Alvarez: And is it a general, screw this, the company’s disrespecting us? Because it’s been a back and forth. The news, over the past two weeks, that the tier system was going to be eliminated, was a bombshell. Not for this current contract fight but so many of the strikes that we’ve seen in recent years, so many of the labor disputes that I cover on this show week to week, a lot of them center around two-tier, three-tier, four-tier employment systems, equal pay for equal work. This is an issue from GM plants to John Deere plants to UPS warehouses to higher education where you’ve got tenured professors, non-tenured adjuncts, and all that. So, it’s a really big issue. And so, I wanted to ask really quickly, Rikki, if there are any particular things that people are sinking into or if it’s a general, things are going in the wrong direction and this is our chance to fight?
Rikki Schreiner: It’s a general. There are a lot of pent-up frustrations from our workplace anyway because there have been some hostilities in the workplace over this past year because it’s the contract negotiations. Management’s a little more tense than usual, so it’s definitely spilling out into the workplace. There’s this general, you know what? We’re tired of being treated this way. We deserve more.
I probably sound like a broken record because I know I’ve said this before. I cannot express enough what we went through during the pandemic. And I realize it’s not over but during the height of the pandemic, we were working six days a week. We worked every holiday with the exception of Labor Day. We were working 50 to 60-hour days. We were exhausted. We were exhausted and UPS made record profits off of that. And yeah, don’t get me wrong, we were all very grateful to be employed but a lot of people and their families suffered, their marriages suffered. Not only that, we put our health on the line. We put the health of our families on the line to keep UPS afloat.
Amber Mathwig: And there was no market rate adjustment during the beginning of the pandemic so they were still getting paid those fucking poverty wages that Hoffa Jr. agreed to.
Rikki Schreiner: We lost coworkers during that period of time. For them to not take this into consideration, no wonder people are so pissed off. Some people whom we work with sacrifice everything. And this is why you get, this is all you can do for us? Fuck you. It’s an insult. It’s being slapped in the face after you have put your family through hell. Sorry. Here’s some chump change. Thanks for your effort.
Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah, man. The disdain, the callousness that employers revealed during COVID. It really does something to you. I have a book of interviews with workers that I recorded during the first year of COVID. And every episode of this show for the past three years has technically been a COVID-related episode. And you can really hear in people’s voices, even if they don’t say it explicitly, it does something to you to hear from your employer that they don’t care if you live or die. In the back of our minds before COVID, we all knew it but we suppress that. We try to tell ourselves that maybe that’s not the case. But then COVID really forced the government and employers to put their cards on the table. It’s like, how much do you value human life? And we got our answer in a lot of respects.
And it really changes your relationship with your job. It makes you sit and think about if I die tomorrow and the old adage, when it’s all said and done, the only people who are going to remember you stayed late to work, are your kids. All those sacrifices that we make for employers who literally could not care less if we disappeared tomorrow. Hell yeah, that’s really infused a lot of the labor militancy that we’re seeing in recent years and absolutely should. And workers should assert their humanity and dignity and not be willing to compromise that and not accept subhuman treatment from their employers or subhuman wages.
And I wanted to ask one more question on that, Rikki. I apologize for sticking with you for so long. Amber, we’re going to toss you in a sec. But I wanted to ask if you could say a little bit about that market rate adjustment thing because I feel like that hasn’t been talked about as much in media coverage. So, I want to pause on that for a second for anyone listening who is like, wait, what’s that? And how does that relate to the current contract fight?
Rikki Schreiner: Originally it started out before that, as we had a weekly bonus for employees, part-time employees only. If you showed up every day, you got a, I can’t remember what it was, it was like a $112 bonus. I’m probably wrong on the numbers there. But they received a bonus for that. And we started running into problems with that because not everybody was getting it. And since it’s not contractual, it’s very hard to agree with that. It’s very hard to fight for that. And they weren’t exactly honest when they hired people because a lot of people didn’t understand that this was temporary.
I had a lot of people coming up to me and like, you know what? They stopped doing this. Well, they have the right to. And that upset a lot of people that a lot of people quit when they dropped that because they were not told that this was not a permanent thing. So, the answer to that was the MRA. And of course, it’s different in every building and every area. Amber might be able to answer this part. I think we’re at $26 an hour right now.
Amber Mathwig: Yeah. And we’re at $24 and our facilities are probably only 12 miles apart. Yeah.
Rikki Schreiner: Mine’s higher than yours. And once again, originally I started out at $28. They dropped it down to $26, people were not informed of this. During the orientation, this was not explained to people that this is a temporary wage, we can drop it at any time. And once again, since this is not a contractual thing, we don’t have much control over this. If it was, if they made an MRA, they would have to extend it for the length of that contract. But since it’s not contractual, they can drop it, bring it in, and do whatever they want with it. It doesn’t matter. We have no control over it.
Amber Mathwig: But it’s wild to hear that UPS has said, we don’t have any more money on the table to give you. And by give you, they do mean us, the part-time workers. Because almost everything else is settled right now. It is coming down to these wages. They’re saying, we can’t pay you what we’ve already been paying you for the last six months. And also, they are forcing drivers into overtime, double-time, and triple-time, every single day of the week. So somehow, they have money to pay drivers almost up to $80, $90, $100 an hour but they don’t have money for the package car loaders, the local sorters, the people who make the things go from facility to facility, truck to truck. And [dog barks] Everyone say, “Hi, Bebe.”
And the fact that this is rooted in historical sexism within the industry because package car drivers and loaders, inside workers, used to get paid the same up until 1982. I remember that because that’s the year that I was born. And so at that point, they started getting different wages. I’m going to finish this up and then I’m going to put the dog out. And note, 1982 is when more women were joining the workforce, and more women were coming in to start doing labor jobs. And then there’s also this continuous rumor about having to wait nine months to get insurance, otherwise women will come in while they’re pregnant to get insurance to have a baby. And I’m like, you all, let’s stop that. Okay? Because anybody can come in to get insurance for the length of a pregnancy at that point.
But it is rooted in sexism in the fact that of the 340,000 Teamsters that are getting ready to go on this contract negotiation, an imminent strike, 55% of us are inside workers. And of that 55%, we have an incredibly high non-male, non-white representation. And I’m going to go ahead and say it, too, a lot of queer people. So, it is rooted in sexism and it is continuing to affect us 41 years later.
Rikki Schreiner: I’m going to add to that. The $5 billion stock buyback. But all of a sudden, they have no money.
Maximillian Alvarez: And this is like the John Deere strike from a year and a half ago, the workers there represented by the UAW, they voted down two tentative agreements because John Deere was like, oh, we can’t give you more money. It’s like, motherfucker, you had your most profitable year in existence during a pandemic. What do you mean you don’t have money? You guys made billions of dollars. And UPS, yeah, you guys both said it. During COVID, like Amazon, eCommerce exploded because we were all trying to socially distance. A lot more people were ordering stuff to their homes. How do you guys think all of that was getting to your door? It was because of people like Amber and Rikki. And that was a boom to UPS’s business model. And now here they are after raking in record profits saying like, oh, we don’t have enough money to pay these part-timers what they’re worth, or yada, yada yada.
Instead what they’re doing is they’re going on these little PR campaigns. And there was one last week that was really interesting to me where after contract negotiations fell apart, immediately you started seeing UPS’s main social media accounts share these weird videos about how happy their part-timers are and how great of a place UPS is to work if you want to work part-time. And I’m like, huh. I’m not going to say there aren’t any happy part-timers or that any worker is unhappy all of the time. We’re complex human beings. A lot of us love what we do. We love our coworkers but we don’t love getting treated like shit, we don’t love getting shit from our managers, and we would like to get paid what we’re worth. So, it seemed like very interesting timing that UPS was rolling out this human shield of part-timers who love their job to make them seem kinder in the public eye.
But Amber, I wanted to ask what you thought of that little PR campaign and also what it’s been like for you nine months jumping into UPS in the midst of all of this as, like you said, a worker in the warehouse whom we don’t normally hear from all that often.
Amber Mathwig: So, a reminder, my background is in women’s and gender studies. Obviously, with the military, I’ve done a lot of focus on race, class, sexuality, gender, all of that and it’s astounding to me. I finally watch the Instagram video and I have questions about if that individual knew what the video was going to be used for because she’s not really talking about it specifically. She’s saying, I was in this really shitty situation and now I have stability, which UPS can offer. But it seemed a little bit different than the one that caused me to scream and screenshot and message Rikki immediately with capital letters, the fucking audacity, which was when you log into our employee web portal, it immediately pops up at the top of the page, “How a Part-Timer Supports his Family at UPS.” That’s the headline.
When you click through, the very first thing is, he’s a full-time real estate agent. He didn’t have insurance. So, between a sick child and a sick spouse, they were racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars. So let’s back up a little bit. Why do we have hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical debt in the US? Back up to the public campaign. Why are people homeless in the US? Because of greedy corporations. Because of generational trauma; both micro and macro levels, that people refuse to deal with in the US. And so, they’re building this campaign off of issues that shouldn’t even exist in the first place.
Okay. So you asked how it’s been jumping into UPS. It was a steep learning curve. It really was. And again, I had not intended to stay there permanently. So the first 30 days, it was, keep my mouth shut, don’t get fired. And then I was like, oh crap, I’m actually going to stay here. I have to start learning everything. I love my older friends because one of my older friends, was immediately like, you’re going to join Teamsters for Democratic Union. I campaigned for them in the ’70s. And I was like, absolutely. If you’re telling me that I’m going to need to be part of that group, that’s what I’m going to do.
I enthusiastically signed my union membership paper at orientation, but then I had to learn the lay of the land basically which is that we, specifically part-timers, a lot of people feel neglected and forgotten. There is a lot of turnover. We have a good significant number of people that have been there for several years. But I would say half of the shift was turning over a lot especially before the MRA was extended till April and then was indefinitely extended because they knew what was going to happen if they cut it. And so, we’ve actually had a lot of stability the last few months. And I like to sit back and watch and learn and try to figure out relationships and patterns and everything that’s going on which is very frustrating for me sometimes. And so, learning the history about the contract fight five years ago, hearing about, what Rikki said, is how overworked and unappreciated — our business agent said five people, within our local, died from COVID directly. And I don’t think that even counts affected family members or friends, anything beyond that.
And it’s really tough to hear that and then to still experience a lot of apathy going on because there’s not enough. There are not enough business agents. There are not enough stewards. There’s not enough knowledge out there. As part-timers, we’re all coming in for a shift but I come in an hour before everybody else to do some work. Some people are finishing up their sections at all these different times. So it’s really difficult to build cohesion around, hey, let’s do this. And I know like TDU keeps putting out like, do parking lot meetings. Do this. Do that. And there’s still difficulty because we have people going straight to second jobs, going home to take care of the kids. People do part-time work for very valid reasons. And that’s something I was so excited about the day that I got people to stay for voting on the strike authorization. I was jumping up and down wanting to hug all of them. I got three people to stay and I got four people to commit to go into the union hall. And I know they did. I know they did.
But I’m going to wrap this up in that on our line, we have an interesting group of folks on our line. And so, we are always talking about the contract. We are always making sure that the new people know what is in the contract around grievances, the supervisors working, what it means to be on time, and all of those different things. We don’t let anyone drop through. We fight as a team against the -isms and phobias that I mentioned earlier. And we really support each other through the day and help out. One of the contracts broke down on the morning of the 5th. And I happened to be on break and I was laying on the stop belt – It was not moving – Stretching out my back. UPS doesn’t care about safety, but you will definitely get yelled at and written up if you step on a moving belt.
And I logged into social media and the local had shared it. And one of my friends that works at one of the North Carolina facilities had shared the Teamsters’ post from two hours earlier. And I screamed and I jumped up and people are coming back to the line. And I polled everybody on the line real quick and they all knew what I was talking about. So I was like, okay. And I looked at my watch, I’m like, I’ve got three minutes before my break is over. So I start running around the facility stopping and I’m trying to identify at least one person from each work section. Okay, I can tell this person. And it started off as first person was like, oh crap. You could see on their face that they were feeling the financial hit right away. And then I ran to the next line and I’ve talked to those folks a lot before. So they were like, okay, what does this mean? And so I went through a 30-second spiel of, this is what is going to be next and I’ll get back with more information. Then I go to the last line and immediately, the person responds with, yeah, we absolutely need to get paid more. Do you know how hard this shit is?
And then my break was over and I had to go back to my line. But generally, I feel everybody felt the same that Rikki mentioned earlier, that the contract negotiations seemed to be going so positively and really getting a lot of wins, especially in the non-economic areas, that I was like, okay, the strike is maybe going to happen but maybe they’ll actually give in, especially since they’ve already been paying most of us well above the contract rate for the last several months. But to see that, that is when I knew it was like, oh crap. And that shook people up. And there’s a lot of follow-up to do because the last guy I talked to, he was like, well, are there any non-union folks in our shift? And I honestly don’t know but I do feel like there are a few. And he’s like, why would anybody not be part of the union? And I’m like, let’s have a history lesson next week.
Maximillian Alvarez: What I would give to have a camera in that warehouse and a reality show.
Amber Mathwig: Oh, there’s a camera. We don’t have access to it.
Maximillian Alvarez: All right. Yeah, not the creepy Orwellian cameras that UPS has everywhere. But if we could turn Amber and Rikki’s days on the floor into a reality show, I would watch the shit out of that. Sorry, Rikki, what were you about to say?
Rikki Schreiner: I was going to add to the part about the people not really knowing. And I’ve tried to push this through our local right now since this is coming after and hopefully, everything in the contract is ratified, but trying to do contract literacy classes for people. Everybody should know what the contract means. It shouldn’t just be the stewards, it should be everybody, Zoom meetings, whatever, but anybody who wants to attend, they need to understand what the contract means for them.
Amber Mathwig: I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it.
Rikki Schreiner: Yeah. I emailed our president about it and he seemed really enthusiastic about it, so fingers crossed.
Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. That’s incredible, that’s super important. And I want us to pick up on that in a second. And I can’t keep you both for much longer. I know that you got busy days and I got to let you go soon. So, we are going to finish with, looking ahead, anyone who’s listening to this, if they’re a member, what do they need to know? If they’re folks who want to stand in solidarity with you all, what should we be looking out for and how can we do that? How can we show support for you all?
We’re going to end there in a second. But you both have brought up an important topic. And if you’re comfortable with it, I wanted to get your thoughts on this really quickly because we’re talking about the labor movement here. We’re talking about the Teamsters. We’re talking about work that is traditionally identified with this archetype of the blue-collar dude. This is a very male-dominated industry in a union that has such a macho-drenched reputation.
And there are parts of that that people get excited about. I get the allure. Yeah, Teamsters are badass. There’s something about that old archetypal image that is attractive to people for different reasons. But at the same time, I feel like even amongst more progressive-leaning folks who I know are deeply supportive of you all, it’s easy for people to unquestionably indulge in that, indulge in the hypermasculine theatrics of the union fight with UPS. And that leads us to maybe not fully see what this diverse workforce of around 350,000 people goes through on a day-to-day basis. So, what I’m asking is, as two women working at UPS, part of the union, very active in the union, has that tracked for you as the coverage of this contract fight has been mounting? I personally hear from very few women, let alone from part-timers. We tend to hear from folks in the package cars. Even now with the contract negotiations falling apart, there’s a lot of chest-beating to the whole thing. I wanted to get your take on that and if you feel like we are collectively missing an important part of the picture here.
Rikki Schreiner: This is probably one of Amber and I’s favorite subjects actually. It’s true. Let’s be honest, the Teamsters do have a reputation for being a bunch of old white guys; that’s not a secret. I’m excited about this new leadership. We’re going to start seeing a lot of bigger changes. We’re going to see a lot of women, we’re going to see a lot of people from different cultural backgrounds. It’s going to expand because it has to be able to. And if you’re going to represent the workforce, you have to look like the workforce. People’s voices need to be heard and we’re going to see more of that with this leadership.
Amber Mathwig: I agree with Rikki on that. I especially am already seeing it in our local joint council. Is that the appropriate term? Driven by our local union that we’re part of, in that, we had a table at Pride for the first time. And that I asked for the local bylaws and the very first thing I saw was he/him and brothers all throughout it. So before I even read it, I responded to our local president and was like, so, I see one thing that needs a change in there. And he responded affirmatively. And he’s all for understanding that a lot of things have continuously been dropped as not a priority. But why would you not prioritize something like that? Technically, the bylaws don’t apply to me at all because I’m not referenced in them.
At the local level, I feel good. I don’t know how I feel about the international level right now because there is so much media and there are so many people talking that do not seem to fully represent what I see as our workforce here in Southern Twin Cities areas where I’m at. And it’s also interesting to me that, I know we had briefly talked about what we would like to see in the future, in addition to some of that. I would really love to see the union fight for language justice in the work centers because right now, UPS claims to have some requirements to speak and fully understand English. And I’m sorry, if you know anything about the Twin Cities, one of your best workforces, especially the ones who are reliable for showing up at 2:00AM, or 3:00AM in the morning and being sober, English is not going to be their primary language.
And so, the Department of Labor has already said, or NLRB, whoever actually has it written out, that all training and feedback should be provided in the language that the person understands best. And it’s that simple. And so, I saw the struggle during peak when we had a lot of part-timers, seasonal come on. I have seen the struggle recently in the local sort in the evening where it’s like this person is highly capable. They’re motivated, they’re here. They’re figuring it out. They could do better if they were being trained in their primary language and not these complicated, and I’m sorry, even Midwesterners have weird accents sometimes too and it makes things weird. And so, there’s so much that could be done to make our workforce stronger. And I do have hope for it, I really do. Learning about the recent history of UPS, seeing it within our local, and knowing other people like Rikki. I forced Rikki to be my friend right off the bat when I met her. I’m like, we’re going to be friends. Because I needed to know that somebody similar to me existed at another facility. That’s what it was. And I know that there’s a lot of us.
Rikki Schreiner: We’ve seen it, once again, at a local level where our locals are working with other workers’ rights groups and other community centers and helping people off the small link community. We work with the Awood Center and we have a partnership with them where I’m trying to establish with some other workers’ rights groups. We’re branching out and getting to know our community which is what we need to be doing across the country.
Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. You’re talking about Twin Cities here. Some of the most exciting labor action is going on there. And you have this incredibly diverse workforce. We had Qali Jama on the show who was one of the Amazon warehouse workers, Somali-American, achieving this historic win with the new warehouse build that is going to go into effect this year. And that was one of their big concerns too. It’s like you got so many hardworking folks speaking different languages. If you’re not acknowledging that this is the reality of your workforce and not making materials and training available in the languages of your workers, then what the hell are we doing here?
And that’s actually a nice way to segue to the final turn here because like I said, I know I got to let you both go. But I want to talk about looking ahead, again, we’re going to post updates for folks on social media. We’re going to keep coverage going over at The Real News Network. But as far as the podcast’s concerned, we’re recording this on July 10. It’s going to come out next week. So, we’re going to have about a week and a half leading up to the contract expiring after this episode comes out.
So, I wanted to ask you both, if that warehouse worker protection bill is going to impact you guys over there in the coming years. But also, for folks who have their eyes focused on the strike, what can you tell us about what you’re expecting? What scenarios could play out between the UPS and Teamsters if they do hammer out a tentative agreement, if they return to the table and work out a deal before the end of the month, or if they don’t? How are you guys preparing and what should UPS’ers around the country be prepared for? And also folks who are out there standing in solidarity with you all, what can we do to support our fellow workers over at UPS?
Amber Mathwig: So, I’ve heard that some companies are promising or sending out emails that they’re not going to switch carriers, that they’re sticking with UPS, that they support the strike. I don’t know if that applies to those meal plan companies. And I’m asking myself, this is not representative of the union’s opinion, please cancel your meal plans because we don’t want to come back to them in the warehouses after 5, 6, 7 days, or two weeks, and deal with them.
Maximillian Alvarez: After sitting in the August heat?
Amber Mathwig: Yeah. Well, okay, they are never temperature-controlled no matter what you think, they are never temperature controlled. And I get a little weirded out about some of them. A lot of it is propaganda, but there may be a couple of companies shifting over to FedEx or some other shipper. Be aware of it. If your shipper all of a sudden changes for something, please write to them and tell them, no, I’m canceling now because you’re not sticking with UPS, you’re not sticking with workers. UPS will tell you, oh, FedEx will absorb this. FedEx can’t absorb 20 million packages overnight. We ship a significant number of USPS packages every day, under a specific part of our contract, even. It is in the contract what we can ship and what we can’t.
Earlier, you were talking about support. One of the most enthusiastic supporters that I’ve come in contact with is an elderly woman with an almost 50-year-old adult child with Down Syndrome. And this is from my small hometown and I don’t always expect to receive positive support out there but she was so enthusiastic. She was like, UPS was my lifesaving line during the pandemic so that we could stay safe, so that my daughter could stay safe, and did all these other things. You all do absolutely whatever the heck it is you need to do.
And I want people to continue to remember that, as we go forward. Join folks out on the picket lines. Please cancel those meal plans. I know which companies they are. And be prepared, be okay with being inconvenienced for a couple of weeks so that we can all win. Because when we win this labor contract, when we get what we need and want, it is going to be so much momentum for the labor force overall in the US and beyond. Check.
Rikki Schreiner: I want to say about Qali, I love her. Seriously, she is an amazing human being. I’ve met her multiple times. I’ve been to protests with her. I’ll say this: Amazon exploits young single parents, people new to this country. So they instilled that they, A, don’t know their rights and, B, are too scared to stand up for their rights. And Amazon here in Twin Cities, Amazon Shakopee, is learning the lesson that that is not the case. Amazing. Working with the Awood Center is amazing. As far as the warehouse worker bill, a lot of it really does affect Amazon more than us.
I’m going to get off on a tangent here with the Amazon thing. But they had a thing called Time on Task. Basically, they had a quota they had to meet every day but Amazon is not required to tell them what that quota was. So at the end of the day, they would tell you whether or not you made it and you can’t see it so you don’t know if they’re pulling numbers out of their ass. You don’t know where this is coming from. And they can use it as a reason to get rid of you. I don’t know if you know this but they have a 150% turnover rate which is obscene. So they were abusing that. And that is part of the warehouse worker bill. You have to be told what is expected of you every day.
Another part of it is for injuries and this could apply to us. If you have a higher-than-average percentage rate of injuries in your building, OSHA can come in and investigate unprompted which is excellent because otherwise you have to make calls. They can come in unprompted. This is another problem, you’re two-thirds more likely to get injured in an Amazon warehouse in Minnesota than you are in any other warehouse. And it was actually really amazing to work with. We had a celebration party a few weeks back with the Awood Center and we had Emma Greenman there and Erin Murphy, the senator and representative that helped push the bills through, amazing women. And we’re all very excited about it. And you hear some of these stories and it’s heart-wrenching how people get treated. And UPS and Amazon are not too different on that front. They’ve made it very clear that we don’t really matter to them. We are just numbers. And so hopefully, it’s a small step but it’s a step in the right direction.
Now, as far as supporting us, the best thing you could possibly do is organize your own workplace. Start talking to your coworkers. If you work at Amazon, give me a phone call. I work for the organizing committee. Seriously, talk to your coworkers. Learn your labor laws. What rights do you have? If you’re going to talk to the boss if you could consider protected activity, look it up. You know what? Talk to members of labor unions. Learn your rights. If you want to support us, organize your own work area. Support the workers’ rights movement.