Surviving the Holidays

This was my report after the peak of 2007. You are so lucky it’s not like this anymore.      

      OMG !!  We survived another Peak Season. It was touch and go there at times, but we all pulled through. There was so much work to be done that I would think UPS would just stand back and let the workers go at it. But they can’t do that. They’ve got to be in there mucking things up. Here are a few examples of things that happened this Peak that I’m still scratching my head about and wondering……..why?….

        Early in December, IE was cutting routes like mad and there were days off to be had for some lucky drivers. That’s nice, but at the same time other drivers were pushing 11 hours a day and anyone who went over 11 was called on the carpet. If you didn’t have express permission from your manager, then you got a warning letter. Maybe that would not have been a problem if they hadn’t cut so many routes.
        Sheeting mistakes got to be a big issue, like sheeting a business as closed between noon and 1 o’clock. If you had been talked to about it before, then that became a warning letter too. If a driver had a bad day, he could easily get 2 warning letters the next morning. That gets you off on the right foot !
        The dress code became the pet peeve of some managers with nothing better to do. Shoes and hats were favorite targets. T-shirts of the wrong color were hot items too. We hoped they would send us home if we had on the wrong color t-shirt but they just told you to change it. Or leave your hat in the manager’s office for the day. Or don’t wear those shoes tomorrow.
        In our center, the manager stooped to posting the WOR as a shame list on the bulletin board for all to see. At first he listed the top 5 production drivers and then the last 6 or 7 according to the over/under numbers. Someone tore down the worst list the first day. The next day he posted the whole center report showing how everyone ran. As the steward, I raised Cain that it was low-ball management. He countered that everyone was looking at it. I said the interest was morbid and for some, embarassing. People stare at a car wreck too, they watch Jerry Springer. It’s vulgar. It’s dirty. It’s not how management should be operating.
        As our cars got more full every morning, you would think that IE would have SPA’d the Next Day Airs all up on the 1000 shelf. But they continued to SPA Next Days deep into the load and every day I had some in the 2800 or 2900 sections. That put them in about the middle of a packed car on the lower shelf. There is no way to dig those out and get them delivered before 10:30. Anyone who has ever driven would know that.
        Another way to shame drivers was dreamed up this Christmas and it was used on any driver who ran 3 or more hours over allowed. Management would pick a city that’s 3 hours or 4 hours away, like Grand Junction and feigning righteous indignation, they would exclaim. “How could you be 4 hours over, Hell, I could drive to Grand Junction in 4 hours!!!”
        We were working Peak Week under a 12 hour curfew and a lot drivers were bringing stops back every night. One driver forgot to punch out his board, went home and an OMS punched out his board and he was over 12 hours. They wanted to fire him the next morning, but decided against it. A bunch of us were hoping they would send him home because that’s the kind of termination you can easily get reduced to a suspension and we were all going to “forget” to punch out that night too. I’d take a 3 day suspension during Peak Week anytime.
        With the 12 hour curfew of course came missed pieces every night. Some drivers were bringing back 50 to 100 stops a night. Soon management was browned up and running routes, working as helpers, etc. You can’t have it both ways, you can’t restrict driver hours and have management working. Management would meet drivers at 8 o’clock at night and take everything they had left and send the driver in to get off the clock under 12 hours and management would stay out and do the stops themselves. Gee, I wonder if that will generate a girevance?
        I arrived at work one day just as an ambulance pulled away from the building. Unfortunately, someone had slipped and ruptured 2 discs in his back. They rushed him into surgery that very morning and he’ll be out for quite some time. That’s a heck of a way to get out of Peak. The rumors flying around the building were that a driver had looked in the back of his truck and had a heart attack. It wasn’t that hard to believe.
        I would think that UPS would focus a little more on getting our pickups covered during Peak because having to do pickups in the afternoon just kills us. Not only does it take valuable time away from delivery, but it fills much needed space inside the truck. Then when we stay out till 8 or 9 o’clock, the pickups don’t get unloaded and sorted in a timely mannner and the twilight goes down late, then the midnight sort runs late, and then the preload is not done when the drivers come back to work the next morning. Then we leave late and the cycle repeats itself. 
      UPS never seems to be able to take a good plan for Peak and save it and build on it the next year. They have to reinvent the wheel every December.
      Why is that???

UPS Drivers Voted “Dumbest on Earth” by Engineers

        UPS drivers were voted the “dumbest people on earth” at the annual gathering of the Society of Industrial Engineers. Citing widespread newspaper accounts detailing how the Engineers had restructured all UPS routes to make only right hand turns (thus saving the delivery giant millions of dollars), the Society also named themselves the “smartest people on earth.”
        Dumber than dumb“If we hadn’t invented Package Flow Technology and introduced UPS Telematics when we did, UPS would be in the crapper right now,” said Tony Bologna, spokesman for the group. “UPS drivers had been running their routes for almost 100 years and never realized that right hand turns were easier to make than left hand turns. And they thought leaving the bulkhead door open saved them time. How dumb are can they be?“
        “All these UPS drivers thought they were so smart when they sat up their own routes and ran them,” Bologna added, “but we just sat down with a map and a magic marker and showed them to be the dumbest people on earth. The new routes, designed by the industrial engineering department, are models of efficiency. Who needs area knowledge when you have Google Earth?”
        A special award went to former CEO and industrial engineer Mike Eskew, for his role in elevating the Industrial Engineering Dept. at UPS to the rank of Godliness. “No one questions the word of IE at UPS,” Bologna noted, “when we speak, it’s as if God Himself has spoken.” Bologna glossed over the fact that UPS stock has been flat for the last 5 years, noting that Eskew was an engineer, not a “Goddamn financial wizard.”
        A large number of UPS drivers picketed the gathering. They held a demonstration on the sidewalk outside the building, singing songs and carrying signs. One poster read ‘Right Hand Turns are for Cowards’. Others sang a stirring rendition of Willie Nelson’s “Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be engineers.”

The B.R. Theory of Contract Negotiation

    The Senior Driver on Strike The theory of negotiation has been named for the guy I keep hearing it from. I won’t mention his real name, but his silly idea permeates the Rank and File at UPS. The theory begins with the assumption that the company hates it’s senior employees. The assumption is these employees cost the company money because they balk at hauling ass, and balk at long days, and raise hell for various reasons with management. Why would a company have any reason to keep such malcontents around?
     The fact is, while the company raises complaints about these drivers, the reality is they love them, and understand that their profitability is based on the steady, day to day, performance of these drivers. These drivers show up everyday. The company knows they have families, and financial obligations that will keep them at work, and interested in keeping their jobs.
     The B.R. theory assumes that since the company wants to get rid of the senior driver, they will give concessions to them, up to and including buy outs to get them to retire. Yeah Right!
     First of all, new drivers are very expensive to teach all of the nuances of delivery. Many simply can’t deal with the need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. In this day and age of the DIAD, and PAS, and Telematics, learning this job is difficult, and costly to the company.
      Newbies are responsible for at least 80% of the claims that are paid by the company. Most senior drivers know the ropes for driver release methods, and know it’s not worth the risk making bad driver release deliveries.
     Newbies are involved in most of the accidents reported, (and many unreported), to the company, and also are involved in the most serious accidents. Most senior drivers know that accidents are one of the quickest ways to lose their jobs, and have learned most of the safe driving techniques used by the safest of drivers. They have watched the Ball Haulers come and go over the years, gleaning the company’s praise for production, only to wipe out a Grand, or crush some old lady in a car, hurrying through a yellow light to keep their stops per hour up.
     So the assumption that the company will buy out it’s dependability, and it’s reputation, and turn the company over to the Spit fire, crash and burn, package tossers is not only ridiculous, but down right stupid.
     The negotiations will surround the company’s cost of doing business. One of the major considerations to that cost, will be the competition, and their costs. Remaining competitive is a key to improving the bottom line. Training new drivers is one of the most expensive costs to the company. They therefore will do everything they can to keep the “already trained” people there.
     That sounds great until you remember that the average wage at Fed-Ex is $5 to $8 per hour less than at UPS. They also pay a portion for their health care, and retirement plans.
     While the company appreciated the dependability of it’s work force, the desire to get that dependability at a cheaper cost is huge.
     So the contention that the company will “buy out”, “coerce”, or “negotiate”, the older workforce out of existence is crazy. Everyone inside knows that most drivers would love to move on to greener pastures, but 
                                   It ain’t gonna happen!
     Every driver should get closely involved with the negotiating process. Attend any meetings held by the Local to express the wants and desires of the hourly workforce. Let management know that you will support your National Negotiating Committee right down to striking if the need arises. Stay informed of the negotiating process through your stewards, and Business Agents. Be sure to attend any meeting the Local puts on when they bring back the potential New Contract. Be prepared to encourage the drivers around you to vote on that contract. 
                 A strong, united, workforce will win a strong contract. Be a part of it.
                                                    Your family is depending on you.

Are the Unions finished?

Someone asked  me  the other day what I thought the country will be like when the unions are all gone. While I shuddered at the thought of a whole country of WalMart workers, it bothered me that he assumed that the unions were finished. He said that it worried him that big banks and multinational companies were buying Washington and he thought big money will take what’s left from the middle class. He felt the unions were doomed.
I couldn’t agree more that corporations and billionaires have gotten to nearly every politician in Washington. Every one. But I did disagree that the unions were finished. In fact, I think unionism is on the verge of a comeback. There is a great article in The NATION  about Unions getting their groove back.
Here’s a little sample:

Making Unions Matter Again

“…. unions should plan direct actions with workers that respond to the issues facing them. How about taking over the offices of big credit-rating agencies and occupying them 24/7 by the thousands until they agree to erase all the bad credit heaped on anyone who has made a late mortgage payment because they lost their job or their hours were cut back?”

Technology Irony 2006

     I Got Your Box   We live in a world of new technology. Every day we are confronted with some new fangled gadget that is supposed to simplify our lives. I remember when a 4-function calculator would draw a crowd, and a cordless telephone was a figment of somebody’s imagination.
        Today we are surrounded by high tech gadgets in our day-to-day lives at home and at work. Life at UPS in the 70’s was very different from a technological standpoint. Deliveries were recorded on a pad of paper. You recorded the 6-digit shipper number and the address. Every package needed a signature so there were no driver-release options. If you ran a residential route you were expected to make at least three indirect attempts on any package in order to prevent a send again. The company had an allowable amount of send agains for each day. You had to call in your stops “off”, and your stops “to go”, and the “number of send agains”. Very often you would be asked to go back and make a second attempt on packages to reduce your send agains.
        You became very good at scanning an entire street for signs of life in order to get rid of your packages. The most innovative change at UPS was the creation of “driver release”, where no signature is required for residential deliveries. The company finally realized that it was going to be physically impossible to obtain a signature for every package. Couple that with the cumbersome ability to search paper records by hand for proof of delivery and you can see why we have come to the technology of today.
        Had UPS not taken the initiative to computerize, we would certainly not exist in today’s economy. Technology has had a very interesting effect on the company. Many drivers feared the loss of their jobs with the implementation of the DIAD. They thought the company could reduce routes to the point that many drivers would lose their jobs. That just didn’t happen.
        Today many drivers are thinking that they will lose their jobs because of PAS. The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. Technology has served to reduce management positions, not drivers. In the 70’s there was one supervisor for every seven drivers. WOR’s, (work operation reports), were written in pencil. The office people that did the calculations had to wear guards on their sleeves to keep the pencil lead from soiling their clothes.
        Today the WOR is a computer printout. What people were eliminated by this technology? Management. All of the people who did the calculations for your previous day were laid off or transferred. All of the management required to manage the operation under that system were bought out in the largest management reduction push in the history of UPS.
        Today we function in our centers at a level of about one supervisor for 20 drivers. In some locations it is one for 30. The true fact is that technology has replaced management, not the trained driver. In fact the driver has become more valuable because of the cost and difficulty in training new people. If you watch you will see that the percentage of drivers that qualify for driver jobs has dropped. It is very difficult for new people to grasp the nuances of the DIAD, and being able to make proper deliveries. You and I do it every day without thinking, but to the outsider it’s as foreign as a kangaroo.
        My point to you here is that the new technologies make us more valuable. The elimination of management by technology will continue. The frightening thing for the driver is that we will be managed from afar more and more. Some unknown creature sitting behind a computer terminal in Atlanta will dictate our dispatch without any contact to the operation or the people involved.
        You see it daily with the adding or elimination of cars today based on the required stops per car arbitrarily chosen by the “Lord and Master”. Eventually their will be no one to complain to that has any power to affect any changes. Local management will only be there to serve up discipline, and make sure that people show up. (Sounds like today doesn’t it?) The “Lord and Master” will make every decision.
        Does this all sound like a Sci-Fi movie? Is the movie titled…. PAS
        You’re living it today! Look around you!
     This article was written in 2006 about the implementation of PAS. Today’s article would probably be about Telematics. Every place it says PAS, plug in the word Telematics, and you would see that nothing has changed. The new technology has served to replace management. Drivers that can do the job are even more valuable today than in 2006.
     A driver has nothing to worry about until they create a Robot that can drive, and deliver. Of course the “Lord and Master” is alive and well.