Statement by Labor Commission, FRSO |
May 19, 2023
The 2023 Teamster/UPS Contract negotiations are here and every class in the U.S. is watching them like a hawk. Workers want to see a serious blow struck against a massive corporation and the ruling class wants to see an increasingly militant labor movement put down. The last time we saw a showdown like this at UPS was in 1997 when the Teamsters under Ron Carey struck and defeated the company. Every contract negotiation after that was increasingly weak and concessionary as the next Teamster president, Hoffa Jr., would talk tough, sell short and declare victory. This culminated with the historic betrayal of 2018 when Hoffa Jr. forced through a concessionary contract after members had voted it down.
Teamsters overwhelmingly voted in the reform slate Teamsters United with Sean O’Brien as general president in 2021. The new slate is a coalition including former Hoffa supporters and lifelong militants from TDU (Teamsters for a Democratic Union). They campaigned on many issues, but one thing stood out above all others: a promise to take a militant approach to the next UPS negotiations and give zero concessions.
UPS workers overwhelmingly supported this approach during the election and continue to support it now. The COVID outbreak of 2020 resulted directly in record profits for UPS and death and disease for the workforce. The pandemic put plain what the ruling class tries to conceal: we create the wealth that the ultra-rich horde for themselves. Company executives are pleading poverty during the negotiations, but the numbers don’t lie. UPS makes over $24,000 in operating profit per employee and has been dumping money into stock buybacks, dividend payouts and labor-saving technology.
The IBT (International Brotherhood of Teamsters) sends out daily updates to members on the progress of contract negotiations, a massive change from the prior administration. Regional contract supplements started at the beginning of the year with national negotiations supposed to have begun April 17. However, UPS drags its feet by insisting on a “cost-neutral” contract. In other words, they insisted on concessions. The status of national negotiations changes daily, but one thing is consistent: the contract expiration deadline of August 1 is fast approaching. The IBT is threatening that on that date, there will be an approved contract or a strike.
Since the beginning of 2023, the militant caucus TDU has been at the front of the rank-and-file contract campaign. Members have participated in mass rallies, parking lot meetings, and contract action trainings. The strike weapon is being sharpened as Teamsters stretch and flex muscles they haven’t used in decades under the Hoffa regime. Poverty part-time wages, unbearable package car driver conditions, and two tier classifications have worn down Teamsters to their last nerve.
The important thing to recognize is that this fight did not drop out of the sky. It is the result of decades of work by labor militants. Many FRSO members from coast to coast are Teamsters. They fought tirelessly for their coworkers on the floor. They stood their ground against Hoffa and his concessionary contracts. Now, they will stand on the front lines of this battle.
The results of this contract fight will impact other unions, organizing Amazon workers, and the future of the U.S. labor movement. The United Auto Workers have thrown out their weak officers and elected new militant leadership. Workers want to fight and now is the time to struggle for all that can be won. Strike a blow against UPS and we strike a blow against the whole of our rotten ruling class!