This article on life at UPS comes to us compliments of the UPS Stony Brook Center, Local 804, Long Island, NY. Be sure to check out their website a Packagecarunion.com
I Want My Life Back
I am a proud UPSer. I am the face of one of the most successful companies in the history of the planet. I am a proud Teamster, working at one of the largest union employers in the world. I have no interest in working for an anti-labor CEO like Fred Smith. I believe strongly in UPS and in unionism. UPS is a top corporate citizen and the “World’s most admired” delivery company. Organized labor and the Teamsters began in order to combat workplace abuses. Workers did excessive overtime and did not get to see their families. There was no safety in the workplace, endangering the workers, and there was favoritism and harassment.
One of the basic tenets for all labor agreements is the principle of “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay”. We have strayed too far from that principle, and I want my life back.
Our National Master Agreement contains language that states: “Employer shall make reasonable effort to reduce package car drivers’ workdays below 9.5 hours per day”. It does not say “paid day” or “planned day”. It says “workday”. Punch in to punch out is my work day. When people discuss their typical workday, it’s 9 to 5, not 9 to 2 and 3 to 5. People don’t work 35 hours a week plus 5 hours in breaks, they work a 40 hour week. Paid or not, breaks are part of the workday.
Lunch and breaks are unpaid. Unpaid is not the same as off the job. We are told the parameters in which we are allowed to take our breaks, and there have even been several instances where UPS management tried to instruct employees exactly when to take their break. We are told that we are allowed no more than a mile off-route. We are still representing the company and still accountable for our actions. We can’t fight with or insult the customers simply because we are not being paid. We are still responsible for the vehicle, diad, equipment, and cargo. If we fall down and get hurt during lunch, we are still covered by Worker’s Compensation. When the NY state DOT instituted it’s 14 hour rule, they specifically included break time, punch in to punch out. By law and contract we have to take our breaks.
The 40 hour week is the basis for the contract language contained in Article 3 of our Supplemental Agreement. “The basic workweek should be 40 hours, consisting of 8 hours per day, 5 days per week. Employees may be required to work overtime”. If we work 40 hours in 4 days, we have met our commitment. If that is the case, Friday should be an optional workday. The contract mentions mandatory overtime at times, our building is operating with a plan of 9.2 hours on road. This translates to 1 ½ to 2 hours of mandatory overtime daily. They further exacerbate this by exceeding their own excessive standard, with drivers often punching out after 12 hours.
Our Local Sort starts at 6 o’clock, with a 3 ½ hour guarantee. With the vast majority of drivers returning after 7 o’clock, how can the Local Sort turn the work around for the outbound trailers? Drivers returning at 6:30, which is an actual 9 ½ hour workday, makes more sense and meshes with the Local Sort operation.
Overtime excesses rob the Union of both pension contributions, and jobs. Each center does roughly 100 overtime hours per day, sometimes while laying off drivers. UPS should be honoring their commitments and the Union should be demanding jobs. A “scheduled off” day does not contribute a pension credit. Excessive overtime tires out the drivers and limits the need for a 5th day’s pay. When the guys try to take off to allow the laid off drivers to work, we are trying to help our union brothers, and in fact we are helping to screw them. The Teamsters promote organizing to create more Teamster jobs. These Teamster jobs are right here. The excessive overtime is cutting out at least 8 full-time jobs in each center. As one of America’s top corporate citizens UPS has a responsibility to the public to try and create jobs. During this “global economic meltdown”, UPS made 2 billion dollars profit. Rather than helping to stimulate the economy by creating jobs, UPS chooses to reduce staffing and asks us to contribute more for our medical coverage and take a reduction in pension benefits. I want UPS to be successful, but UPS needs to share the success with the people that helped bring it.
We are not meeting customer expectations or our commitment to our customers. We guarantee the day of delivery and we do a good job of meeting expectations for our commercial stops, delivering by 5 o’clock, which is considered normal business hours. After the majority of workers have headed home, we are delivering our residential stops. People are having dinner, getting the kids ready for bed, winding down their day, and we are leaving boxes at their door. If we don’t make delivery by 6:30, we didn’t really meet our obligation.
Increases in overtime lead to more injuries and accidents. OSHA lists rushing, fatigue, and frustration as the top three causes of injuries and accidents. A typical day for one of my closest friends at work consists of waking at 6, followed by a shower, shave, getting the uniform ready, breakfast, then a 1 ½ hour drive to work. Through the guard booth, inside and upstairs to the locker room, then down to the pcm. Work until 7:30 or 8, back to locker room, then drive home. Dinner at 9:30, not considered healthy dinner time. The kids are in bed and the wife is exhausted from working her job and taking care of everything at home. Bed at 11:00, too late for a healthy 8 hours of sleep, and start all over again the next morning. Doing this for the month of December is understandable. Doing this as a way of life is unconscionable.
The growing frustration can be felt throughout UPS and the Locals. Forums and message boards across the country are full of these stories. Some Locals have even taken to renting planes to carry flyover messages and billboards to promote their mounting displeasure.
When unions began, workplace abuses were rampant. We created safety in the workplace and now it’s been stolen and used as a tool for harassment. I work to live, I don’t live to work. I want a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. I don’t want my family life or my health destroyed. I want my life back.