(ATLANTA) — As UPS prepares for its annual shareholder meeting, more than 900 of its aircraft mechanics and other related classifications sent an open letter to CEO David Abney and the board of directors Monday saying they are concerned that UPS is trying to strip them of their health benefits and that they will do whatever it takes to secure a fair contract.
The letter ran as an advertisement in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution and marks the launch of a new front for UPS’s 1,200 aircraft maintenance employees who are intensifying pressure on the shipping giant as negotiations have dragged on for years and UPS refuses to bargain fairly. The workers, represented by Teamsters Local 2727, will hold major protests in Atlanta – where UPS is based –Tuesday and in Wilmington, Del. Thursday where UPS will host its annual shareholder meeting. They also plan to print more advertisements and hold protests nationwide as the busy Mother’s Day shipping period nears as well as the Kentucky Derby Festival, for which UPS is a sponsor. Louisville is UPS’s domestic hub.
The letter to Abney and the board of directors says: “We are gravely concerned about our future at UPS. We have dedicated our careers – decades upon decades – to this company. We do back-breaking work, work long hours, and put our health at risk to build profits for UPS. That’s why it is so hard to understand why you and other company executives are trying to deny us of our basic health benefits while you make billions.” Read the full letter: https://goo.gl/kHOkka.
“How can Mr. Abney and his board look in the mirror every morning when they approve multi-million dollar executive raises even having missed their performance targets this year and then turn around and try to deny the people who keep their planes running of simple health benefits?” said Cliff Jones who is based in Louisville, Ky. and has been with UPS for 17 years. He is a company shareholder who also signed the letter. “UPS aircraft mechanics may be spread out, but we’re one workforce and are united to protect our jobs and our families.”
The aircraft maintenance workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in November of 2016.
UPS relies on the mechanics, stationed at more than 90 gateways across the country, for all maintenance of its cargo aircraft. Despite continued growth and multibillion dollar plane purchases, UPS is calling for massive reductions in health benefits for the 1,200 workers who are critical to the company’s supply chain. The workers do physically demanding and often dangerous work around jet engine aircraft and equipment and toxic chemicals and exhaust.
“UPS executives think they can brush us aside, but aircraft mechanics keep the world’s largest package delivery company running. We’re also working dads and moms who are trying to keep giving our kids the stability and good health they deserve, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to win a fair contract for them,” said Teamsters Local 2727 Secretary Treasurer Steve Stone, who is also a 23-year aircraft mechanic. “Mr. Abney, the board of directors and shareholders are only going to keep hearing and seeing more of us until the corporate games stop.”
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. Recent OSHA complaints assert these and other dangerous conditions persist. One pending complaint relates to a facility in Lafayette, Louisiana that is riddled with mold and vermin, broken lights and exposed wires. Raccoons have even fallen through the ceiling.
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 the letter, excerpted from Sunday’s newspaper, mechanics state: “We are exposed to the harsh elements every day as we work around the clock to maintain UPS’s aircraft…We push our bodies to the limit, moving heavy equipment and aircraft parts…and the demanding work has taken its toll on our bodies. Is it too much to ask to keep the basic health and retirement benefits we have depended on? We are not asking for more but merely to maintain what we have today; we are holding you accountable to your commitments to us.”
UPS is also calling for a massive reduction in benefits for retirees who spent their lives servicing the company’s planes. Under UPS’s proposal, health coverage for a retiree and his or her spouse would skyrocket to more than $19,000 per year in the first year with further increases each year thereafter.
The letter concludes: “We hope this letter finally serves as a wake-up call for you to work with us to come to a fair contract that protects our health and retirement benefits and is good for the long-term success of UPS.”
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.