HEBRON, Ky. — More than 1,100 newly organized DHL Express workers at the delivery company’s main U.S. hub here walked out on strike Dec. 7. The airport ramp workers and tug drivers, members of Teamsters Local 100, are fighting for their first contract after voting in the union in April. DHL Express is a highly profitable division of German-based Deutsche Post.
Spirits were high on the picket line the next night as workers told the Militant why they fought to organize the union and are now on strike.
“We go to work every night loading and unloading planes with no lights,” said Gina Kemp, who has worked here for four years. “It is pitch black. You can’t see anything, even with headlights. A lot of us are young, and safety is a big reason we went for the union.”
She described how she had been injured while driving a giant airplane cargo loader. “My entire leg went through a hole in the floor. We brought the K-Loader in for repair, but two days later it was back with nothing fixed.”
There were at least 22 emergency workplace injuries at the DHL’s Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport hub last year, including broken, crushed, and dislocated limbs, Kenton County Airport Board records show.
The company walked out of contract negotiations after six months of stalling. “The company said, ‘See you in January,’” Teamsters representative Nick Prather said. “That was it. Our people walked out on strike.”
Workers on the picket line said their fight is also about wages and dignity. Starting pay for ramp and tug workers is as low as $20 an hour.
Ryan Doyen said he was promoted to manager, “But I quit after seeing the dirty tricks and disregard for workers and their safety. I used to be anti-union, now I’m union all the way!” He became a member of the union’s negotiating committee and a leader of the strike.
Doyen took a pay cut to return to an hourly job after he heard other managers refer to themselves as “wardens” that needed to “take back” control of the “inmates.”
“When Ryan came over to the union it was a big turning point in the organizing campaign,” Kemp said.
The striking DHL workers need your support! Send messages of solidarity and contributions to Teamsters Local 100, 2100 Oak Road, Cincinnati, OH 45241. If you’re in the area, join them on the picket line.