General President Jim Hoffa addressed Teamsters gathered for UPS grievance panel hearings, telling them that the international union is growing in difficult economic times because of its commitment to organizing the unorganized, including targeting FedEx.
"We are experiencing the worst recession since the Great Depression, but we've kept our numbers up and we are strong," Hoffa told UPS Teamster officials who gathered this week for grievance panel hearings. "We are organizing and we are militant about it."
Future growth includes organizing FedEx, and one of the most important steps right now is for Congress to pass legislation called the Express Carrier Employee Protection Act. The measure is expected to be taken up in coming weeks by the U.S. Senate as part of FAA Reauthorization. It will close the special loophole that FedEx wrangled from politicians in 1996 that moved FedEx Express workers under a different labor law than UPS, making it much more difficult for its workers to form a union.
"Capitol Hill needs to hear us loud and clear, and we expect lawmakers to do the right thing," said Hoffa, citing the numerous visits that he and Vice President Ken Hall have made to the White House and key senators. "We are working very hard on this and we're not going to stop until we win."
Added Hall: "We have an obligation to represent FedEx workers who take it on the chin every day. We have an obligation to our UPS members to level the playing field, and we are very optimistic." Hoffa and Hall also visited members at the UPS facility in Hialeah, Fla. They were joined by Southern Region Vice President Ken Wood and Local 769 President Mike Scott.
"I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for the Teamsters," said J.C. Hernandez, a UPS shop steward at Local 769.
As the grievance hearings opened, Hall talked about the importance of building on recent arbitration victories by taking on good cases with well-developed facts.
"Our track record has been very good, and we want to build on the success we've had," Hall said.