Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien’s old stomping ground in Boston was the site of the first major union rally for a new contract with UPS just 15 days before bargaining is set to begin in Washington.
Most of Sunday’s rally came down to heated rhetoric. General Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman, the union’s second in command, warned that if a contract isn’t reached by July 31 at 11:59 p.m., the current pact’s expiration date, there will be “no UPS Teamsters working” come Aug. 1.
Tom Mori, head of Boston’s Local 25 where O’Brien made his name as longtime president, said the sweat equity and sacrifice will be rewarded only with a strong, concession-free contract. “It’s time for UPS to pay up” for all the work that drivers and other union personnel have put in over the past four years, Mori said.
Many issues are on the table, as always when a contract this important is negotiated. For the union, probably the most important is to eliminate the so-called 22.4 worker classification in which full-time workers are considered — by the union at least — as second-tier workers with inferior rights and benefits. O’Brien has wanted to do away with the language long before he took office last year, and he is just as adamant about it today.
UPS has taken a low-key attitude about the events, at least so far. It expects talks to get noisy, but it also expects a deal to be reached well before the July 31 deadline. Working in UPS’ behalf is a slow economy and tougher competition for future business that makes a work stoppage a bigger risk for the company and its employees than at any time in other contract cycles.
Most shippers are still in a wait-and-see mode, with few willing to upend long-term relationships for something that might not pan out. Most observers believe there will be no strike this year.
Additional rallies will kick off nationwide following the Boston event, the union said.