On July 25, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters reached a tentative agreement with UPS just days before the current contract was set to expire on July 31. If a new deal was not reached this week, 340,000 UPS workers were prepared to hit the picket line on Aug. 1 in what would have been one of the largest strikes in US history. The contract negotiations process has been a roller coaster, filled with the twists and turns of bad offers and parties walking away from the bargaining table. What brought us to this point? What are the key issues workers have been prepared to strike over? Will the rank and file approve the latest tentative agreement, or is a strike still on the table?
In this special July 25 live panel discussion with Teamster UPSers—a collaboration between The Real News, In These Times, and The Upsurge podcast—we discuss the latest developments in the contract negotiations and what’s at stake for UPS workers and the wider labor movement.
Watch the July 25 livestream on The Real News Network YouTube channel:
Studio Production: David Hebden, Adam Coley, Kayla Rivara
Post-Production: David Hebden, Teddy Ostrow, Ruby Walsh
Teddy Ostrow: Hey, Upsurge listeners, this is your host, Teddy Ostrow. As I mentioned in our last episode, we’re bringing you a special rebroadcasting of a July 25 livestream we produced with our partners In These Times and The Real News Network. I took a train down to Baltimore to co-host live in the Real News studio, and as I was hopping on the train, news of a tentative agreement between UPS and the Teamsters dropped. This made for a very interesting livestream, as you can imagine. You’ll hear all about it and the quick takes from four Teamsters.
But I just wanted to state that we recorded when only highlights of the TA were released. Since then, the full tentative contract language has become public, so perspectives may have changed, and will continue to change as union members read, interpret, and eventually vote on their TA.
You can also watch this livestream on YouTube. I’ll put the link in the description. Keep in mind, this is not over – One of the largest single employer strikes in US history is still possible.
Maximillian Alvarez: Welcome, everyone, to The Real News Network. My name is Maximilian Alvarez, I’m the editor-in-chief here at The Real News, and it’s so great to have you all with us.
Teddy Ostrow: And I’m Teddy Ostrow, labor journalist and host of the Upsurge podcast in partnership with In These Times and The Real News Network.
Maximillian Alvarez: For the past seven months, the eyes of labor have been squarely fixed on UPS. Led by the reform administration of their new president, Sean O’Brien, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have been in the midst of a historic contract fight with United Parcel Service, a contract that covers 340,000 UPS workers across the country at a company that raked in over $100 billion dollars in revenue in 2022 alone. That contract was set to expire at the end of this month, July 31, and union locals have been holding practice picket lines this month to prepare for what would have been one of the largest strikes in this country’s history on Aug. 1.
Along with our colleagues and comrades at In These Times magazine and the great Upsurge podcast, we at The Real News have been exhaustively covering the UPS contract fight from the side of the workers for the past year. From package car drivers delivering packages to our doors to part-time warehouse workers loading those trucks; from working in deadly heat conditions to the sacrifices workers made during a world-changing pandemic; from two-tier employment to forced overtime and company surveillance, we have tried to give y’all and the rest of our audience a deep, textured, rank and file view of what workers at UPS are going through, what key issues they have been prepared to strike over, and why this contract fight is so significant for them, for their families, for the Teamsters, and for the labor movement.
Now, we originally planned this livestream as our final chance to update our audience on the state of the contract negotiations and to let y’all know what a strike involving 340,000 UPSers would look like, and how you could show support. But then, of course, around noon today, we got the bombshell news that the Teamsters Negotiating Committee and UPS have reached a tentative agreement. I want to be very clear about something: this is a tentative agreement. We don’t even know the precise language of the agreement, and ultimately it will be up to the union membership to decide over the next month whether or not to accept the agreement and whether a strike at UPS is still on the table.
So, we know you all have a lot of questions about the tentative agreement, but I do want to stress that there’s only so much that we know about the tentative agreement right now. So, we’re going to try to give y’all some updates on that here at the top of this livestream, and then we’re going to go to our incredible panel of UPSers who, amidst everything, have made time to join us on the livestream tonight.
But before we get there, Teddy, first of all, welcome to The Real News Network here in Baltimore, brother. It’s been great working with you from afar over the past year. And you and Ruby Walsh have been really, really doing the work and producing an incredible podcast series, the Upsurge, where you have been covering this contract fight for the past year. And if folks haven’t already, I strongly urge that if you want to understand this potential strike, the contract fight, what it means for the Teamsters, the labor movement, UPS and the logistics industry, so on and so forth, you should definitely go listen to the Upsurge along with the coverage we’ve done on my podcast, Working People, The Real News, In These Times, and so on and so forth.
But I wanted to ask, Teddy, here at the top, before we get to our panel, since you’ve been there on the ground covering this throughout the year, if you could first run us through what we do know about the tentative agreement that dropped earlier today, or the news about the tentative agreement that dropped earlier today. So, let’s try to give people an update on what we know right now, and what’s going to happen now. But I also wanted to ask if you could take a couple minutes to frame this conversation for us. What have you learned covering this contract fight about UPS, the Teamsters, and where this contract fight sits in the broader labor movement?
Teddy Ostrow: Right. Well, thanks for having me on, Max. Pleasure. It’s been great working with you guys and In These Times. But yeah, well, it’s been a whirlwind today, I’m sure for our panelists as well, for us. Hopped on the train to Baltimore here and the news dropped of this tentative agreement. And we have the highlights right now, just to start with that. We don’t have the contract language, we’re going to have to wait for that. But what we’re looking at is contract negotiations restarted today after a three-week hiatus. They broke down on July 5, specifically on part-time wages, part-timers comprising roughly about 60% of the workforce.
So what do we know now? A ton of these issues that UPSers have been dealing with for a long time, not just the past year, not just the past five, but many, such as forced overtime, dealing with extreme heat, dealing with lackluster wages. Some of these have been addressed up to that point, but really we were waiting on these economic items.
Now we have some of the details. General wage increases we’ve seen, it’s going to be $7.50 over the course of this five-year contract. Specifically for part-timers, we’re seeing that they’re going to be bumped up from their starting wage of $16.20 right now – It was $15.50 recently, up to $21 – We’re also going to see what are called catch-up raises or longevity raises for part-timers who have been at the company a long time and haven’t been adequately rewarded for what they have offered.
We’ve also heard a little bit of news about the personal vehicle drivers. These are the gig workers at UPS that have been a big part of the conversation for the past five years and even longer. It looks like those are going to be limited. Part-timers are going to get priority for getting those jobs. So they’re not completely gone, just to note. But that’s just some of the basics.
To lean back for a second and look over the past year, we’re seeing a lot of coverage of this right now in mainstream media and leading up to it, and we’re seeing words like “looming strike”, all of the economic damage that’s going to be done of this potential strike, which still may happen.
But at the Upsurge, something that we learned from places like The Real News, which has been covering the railroad workers last year, we saw the same language emphasizing people as consumers and the damage that could be done by labor action. Well, we actually wanted to look at it in a different light. We wanted to cover it from UPSers’ angle, from the Teamsters’ angle, from the angle of the working class, and that’s why this is such an exciting livestream today. Because we’re having UPSers on today to talk about this really historic moment rather than a supply chain management analyst.
Maximillian Alvarez: [Laughs] Rather than the CEO of Bank of America?
Teddy Ostrow: Yeah, right. I’m excited to talk to these folks, and I’ve been talking to them for like 10 months. Me and Ruby Walsh, Ruby Walsh and I, my co-producer, we’ve been trying to unpeel this onion that is incredibly important, this UPS contract campaign. It’s important for UPSers who have been shafted for decades upon decades, not seeing their children in the morning or at night because they’re dealing with forced overtime, dealing with death and heat stroke, other extreme weather, lackluster wages such that we have tons and tons of people who are literally in poverty, have to have multiple jobs, live in their cars, live in shelters. Dealing with also the deterioration of these very good jobs, often, turning them into gig work, harassment, and the two-tier of drivers, which is, we’re dealing with tiers across the economy. So this is important for UPSers, but those are all issues that are important for the broader labor movement, for the broader working class.
And so this fight of 340,000 people, because they’re people, they’re workers, definitionally in every single zip code in the country, these are issues that, if they win, if they fight and they win – Which, looking at what the highlights are, some folks may consider that they’ve already won – This will show the working class, this will show other unions, other workers, that if you fight, if you can make a credible strike threat, then you can win.
And this is really important for the Teamsters Union, which, like many other unions, fell into major complacency over the past 25 years. And through the valiant efforts of a reform movement within the union, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which helped bring democracy to this union in 1989, which helped bring 185,000 UPS workers out on strike in 1997, and which helped change the leadership in 2021 of the Teamsters Union, which set up this chance to have an unprecedented contract campaign today. This took an incredible amount of organizing, and it’s an institutional story of the Teamsters. That’s what we’ve been trying to cover.
This is also a story of the economy, the logistics industry. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a real boom in e-commerce, and that meant a boom in the work. And then the struggles of UPS workers, many of whom have died. So, this is an onion that you keep peeling back and peeling back, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount. I’ve learned a tremendous amount, primarily from UPS workers, from Teamsters. And that’s what we’ve tried to do.
And so why I’m so excited to talk to these folks, Tony Rosario is on here. I wanted to speak to him in this podcast, hopefully here about 1997, the last time UPSers went on strike. I want to hear about the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the reform movement of which he’s a part, many of these folks are a part of, on this livestream.
I wanted to hear from part-timers like Elbe, who’s on this stream, to hear about what basically broke down negotiations on July 5, and may still be an important factor to consider when workers decide either to vote this up or vote this down. I wanted to hear about the two-tier driver system, whereby the second generation of drivers are now making less pay and less protections. That appears to be in the TA; it has been abolished. So we’ll talk about that as well as Amazon organizing, because it was always the goal to win a kick ass UPS contract and then parlay that into our organizing, Amazon, which is a threat to the working class. So we’ve got a great lineup and I’m excited to talk to them. Because I’ve been talking to the UPSers, Teamsters for 10 months, you have as well, and we’re learning a lot.
Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah, man. There’s a lot to unpack here. And we’ve got a killer panel, and so we’re going to stop teasing you guys. We’re going to go to that panel in just one second. But to quickly recap what Teddy said, because there was a lot of great stuff there – And we will post, for folks who are watching this live in the live chat, there are some resources, like a guide that was put out by TDU, breaking down what we know of the current updates from the tentative agreement. With a little more specifics on, say, the questions of pay that Teddy mentioned and that I know some of y’all are asking about that. But that raise for part-timers to $21 an hour, that is effective immediately upon ratification, correct?
Teddy Ostrow: Yes. So, basically, there’s an immediate raise across the board of $2.75. And some of these workers are making $16.20, so $2.75 plus $16.20 doesn’t amount to $21. Those folks who are making below will immediately go to 21.
And I just want to emphasize, there’s a lot of reactions. It’s been hours since these just highlights came out, not contract language. There are folks who are tentatively optimistic about this tentative agreement, and there are folks who are outwardly disappointed, and already maybe have decided they want to vote no. We don’t know which of those opinions are going to boil to the top come Aug. 3 when voting will start on this tentative agreement. It will end on Aug. 22. What will happen going forward right now is basically representatives from the 176 UPS locals across the country, they will decide, they’ll review the tentative agreement, and they will either recommend it or not to their membership, at which point this voting system will start.
Maximillian Alvarez: Got it. Good. So that was the last thing I wanted to emphasize for people, is that there’s a process that’s going to play out here over the next month. So, definitely keep an eye out when voting begins in the beginning of August, and Aug. 22 is when we will know how the membership feels about this current tentative agreement.
And the last thing I wanted to emphasize and underscore what you said, which is really important, something that the great journalist Luis Feliz Leon has also been pointing out, is that a lot of the concessions that the Teamsters got from UPS over this contract fight, they got before now. And the membership has, I think, been pivotal for that. The practice picket lines and the show of strength, the unity, the willingness to fight, the credibility of the strike threat has been, I think, essential for securing those key concessions from UPS. Like air conditioning in new cars after Jan. 1, 2024, but at least air conditioning, that’s a step in the goddamn right direction, pardon my French.
The elimination of two-tier, like you said, on the drivers’ side, that is huge. Because so many of the strikes that we have seen from workers and unions in recent years have been focused on the two-tier, multi-tier system, when what we’re essentially talking about is unequal pay for equal work. And so if the Teamsters have really fired back a critical shot against corporate America on the question of tiers, there’s going to be a lot of folks at other shops, in other industries who see that as, I think, the rallying cry, that it is open season on two-tier and we need to go for the jugular on that. And so that is something worth celebrating. And we got a lot more to unpack.
But just to give you guys a sense of, again, what was in the back of the minds of UPS executives at the bargaining table, what they were thinking of and what they were seeing from the rank and file around the country, we actually compiled a montage here of some videos from practice picket lines around the country – And this is thanks to Teddy and Natty at In These Times. Thank you both for putting that together for us – So, Dave, back in The Real News studios, wondering if we can queue up that montage of practice picket lines. Just to give people a sense of the energy that we’ve been feeling from the rank and file over the past month as we’ve been creeping closer towards the expiration of the current contract.
[VIDEO CLIP BEGINS]
Striker 1: August 1.
Strikers: August 1.
Striker 1: August 1.
Strikers: August 1.
Striker 1: August 1.
Strikers: August 1.
Striker 2: When you’re a part-timer, you’re required to work 8, 9, 10 hours a day on top of… Most part-timers have to carry two jobs to make a living. A stronger contract would mean just a better life, being able to spend more quality time with my family and not trying to stack a lot of hours just to make ends meet.
Striker 1: Who got the power?
Strikers: We got the power.
Striker 1: Who got the power?
Strikers: We got the power.
Striker 3: We have your back, we have your back. And we say we, we mean this city has your back, this country has your back, everyday people have your back. Because you’re not just fighting for yourselves. You are fighting to raise the standard for all working people in this country. That’s what this fight is about.
Striker 4: We are practice picketing right now to send a message to the company. And that message is simple: who are we? We are the Teamsters, strongest labor union in the country. What do we want? We want a fair contract that rewards its members for its sweat equity and the billions of dollars that it made this country. If we don’t get it, well, we’re going to be forced to do what we’ve done before, and that’s shut this place down.
Striker 5: I know some guys that are 30 years old. Their knees are gone.
Striker 6: $13 billion this company made last year and they want to cry poverty. We showed up every day. We got the job done. We delivered for America.
Striker 7: One, two, three, four, we [inaudible].
Strikers: Stand up, fight back.
Striker 1: Stand up.
Strikers: Fight back.
Striker 1: Stand up.
Strikers: Fight back.
Striker 1: Stand up.
Strikers: Fight back.
Striker 8: We’re going to send a message to UPS that enough’s enough. No more people are dying in these trucks because it’s too damn hot.
Striker 9: UPS knows what they have to do to fix this. If they don’t, it’s not us striking them, it’s them putting themselves on strike [crowd cheers].
Striker 10: If you’re thinking about organizing, then that means you know you must do it.
Striker 11: At the end of the day, we’re not alone.
Striker 12: If we don’t stand up for ourselves, no one will stand up for us. Okay [applause]? No one will stand up for us. You all are the essential ingredient. Your courage is the essential ingredient to this.
Striker 13: I’m willing to strike to win dignity in my workplace.
Striker 14: I’m ready to strike if necessary. I believe the sacrifice is needed, the sacrifice will be done, will be had, and it will be rewarded.
[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]
Maximillian Alvarez: All right, I’m fired up. So, let’s get to our incredible panel. And again, thank you all so much for making time to join us today on this livestream amidst all that’s going on right now. I’m sure your phones are blowing up. There’s a lot going on, so we really, really appreciate you making time for this. We got about an hour and 10 minutes here to dig into all we want to dig into today. On my show, Working People, where I’ve interviewed a number of amazing UPSers in recent years, we get to take our time and get to know more about each person, how they came to be the people they are, do the work that they do, so on and so forth. So I want to see if we can do a condensed version of that to introduce y’all to our great audience here.
So, I want to go around. I’m going to start with Tony, and we’ll go to Elbe, Richard, and Patrick. I want to ask if you could introduce yourself to our Real News viewers and listeners, and if you could just, A, maybe give some of your gut impressions or reactions to the TA. Again, I don’t want to ask anyone to speculate on anything we don’t have the details on, but what your impressions are of the news that we have as of today.
And also if you could say a little bit about what this contract fight has looked like in your life. How have the issues that have been central to this contract fight and that y’all have been prepared to strike over, what does that look like on your day-to-day level, or on the day-to-day level of the members that you represent?
So, Tony, why don’t we start with you? Introduce yourself. Give us your first impressions of the TA, and tell us a little bit more about what the past year has really looked like through your eyes.
Tony Rosario: Well, the past year has been pretty exciting. I think everybody’s been feeling it. There’s been a movement growing across the country, not just with UPS, with other places like Starbucks, Amazon workers, Trader Joe’s, Chipotle. Everybody can see it now. You got the writers and the actors out there. It’s been a pretty strong buildup over a year. But particularly at UPS, we started out in August… Oh, I’m sorry. Let me not just jump right into that. Hi, I’m Antonio Rosario [Alvarez laughs]. Let me start with –
Maximillian Alvarez: I’m Tony, by the way [laughs].
Tony Rosario: Yeah. A lot of people know me as Tony, Tony Rosario, Teamsters Local 804. I am now an organizer of the IBT Amazon Division. But I was a rank and filer my whole life. I’ve only been out of the truck maybe less than a year, well, a little more than a year. Then I went inside as a clerk in the warehouse. I started in 1994 at UPS as a young… I believe I was 19 going on 20. My father had just passed away. My mother was falling behind on bills for the house, and I was lucky to land this union job that I was able to actually help my mother keep the house. And it meant a lot to me back then. And as a part-timer back then, we were making five or six dollars above minimum wage, so you were able to make… I mean, it wasn’t amazing, but it was way better than what’s happening today, which is why we’re relying on some serious increases for the workers, especially the part-time workers.
I think some of the reactions of what’s going on, there are a lot of people that are always… You’re not going to make everybody happy, let’s just say that right off the bat. We haven’t seen the language in front of us, so not many of us are jumping to make a decision right away. From what I’ve seen, though, and so far with all the big gains and all the things you’ve heard that we won over the last few weeks, it does make a strong case for a yes vote. Again, we still have to check out the language to make sure everything is good.
What people have been downplaying a little, I feel, is the creation of about 7,500 new full-time jobs. I know when I was on strike in ’97, a bunch of jobs were created, so I believe they’re going to have like 75,000 new 22.3 jobs, if I’m not mistaken. These are for workers that want to go full-time that were only working part-time, that maybe can’t drive a truck, some of them.
Teddy Ostrow: 7,500, yeah.
Tony Rosario: Yeah. I think it’s huge that instead of giving into two-tier jobs, we actually took one back. I don’t remember in my 29 years as a UPS worker ever seeing any language that was given in a contract taken back. I could be mistaken, but I don’t remember that ever happening. So I think removing the 22.4 was really huge.
Significant pay increases, but it wasn’t just about the salary. You mentioned about air conditioning in the vehicles. I myself, I’m sure Richard and Elbe and Pat, I’m not sure how long he’s been on the job. But to work in those excruciating days of heat where workers were actually dying out there – And this isn’t a joke, people died. Everybody knows of Esteban Chavez in Palmdale, California recently, but people forget that people have been dying all through time. You can go back a few years. A woman in Georgia, back a year or two, right before the pandemic, I believe, someone in Texas. People have been dying for years, it’s just never really been publicized. So it’s about time we get some air conditioning.
And I get that it’s going to take some time to get all the trucks fitted and that it’s going to be a while, but I don’t think anybody should have to endure what we had to endure. So it’s nice to see the change. I was there when we first started getting power steering, and I was happy to drive a truck that I could actually turn the wheel without hurting my arms [others chuckle]. Every driver back then had Popeye arms because they were pulling that steering wheel, and they were like, ugh.
I remember, if you guys can go back, when the truck steps were really high, and we had to fight to get the low-step vehicles. All of this took time, and over years, they brought in the trucks with lower steps, brought in new trucks with power steering, and, of course, going from standard to automatic transmission. These are all things that took time.
Air conditioning, for me, it’s got to be a big win for me, because I remember going through the waiting for the power steering truck and the automatic and the lower steps. These were things we looked forward to when we won something. So to have air conditioning, even if it’s over the next years and it takes time for UPS to retrofit all of them, that’s fine. But at the end of the day, they’re still going to be putting fans in all the vehicles, which is some help. And they’re supposed to be putting in some type of mechanism in the back that’s going to let some of the air out. I’m not sure of the ventilation system, but these are things I heard from reading and talking to other folks.
Martin Luther King Day as a holiday, if you mentioned that. No more excessive overtime, especially in places where people were working six days a week. We got some big things here, and we got some solid raises. So it’s just a matter of looking at the language, making sure it’s put together properly. Sometimes one word can change the whole outcome of a sentence. So we have to be very careful.
But all in all, I have to say, me personally as a Teamster who’s been around for 29 years, and I’ve been through the 20-some-odd years of Hoffa and concessions after concessions, it feels good for me to say, we finally got a contract that I can say there were some major gains made. Not just hoping that we keep what we have and maybe gain a little something. No. We made some significant gains. And it makes me proud to be a Teamster again, just to know that there’s a lot of people that feel that way.
Just the fighting alone and the practice picketing and the rallies that we had and the very, very passionate meetings in the parking lots and talking to part-timers, just the engagement on the part-timers alone has been a big part of this. Being able to talk to part-timers and tell them, hey, we’re fighting for you guys, it made a big difference. And I feel like moving forward, even past the contract, we’re going to get a lot more part-timer engagement moving forward.
And when you mention Amazon workers, I mean, even if this contract, by the end of this contract, everybody’s going to be well making over what most Amazon employees make – And that’s including pension and benefits, which Amazon workers are either paying into their benefits way too much money, and pension, it’s not even spoken of. So it’s some really big, significant gains. I’m excited. I feel like that 22-year-old kid all over again, only I didn’t get a chance to hit the picket line.
But it’s still not over. They still got to send it to the membership for a vote. We still got to sign on it. Nothing happens and nothing is certain until it’s set in stone, and there’s nothing set in stone as of right now. But yeah, I’m sorry if that was a bit long-winded.
Maximillian Alvarez: No, brother, that was great. I appreciate it. And I just wanted to hop in to remind the rest of our panelists that we’re going to go to Elbe next, Richard, Patrick. I’m going to shut up, so when you feel ready to hop in after the next person finishes talking, go for it. But I also wanted to underline something for people watching and listening, especially if you are not part of the Teamsters, if you don’t work at UPS: Really think about what those details that Tony was talking about mean for the working lives of our brothers and sisters and siblings across the country. This is the kind of stuff that you will hear workers talk about, even just the height of the step, getting into those trucks. My tio, Tio Miguel, was a Teamster all his life. He’s had like three knee replacements because of climbing up and down in these massive cabs. I remember him complaining about that.
So that’s not a small thing, but to people maybe on the outside, when they hear that, they may think, well, that seems like a minor thing. So again, really listen to what these details mean in the working lives of UPSers. And also, if you have more questions about the details, a reminder again, we have been sharing in the live chat some additional links where you can get some more of those fine-grained details.
But Elbe, I want to bring you in here. As a part-timer, a lot has really, really centered on what you all are going through and what these pay raises are going to mean, the TA is going to mean for you and your fellow part-timers at UPS. So, can you talk us through, first introduce yourself to the great livestream viewers and listeners, give us your initial reactions to the TA, and talk to us a little more about your experience throughout this contract fight and what things look like on the ground for you.
Elbe Lieb: Yeah, for sure. So first off, I just want to say thanks for having me on here. I really appreciate the opportunity. And my name’s Elbe Lieb. I’ve been at UPS for 27 years, except for a short stint that I had when I left for about four years to be in the military. And I’m a part-timer. I load trucks. I do have a shuttle run that I do one day of the week. It’s kind of funny, when you were talking about your uncle, about the knee injury – Well, I shouldn’t say funny, but the knee injuries. But I remember at one point in time, it was like UPS hardly argued with you if you said – I had a hernia, I’ve had how many injuries at UPS, stitches in my head and stuff, and they would just, oh yeah, okay. Yeah, we know. Because they understood how difficult it was and the injuries that could occur there. Now they’re a little bit more stringent about it, because it’s money out the door for them.
But anyhow, so yeah, I’ve been loading trucks, like I said, about 27 years. I started up in Illinois near Chicago and then I transferred down to Bloomington, Indiana, and I’ve been down here since then, and that was in 2000.
So let’s see… First impressions of the TA, I should say. As a part-timer and hearing voices of other part-timers, I know there were a lot of feelings behind the $25 an hour. People didn’t really know what the IBT was asking for. Was it going to be $20, $25 an hour? Where I live, in a small college town in South Central Indiana, if I go to my members, the preloaders I work with, and I tell them like, hey, they’re paying people $21 when they get hired and it’s going to go up to… Was it $23.75? I don’t know if it’s with your 30 working days, we need to see the language on that, how that all works. The devil’s in the details. I know that they’re going to be fairly impressed. I think that it might be something that would make employees, or at least part-timers, willing to stick it out.
In other areas, I don’t think that that’s going to carry the weight, in cities. So there’s a lot of centers and hubs in larger cities, obviously. $23.75, is that going to cut it for some folks? I don’t know. Possibly an avenue looking at the 22.3 jobs, which are inside combo jobs. A lot of people might not want to go into driving. Those might be something, if part-timers see that as an avenue, that might be something that they would consider a positive. It depends.
A lot of people, there’s some people that are part-timers because that’s all there is, and there’s other people that are part-timers because that works for them. And the situation they end up in, though, is that they’re trying to do that part-time job because of the benefits and maybe they have children at home that they have to care for or something. And making it at the wages that we’ve had currently don’t quite cut it. So that’s been an issue. That’s why that $25 an hour, I think, a lot of people were holding onto.
And we talked about organizing Amazon, coming in and saying, hey, Teamsters got this for our part-timers, which are the closest proximity of in-house warehouse workers in relation to Amazon warehouse workers that the Teamsters have, I think. That would’ve been a huge win.
So what we got, if in 30 days, 30 working days, you end up at $23.75, and that by the end of the contract you’re over $25 an hour, I think is a good thing. I think a lot of folks were looking at this as a very pivotal moment and that we should get all that we want right now. If you back it up, what Antonio was saying, incremental, then this is significant, I think. I would like to see the TA before I came off as far as would I vote yes or no on it, of course.
There are issues, of course. It’s not just economics, conditions in the building. So it’s not just the trucks. Fans and environmental controls inside the buildings when it gets hot. That would be nice. Making sure that there’s a consistency from facility to facility in that regard.
Also, part-timer, long-term part-timer pensions, right? Yes, it’s great to get those high wages for the people that are just starting out. For me, like I said, I’ve been 27 years. I tell people if I could afford it, I’d retire right now. I’m looking to see if I retire at 30 years, I’ll get $2,000 a month, which depending on where you live, after 30 years of employment, should it be more, considering the hours that I’ve put in? A lot of times part-timers are working six days a week. So those are some of my issues.
Also, I think a big one I haven’t really seen about is grievances. Especially we know with the full-time drivers, the nine-fives, our center had a plethora of nine-five grievances, which are having a limit to their day, not being that excessive overtime. And it takes a long time to process those. I would like to see penalties for timeliness and grievance resolution. I didn’t see any language in that regard. And this is all grievances, of course. Because we need to be able to enforce this contract, and if we’re filing the grievances and doing that part, how do we get the company to the table to resolve them, right?
So those are the types of things that I see. But overall, I feel positive about it. I mean, it is a huge thing from where we were. By the end of this contract, for me, I’d be close to $40 an hour. I make $33.29 an hour right now. I’ve taken a long time to get there, though. And if I wasn’t a disabled veteran, I don’t know if I could make it on just that wage alone.
So those are the issues out there. Hopefully that gives people information about part-timer issues. And I’m seeing a lot of folks, part-time folks that, like I said, aren’t keen on this because of that $25, and then some other issues, catch-up raises and stuff for long-term part-timers. So I don’t know. We’ll see how it hashes out when the language comes out. I’ll see what my local says as far as their recommendation, and then we’ll go from there. So anyhow, that’s all I got. Thanks.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah, thank you so much, Elbe. Richard, let’s go to you.
Richard Hooker Jr.: Well, again, thanks for having me on. I appreciate the opportunity. So my name is Richard Hooker Jr. I am the secretary treasurer and principal officer of Teamsters local 623 in Philadelphia.
When we first saw the TA, it looks, on face value, we do have a lot more than what we had before. But as Tony and Elbe mentioned, the devil was in the details. Being in this job that I’ve been in for the last four years, language is so, so important. There’s a difference between shall and up to, have the ability to and will. Those are two different things. One is a uncertainty, one is a certainty, and we have to make sure that there is some certainty in the language, because it’s fine and good to have a lot of money, but then if you turn the page and then there’s something totally opposite of what you thought you had, that’s going to be a problem.
I think a lot of us that’s been here for some time, we know that we’ve always heard this is the best contract in history. Then the next contract is the best contract in history, only to find out that it’s really the worst contract in history. I’m not saying that this is what this is going to be, but I’m always going to be under the impression, [because of] the pattern of these contracts, to always wait until I open up the whole book and read it to make sure that it’s the best contract in history.
I’ve already seen some complaints from part-timers and full-timers. The progression, we don’t know if the progression has increased or if it decreased. We don’t know anything about the pensions. It’s a lot of things we don’t know. And these things that we don’t know are very important to our members and their families. So I’m looking forward to getting that information so we can have a better understanding of the TA.
But again, though, when you look at it from face value, MLK Day, increase in starting wages, a big upfront wage, $7.50 over the life of the contract. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that since I’ve been here. I’ve been here 24 years. I haven’t seen a wage increase that large over that period of time. So that is a good thing.
But also, again, I’m always going to lean into the language, especially in this job. And I’m going to say this, and I hope I don’t make people upset, but in my line of work, the language means more than the money. It’s just that simple. The company will always try to manipulate the gray areas on their side. So it doesn’t matter how much money you make or how much money you have an hour, if that language is jacked up, then it doesn’t matter what your check says.
So we are looking to find out the language. I’m really concerned about what we don’t know. I’m glad that we got some good improvements, but I am very concerned about what we don’t know, because our members have a lot of questions. And like you said, throughout this program, we know your phone’s been blowing up, man, it hasn’t stopped. Text messages, phone calls, DMs. Hooker, what’s up with the progression? What’s up with the pension? We didn’t even hear anything. What’s up with the healthcare? A lot of people have a lot of concerns, and hopefully it will be addressed.
And I think they said the 31st, I believe I read that the 31st, they’re going to start putting the language out. So again, reach out to your local, stay on the top of your local, man. Keep bugging your BAs to get that information to you, because it is very important that we find out the end language. Because again – I’m going to say it again before we turn it over to Patrick. And I don’t mean no harm, but the language is more important than the money. Please understand that. It is very important, right? UPS can’t manipulate how much you get paid an hour, but they can manipulate that language if it’s not ironclad. So that’s my take on it. So I’ll turn it over back to Teddy.
Teddy Ostrow: I’ll pass it on to Patrick. Thanks, Richard.
Patrick Leonard: Thanks guys. Yeah, I’d like to thank Teddy and Max for the opportunity and for being here as well. My name is Patrick Leonard. I am a 22.4 UPS driver. I actually was pulled out for the summer as a field rep for my local 251 in Providence, Rhode Island. One of our business agents is on the National Negotiating Committee, and I am also an Amazon organizer, which is the next big fight that’s ahead of us.
I think I agree in a lot of ways with my other panelists here, and in the fact that, face value, this contract looks pretty great. There’s a lot of gains in a lot of areas. The TAs came out non economically quite some time ago, and we did see a lot of gains there as well. And everybody was anticipating the wages to be a pretty big fight, which it was. And I think a lot of people, as well, thought it was going to come down to the 11th hour. And we were surprised that they came to an agreement today so quickly in the morning.
But as my experience as a 22.4, I am what in my local everybody calls a COVID baby or a COVID kid. The experience has been pretty crazy. This past year alone, we had every 22.4 in our building – There’s 98 22.4s in our building – They were all laid off. They were on a soft layoff. And as a combo driver, we had the option to work inside the building. And for the COVID babies like myself, not having part-time experience before going on the road, it was eye-opening for a lot of us to see what the part-timers actually went through, to actually do the job that the part-timers do day in day out, experience their shifts, their split shifts, working in the morning then coming back in the afternoon, or working in the afternoon and coming back in the evening or overnight. And understanding the hardships in that and the lack of quality of life for a lot of the part-timers because of the crazy schedule that they do work.
Being laid off and pushed inside for the 22.4s in our building was detrimental to the part-timers, because for every full-time 22.4 that was pushed inside, two part-timers had to take a hard layoff and they were out on the street. So like I said, 98 22.4s were laid off in our building, that means almost 200 part-timers were laid off in our building, which was horrible to see.
But we were recalled on Saturdays, the 22.4s, from inside the building, and we went back on road, and that was the worst part about it. We were forced into 13, 14 hour days every single Saturday. They pushed more and more work on us. And as a 22.4, like was said earlier, we make nearly half the money that an RPCD or a regular package car driver makes.
And we had senior guys coming to the 22.4s and saying how unfair it was for us to not make the same amount of money, to do the same exact job and work even longer hours because we were cheaper labor. And we saw the company take advantage of that outright over and over and over again. And that was big for me personally, getting rid of the two-tier wage system in the 22.4 was a huge gain.
But as all the other panelists said as well, I do have other specific things in the contract that I’d like to see the language on surrounding harassment, surrounding nine-five grievances and what that language is going to look at. And in MRA language, the biggest issue had, the biggest hangup for negotiations has been the part-time wages. But the company has used and abused the market rate adjustment, the MRA, and they can bump your pay up at any time, but they can also pull that rug out from underneath you at any time as well. So I’d like to see what the language really has to say about that and how that’s going to impact the part-timers going forward.
That market rate adjustment, I think, was one of the biggest hang-ups as well, because, as we’ve said earlier too, there’s different parts of the country, all around the country, there’s some people that are making a higher MRA than others. We have places out in Seattle or in New York or in San Francisco that are making close to $40 an hour as a part-timer. So the $25 an hour sounded great, but for them, if they pulled the MRA away and they started at $25 an hour, well, now you’re knocked down and you’re losing a lot.
So like I said, I think there’s a lot that we did gain, but the language being cleared up and getting our eyes on it to whether we’re going to vote yes or no is going to be very important. The leverage that we had, and looking overall at the labor movement, I think this does set the standard still for the labor movement as a whole. I think we did set the bar high for full-time and part-time. I think it does give us a lot of power, and I think it’s going to give a lot of other working class Americans across the country a lot of power for whatever industry that they’re in, particularly Amazon.
The $25 hour starting wage for part-timers would’ve been a great tool to approach Amazon workers with and say, hey, look, we got this for the part-timers at UPS, and we can support you and get this for you too. Starting at $21, that is a more difficult argument to bring, because there are some Amazon workers that are making $21 an hour. But there are other gains in this contract that we can use to organize Amazon as well. And I think that is the biggest thing, again, going back to the language, is getting our eyes on the language and seeing where we really did make the truest gains and utilize those to organize Amazon.
That’s the next biggest fight. We were anticipating one of the largest labor strikes in US history with UPS, and everybody was anticipating, and we were all ready. We stood in solidarity together. And even though the company tried to divide us full-timers against part-timers, and 22.4s against full-timers, and there was plenty of propaganda out there, but we stood in solidarity together, and look at the result. We got a deal before the deadline. And I think that was the goal for everybody. And I think now we may still be a part of the largest strike in US history, and that instead of being UPS, maybe Amazon in the near future. So I’m very hopeful.
Teddy Ostrow: Great. Thank you all for your intros. Thanks for coming on the show. Thanks for sharing your different perspectives on the highlights of this TA that was just reached. I think, Patrick, I appreciate you landing on the solidarity there. And I think that’s really what we saw in that video we showed, which over the past three weeks there’s been practice pickets, there’s been rallies, there’s been distribution of pamphlets, informational materials, really just emphasizing, look, we make a credible strike threat, we stay united, we broaden this out to the labor movement. This is a fight for all of us. And you get the results.
And I think, undeniably, we are seeing some gains in this contract. It’s up to the members to decide whether or not this is everything they wanted it to be. And I’m happy that we got a range of opinions and perspectives that are probably lingering throughout the membership.
Now, each of you have common experiences, there’s solidarity and unity between each of you. There’s also, I think, there are differences, and we brought you guys on to have also some questions for each one of you specifically to speak on some of those particular experiences.
I wanted to start first in this second round of questions with you, Tony. You know, you mentioned this a little bit. You were talking about your striking in 1997 when you were 22 years old. You had touched on a bit about the heat, and I also wanted to bring in Teamsters for a Democratic Union. I’d like to ask a couple of things of you. Talk about the energy you felt when you were 22 in 1997, what all that was about.
And maybe can you bring us to the present? What’s different? What is the same? What are you feeling right now? And maybe you could touch on the importance of Teamsters for a Democratic Union in both of those fights and your involvement in this reform organization, which I think can be credited in organizing and mobilizing behind the changes, the historic changes that we’re seeing in the Teamsters Union, in the broader labor movement today.
Tony Rosario: Well, I mean, needless to say, being a young 22, 23-year-old kid on a picket line, the energy that I had alone was ridiculous. But then because of the energy surrounding me, all those people fighting for more, all those people out there fighting for themselves, their families, their children, it was just something that, at a young age, it was kind of overwhelming. But at the same time, I was able to adapt because I felt it. I knew what was at stake. In my youth, I didn’t think about the work involved in putting it together. And now being older and being part of the movement and actually being there and trying to organize some of these things, a whole different story.
But yeah, the funniest part, though, is that in ’97, guess what? We were fighting for part-timers. Here we are in 2023 fighting for part-timers. And don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot more to this. Yes, obviously. But in 1997, the slogan was, “Part-time America won’t work.” That was the slogan. And this year, hey, I’m wearing it. Pay up. Pay up for part-time. It’s like we’ve almost come full circle.
But what the good part about it is, with the help of TDU back then – And I wasn’t a member of TDU back then, but I had obviously heard of them through the building when people were talking about getting this president, Ron Carey, elected. Who, as you can see on the back of the wall here, this was from the old 804 union hall, home of Ron Carey. He was a great man and he fought for the workers. And he got elected, I believe it was in 1991, and it was the first time we’ve ever had a democratically elected international president.
I mean, some of those that have been following the UAW would know that just happened for them. Believe it or not, in those days of the ’80s and the ’70s, these people were just chosen. It was the good old boys club. Who’s next? Hey, let’s talk to this guy. He’s getting ready to go up, put him in there. No, no, not anymore. We have an election, it’s going to happen.
And though it took almost, I believe the organization started around ’76 if I’m not mistaken, and it took till almost ’91. So you figure, if you do the math, you’re talking about a little over 20 years to get a democratically elected international officer. But it took a lot of work, just like it did this time. We were on the hopper for what, 20-something years? When I joined TDU. It was 2016 during the first attempt at us running for office in the international, and we lost by 6,000 votes. A lot of it due to Canada and some of the West Coast, but that’s what happened. It takes time. It takes a lot to build these movements.
It’s about building worker power, at the end of the day. Listen, we all know that – And I know Richard could attest to this because he’s a PO down there at 623 – The minute, even with the contract, as solid as we got right now, what we’re working on right now, if you don’t have an engaged membership, it just doesn’t even matter. Because this company will, as soon as the ink dries, they’re violating the contract. And you need strong stewards. You need strong members that are going to put in those grievances and police the contract and make sure that you don’t allow the company to do these violations.
So what I love about this contract fight and all this practice picketing and all these rallies that we had, it was like building momentum. It is building momentum. And we’re talking to these workers, and they’re seeing all this action around them. They’ve never seen it. They’ve never seen it. They’ve never experienced it. Shit, I haven’t seen it in 25 years. So there’s always been talk, okay, we’re going to strike, oh, let’s take the authorization. Sure, everybody votes yes to authorize the strike, but did we ever know? I haven’t seen this credible type of strike threat.
And the best part, it was not a threat to the workers. I felt like in the past, even when we struck in ’97, it was like we were worried we were going to go on strike, but the threat was we were striking. It’s like, oh my God, are we going to get our jobs? Who’s going to take our work? There was all this anxiety, all this not knowing.
This threat was on UPS and UPS alone. It was on them. Everybody knew it was on them. If we struck, it’s because they struck themselves because people are tired of the bullshit. So it was nice to put that back on them instead of it being the threat against us. If we strike, what’s the threat? So that felt good.
Things in ’97, there wasn’t no social media back then. People didn’t have phones in their pockets. If you had a mobile phone, it was probably this big and cost you a few hundred dollars – Well, nowadays phones are all over a thousand bucks. But I mean, back then, we’re talking big money. And we had a lot of community support. We had a lot of blue collar support from the blue collar workers. Sanitation and Foster Avenue where I’m from in Brooklyn was right across the street. They used to honk their horns going by, bring water sometimes, the comradery, the guys out there, the guys and girls having barbecues, the kids sometimes. It was really nice. We got, like I said, some communities, some organization.
This one, I mean just the practice pickets alone, there were armies out in front of those buildings. And I have to thank a lot of these organizations that came out in support like DSA, Align, Make the Road, PSL. There was a lot of organizations that just came out. Kids from Hunter College came down to Brooklyn from the CUNY Labor school system. The amount of support just on our practice pickets. I couldn’t even imagine what it would’ve been like to actually strike this company. It’s not over yet, but just to see that kind of support. And again, the social media visual, right? With all these workers posting from all over the country, chanting, picket signs, playing music. It was like I felt like I was 22 again. It was just that good of a feeling.
But yeah, we’re in a different place, especially with technology in 2023, and I’m super stoked to see what’s coming. But if I have to sum it all up, I have to say the difference will be that we had 185,000 workers back then, we have 340,000 workers now. As it’s been mentioned before, that it will shut down 6% of the GDP. I think the leverage was there, and it wasn’t just leverage.
And like Pat mentioned, this fight wasn’t just our fight. This wasn’t just a fight for UPS workers. This was a fight for all workers. This is a fight for all workers. We’re fighting to raise the standards in this industry, and hopefully in other industries. The win for us would be a win for the working class. The whole working class.
And I’ve said it once before, a rising tide lifts all boats. We want all those boats to lift up together, and we’re going to keep fighting, and we have to use the momentum. People have to understand, just because the strike is over, I don’t want to see anybody putting their foot over there, oh, we’re done. We’re good. Let’s sit back and… No! No, now the real work begins. Now it’s time to police that contract. It’s time to make sure you stop any violation that you see. Like I mentioned, the ink dries, they’re violating. So get your members engaged. Use this opportunity of talking to workers on those practice pickets, at the parking lot, in the lunchroom. Continue to talk about how we built this momentum, and the reason we’re winning and have all the gains that we’ve achieved so far is because of the rank and file workers. Of course, it’s due to great leadership, but it was the workers out on those streets. It was the workers out there talking to one another, making sure that we continue to educate one another. Education is key.
And we got to keep building off this momentum, and through the strike and past it. Because guess what, in another five years there’ll be another one. So let’s just keep this momentum going. Let’s focus on what’s important. Winning, yeah, obviously, and all the work that we got to do when we win to continue to make sure our members stay engaged to enforce a good contract.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah. Well, and we’ll circle back to this in the final round and when we zoom out here, but it was already mentioned on the stream. This is not happening in a vacuum. Hollywood writers have been on strike since May 2. SAG-AFTRA members have now joined them on the picket line. We’ve got the United Auto Workers engaging in contract negotiations with the big three, and they could be on strike in September.
There are also other strikes that we cannot forget about that are still going on, that we have covered here at The Real News and that I implore people to continue to support, because they need to win too. If we want the movement to grow, we need to make sure everybody wins.
We cannot forget about the striking workers at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette who have been on strike since October. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette owners, they want to kill that union. That is what they are doing. They’re holding out, doing exactly what the Hollywood execs have said they want to do to the writers. They want to starve them out. They want to hold out long enough until they get demoralized, they quit, or they can ram through a decertification vote. So they want to go for the jugular. So we got to respond with equal force.
And so all of this is happening at once. And what happens next, where this all goes, depends on what we do now. So please keep supporting Pittsburgh Post Gazette strikers, keep supporting folks on strike at Medieval Times. They’ve been on strike for months too. They are holding the line. They’re getting hit by cars on the picket line. Even if they’re a smaller workforce, they deserve our solidarity too. All those Starbucks workers who have won their unions fair and square and who have been rewarded by getting fired, by getting harassed, surveilled, having their stores closed, getting descheduled so they lose their healthcare, where are we for them? If we want to see, again, the movement grow, we have to be vigilant and fight the bosses everywhere that they are violating our rights and abusing our brothers and sisters from industry to industry.
And Richard, I want to pick up on something Tony said and toss it to you. I want to talk about how the fight at UPS can and should trickle out to other parts of the logistics industry and the labor movement. Because I think, in one sense, when we’re talking about UPS, we’re talking about the logistics industry. It’s become something of what I guess we would call in the organizing world a choke point. Because a lot of the economy runs through places like UPS, just like a lot of the economy runs through the railroads last year, and scab Joe Biden and Democrats and Republicans in Congress said, no, actually too much of the economy depends on the railroads. We can’t allow railroad workers to strike, and they crushed their strike.
But what I’m saying is that with so many, 340,000 people at UPS alone – We’re not even talking about FedEx. We’re not talking about USPS – That’s a hell of an amount of workers. And if you have that amount of people mobilized, you could really put the squeeze on the bosses.
But of course there are a lot of other non-union folks working in that supply chain. I was one of them. 11 years ago, I was a temp warehouse worker in Southern California. We did not have a union, and we were treated like crap. And so then you have an issue where we have a lot of workers strategically placed in an industry where we could exert our will, but that is also an industry that chews up and grinds up human bodies left and right, to the point that it’s even hard to build a base because most of us won’t even last a few months while we’re there.
So I want to ask if you could talk about that from the UPS side, because I don’t want people to lose sight of how brutal this job is and how much UPS asks of your members, and what they go through on a day-to-day basis, and what fighting against that as a union, how that can help raise the standards for other workers in this industry, and how they can see the contract fight at UPS and take away something that they can then use to improve their own lives.
Richard Hooker Jr.: Well, that is a loaded, loaded question. Lot to unpack there, so we going to start at the end. So UPS is a very, very difficult company to work for and to deal with. They have a culture there that just wants to break you. They spend 30 days to train you, and then the next 30 years trying to get rid of you. And they do it better than probably anybody else. They’ll find anything they can to get rid of you. And to Tony’s point, you do have to have strong stewards, strong leadership to fight back because UPS, man, they are a bully. They are the biggest bullies I’ve ever seen. And they hide behind this family oriented…
Look at Carol Tome. She sounds so sweet and she’s got glasses on, man, and we are not far apart. And she sounds like she really cares. But under all that, man, she don’t care. The company doesn’t care. And so we constantly have to fight back.
And because we do have a union, we can win. And so that part right there should be encouraging for the non-union people who go through the same thing. Amazon goes through the same harassment, bullying treatment by their company. The issue is they don’t have a union to fight back. We can fight back. And the reason why you see these gains that we’ve gotten, the reason why we have a grievance procedure, the reason why we have the panel and the arbitrators, all that is because we do have a union. And I think once we can show Amazon workers – Not just Amazon, but all workers, all workers. I don’t want to just limit it to Amazon, but all workers: the Walmart workers, Target workers, any worker, we all have the same enemy.
So I don’t want to limit it to Amazon folks, but I think this contract for UPS is so important because, like you said, we will be the standard to uplift every other worker, whether you’re union or non-union, this contract will be able to uplift union and non-union, ’cause we’ve set the standard. So if all those workers see, hey, hold on a minute, man. If the workers at UPS are just practicing going on strike, if they’re just doing these things to hold the company accountable, we can too. We do that at our buildings, at our shops, at our company. We can do the same exact thing they’re doing. How about we go over and talk to some of the union folks at UPS? How did they do it? Why were they so successful in getting this contract done? What was the blueprint? What was the plan? Because it could be used in other places.
So I think this is a big, big moment for labor in general, whether you work in a union, I think this is very important. It’s hard to describe what this means, because this is so huge. You’re talking about changing the lives of 340,000 people, their families, their communities. And also, what is it going to do for the non-union folks when they see 340,000 people getting better wages, healthcare, stronger pensions, safety protections at work, what does that mean for them? And hopefully this will be an example of what is possible for them.
And I know it’s not going to be easy, because any time you’re making a step to organize, it’s always going to be difficult. There’s always going to be fear. But I think if they see this, which I know they will, then that should give them the courage to fight back against their employer.
And of course we’ll be there to help as well. We have the blueprint, we have part-timers, full-timers, drivers, warehouse workers, so everything we got covered, and we can have been an example for these other non-union and union facilities. So this will be a great, monumental situation if we can get everybody on the same page.
That’s the other part, we got to get everybody on the same page, whether you’re non-union, union, whatever it is, everybody got to come together on this issue. It just can’t be the Teamsters. It has to be the Teamsters, the AFL CIO, SCIU, Longshoremen, you name it. Everybody has to be together to fight these corporations, because that’s the only way we going to win.
Teddy Ostrow: Thanks, Richard. And speaking of all the solidarity, getting people together, I know there’s a big air hub in your local in Philadelphia and over 3000 UPS pilots, part of another union, they said, look, we’re not going to cross the picket line if UPSers, who are represented by the Teamsters – Different union – Will go on strike. So we’re definitely seeing that.
Now, I wanted to bring it back to where you started: the brutality of UPS. I think a lot of folks are starting to understand, especially last summer when it became very visible, people dropping like flies in the extreme heat. We also know our local UPS driver. So I think that there was beginnings of people starting to understand what UPSers are going through.
But not all UPSers. People now, especially since contract negotiations broke down over part-timers’ wages, part-timers who work inside the warehouse, we are only now just starting to have a broader conversation about the greater solidarity in the union, in particular with 60% of the workforce, part-time warehouse workers. In that warehouse, I’ve talked to tons of UPSers, had Elbe Lieb on the Upsurge podcast to talk about how brutal those conditions are as well. Elbe, I want to toss it to you and to discuss, talk about what it’s like in that warehouse, and the pace, the harassment that you’ve told me about before, and what it all means that you may be making as low as $16.20 per hour in the midst of these often brutal conditions.
Elbe Lieb: Yeah. Right on Teddy. And actually I think, in my building, it’s $15.50 to start. I’m not sure when they get that $16.25 or $16.50, I’ve heard. So depending on where you live, it’s a lot less.
But I would say, there’s a couple things I want to talk about. And for example, for me, we came out of this COVID period, and during that COVID period we were working, a lot of us were working six days a week. We were working six and a half, seven hours a day. And that was for years, two and a half years of doing that on concrete floors. And I’ve been doing this, like I said, for a while. And so for me it has an impact on my body. I know for other folks who have been there for a while, our bodies eventually tear down.
And so anyhow, we had this pace that was going on, because everybody was ordering, and so we were putting these hours in and stuff. And oftentimes, I like to say, if you’re doing work in six hours, UPS actually has eight hours worth of work for you. So you’re always trying to do more in less.
And so after this peak, it seems like, I don’t know if it’s because – And when I say peak, I mean the Christmas period – It seems like this pace has just increased. And in some places, there’s been a slowdown as far as overall volume. And so you’ve had 22.4s jumping in to work on preload and stuff, like Patrick was saying. But overall, we’ve seen this increase in our volume, at least where I’m at, and I’m having, instead of loading, at one point in time I loaded three trucks, and then it’s four trucks, and then now it’s up to five trucks. And literally packages falling off the belt, complaints about egress, you’re worried about being struck by packages, and overweight packages being put on the belt, which is a contract issue.
And so you have these conditions where they’re constantly pushing you. And like I said, if you got eight hours worth of work, you’re going to get it done in six, because they don’t want to pay you that overtime. They don’t want to pay you… Maybe it’d be a full-time job, but they don’t want to acknowledge that. So you’re always being pushed.
The conditions in my building in particular – And this is depending on the newness of the building, UPS likes to keep old facilities – We don’t have fans on any of the belts, except we have one new belt that they put in, which is an extended type prefab type belt that actually has fans in it. And it’s one of the cooler places. The rest of the building, the original building, we don’t have any fans except for two fans in our primary, which is where the trailers get unloaded. And it’ll be 70 degrees outside, but in that building it’s like 80, 90 degrees. There’s no air movement, it’s hot, and you’re trying to do this volume, this work that’s coming at you at this pace.
And I don’t mind to complain about it. At some level, I’ve been doing it for this long. I enjoy this sense of accomplishment that I get. But that’s the problem. Oftentimes, you’re put in a position where you’re trying to load your trucks, but you can’t. You want to put the packages away like you’re instructed to, use the methods that UPS teaches you, but you can’t. They set you up in a catch-22 system. It’s like, I can’t do this ’cause I can’t pull these packages off quick enough and put them in the trucks, so you just end up stacking things, and then eventually things are falling on the ground.
And that’s not just the work in the building, ’cause I want to address something too. And I think one of the other panelists mentioned this, and I think maybe it was Patrick or whatever, but the schedule. He talked about coming in and double shifting, working preload and then maybe coming back and working a reload or a local sort, which is in the evening.
So the preload is when we load the trucks in the morning, and that schedule in general, you’re like, okay, I’m working between maybe 3:00 AM to 8:30, or maybe it’s going to be 9:00, or maybe I’m working at 2:00, and maybe I’ll be done by 8:30. And it depends. So if you’re trying to plan a schedule, that makes it hard.
And some people might say, well, what are you doing in the middle of the night? But if you have childcare, you need to leave at a certain time to get your children on the bus or whatever, or to meet your partner, and it’s really hard to plan. And then also too, unless you’re working at night and then you go home and you don’t have anything to do and you can go to sleep, your schedule’s split up. Because for me, I’ll go to work, and maybe I get a nap afterwards or something, but I have stuff I have to do during the day. I’m like a vampire trying to live during the day, and oftentimes you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not getting enough sleep. So that’s another stress on your body.
Another thing I was going to say too, having that schedule, trying to interface with the rest of society, over a period of time it gets difficult. And like I said, I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining about stuff, but long-term that has an impact on your body. It’s had an impact on my body, hypertension and things like this.
So when you’re young and you’re flexible, and it seems like a great job – And I think that some of it is that UPS, during this whole contract negotiation, was really trying to sell part-time work as a gig job. It’s the job you can do before you go to your business that you as an entrepreneur are starting to do. They were trying to sell it that way. And for some people that works. But for a lot of folks, like I said, that want to be there long-term because of the benefits and they have a family, or because that’s the schedule that can work, and this is the… I believe UPS is a good job, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it for so long. But there comes a cost with it, and that’s what we fight for.
It can change your family tree, I feel. We talked about we wanted part-time jobs with dignity. It’s not just getting those full-time jobs. Yes, some people can do those. I don’t want to become a driver. I’ve driven, I’ve been out there. I’m 54 years old. At this point in time, I don’t think my body can handle it. I know the pace. So for me, looking for an inside combo job, those full-time jobs that they’re promising us, that is also another thing that some people might want to take advantage of, and that would really be a game changer. But like I said, there’s a lot of us that are part-time for a reason, and we want to stay there at UPS. We’re proud of what we do. We believe it’s a good company and we do have excellent benefits, but we are always fighting for what we get. They don’t give us anything for free.
It’s like Tony was saying, as soon as the paper’s dry, we need to be fighting for this contract. This is why this is so important to me. I have friends and stuff that are in labor and stuff. Everyone’s looking at this and they’re saying, wow, this is a pivotal moment as far as the labor movement. What’s going to happen? Are the Teamsters going to really bring it home, and what that impact will mean for others? So they’re calling this the labor summer. So I think that’s important.
But it’s also this energy that we’ve built up, we need to carry it into, if we accept this contract or whatever happens, this energy that we have needs to continue on, because if we don’t have that energy, if people sit back and say, okay, well, I got mine, we’re going to be right back in the same spot, because UPS does not give anything for free. If you’re going to get $25 an hour or whatever, they’re going to want to pay you the same amount of money and have you do the same work. So they’re going to make that six hours, they’re going to try to get it done in three and a half because they don’t want to pay you any more money. And so that’s the stuff that we need to stand up and fight.
And being aware of the small print in the contract, for example, with this whole different schedule that they’ve been working with, the 22.4s, Tuesday through Saturday or Monday through Friday, there’s been a loophole with part-timers. In my center, they all got moved to Tuesday through Saturday. So Monday’s an optional day. Nobody’s scheduled to work. It’s all volunteer. And so if they come and work, and my argument would’ve been that that would’ve been their first day at work, and then if they worked their Saturday shift, that’d be a six-day work at overtime, every six days paid at overtime.
Well, UPS says, no, this is extra work, ’cause it’s outside their extra schedule. So this is a trick that they do, because Saturday’s like – Like this past Saturday was a six-hour shift, six and a half hours. Monday might be three hours. So this is a way to short people. So if we’re not aware of these things, if we don’t resolve these things, we’re going to be missing out. So we gotta get people energized, we got to be focused, get them educated under contract and get them to fight for it. And even if maybe we feel we should get a certain wage, if it pans out that we don’t get that $25 an hour in this contract, this is just a stepping stone. I think it’s important. It might not be my fight, I might be retired in five years, but we need to set that stage so that people are moving on to the next thing, and making sure that those cars that are supposed to have air conditioning have air conditioning in 2024 going forward.
So this to me is the energy that we need to keep, and this is why this is so important. And so, I don’t know if I got anything more.
Teddy Ostrow: Yeah, thank you so much, Elbe, for elaborating on all of that. I really appreciate you explaining. You’re not just complaining about your job. This is an important job to you. It’s one of the few part-time gigs – Or no, I don’t want to say gig, part-time jobs that give you a pension, that gives you healthcare, and you are emphasizing these struggles and fighting for a better job so that other people can make a career out of UPS.
Now I want to talk about tiers, so I’m going to pass this to Patrick, who’s a second-tier driver. In many ways, we could talk about the original tiered system at UPS being the full-time, part-time divide. But a newer tiered system, which entered the fore in 2018 with the creation of the 22.4s, who are the second-tier drivers, who are second generation drivers, pretty much doing the same thing as Tony did, a package car delivery driver. But they get less protections, less protections from forced overtime, excessive overtime, and they get paid less.
Patrick, can you talk about that experience, what that means in the union, what that means in the workforce? Also, the fact that it appears that it will be abolished in this tentative agreement if it’s ratified? And then also, finally, you’re an Amazon organizer. We’re seeing rolling pickets across delivery stations right now at Amazon with the Amazon’s delivery drivers and dispatchers over in Palmdale, California on strike. What does it mean to abolish the two-tier for Amazon organizing?
Patrick Leonard: To piggyback a little bit off of the solidarity that Elbe was referencing, I think that, in building that momentum, taking that momentum – Just to touch on Amazon before going into the two-tier – I was just a part of and involved with the extended picket lines in North Haven, Connecticut, and in Norwood, Massachusetts. We stood in solidarity with the 82 drivers that walked off the job in Palmdale, California. And using the momentum surrounding the UPS contract campaign, we were able to garner a lot of support and a lot of power, not just with Amazon workers directly, but in the community as well, and supplementing UPS drivers to come out and support and actually educate them on what’s going on at Amazon.
So I think capturing that energy and applying it to Amazon translates really well. And we had a huge, huge success in both North Haven and in Norwood extending those picket lines. Hundreds and hundreds of people out there chanting at the top of their lungs, and it was unbelievable. So we definitely want to keep that momentum going.
But to get back to the two-tier, as I said before, I was hired in 2020. I’m a COVID baby, as everybody likes to reference. But with that comes a lot of things. Both the company and the IBT were in a very unique position during COVID. UPS was hiring at an unbelievable rate to keep up with the volume and secure jobs and keep the packages flowing and keep the economy going. At the same time, the union was processing all these new members, and a lot of them had never been in a union before, never been exposed to what it means to be in a union, never had family members in a union, so they have no clue what it means. We had some 22.4s that didn’t even know they were part of the Teamsters when they joined UPS. Once you make book, you become a Teamster.
And to tie in TDU as well, I actually reached out to TDU organizers – I’m a TDU member myself – And they really helped support me in helping educate the new 22.4s in my building. We put on an educational workshop. We had about 75 22.4s that came out that were eager to learn about what it meant to be a Teamster. The history, a little bit of history with the Teamsters, what your 401k meant, what your pension meant, what your health and welfare meant, how important those things were. How many hours do you have to work to secure those benefits, what rights you have, because maybe as a 22.4, you don’t have nine-five rights, but you can still file grievances on a supervisor working or touching bargaining at work. A lot of people were under the misconception as a 22.4 that we had no rights at all, which is not the case at all.
So there was a lot of chaos surrounding COVID, especially initially early on. And we had to fight to get masks. We had to fight to get hand sanitizer in our trucks. We had a fight. This has been a constant fight since the beginning of COVID, since I got hired. Every day walking into the building was a fight. And of course, everybody is starry-eyed at a new job when they first start, and everything’s new, and there’s new processes, and there’s new people, and it’s exciting, and everybody wants to do a good job, and they work hard. But working hard and being taken advantage of are two separate entities, and this company loves to take advantage of their employees.
And the original design of the 22.4 classification was a combo chop. Yes, it was to supplement overtime. To alleviate overtime for the RPCDs. It was also to be a combo driver where you could. If they didn’t have work for you as a driver, you could work inside.
However, because everything surrounding COVID was so chaotic, they never properly utilized the classification of the 22.4. They just threw drivers out with little [training], some no training at all, out on the road. You were given your 5s and 10s and hope you have them. 5s and 10s of your five seeing habits. And those are your methods and your procedures that UPS wants you to follow to be safe on the road.
And you had drivers that were out busting their ass, saying that they’re doing, me personally, it took me a while to slow down in the very beginning and understand that I was pushing myself too hard. I was up to well over 200 stops a day. I was delivering up to sometimes 500, 600 packages a day. And until my local stewards came up to me and approached me and said, hey, look, slow it down. You’re going to hurt yourself. This isn’t the way that we work. There is being efficient, and then there’s being safe and being cautious and doing the job properly. And that really had to get drilled into me.
And I wasn’t alone. There was a lot of other 22.4s that were abused in that way. And my eyes didn’t really open until I did go out to the TDU National Convention and I was educated and I networked and I talked and heard everybody else’s stories and how crazy COVID was for everybody, not just 22.4s. So it gave me a very unique perspective.
But understanding the fact that, oh, the full-time package car drivers make nearly double the amount. How come I’m working 13, 14 hours every single day and getting home at 11:00. And just like a part-time shift, when you report and punch in at 9:10 in the morning, and then you’re out until 11 o’clock every night. What quality of life do you have? If you have kids at home, how do you spend time with them? If you have even just simple chores: doing your dishes, doing your laundry regularly, doing basics, mowing your grass, these are things that you shouldn’t have to worry about taking care of one day a week because you’re working these egregious hours.
And on top of that, the physical aspect comes in, and delivering 500 packages, or 500 of anything, is going to abuse your body. Nevertheless, you’re going up and down three steps, every single stop, somebody else’s steps. The pace, I know that Elbe had mentioned as well, that the pace as a driver, the harassment plays a role in that as well, because we have supervisors that will call you on the road and say, hey, what’s taking you so long? Why did you sit in this position for one minute?
It was a constant battle, like I said, every single day, to really open a lot of people’s eyes, especially the 22.4s. Our educational workshop was super successful because we did help the new 22.4s open their eyes and understand that they are being taken advantage of, and that these are the processes that the union, the steps the union takes, that we can mitigate the harassment. We can mitigate the pace, and we can work safely and get home safely and control the narrative and control our jobs at UPS as a whole.
That education for the 22.4s was hugely important to me personally, because I felt very lost and uneducated when I first came into the job. And I was very fortunate that, like I said, I had two stewards that took me under their wing and educated me. I got to a point where I was abusing myself every single day for my first six, almost eight months, working at a pace that was not sustainable. I was bound to get injured or get hurt myself. And I really looked at it like, well, what can I do? Because there has to be more than delivering cardboard every day.
And that’s when I did get involved. I started going to monthly meetings. I started asking questions of, can I get a copy of the contract? Can I read it? Can I educate myself, and in turn, educate everybody else? Because I knew if I was feeling the way that I was feeling initially when I got hired, I knew that I wasn’t alone in that. And with the other 22.4s, I knew that other people felt the same way, that they felt lost, that they felt they didn’t have a clue, and they also felt the weight of being taken advantage of by the company. And nobody knew if they could speak up, would they get in trouble? Would you get disciplined? So really, helping educate that pushed the 22.4s.
And that’s why we saw a great stand in solidarity, especially I can speak to my local, 22.4s, part-timers, full-timers all stood together in solidarity, whether it was in the morning on our practice pickets or in the evening for our part-time shifts. We all stood together, full-timers with part-timers, and we really showed the company that this momentum, we are ready for this fight, and we’re not going to back down. And if we have to take it to the street, we will.
And I think, as all the other panelists have said across the country, that solidarity rang true. The local media coverage and the local political support that we had, the local community support that we had was absolutely exceptional. And I think that really showed the company that we meant business, and we mean business.
Like we say, it’s not over yet, but we are very hopeful. And I think that energy that we did create surrounding the UPS contract campaign, we can laterally use that to organize Amazon. Because specifically the North Haven strike line extension from Palmdale, I personally was blocking a back entrance there, and we blocked probably about 15 tractor trailers that were either trying to pull in or pull out. It was about a three-mile stretch. Three of those tractor trailers did have to back up about three and a half miles, which was pretty unsafe. But we got our point across there.
And I, as an Amazon organizer, had the opportunity to talk to every Amazon employee that was leaving that building that day. I spoke with over 200 Amazon employees, and the overwhelming vibe was that they are ready. They are fed up with the shit that’s going on inside the buildings. It’s very similar issues, pick rate. They can adjust your pick rate, which means the packages that you pick per hour. Sometimes that rate is up around 300 to 400 packages in an hour, which is absolutely insane. Like I said about UPS, it’s an unsustainable work standard, and you’re only bound to get hurt or even worse. So I think getting that response directly from Amazon workers in North Haven, Connecticut, they overwhelmingly said, we need the union. We support you. We’re ready to fight. So that is building the solidarity that we need, and that is, like I said, laterally moving the energy that we have surrounding the UPS contract campaign, not just to Amazon, but to the labor movement as a whole.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell, yeah. Well, gang, I could talk to you all for hours, but I know it has been a very exhausting day for all of you. It has also been an exhausting day for our incredible team here at The Real News, and I got to let people go home. So we’re going to wrap this up with a final lightning round, but I really, really just wanted to thank everyone who has been watching this. We’ve had incredible engagement in the live chat. A lot of members, UPSers, a lot of supporters, a lot of folks with questions about the TA.
Again, we tried to give updates at the top of this livestream based on what we know now. But as all of our panelists have said, the devil’s going to be in the details, and it is ultimately going to be up to the membership to vote on whether or not this tentative agreement is accepted as the new five-year contract. And that’s going to be playing out over the next month, culminating on the 22nd of August. So be on a lookout for that. We have posted some links in the live chat with a few more details of the TA as we currently know. So I know you have more questions and I’m sorry if we weren’t able to get to all of them, but I really, really can’t thank our incredible panelists: Richard, Tony, Elbe, and Patrick enough for giving us so much of their time, being so generous with their insight and experience.
And to Teddy, it’s been a real honor co-hosting this with you, man. And it’s been an honor fighting alongside you to cover this as you and Ruby have done on the Upsurge with humanity, with grace, with grit, and with a fierce commitment to our fellow workers.
So I wanted to say that because I am going to ask a final lightning round question here, just a quick last couple minutes, and then we’ll round out. But I do want to give Teddy the last word when we’re done with that to close this out. So I’m giving you a heads up here [laughs].
But my final word is just reminding folks of why we keep saying this contract fight between 340,000 Teamster UPSers and United Parcel Service, why this was such and is such a pivotal moment in the labor movement, and frankly, in the broader class war that we are experiencing right now. I really want to impress that upon everyone watching and listening – You guys already know it. If you listen to our work at The Real News, you watch our videos, you read our text reports, you know damn well that the class war is really, really heating up in this country. It’s been building for a long time. We can go back 40 years, from the 1980s onwards, working people in this country have been working longer, they’ve been working harder, we have been more productive. We have been producing more excess profits, but at the same time, organized labor has been under attack. Union density has been in a nosedive decline to the point where we are barely hovering above 10% in this country, 6% in the private sector, which is abysmal.
But we are not dead yet. People will always fight back, and it’s a shame that it has to get so bad for more people to fight so hard, but I think that is what we are seeing. We are seeing the fight back. Bnd this is one part of the larger fight back, because what other choice do we have? Because we’re talking about companies that through the pandemic, through the tax cuts before that and the tax cuts before that, they have been robbing us blind. All of that money, all of that excess productivity, all the work that we are doing is enriching them while working people’s wages have largely stagnated for the past 45 years. We haven’t moved. The cost of living keeps going up. The planet is warming. Fewer companies own more of everything. And these are the same people who want to kill our unions and get us to all be gig work slaves in their little economy. And so what is it going to take to fight back against that? We are seeing that happen right now.
We’re seeing it with the WGA strike. We’re seeing it with the contract fight here with the Teamsters, but also the organizing that’s happening at Amazon. We’re seeing it, not just here in the US, but across the world. There are worker mobilizations happening in France, in Latin America, in South Korea. We are part of a broader movement of working people fighting to save our future from being destroyed by these corporate vampires who will destroy it if they don’t meet any opposition. We know that much.
And so I say all that to frame this final lightning round question because I feel like with the immensity of all that we are facing and with all the energy that is built up throughout the course of this contract fight, I understand people’s sentiments when they feel like if there’s not a strike, it’s a waste or it’s a failure. If we don’t strike, then where’s all that energy going to go?
I want to ask, in a final lightning round comment, if everyone could just take a minute of, whether you’re talking to your fellow Teamsters, your fellow UPSers, or folks who are just watching and supporting fellow workers who are not in a union, where does that energy go? Where do we take this from here? So let’s go with Tony. We’ll do the order we did before: Tony, Elbe, Richard, Patrick, and I’ll toss it to my man to round us out.
Tony Rosario: Well man, I wish I could take a good 15, 20 minutes to talk about this one because this is huge. But I’m going to make it quick for respect to everybody else. And again, thank you guys so much for having us. This has been huge. Both you, Teddy and Max. Thank you. We appreciate you guys.
I would just say this: we’re at war. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The working class is at war. And if we’re going to win, if we’re going to get that density back that you spoke of, Max, if we’re going to fight for everything we deserve and fight to get back to things we’ve lost, like you mentioned over the last 40 years, because what it’s been, it’s been losing for 40 years, then we’re going to have to build an army of organizers and we’re going to have to win it all back piece by piece.
We’re going to have to build a serious army of organizers, people that are out there talking to members, talking to workers, whether it be union workers, non-union workers, everybody talking to one another, trying to build, educating one another. We talk about transparency. You mentioned ’97 to 2023, well, I could tell you many contracts over that span of time that I’ve been a Teamster, there wasn’t much transparency. There wasn’t much communication. I didn’t know what was going on half the time.
I have to say this one, even though people were talking about NDAs and all this kind of stuff, I still felt like I was getting good information on a weekly basis, whether it be through the app that they created for us to look at where you can look up information. So transparency is key, making sure we’re transparent and continue to communicate. But at the end of the day, if we’re going to win this war, we got to build an army of organizers. We got to make sure that they’re not just…
And it’s also government. We got to make sure that government is putting out proper legislation that’s out there to help workers, not against us. We got to strengthen the NLRB. We got to make sure that they’re staffed properly. We got to make sure we get labor-friendly politicians in office that are going to make a difference for us.
And at the end of the day, it’s about workers. We have the power. You mentioned about why this was so important, why was this such a monumental moment in history? When you talk about 6% of the GDP, you can cripple the economy. The logistics industry is the choke-hold. You said choke-hold. It is the choke-hold of capital. Nothing comes and goes without not just UPS workers, but workers in logistics, exchanging, driving goods, bringing goods back. Without the trucks… Let’s face it, if people stopped driving trucks, would there be food at the supermarkets? Would you be getting packages that you need, your essential items? No, nothing. You’d be getting nothing.
So let’s start putting an emphasis on how important workers are in this country, especially workers that put their lives on the line [dog barks] during this pandemic. Sorry about that. My dog started feeling the energy also. You got them Simba! So yeah, I’ll make it quick. I just want to say if we’re going to win, we got to build this army of organizers. We are at war, and we got to continue to build off these monumental moments just like this one here. Whether we have to strike or whether we don’t strike, the point is, it took workers together to get what we’re getting out of this now, which in my 29 years, is more than I’ve ever seen.
So yeah, we got to keep building off of this, working off of it, continue to raise organizers. COVID babies like Patrick, COVID babies got to step up. Everybody’s got to step up, part-timers, let’s all get together. All these organizations, all these other organizations that have been helping us, bringing community in. We got to make the world better for us. We got to make the world better for our children and for our children’s children. We got to continue to fight for that next generation, always thinking of that next generation so that they don’t have to endure the things that we had to endure. And we’re going to keep fighting for it.
And one last thing I’d like to say, because Elbe touched on UPS putting out all this propaganda with, the workers are getting this and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, that’s nice, but they don’t give anything, they don’t do it with a heart. They’re not saying, here, take this. No, we fought for everything you see in those commercials. Anybody that has a job that’s enjoying vacation time, sick days, whatever it is you’re getting, there was a union who fought for that. And whether you have a union or not, the only reason they have it is because unions already fought for it. So all we got to do is make sure we continue to fight for everything, every inch. Everything we got to do, we got to fight for it. We just got to keep fighting. And I’ll leave it at that.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell, yeah. And Richard, I know you got to hop off in a second, so I’m going to let you cut the line. So your final thoughts on that note.
Richard Hooker Jr.: So thanks again for just having this forum. This is awesome. I actually got to go down and get down to our buildings because a lot of our members are frustrated and concerned about the TA, so I got to go down and pass some information out so everybody will know exactly what’s going on. Because what we don’t want to do is start to lose that engagement, that intensity, that involvement that we have, because they may have not seen something that they thought they were going to see in the TA. So that’s why I have to leave. So again, thank you for this.
But the energy that we have now, we have to keep it moving. We have to make it grow, because again, just like what I’m about to go face now here, we don’t want that energy to be misplaced, to go away, to become stagnant again like we were for so many years. And so what we have to do is continue to, even after this contract is done, whatever the case, whatever happens, we still have to use that for the next fight, and the next fight, and the next fight. Because UPS is always going to be in the wrong for something. Supervisors are going to work, they’re always going to violate the contract. So there’s always an opportunity to organize around an issue. I think all of us on here are organizers, because that’s really what unions are supposed to do. The lifeblood of a union is organizing, no matter if it’s a company internally or just something that’s going on with your shop. And so we have to make sure that we weaponize that energy to make sure that we are winning for our members.
So again, like Anthony said earlier, let’s continue to grow this. Don’t let it die, because this is too important, too valuable just to put it on the shelf and wait for the next five years or the next contract or the next struggle. There’s always an opportunity to fight for our members, and we need to make sure that we always fighting for them because if not, then it’s going to be like it was before – No transparency, no trust, nobody knows anything. Everybody’s mad at each other. And then guess what? The employers are winning. The CEOs are getting more profitable. The corporations are becoming more dominant. And what happens to us?
So we need to make sure that we continue this vibe, this fight, continue to win for our members. And I’m looking forward to the next battle, because I already know we going to win it based on what we’ve been doing. So thank you again. Sorry I got to leave, but I got to put a whole lot of fires out. So I’ll talk to you guys later.
Maximillian Alvarez: Thanks so much, brother. We appreciate it. Okay. Elbe, Patrick, going to you guys to close us out and then we’ll toss it to Teddy.
Elbe Lieb: Yeah, so I want to echo whatever the other panelists said. Thanks for having us here. I really appreciate the opportunity. Hopefully, what we’ve all shared is important and people understand the message. I want to echo, I think, what Antonio, and then, I’m sorry, Richard. I’m sorry. Richard just said, I think, and this is how I got into being more active in my union, it was through TDU, Teamsters for a Democratic Union. We’ve seen that movement in the UAW. The mentioning about transparency, openness. So I think that, as far as us being in a union, that is an important message for us to maintain, a mantra for us to repeat as far as what we want in our union and to share that message with other unions. I think that’s really important. So we don’t have the old boy network that businesses have, that we’re not replicating what they’re doing, that we have rank and file power, rank and file democracy, and spread that message.
And to speak to the larger question as far as capital and the gains that they’ve made, especially that we see during the period of COVID. We saw this consolidation of wealth in the upper 1% and the broadening of that wealth gap. And that needs to change. And I believe, in large part, unions help make that happen. And so to me, sharing the message of what being in a union means to others and then encouraging them and then pointing them in the right direction of how they can form unions in their workplace, if that is something that works in that industry.
We talked about the culture war. The culture war is also based upon class and is also based upon wealth. That culture war is really appealing to, in my mind, a move towards fascism, right-wing politics. And unions have historically bent left. It’s about labor. When the workers have control of their workplace, that is fundamentally what that means, and that is antithesis to their message. And what they’re trying to do, in my opinion, is, along with workers’ rights, there’s also other rights that they’re trying to limit.
And so it’s through unions that we’re empowered. We saw in the Teamsters that color line vanish. We saw women receiving, well, I shouldn’t say… At least equal wages. So when we fight for a contract, that gender line’s not in there. We know what each other makes based upon how long we’ve been there. So it equalizes people and it helps lift them all up.
And that other side, I think capital and the forces that are in that space, they don’t want those types of things to exist, but unions and organized labor can make those things happen. We can see people uplifted, marginalized communities uplifted, their rights protected. So to me, that’s what I see going on. I’m getting a little bit in the weeds, but I think overall, to me, that’s the power of unions and the changes that need to [be made]. And then that culture war also is about educating. You don’t learn about unions in school unless you grew up in a union family or near a union town, you don’t really understand that.
And that’s another thing. We need to be able to go into schools or however. We talk about future committees in unions to help educate younger folks and the younger people coming into unions, what they mean, and the power and the history of unions. And I think that’s important because we’re not going to win the battle if we’re not reaching younger people and engaging in that broader message. And that’s all I got. And then like I said, thank you. I appreciate it.
Teddy Ostrow: Thanks. Patrick. Oh, I think you’re muted.
Patrick Leonard: Sorry about that. I just was saying, Max and Teddy, I wanted to thank you guys again so much for the opportunity to share our experiences with everyone. And to echo Elbe and Tony, we are at war. The class war is real and the wage gap has been [growing]. The 1% is growing and it’s out of balance right now.
And I think your question of channeling, how do we channel the energy and maintain all the momentum that we’ve built surrounding the UPS contract campaign is to get back to the basics. To echo what Elbe and Tony and Richard have been saying as well, organizing and all these things. But I think getting back to the basics and how we really utilize this energy is… What I mean by back to the basics is the one-on-one conversations, really getting in front of our members or non-union workers and spreading the message individually.
Social media is great and spreading the message to the masses, getting the word out there is fantastic. But what I’ve really seen a lot of success, especially through the UPS contract campaign as well as now the Amazon campaign, is the one-on-one interactions. When you are genuinely telling somebody from the bottom of your heart, they can see your passion, they can see how genuine you are being and how heartfelt you are about what you’re talking about when you look somebody directly in the eye and tell them, we are fighting. We’re fighting the good fight and this is why we’re fighting and we want you to join our fight. Because, as Tony said too, this is all of our fight. Seeing the support on our practice picket lines, we had SEIU, we had other local unions that came out to support us. And we should be one union, it should be one fight for the working class people. It is everybody’s fight.
So I think getting back to the basics and channeling that energy with one-on-one interactions and being genuine and heartfelt about your message and being clear with your messaging proves a lot of success. We’re seeing it now, I keep getting ahead of myself. We’re not at the finish line quite yet, but Sean’s messaging has been clear and transparent this whole contract campaign. And we’ve seen the impact and the effect that it’s had on our members as well as non-union workers and them coming out to our rallies. We had some Amazon workers on our practice picket lines. They got to experience and see, feel the energy, feel the authenticity of it, and really engage with some of our full-timers, some of our part-timers, some of our drivers, some of our feeder drivers, even. Getting them to chat with the Amazon workers and have that interaction. That, I think, is really what it comes down to at the end of the day, that human-to-human interaction generates that camaraderie and that solidarity.
Teddy Ostrow: Great. Well, thank you guys so much for each of those responses, for taking all this time to come here and speak with us. Thank you. I just want to say thank you to The Real News, thank you to In These Times. And thanks to our audience on this livestream. Thanks to all the UPSers out there.
I just want to make this quick, what’s on my mind. When Ruby Walsh and I started thinking about the Upsurge, what even just the name of the podcast, obviously UPS is in the name of the podcast, but we were wondering, should there be a question mark at the end of the name? Is this the upsurge that we’re looking at? And I think it’s important to be sober, have a sober assessment about what’s going on. We’re not where we should be. And I was talking recently with a friend of the show, Barry Eidlin, about the last time we saw legitimate, incredible labor activity strikes. And that was in the 1970s.
The difference was at that time labor was somewhat on the defensive. Right now we may be seeing, I think, a smaller upsurge of labor activity, but the difference is, we’re potentially on an upward trajectory, and it’s going to be workers like those on this panel. It’s going to be UPSers across the country. It’s going to be 160,000 actors, 11,000 WGA members, hotel workers, Medieval Times workers, workers all over this country that are going to make that upward trajectory and really see the upsurge that we haven’t seen yet, but we’ll hopefully see.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell, yeah. Well, I thought that was beautifully put, my man, and to everyone watching, again, thank you for hanging with us for two hours. I hope we answered as many of your questions as we possibly could. We got to bring Teddy back and do this again when we get close to August 22, when we’ll know whether or not the Teamsters members are going to accept this tentative agreement. But that is all we’ve got for you right now. I suggest we all get some rest.
And to everyone else watching, if you are wondering where to channel that energy, there are picket lines all over this country right now. Go find one, go support the writers, go support the actors, go support everyone that we’ve mentioned over this livestream. They need your help too. That is where you can channel this energy. So thank you so much for caring. Thank you so much for watching. For everyone here at The Real News Network, this is Maximilian Alvarez signing off. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other. Solidarity forever.