FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hoffa Brown-Nosing at UPS

Ten years after the historic strike by the Teamsters at UPS that electrified workers in the U.S. and put fear into the hearts of America’s CEO’s, Teamster leader James P. Hoffa has tentatively negotiated a new national contract with UPS that can an only be described as an historic defeat, and, if passed by the membership, may permanently cripple the ability of future union activists to recover the union’s once formidable position at the world’s largest transportation company.

“While other unions are struggling against employers, this tentative agreement with UPS addresses our members’ concerns and is an example of how the Teamsters are moving forward faster and stronger than ever,” claims Hoffa. These other-worldly, bombastic boasts are a perfect example of Hoffa-speak, where defeats are portrayed as victories, and sell-outs as masterful leadership. The only direction the Teamsters are moving in is backward and at top speed with the proposed contract.

Among the major union concessions:

* The withdrawal of 44,000 UPS/Teamsters from the Central States’ Pension Fund, the largest pension in the Teamsters union that could bankrupt the fund in the future.

* Starting pay for part-timers would remain at $8.50 per hour for the life of the proposed contract (until 2013) that would mean that start pay would remain where it has roughly stood since 1981 or 32 years.

* No new full-time jobs would be created out of existing part-time positions (two-thirds of the jobs at UPS are part-timer) this was one of the important victories coming out of the 1997 strike.

* No health coverage for part-timers during their first year of employment, and no health coverage for their family members for their first eighteen months of employment.

There are a myriad of other unnecessary and mind-boggling concessions that permeate the proposed contract, which raises a big question: Who wrote this contract? Was there even a pretense of negotiations? Or did Hoffa and Parcel Division Director Ken Hall just simply accept the company proposal after it was slid across the table?

Traffic World, the semi-official voice of the transportation industry, has editorialized that this was the contract that UPS wanted in 1997 but was stymied by then Teamster General President Ron Carey, elected as a reformer in 1991 and re-elected in 1996, who called a three week strike against the transportation giant, popularly known as Big Brown. The strike was solidly supported by UPS Teamsters across the country and won a major victory over UPS.

Ten years later the tables have been turned. Hoffa came to power in 1999 following a federal government sponsored witch-hunt that drove Ron Carey permanently out of the union. Hoffa, the son of the notorious union racketeer Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975, has been the leader the of the most reactionary and mobbed-up elements of the Teamsters union. Many of his closets advisors and supporters have been permanently barred from the Teamsters for corrupted practices including his former running mate William Hogan and his former special assistant Dane Passo. Carroll Haynes, a Hoffa slate member and a Teamster vice president, is being forced to repay more than $100,000 in improper payments he received from the company that manages his former local union’s health plan.

Hoffa, who ran for office on the slogan of “Restore Teamster Power,” has been attempting to return the union to its alleged glory days of cozy relationships with Republican presidents and sweetheart deals with the big trucking and freight companies. He was always the preferred candidate, especially by UPS, to lead the “old guard” Teamsters in the battle against reformers led by Carey during the 1990s.

As soon after Hoffa came into office, Traffic World ran a major article on his emerging relationship with UPS called “In Love with Hoffa.” This love affair has blossomed into one of the great corrupt marriages of our time to the detriment of the 235,000 members of the Teamsters union at UPS, the largest private sector unionized employer in the country today.

UPS over the last decade has morphed into a global behemoth. It is familiar to most Americans, with its brown delivery trucks that dot the landscape of the country and its “what can Brown do for you?” commercials. It has one of the largest privately owned airlines in the world, and an army of employees that load, unload, sort and delivery hundreds of thousands of packages a day. It has one of the largest political action committees in Washington and has long been a player in Republican Party politics. UPS is one of the most profitable corporations in the United States; its after tax profits of $2.4 billion in 2002 grew to $3.9 billion in 2005, and leaped to over $4 billion last year.

“During that same time,” according to the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), the longstanding reform organization, “the base wage for UPS part-timers remained $8.50. That wage was frozen in the 2002 contract, and has gone up just 50 cents in 25 years! Some 29 states have minimum wages above the federal level, and some of them could soon pass up our base part-time wage. Net profits of $4 billion. That’s about $20,000 per year for each part-time and full-time Teamster. That’s more than many part-timers make in a year.”

Don’t expect opposition to come from the local officers of the Teamsters. On October 11, 300 local officers unanimously endorsed Hoffa’s proposed contract at a national meeting addressed by Ken Hall. Not only have reformers been marginalized or muted on a local level, but the current crop of officers are gorging themselves on the dues money with bloating salaries and maintaining a go along to get a long attitude. TDU reports that ninety-six Teamster officials now make over $150,000 a year. “Hoffa doled out an incredible $8.4 million last year to 164 Teamster officials who already earn at least one other union salary. Multiple salaries have skyrocketed by 764 percent since Hoffa took office. These salaries function as a patronage system to officers who are expected to turn out the vote for Hoffa in return,” according to the TDU website.

At the same time, Hoffa and Hall, in a conference call on October 2, reported to local unions that there is a “card check” deal with UPS Freight (formerly Overnite transport), where if a majority of workers at a UPS Freight terminal sign Teamster cards, the company will recognize and bargain with the local Teamsters union at that terminal. This, however, is contingent, according to TDU, “on ratification of the UPS national contract, including the break-out of 44,000 Teamsters from the Central States Fund. That was management’s central demand in national bargaining. As reported on the call, signing of cards cannot start until after the whole UPS contract process is done.”

There seems to be no limit to the duplicity of the Hoffa administration, and he is hoping for a quick national vote on the proposed contract. It will take an all-out effort by rank-and-file activists at UPS around the country to defeat the greatest threat to their union and their livelihood in a decade.

JOE ALLEN is a former member of Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago. This article is taken from the forthcoming Nov.-Dec. issue of the International Socialist Review.

 

 

More articles by:

JOE ALLEN is the author of Vietnam: The (Last) War the U.S. Lost.

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail