We can’t let ups push us around socialistworker.org

UPS is experiencing record profits, and can afford to deliver for its workers. Teamster members showed the Hoffa administration that they are willing to fight for the contract they deserve when they voted in May to authorize a strike. Now many are taking part in a “Vote No” campaign called by Teamsters United to show the company and union leaders that they want a better contract.

Local 804 in New York City is one location where workers have organized “Vote No” rallies. It’s the former local of reform leader Ron Carey, who helped lead the 1997 UPS strike as Teamsters president. Flynn Murray sat down with three UPS workers from Local 804 to discuss the conditions at work and why they’re voting “no.” Anthony Rosario started working part time at UPS in 1994 loading trucks, and has spent the last 20 years as a full-time driver for the company.

Juan Acosta has worked as a full-time UPS driver for 21 years and is currently a shop steward. Duquesneson Pierre is a full-time driver and has worked for UPS for about 14 years.

I live all the way in Suffolk County. You know, “quality of life” — I don’t have that. I have two kids. One of them is 10 and the other one is 4, going to be 5. I never have a chance to have time with them. Which is unfair to us because we provide too much for the company. Everything is on our back. Why should we work with fear? It’s like harassment every day, we’re not safe on the street, you know?

Juan: In years before, the company thought more about customer satisfaction. You had a route, that was your family, and you knew everybody on the route. You had the same stops, the same area, every single day. This was before all this technology came in, and changed my route and everything. You knew the person you delivered to, you knew their kids, you knew their grandkids, and you took pride in that.

How much time do you get home with your families? I don’t mind Monday through Fridays doing what I have to do to support my family, I get that. But it’s gotten to a point that a system is telling us how to do our jobs, and the people running it don’t have a fraction of the experience that we have, but they tell us that we could do this amount of work and do it safe, when in fact we cannot.

They actually wrote an article on me back in the Teamster magazine. I remember they had a big picture of me, and the guy asked me “How do you feel about it?” And I told him, “It’s unfair that I have to work two separate shifts at a part-time rate. When I’m working full-time hours, I should be getting paid full-time wages.” This strike was a big deal for me because…

Anthony: And less protection. Yes! And it’s been a fight, and it happened in 1997 and we went on strike for it. Ron Carey was the president of 804 — this guy was our guy. He stood up for what was right. He knew that we needed to negotiate a good contract and he said, “You know what, if we’ve got to walk, we will walk, and we’re not scared to do it.”

This year, I don’t understand what’s happening, because as far as I know, the union gave the company a little cushion, and they told them we’re going to extend. Because as you know, when the contract is up, that’s when we’re allowed to get our stuff together, and we strike. The contract was up, and there was no strike talk. They said let’s give them to August 9. OK, we’re well past the 9th now.

Anthony: They’re also making it a lot more difficult for guys to get on the 9.5 list now. They’re trying to make us jump through hoops if we want the 9.5. A lot of guys don’t mind the overtime, so they wouldn’t even ask for 9.5, but the guys who have families who want to go home to their children, those guys want the 9.5, and even they are being given a hard time to get it.

Juan: There have been conference calls all over the country. We’ve established signs on our vehicles, in the parking lots, around the area, around UPS and the parking areas. We’ve put signs up saying “Vote No! Fair Contract!” We’re doing a rally tomorrow and are going to send out a mass text today. There’s going to be a rally on Foster Avenue and tomorrow’s Founders’ Day.

I WANTED to ask you about the recent teachers’ strikes. They also were doing things like putting #RedForEd messages on their cars to build solidarity because teachers have been facing massive austerity cuts across the nation. I wanted to ask you what you’ve heard about the recent educators strike wave, and if it has influenced conversations around the “no” vote?

You can’t help a kid learn when you’re going through your own stress in life, trying to deal with not being paid enough. It’s not fair for any worker. At the end of the day, you’re just trying to do a hard day’s work for decent pay and take care of your family. So, teachers, keep up the fight. We’re there with you guys, and I hope you guys are there with us, because we’re both fighting the same fight.