Worker Correspondents: UPS Ramps Up Annual Harassment, Coercion of New Employees

By a UPS Worker

The management of UPS continues its annual campaign to coerce employees into resigning in order to cut back on payroll expenses.

Every year, the company is forced to hire additional workers in order to keep up with the increased volume of the holiday season. As soon as the holiday peak season is done, this course is reversed. These employees (depending on the exact date they were hired) reach seniority in the Teamsters any time from the end of December to mid-January, making it extremely difficult to fire them.

Instead, in January and February, management suddenly cares about empty space in trucks and the pace at which employees work—something which is ignored, if not actively disrupted, in the case of managers loading—for the majority of the year. Management targets people who are most easily influenced, especially new people who are unfamiliar with the contract/termination process and young workers.

This harassment typically consists of disrupting the employee’s work, undoing already-done work, carefully worded threats of termination, and general unpleasantness. Management also takes advantage of the conflicting demands of the job in order to put employees in situations where it is impossible to succeed at the assigned task (which is, of course, accompanied by harsh reprimands).

This is both a short-term and long-term strategy for management. In the short term, it ensures part-timers will not work long enough to take advantage of their benefits, and allows UPS to reduce their staff without technically firing anyone and possibly breaching the contract. In the long term, this helps to reduce the number of people who will work at UPS long enough to become full-time and actually reach a so-called “livable wage.”

The current contract, which expires in 2023, specifies a wage of $15.50 for part-timers. The part-time wage was $8.17 in 1978, which amounts to over $20/hour adjusted for inflation. The absurd turnover resulting from these conditions has allowed UPS to ensure the majority of their employees continue to be part-timers.

UPS management is able to carry out this campaign thanks to lethargic stewards, who generally accept harassment as part of the job, and especially thanks to the Teamsters leadership, whose contract “negotiations” have made it nearly impossible to counter management for harassment. Many employees are totally ignorant of the contract due to zero effort by the Teamsters to educate membership. The ones who are aware of the contract often feel that the bureaucratic process is more trouble than it is worth.

Article 37 of the national UPS package division contract specifies management-employee relations accordingly:

The parties agree that the principle of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay shall be observed at all times and employees shall perform their duties in a manner that best represents the Employer’s interest. The Employer shall not in any way intimidate, harass, coerce or overly supervise any employee in the performance of his or her duties. … Employees will also treat each other as well as the Employer with dignity and respect.

The phrase “best represents the Employer’s interest” encapsulates the contract in its entirety. The anti-harassment clause is worded so ambiguously it is meaningless. The arbitration process requires an equal number of employee and employer representatives present, rendering it ineffective at best.

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