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Wake-up call

Don't delay delivery of UPS contract


Genome editing technology can alter DNA. It works for organisms but not for employers.

Sometimes they are inclined to run their workplaces fairly, but it must never be left to their choice alone. Inextricably in their marrow is the awareness that they have dominance over their workers. They are programmed by nature to sooner or later put that power to the test. 

No gene splicing can effectively tamper with their primal instinct. It takes a union.

The New York City Department of Health reports that over the course of a single recent year, the life expectancy of city residents fell by almost five years. Blacks fared worse and Latinos lost six years of life, which concerns the government because dead people don't pay taxes.

Park Slope, Chelsea and the NIMBYites of the UWS fared better than Brownsville and Morrisania at fending off the Grim Reaper, who appears charmed by progressive elitism and the correlates of race and socio-economic prestige.

When labor contracts are negotiated and pension and social security benefits calculated, actuarial data is usually cited as a major factor in the determination of  fair and reasonable settlements. As longevity steadily increased, so was eligibility for benefits postponed. Penalties were imposed for workers' premature retirement and withdrawal of funds.

Workers were told that it was simply a matter of economic common sense: algorithms are apolitical and not ideological. They dictate prudence and restraint without bias,especially when finalizing labor contracts.

That was their alibi.

Suppose life expectancy had no setback and continued to soar. Workers would still be penalized as though it were their fault, because their extended days on earth would still be used against them as a pretext to keep costs down. 

Even the most benign government and boss-retained advocates are authoritarian with a view to absolutism.

Imagine if life expectancy would plummet beyond the worst predictions. Would workers' retirement age or benefit payouts be adjusted accordingly? Would they be allowed to retire sooner with greater benefits?

Unions are indispensable, even under the least threatening conditions during periods of relative peace. Managerial stealth takes its cue under the cloak of amity when the workers' guard is down.

Complacency is inadvertent, incremental suicide.

Employers own the field. The rules of the game can turn on a dime and it is the coin of their realm. Collegiality to antagonism may be  internally generated or externally triggered, like during corporate takeovers.

Bosses will sacrifice even their most favored, loyal and productive workers with minimal regret, if what they have personally to gain is sufficiently appealing This applies even in private industry. There is neither safety in numbers nor in anonymity.

The United Parcel Service is a Fortune 500 company, with a massive global logistical operation.  Its revenue dwarfs that of FedEx and DHL. The UPS contract is reportedly North America's largest private collective bargaining agreement.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is the voice and fist for its more than quarter-million drivers, package handlers and clerks.

As Fate may have it, the workers may go on strike on August 1. Every year,  UPS trucks carry around 6 percent of the country's gross domestic product. A strike would have a cascading effect on Amazon and other components in the supply chain. UPS might also permanently lose market share to its competitors.

The Teamsters president, Sean O'Brien, is on  record that the clock will not be stopped to put off the deadline. No contract. No work. "We'll either have a signed agreement that day or be hitting the pavement." he said.

UPS owes its workers a debt of gratitude. They have delivered year after year of record profits. The company’s 2021 income was up 50 percent to $13.1 billion.

The Teamsters haven't struck since 1997. UPS is mystified why these employees aren't swooning with eternal gratitude for their existing contract, which their employer considers magnanimous. They claim these full-time package delivery drivers can make $95,000 plus 50 grand in perks.

No matter their salary, it cannot be enough. Bosses cite the binding "law of supply and demand" when it suits them. Unionists have solidarity and the Dignity of Labor.

Divide and conquer: that's the nuclear option of management. They seek to turn workers against each other by envy and internecine schism.

For a long time I stopped watching Major League baseball, because the players' salaries were astronomical and beyond what workers like me could relate to. What happened to the days when during the off-season these players got jobs to help them make ends meet?

I had fallen into the trap.

The proper attitude would have been to take note of the mammoth profits of the team's owners and advocate for the players to  double down on their militancy.

The pay structure for UPS employees is complicated and not pretty. Workers in the distribution facilities sometimes earn less than minimum wage, according to Jacobin. The Teamsters are demanding an increase to over $20. 

That's a misleadingly large percentage. No doubt that will be considered inflationary by industrialists who regard their own outlandishly exorbitant bonuses as a bracing  tonic to the economy, even in years when they presided over their company's collapse.

The Teamsters and the UPS are wrangling over what Jacobin calls the company's  "nonunion gig workforce" consisting of the "recent incorporation of a fleet of personal vehicle drivers (PVDs) during peak delivery season (who) deliver packages in their own cars.” Also, "UPS has been laying off and displacing, cutting hours and splitting shifts" of Teamster 804 members, so that instead of working eight straight hours, workers have been told to work four in the morning and four at night.

When UPS isn't putting the heat on its workers, it's letting nature do it. Their vehicles have no air-conditioning, and  a driver died and several were hospitalized during the most recent heat wave.

Then there's the sticky issue of workers surveillance.

This goes beyond the tracking of packages, which would not be, in and of itself, a damnable innovation, but it is employed as an invasive, gratuitous and implicit disciplinary tool. Cameras aimed at the drivers (and outward also) and audio recording are widely used "trust but verify" equipment.

What next, spy balloons? Perhaps a GPS or ankle bracelet should be worn by senior managers on their liquid lunches?

What does "22.4" mean to most of us? Is it the average age of universal soldiers when their limbs are blown off in useless wars? 

It has special meaning to UPS workers.

It refers to a "second-tier driver job" that provides no overtime protections beyond the Department of Transportation's absurdly high limit. This despised classification, which treats affected full-time employees as hybrid, with reduced pay, was the spawn of the last contract and needs to be rubbed out.

An article in The Guardian last September names an alternate union steward who "was fired for taking a two-to three-minute break in the morning to get a drink of water.” He claims the reason for termination was stated.

UPS has been accused of, in effect, stealing wages from at least 10,000 employees during the 2021-22 holiday season. Their excuse was that those seasonal employees are hard to track down. The National Labor Relations Board ruled recently that the Long Island City Teamsters local representing the workers is entitled to the information that UPS withheld for months.

If one of their employees was suspected of purloining a gummy bear, they'd be administratively guillotined.

As noted in The Chief, "as a condition of their employment, many seasonal workers sign mandatory individual arbitration agreements that prevent the workers from suing the company.” It was compulsory and by corporate fiat.

The brown UPS delivery trucks are quaint and iconic. The Teamsters merit a contract just as iconic. For its fairness.

It used to be my dream to be a propaganda minister for a humanitarian regime, but the challenge would not be great enough in today's times, so I've upgraded to investigative journalism.


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