Teamsters fight for union rights

Southern California Teamsters who work at United Parcel Service (UPS) facilities throughout the region, held a solidarity rally on April 15.

UPS Teamsters take a strike vote

On June 12, the UPS Teamsters reported that 97% of the members voted to authorize a strike. The overwhelming unity of the members gives the union negotiating committee maximum leverage to win their contract demands with United Parcel Service Corporation.

The vote allows the “UPS Teamsters Negotiating Committee to call a strike should UPS fail to come to terms on new contract by July 31, when the union’s current Agreement expires. The Teamsters represent more than 340,000 UPS package delivery drivers and warehouse logistics workers nationwide,” the union said in a statement.

Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien said, “The strongest leverage our members have is their labor and they are prepared to withhold it to ensure UPS acts accordingly.”

Negotiations between the Teamsters and UPS began on April 17. Union representatives and rank-and-file members serve on the national negotiating committee. The UPS Teamsters Agreement is the largest private-sector contract in North America. Full-and part-time UPS Teamsters are working together for a new five-year agreement that guarantees higher wages for all workers, more full-time jobs, an end to forced overtime and harassment from management, elimination of a two-tier wage system, and protection from heat and other workplace hazards.

The strike authorization vote sends a clear message to UPS that the Teamsters are determined to take necessary action to secure a decent contract. The union reports UPS corporation hauled in more than $100 billion in profits just last year.

Delivery drivers and dispatchers for Amazon staged a walkout at the company’s Palmdale, California, warehouse.

Amazon Teamsters drivers walk out in first-ever strike

In late April, Amazon delivery drivers and dispatchers in Palmdale, California, organized a union with Teamsters Local 396 in Los Angeles. They walked out of the delivery facility on June 15 to demand that Amazon bargain with them. According to a Teamsters statement, the 84 drivers currently on strike have held picket lines before, but this is the first time Amazon drivers have walked out in the U.S.

At Amazon’s “delivery service partner” — Battle-Tested Strategies (BTS) — workers had negotiated and ratified a union contract, the first agreement covering workers in Amazon’s massive delivery network. Despite the absolute control Amazon wields over BTS and workers’ terms and conditions of employment, it has refused to recognize and honor the union contract. Instead, Amazon has violated federal labor laws through dozens of unfair labor practices.

“Amazon has no respect for the rule of law, the health of its workers, or the livelihood of their families,” said Randy Korgan, Director of the Teamsters Amazon Division. “Workers are on strike today because the only thing this corporate criminal cares about is profits. We are sending a message to Amazon that violating worker rights will no longer be business as usual.”

Amazon drivers organized over concerns for their safety in extreme temperatures, which regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during Palmdale summers.

“The back of an Amazon van feels like an oven in the summer,” said Cecilia Porter, an Amazon Teamsters driver. “I’ve felt dizzy and dehydrated, but if I take a break, I’ll get a call asking why I’m behind on deliveries. We are protecting ourselves and saying our safety comes first.”

“We are on the picket line today to demand the pay and safety standards that we deserve. We work hard for a multibillion-dollar corporation. We should be able to provide food and clothes for our kids,” said Raj Singh, another Amazon Teamsters driver.

Supreme Court rules against Seattle Teamsters

All organized labor’s right to strike has been threatened by the June 1 Supreme Court ruling against Teamsters Local 174 in their fight with a Seattle concrete firm, Glacier Northwest, in Washington State.

The union called for a strike when contract negotiations between Glacier Northwest and the local Teamsters union broke down. Drivers walked off the job following the union’s instructions to bring their trucks back to Glacier’s facility and to leave the trucks’ mixing drums spinning so that the concrete could be dumped before it began to harden.

The company sued the union in state court for intentionally damaging its property. The state court initially dismissed the lawsuit, as the union’s strike actions are protected by federal law under the National Labor Relations Act.

The anti-labor Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision. The single dissenting Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, wrote: “Workers are not indentured servants, bound to continue laboring until any planned work stoppage would be as painless as possible for their master. They are employees whose collective and peaceful decision to withhold their labor is protected by the NLRA even if economic injury results.”

Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien said in a statement that the ruling “opens the door for corporations to sue their own workers. The ability to strike has been on the books for nearly 100 years, and it’s no coincidence that this ruling is coming at a time when workers across the country are fed up and exercising their rights more and more.”   

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