(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) – With the holiday shopping season just around the corner, mechanics and other workers who service UPS’ fleet of jet engine aircraft started voting Friday to authorize a strike. The strike vote comes after three years of prolonged negotiations during which UPS continues to demand huge concessions.
UPS ,which posted $4.84 billion in profits last year and is the world’s largest delivery company, is calling for massive reductions in health benefits for 1,200 maintenance workers who are critical to the company’s global delivery operation and financial success. UPS aircraft mechanics and other maintenance workers do physically demanding and often dangerous work around jet engine aircraft and equipment and toxic chemicals and exhaust. UPS is also calling for a devastating reduction in benefits for retirees who spent their lives servicing the company’s planes.
“I work hard to make sure UPS planes are operational, on time, and above all safe. It’s a responsibility I take seriously and don’t think it is too much to ask in return to have reliable health insurance that keeps me healthy and able to do my job,” said Juan Flores, a 15-year aircraft mechanic at UPS’ Dallas, Texas gateway. “No one wants to strike, but I am voting to authorize a strike because UPS is refusing to work with us, and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect good, middle class jobs and the health of myself and my kids.”
UPS mechanics and other maintenance workers are spread among more than 90 locations across the United States. Teamsters Local 2727 members began receiving ballots and voting on Oct. 21. To ensure all members are able to vote, voting will continue through November via mail-in ballots.
A UPS aircraft mechanics strike would halt UPS’ global shipping operation. The company delivers more than 1.6 million packages a day during the lead-up to the holidays and is the primary delivery service for customers like Amazon.
On Monday, Oct. 24, dozens of UPS mechanics will picket outside a major Amazon distribution center in Jeffersonville, Ind. to show Amazon and UPS executives that UPS maintenance workers are united and committed to protecting their health and jobs. Protests and informational pickets will continue throughout the holiday season at locations across the country.
UPS proposes to increase healthcare costs for all Teamsters Local 2727 members, including by as much as 430 percent for retiree family coverage in just the first year of a new contract, with increases each year thereafter. At the same time, the company boasts record profits, huge dividend payouts and massive increases to the compensation of its top executives. In September, the company announced additional stock incentives and 10 percent raises for its top executives: Chairman and CEO David P. Abney, Senior Vice President and CFO Richard N. Peretz, CCO Alan Gershenhorn and President of U.S. Operations Myron A. Gray.
“UPS needs to respect the skilled, difficult and dangerous work our members do that makes UPS’s supply chain functional and its success possible,” said Tim Boyle, President of Teamsters Local 2727. “Dedicated aircraft maintenance workers are simply asking to keep the benefits they already have so they can keep UPS planes running effectively. It’s a no-brainer and what’s fair, and we are ready to take our fight to the next level if UPS continues to try and strip a small group of its workers of basic benefits.”
Many UPS gateways operate with just one aircraft mechanic per shift, meaning he or she works alone around massive aircraft parts and equipment, sometimes for up to 39 hours straight. Lifting injuries and accidents are common. Repetitive stress injuries, hearing loss, inhaling toxic exhaust and jet engine blasts are among other health risks UPS aircraft maintenance workers face.
In 2008, OSHA cited UPS for violations that led to, among other injuries, a worker breaking his neck when a truck he was parked in was blown over by the jet blast of a Boeing 747 aircraft. Recent OSHA complaints assert these and other dangerous conditions persist. This physically strenuous and often dangerous work of aircraft mechanics, inspectors, utility employees and others is a key reason why healthcare cuts are a non-starter for Local 2727 members.
“We have members who are out on long-term disability at 60 who may never return to work because of injuries sustained after years of this demanding labor,” said Carlos Barragan from UPS’s Miami, Florida gateway. “What happens to them and their families if UPS guts our health benefits?”
Teamsters Local 2727 represents approximately 1,200 employees that maintain the United Parcel Service Company’s large fleet of jet aircraft.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. For more information, please visit www.teamster.org.