Teamsters secure new deal for UPS drivers; strike avoided

UPS Teamsters at a practice picket in Tampa. By:Josh Holton (07/13/2023)

UPS has reached a deal with the 340,000-person strong Teamsters union today, averting a strike that had the potential to disrupt shipping services nationwide for businesses and households alike.  The two sides reached a tentative agreement early on safety issues, including equipping more trucks with air conditioning equipment. Under the agreement, UPS said it would add air conditioning to U.S. small delivery vehicles purchased after January 1, 2024. Feeder Driver Jeff Testa is with Teamsters Local 79 and said record heat and searing temperatures made the air conditioning part of the deal a major win.

Ken Williams is a package car driver and the Recording Secretary for the Local 79. He says the agreement includes a provision to increase starting pay for part-time workers, which had been a sticking point in the negotiations.

But Ken said what employees really can’t survive on are the executive packages that are often negotiated before they start the job.

UPS CEO Carol Tomé’s pay was $19 million dollars last year, and the fiscal year before was calculated at 548 times that of the median employee’s pay.

Williams said the contract will still need to be presented to union members, before it is approved, but he said they made zero concessions with UPS in the contract, and calls it a win-win for the company and its employees.

Here’s the full interview and transcript:

Joshua Holton 0:00
All right, good afternoon, gentlemen, if you could please just introduce yourself, say your name and your role with your organizations.

Jeff Testa 0:07
My name is Jeff Testa. I’m a trustee with Teamsters Local 79. I work for UPS as a feeder driver.

Ken Williams 0:14
My name is Ken Williams, and I’m a full-time UPS package car driver, and I’m Recording Secretary for Teamsters Local 79. Tampa.

Joshua Holton 0:22
And thank you, gentlemen, for joining us here today. If you could please just tell me a little bit about how historic this day is. You’ve been doing a lot of work on preparing for this potential strike. How does it feel at this moment?

Jeff Testa 0:36
It feels great. It feels great. It all came together very nicely. It was nice to see us teamsters at UPS stand together and come together the way we did.

Joshua Holton 0:47
And Ken what what are your thoughts on it?

Ken Williams 0:49
So I was impressed by the fact that we had so many people that are new to the labor movement, to rise to the occasion and stand unified children shoulder to shoulder and engage. They weren’t on their cell phones, they weren’t standing with their arms crossed. They were actually listening to the message and paying attention and engaging us with questions of their own.

Joshua Holton 1:14
And what has it been like as a feeder driver, especially with July being one of the hottest months ever in recorded history on planet Earth? I mean, this air conditioning, part of the deal has to be pretty huge for drivers, wouldn’t you say?

Jeff Testa 1:28
Absolutely. Especially in package packs, car drivers have no air conditioning in their vehicles whatsoever we drive with our door doors open. And the breeze we got coming in, it’s all we have calling us off, we have to make sure we stay hydrated throughout the day, with the amount of the loads, the weight of the packages that have gone up through the years, and every summer has been hotter than the last and every one has been the hottest one on record. So it becomes more and more challenging. For UPS drivers in this climate to survive. Air conditioning was a great game with this contract.

Joshua Holton 2:03
Right. And if you want to just also talk to either Jeffrey Orkin about what other parts of this deal were really essential. I mean, we heard earlier this month when you were doing some of these practice pickets that the deal was maybe 80%, there, it was pretty close. What really sealed the deal this time?

Jeff Testa 2:20
What sealed the deal is wages for the part-time workers. The part-time workers at UPS worked very hard. Their shifts are three and a half to five hours. They have a lot of packages, a little three, four pack cars at a time, sometimes even more. They’ll handle several hundred packages in that period of time. And they have to do it in a fast manner. And get everything on the package cars properly. So they more than deserve the race they got it’s been a long time coming. And we were glad to see them get what they deserved.

Joshua Holton 2:51
Is there anything else, Ken that you’d like to say? Just because I’ve seen you out there at the practice pickets working hard with organizing? What does that been like? And what do you think that this is going to do for your organizing moving forward?

Ken Williams 3:03
Well, I think that since the the youth have engaged, and they’re listening to the message, they spread the word through their social media outlets, and it energizes the rest of the populace. I’m not a big fan of the gig economy, to where a family member has to do two or three or four gigs to make ends meet. You know, we see it on a daily basis as a package car driver, where dad’s working the day shift come home, hand off the reins, mom goes out and works a night shift, or do doing gigs to try to make ends meet. All the while the gig doesn’t provide any health care, it doesn’t provide any paid vacation for the family or medical sick leave none of that. But it provides profits to the company. And it’s important here to realize the shift now with people realizing that a union organized workforce can survive in the marketplace, because you hear that the union wages and the union benefits a company can’t survive. Well, what they really can’t survive on is the executive compensation packages that CEOs negotiate before they take their first day on the job. They’re already strategizing for their exit package. And when CEOs’ compensation packages are three to four hundred times the average worker where’s the parody? Where’s the righteous? This of saying I deserve so much more than you. But you, by the way, come in and do the work. So we like that our youth is engaged. I’m going on for two years at UPS. Jeff’s got a ton of years himself. But who did you bring up behind you? Who did you mentor? Because you’re gonna have to train those people, educate those people mentally Most people to do what you’re doing. And then hopefully they learn from that and pass it on to the next generation behind them.

Joshua Holton 5:07
I have one last question. Just kind of a generic question about unions and organizing. I think a lot of people get distraught living in Florida knowing that it’s a right-to-work state. And they think well, wow, that makes it a lot more difficult to organize them maybe in other states? And in what ways is it still really important for people to organize what can still be done with some of the constraints that the state of Florida is offering? And how do you work around those as a union?

Jeff Testa 5:31
Well, I gotta tell you, in the state of Florida, organizing here is just like any other state, all right, torque means is, you have the right to belong to a union have you belong a union Chaffer, not. Whether or not you can unionize or not, it makes no difference in a right-to-work state than in any other state in the country. Every unit has the right to organize under law. So when they come to us organized, we work with them, we get them organized, and it’s a lot easier. It’s just as easy in a right-to-work state as it is not right to work state to organize. The need for organizing is greater in right-to-work states because on average across the country, right towards states make much less in wages than non Right to Work states. So the need is greater in the states and the ones that have that right to work. So there’s no reason why anybody should look at the right-to-work laws as a reason NAFTA organizes, you can still organize.

Joshua Holton 6:33
And last question, do you have any comments on some of the other laws that have gone into effect in this last legislative session in Tallahassee, most of them affect public employee unions, such as teachers unions, but they do not impact unions, such as law enforcement, or firefighters. A lot of people are really concerned about what that means for they’re saying that unions are under attack. What has been the Teamsters’ reaction to some of that legislation? And some of maybe the other policies that you’ve been seeing from the current administration? And what is being done? Do you think to address that, especially from what you’ve been saying

Ken Williams 7:09
was Senate Bill 256, which says that dues cannot be deducted from a public employees’ wages, even though there may be 350 Other options for a payroll deduction, and a carve-out for police, firefighters, parole and probation and correctional officers? There is no logic there. The bill sponsor doesn’t really understand it, when they tried to explain it in committee and with the challenges and the language does, say, employee organizations who represent police and fire and so forth. Well, we happen to be an employee organization that does that. It’s not the bulk. But that’s not the way the language reads. As it’s drafted and presented to the legislature and signed by the governor, this contract will have to be presented to the membership in its entirety so that they can read the fine print. And everybody will have to decide individually, how it impacts themselves and their family. And if it’s good for them, vote yes, if it’s not good for them. Let’s go back to the negotiation table and see if we can hammer some things out. But I think that the leadership that we have, we have two local leaders, Brian Rothman and Thor Johnson, our principal officer and our Vice President, who is an international Vice President, on the executive board in Washington, DC, sit at the league table and know how this contract is drafted and how it should have been modified. So we made zero concessions in this contract to the employer, zero. So it’s a win-win, not only for the employees, but for the company to we can put this contract, seal it, and then grow the business and continue because we need that healthy employer, right? So you can go back to the bargaining table and say, These are the benefits that we should be able to afford for all of our employees, not just the unionize, we have non-union supervisors and so forth. And we think that a rising tide will lift all boats.

Joshua Holton 9:11
All right, well, Ken Williams and Jeffrey Testa, thank you so much for your time today.

You may also like

PETA Challenges Florida Bills Proposing Preemptive Ban on Cell-Cultured Meat

Listen:   In response to proposed bills by Florida lawmakers,...

Bill targeting Floridians experiencing homelessness advances in House

Listen: A bill that restricts people experiencing homelessness from sleeping...

A woman and man speaking to each other in a radio studio. Each has studio monitor headphones on and is speaking into a microphone.
It’s time for donations to keep ‘The Skinny’ on-air at WMNF Tampa

The time is now, Tampa Bay. WMNF Tampa’s 2024 Spring...

The Scoop: Thu., February 22, 2024 Tampa Bay and Florida headlines by WMNF

Gun bills ready for a vote Florida House Judiciary Committee,...

Ways to listen

WMNF is listener-supported. That means we don't advertise like a commercial station, and we're not part of a university.

Ways to support

WMNF volunteers have fun providing a variety of needed services to keep your community radio station alive and kickin'.

Follow us on Instagram

Revenge of the Synth
Player position: