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UPS Union Wants to Revisit Ratified Labor Agreement

Oct. 17, 2018, 10:15 AM

United Parcel Service Inc.'s union wants to revisit parts of a national contract covering 250,000 workers that it ratified on Oct. 5, an International Brotherhood of Teamsters spokeswoman confirmed to Bloomberg Law.

The five-year contract was voted down by 54.2 percent of union members but turnout wasn’t high enough to reject the contract, according to the Teamsters.

Any contract with fewer than half of the bargaining unit votes must be rejected by a two-thirds margin or it’s considered ratified, Teamsters spokeswoman Kara Deniz wrote in an email to Bloomberg Law. The union also can return to bargaining if the proposal hasn’t been rejected by two-thirds of the voters, “which is what we fully intend to do for the nationwide language and those supplements/riders that were not rejected under the terms of the constitution.”

Meanwhile, a Teamsters splinter group, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, is seizing on the contract ratification to criticize union leadership under General President James Hoffa.

“A lot of members feel extremely betrayed by what’s happened,” TDU organizer David Levin told Bloomberg Law. “Members feel the union should be their organization to protect themselves from the company, not an arm of the company.”

Back to Bargaining

It’s unclear when discussions over the national agreement will take place. No date has been set for a meeting, according to Deniz.

UPS and Teamsters representatives will meet Oct. 22 to discuss changes to the UPS Freight contract that was rejected by more than two-thirds of voters. The union set a Nov. 12 expiration date for a contract extension that’s been in place since the previous agreement expired Sept. 1.

UPS confirmed the Oct. 22 meeting but declined to comment on the extent of conversations and whether the national contract will be discussed.

“We will not further comment on the topics that may be raised during the meetings as we prefer to keep the discussions between the parties,” UPS spokesman Steve Gaut said.

Employees continue to work under the 2013-2018 agreement that was extended in September. The new national contract won’t take effect until the UPS Freight contract and rejected local supplements are ratified.

Changes at the Margins

The union has little leverage to change the terms of an already-ratified contract, according to Robert Bruno, the director of the Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Why would UPS concede to changes that they weren’t willing to concede prior to the ratification vote?” Bruno said. “And what additional tools would the union have? It certainly couldn’t refuse to abide by the contract. It couldn’t hold a work stoppage. So, I’m hesitant to believe you can make substantive gains.”

One of the most contentious parts of the ratified national agreement is a new class of drivers who would work weekends and get a lower starting salary. Any changes to the contract will be around the margins and are unlikely to include amendments to the new driver class, Bruno said.

The Teamsters for a Democratic Union organization was behind a “Vote No” campaign under the banner of UPS Teamsters United for a Good Contract. It’s also involved in helping elect local and international candidates opposed to the Hoffa administration.

Interest in running as a TDU candidate “has greatly accelerated” as a result of the contract vote, and participation in the TDU’s upcoming annual convention in November is also up, according to Levin. About 300 people are expected, including 50 interested in running for Teamsters leadership positions, Levin said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Wallender in Washington at awallender@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com