Hundreds of local union leaders, business agents, shop stewards and members packed a room at the Teamsters Unity conference last week to hear about preparations being made for negotiations on the 2018 UPS contract.
The gathering was led by newly-appointed Teamsters Package Division Director Sean O’Brien, who started the meeting by giving the floor to former Package Division Director Ken Hall.
“There’s no doubt that the upcoming UPS negotiations will be challenging and we face a number of critical issues like driverless trucks, drones, pensions and so on. Sean O’Brien has assembled an outstanding leadership team and I have full confidence in their ability to take on UPS in this next round of bargaining,” said General Secretary-Treasurer Hall.
O’Brien introduced new regional chairs and laid out the Division’s planning ahead of contract talks.
“We have many issues we need to face in the upcoming negotiations. For example, harassment against our members is out of control again. That’s why we need to make certain during these negotiations that we have the best team in place,” O’Brien said.
Other issues that O’Brien said need to be addressed include 9-5 violations and technology changes.
“We have to be smart about how we approach new technology so that we’re not painted as standing in the way of progress. We also face serious challenges with pensions and the competition – E-commerce and everything that Amazon is doing,” he added.
Transparency is a Must
O’Brien emphasized the need for transparency and unity in the negotiating process.
“We need to embrace each other. We can argue among ourselves but when we leave the room we have to be united against the company. Now more than ever, our members need to be engaged in these talks. That’s why transparency is a must for the Division – we can’t have any ‘brown-outs,’” O’Brien said.
To that end, the Division is building a strong communications infrastructure centered on social media and other online platforms. Brian Rainville, Assistant Director of the Package Division, discussed a mobile app and website that are in development as well as the UPS Rising Facebook page and Twitter account which are both live.
“We need to understand how our members are getting their information and at the same time we have to make sure we’re getting information and feedback from them,” Rainville said. He urged locals to contact the Division with stories about members, grievance victories and other news that can be put out to UPS members nationwide.
An All-Inclusive Fight
In terms of bargaining, O’Brien told meeting attendees there is no commitment yet on whether or not to pursue early negotiations. But he said surveys will be used via social media, as well as focus groups and polling, to determine what members think about when to start negotiations and what the focus of bargaining should be.
O’Brien also mentioned some of the challenges on the freight side where Local 25 Business Agent John Murphy will be leading negotiations.
“We have UPS Freight doing more subcontracting, putting scabs to work while our members sit at home. We’re not going to consider any contract proposal that doesn’t address the subcontracting issue,” O’Brien told the room.
Above all, O’Brien made it clear that the Division is moving beyond the disagreements among members in terms of past negotiations, building an all-inclusive effort in the fight for a strong contract in 2018.
“Every company and union is watching to see what happens at UPS. We have to get this contract right because it will set the tone for labor relations for the next ten years – not just at UPS but throughout the economy.”