Stewards Do the Math

I wrote this back when I was making $25 an hour. When you plug in your current wage rate, your argument becomes even stronger. Try it.

Have you ever gone into the office to represent a driver and had your manager whip out the calculator and start pounding in numbers. He’ll say this poor slob of a driver is not using the methods and he’s not keeping his nose to the grindstone and he’s costing the center money instead of making the center money. The manager will have a stack of reports to back up his claim: the WOR showing the driver is over allowed; Sparky, showing which stops the driver wastes time at; previous OJS rides showing demonstrated levels of performance and so on. But the ultimate hammer is the calculator. If the guy is 2 hours over and that’s at the OT rate of $38.02, then he’s literally stealing $76.04 from the company every day. That’s $380.20 per week. Or almost $2000 a year. If 50,000 drivers did this, that’s……oh my God, all the profit the company makes!! We can’t afford to have you around, you’re going to bring down the whole company! This justifies a 3 day ride and all future harassment…just look at these numbers!
But there is some math that managers never do. How about these numbers. Let’s say this poor slob of a driver comes in every day and spends just 15 minutes in his car before his start time looking for misloads and checking out his Next Day Air. That’s 15 minutes he doesn’t have on the end of his day where it would be paid at the OT rate. That’s one and a quarter hours per week at $38.02 or $47.53. Or almost $250 a year. If the guy works 25 years, he has given the company $6178 in free labor by looking over his load every morning for just 15 minutes.
Let’s say he also skips his lunch. That’s 5 hours a week at $38.02, or $190.10 a week. That’s $10,000 a year that the company gets in free labor. Let’s say 20,000 drivers are skipping their lunch everyday. That’s $200,000,000 a year in free labor that UPS is getting. Then there is the tax saving for them because they don’t have to pay Federal or State tax on that amount. The savings to UPS are huge.
But managers never do that math in the office. Stewards need to do that math and have it written in the back of their contract book so they can quote it. We can crunch numbers just as well as they can. Fight fire with fire.


UPS and the “Package King”


United Parcel Service is one of the most recognized brands in the world of corporations. But the company’s image has been meticulously created. Once you pierce the brown wall of propaganda, what’s behind isn’t pretty–as union workers, mainly members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, at the company’s 1,900 U.S. facilities know well.
In this first article in an occasional series on the history of United Parcel Service and workers’ resistance to Big Brown, Joe Allen examines the company’s founder James E. Casey–the so-called “Package King”–whose personality and polices still shape UPS to this very day.


UPS founder James CaseyUPS founder James Casey

“Deft fingers wrapping thousands of bundles…What a treat! Ah, packages!”
— James E. Casey

THERE ARE few other things in life that get a UPS supervisor or manager more excited than the sight of thousands of packages or Next Day Air envelopes careening down the myriad of belts crisscrossing the company’s sorting and distribution centers–known as “hubs” in the company lingo–across the world.
Their eyes widen and their breath quickens. You can almost see the dollars signs popping up in their eyes, like old-fashioned cash registers, as each package passes by. These packages of every shape and size are like little nuggets of gold, from which the UPS fortune is made.
They are more important than the physical and mental health of the workers who sort, load, unload, repair, clerk and deliver them. UPS includes in its corporate “mission” statement noble-sounding words like “service” and “integrity”–as if the company is most concerned with promoting the common good. But Big Brown is, after all, first and foremost in the business of making money off of its workers.
The obsession with packages goes right back to the company’s hallowed founder, James E. Casey. “Casey once told me that he had never drunk a glass of milk in his life,” the head of a department store told a reporter for The New Yorker for a 1947 story, “and I thought for a minute, he might stop talking about those goddamn packages and tell me why he never drunk a glass of milk. But no! He went right into night loading operations in Chicago.” Clearly, Casey wasn’t much of a conversationalist.
On another occasion, Casey, while visiting a client’s store, dropped into the wrapping room and was reportedly ecstatic at the sight: “Casey’s eyes sparkled, and he began to twitch. ‘Deft fingers!’ he said. ‘Deft fingers wrapping thousands of bundles. Neatly tied. Neatly addressed! Stuffed with soft tissue paper! What a treat! Ah, packages!'”
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WHAT SPARKED the interest of The New Yorker about Jim Casey and UPS in this post-Second World War era? It appears to have been a messy, wildcat strike on the streets of Manhattan that shut down UPS operations for 51 days in the fall of 1946. (More on this later.)
Those were the days when UPS did home deliveries for New York City’s leading department stores, such as Lord & Taylor. Customers would buy their items, and the department store would package and wrap them, then hand them over to UPS for home delivery. The strike prevented New York’s middle- and upper-class shoppers from getting their goods, which seems to have the eye of the editors at the New Yorker.
Philip Hamburger–who would stay at the New Yorker for a total of six and a half decades–was assigned to go interview Casey and get a feel for the company that had become so indispensable to New York City’s retail businesses.
The company was already a third of a century old by this point. A 19-year-old Casey founded UPS in 1907 as a bicycle messenger service in Seattle. In 1913, it started to deliver packages, and over the next decade, the company spread down the West Coast.
By 1934, Casey was important enough to be featured in the “Talk of the Town” section of the New Yorker. The editors gave the story the distinctly condescending title of “Errand Boy.” It was a short article that acknowledged Casey had begun his career doing “errands,” but his business had changed considerably: “He’s sort of an errand king now, the head of the United Parcel Service, which delivers packages by the millions in this city and elsewhere.”
The article, by an unnamed author, picked up on company policies that struck many people then (and now) as military or even cult-like: “The employees are about as regimented a bunch of people as you’ve ever heard of. For his first few weeks, he is tutored in driving, delivery and courtesy. This involves a hundred and thirty-eight rules.”
The story goes on to mention a summer camp: “When business is slack, the unmarried deliveryman may spend their time at a camp in Connecticut which the company operates for them. Several hundred go there every year for a month or two.” What went on in these summer camps may be lost to history, but they were clearly about creating a private world, where employees were strongly encouraged to adopt the values of Jim Casey.
By the time Philip Hamburger interviewed Casey following the Second World War, Casey’s stature in New York had made a big leap forward. Reflecting this, he was bumped up to the “Profiles” section of The New Yorker, usually reserved for major figures of the business and political world.
Casey was no longer a new face in town–he was the head of a major business, and a growing one. Late in 1946, UPS delivered its one-billionth package. In 1947, it employed 2,800 people and operated 1,700 trucks in New York City alone. It was operating in 17 major cities across the U.S. and delivering 100 million packages a year.
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WHAT MAKES Hamburger’s profile of Casey so interesting seven decades later is that it gives an unvarnished look at the man, as opposed to the manufactured legend familiar to UPSers today. Casey comes across as an austere disciplinarian with a more than slightly loopy fascination with packages.
“Casey is a tall, spare man of 59, with high cheekbones and, most of the time, a rigidly detached expression,” reported Hamburger. He found Casey hard to interview, describing him as a “taciturn”–what most of us would call dour–who was reluctant to answer questions.
However, when reporter and interviewee moved from Casey’s fourth floor office at the old Manhattan hub on First Avenue to view the endlessly moving belts of the package sorting system below, Casey perked up. “He becomes animated in the presence of packages.” Hamburger described the “surf-like rumble of the parcels” filling the air–something that anybody who has spent any time in a UPS hub will recognize to this day.
“Casey’s life is devoted almost entirely to packages,” Hamburger reported, though this vocation was combined with a deliberate faux modesty about it all–“Anybody can deliver a package,” Casey told Hamburger. But Hamburger wasn’t buying the line–“He does not believe it,” the reporter wrote.
Hamburger picked up on the way Casey packaged UPS’s image, just like the neat and tidy packages his drivers picked up at fashionable New York department stores, and that so delighted Casey. “Over the years,” Hamburger wrote, “Casey has taken what might look like to outsiders like the simple job of handling and delivering packages and turned it into a semi-religious rite.”
A “simple job” is an overstatement, but “turning it into a semi-religious rite” is right on the money. Every aspect of the company image was carefully created, from the crisply pressed brown uniforms to the company slogan “Safe, Swift, Sure.” The mystique of the UPS driver was an important selling point–an incredulous Hamburger wrote that the drivers “are governed by a series of regulations that could be easily be mistaken for the house rules of a Tibetan monastery.”
Drivers had to carefully study–before hitting the road each day–illustrated cards that scolded them to: “Check and double check: Are your shoes shined? Is your hair cut? Are you clean-shaven? Are your hands clean? Is your uniform pressed?”
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IF THIS seems like an obnoxious way to treat grown adults, it didn’t seem to bother Casey, who made periodic visits to UPS hubs to enforce the rules, like a general inspecting his troops. “On one such visit,” according to Hamburger, “he stood by as a [hub] supervisor assembled a group of drivers and package sorters, and examined their shoe shines and haircuts.” He then declared, “The spokes of our wheel spell service,” and left the building.
Casey made workers jump through hoops to get hired. According to Hamburger:

Applicants for United Parcel Service jobs must, first of all, impress a personnel man with their neatness and courtesy. If they pass muster on those counts, they are subjected to intelligence tests. No one at United Parcel, least of all Casey, is searching for a genius-type deliveryman. The personnel department has discovered that high-scoring applicants are inclined to be temperamental and to mislay their bundles. Assuming that the results of an applicant’s test place him somewhere in the broad category between wizard and idiot, and that job is available, he is hired.

Hamburger’s snide comments aside, he does capture Casey’s search for the moldable personality he could shape into the proper driver. This molding process continued after work hours. “A man who gets a job at United Parcel finds that his education has just begun,” Hamburger writes. “The leisure hours of an employee are supposed to be crowded with self-improvement projects.”
Such projects included reading the UPS newsletter The Big Idea, which was filled with homilies to the UPS way of doing business, employee profiles and witticisms from Casey himself.
The UPS search for the perfect worker led to periodic rebellions against the military disciple and cult-like atmosphere at the heart of Casey’s policies. The company’s founder never tired of trying to “improve” his drivers. One of Casey’s more obsequious biographers, Gregg Niemann, in his 2007 book Big Brown: The Untold Story of UPS, enthusiastically defends such policies with the statement, “UPSers turn out better than machines.”
Casey’s obsession with packages also never flagged. In one memorable scene in Hamburger’s article, he captured both Casey’s fascination and bigotries together:

Recently, he stood silent with a friend, watching thousands and thousands of packages. He was silent for several minutes. Then his face lighted up. He seemed exhilarated. “Packages for everybody!’ he exclaimed suddenly. “Packages for Chinatown–a difficult area. Drivers have trouble remembering who they left the package with–everybody looks alike! Packages for Harlem–hardly any charge accounts in Harlem! Packages for the West Side–democratic neighborhood. Give packages the kind of welcome packages deserve! Packages for Greenwich Village–very odd packages!

In the next installment of this series: How did the Teamsters penetrate this strange little fiefdom?

Despite Local “No” Votes, Teamsters International Declares UPS Contract Ratified

UPS truck and driver(Photo: torbakhopper)The largest private sector union contract in the U.S. had been in limbo since last summer, as UPS workers around the country voted down their local supplements, sometimes more than once. Now the five-year contract is ratified—by fiat of the Teamsters international.

Members were angry about concessions on health care in the national agreement but also about other issues such as the need for more full-time jobs.

In 1991 the IBT constitution was overhauled to give members more democratic rights. Members won the right to vote on local supplements and riders to national contracts. Two hundred thirty-five thousand full- and part-time UPS workers vote on 28 local and regional agreements that cover issues such as the grievance machinery, working conditions, rules on seasonal workers, seniority rules, and in some cases, pensions. The constitution stipulates that the national agreement doesn’t go into effect until all supplements are ratified.

Early last year, the Teamsters’ chief bargainer with UPS, Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, declared ending harassment the union’s main issue. But he quickly switched to a defense of health care when UPS demanded that members start paying premiums of $90 a week. Hall declared that members would not “pay nine cents” for their plans. The International sponsored a dozen local rallies against the cuts.

But Hall soon accepted health care concessions anyway, for 140,000 members, including all part-timers (the insurance plans vary regionally). Members were switched from a company plan to a Taft-Hartley plan called TeamCare that had inferior coverage, higher out-of-pocket expenses, and stiffer retiree premiums.

Forty-seven percent voted no on the national contract.

Lots of Reasons to Vote No

There were plenty of other reasons to vote no. Hall achieved only unenforceable language on limiting UPS’s intense harassment, surveillance, and overtime for drivers that averages two hours a day. A year was added to the time it takes drivers to reach top pay.
UPS made $4.4 billion in profits in 2012 and another $4.4 billion in 2013.

So angry members organized, including on Facebook. In Philadelphia, for example, workers made “Vote No” T-shirts that they wore to work and to contract meetings.

Members voted down their local riders and supplements in 18 areas, mostly in the Midwest, the West, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, covering 63 percent of UPS Teamsters.

These no votes forced the international to go back to the table and improve Teamcare benefits and lower out-of-pocket costs, not just for those in the areas that voted no but for everyone in the plan.

In the wake of these improvements, the contract was approved on a second (or third) vote in most areas, after a big push by the International. But members held out in Louisville, Kentucky; Philadelphia; and western Pennsylvania.

Enormous Leverage

Louisville is the site of UPS’s enormous air hub, where any package that goes by air to the Midwest and South makes a stop. Nine thousand UPSers work at the hub—with, of course, a great deal of power to affect operations. But their leverage was squandered.

On April 16 members of Local 89 in Louisville voted no on their supplement for the second time, this time by 94 percent. Members were angry that they spend up to an hour a day—unpaid—on a shuttle that takes them to and from the parking lot to their work stations; the site is that big. They were also demanding that more part-time jobs be converted to full-time ones.

Louisville’s 94 percent no vote seemed to be the trigger that convinced the International to step in and declare both the national agreement and the three remaining local ones ratified, despite clear language in the constitution about local ratification rights. It was clear these members were not going to vote yes without some progress.

But Hall insisted he knew why members had voted no on their local agreement: it was solely because of the national health care changes, which were a done deal. Because their reasons for voting no were misguided, in other words, the union needed to step in.

Hall apparently relied on language that allows the national executive board to amend the ratification article of the constitution “if at any time it believes such action will be in the interests of the International Union or its subordinate bodies,” although he did not officially take such action.

The constitution’s language does not mention the interests of the members—nor of UPS. UPS didn’t want to talk further about the Pennsylvania or Louisville contracts. Nor did Hall, who could have used the union’s enormous leverage—a whole national contract on hold—to force UPS to the table on members’ deeply felt local issues.

Of course, this is the same Ken Hall who threw away the union’s strike threat last year. He informed UPS in the fall of 2012 that he wanted to settle the contract four months ahead of its July 31, 2013 deadline, so that customers wouldn’t have to worry about a strike.

Members have used their right to vote on supplements to stop concessions in their local agreements—and to win gains. In the last bargaining round, in 2008, 7,000 UPSers in Local 804 in New York City voted no 2 to 1, held up the national agreement, and stopped the company from eliminating their 25-and-out local pension and other concessions. This round, Local 804 increased local pensions to $4,000 a month, despite pressure from the International to settle for $3,700.


Hall’s and President James Hoffa’s terms of office expire in 2016. It is speculated that Hoffa will retire and attempt to turn the presidency over to Hall. But the 1.2 million Teamster members have the right to vote on their national officers.

In 2011, the president of Louisville’s Local 89, Fred Zuckerman, ran for international vice president on a slate that opposed Hoffa. Running separately, his slate and Teamsters for a Democratic Union’s Sandy Pope got a combined 41 percent of the vote

TDU has been at the center of organizing against concessions at UPS over the last year. A conference call Saturday hosted by TDU member Mark Timlin, who runs the Vote No Facebook page, drew up to 1,000 Teamsters, mostly from UPS and freight, to hear from Zuckerman, Pope, and Local 804 president Tim Sylvester about the imposition of the contract and the future of the union. (Local 804 is also the local that recently reversed 250 firings through a concerted campaign against UPS.)

Sentiment on the call was that the way to stop such contract giveaways in the future was to get rid of Hoffa, Hall, and their supporters. Callers urged the three to build a united slate.

By Jane Slaughter, Labor Notes | Report

Stop right to work


Thanks to Stop the right to work in Missouri

A ‘living wage’ is offensive to American corporatocracy. Exploitation of labor is sacrosanct to capitalism.


Thanks to Stop the right to work in Missouri

A ‘living wage’ is offensive to American corporatocracy.

Exploitation of labor is sacrosanct to capitalism.