Wading In

    Wading Into the Battle The good Union steward at UPS is quite the different creature. Of course, to be a steward takes a number of different talents. Some stewards excel in some areas, while others are strong in different areas.
     The quality, effective, steward maintains most of the following attributes.
     First, and the most obvious is a solid basic knowledge of the Teamsters/UPS contract. On the surface that talent would seem to be as simple as “reading the book”.  Most drivers think anything important is spelled out in the contract book. Of course many of them have never cracked it’s pages other than to use it for toilet paper on a rural route, or as storage for their lottery tickets. The real truth is that the contract is a basic guideline. Many of the important rules the drivers live by have actually been established by the grievance procedure, or past practice. Knowing the contract on the stewards part means being involved with the Local Business Agent, and staying apprised of grievance decisions both at the Local level, and the National Level. Without that knowledge, the steward can be giving bad advice to the drivers as to their rights in a given situation.
    Next is the stewards ability to negotiate. Often in a termination situation, or a major case on a driver, the steward must use their reporte with upper management to negotiate a settlement on behalf of the offending driver. Many times, that negotiation is the best deal a driver is going to get. The closer the decision is to the driver, the more personal it is to the parties involved, and the more caring people are. When it goes upstairs, personalities, and feelings about the individual go out the window, and the case is usually decided strictly on the merits of the case. All of the extraneous information gets tossed to the wind. The steward handbook teaches that the lower level a decision is made in the grievance procedure, the better that decision will be for the driver.
     The last, least known, ability to being a quality steward, is the ability, and desire, to wade into the fight. When a steward notices a driver being ripped in the managers office, with the door closed by himself, does the steward wade into the fight? Does the steward stick his head into the fray, and demand to know what’s going on? Does the steward stop the driver from spilling his guts without a steward present? Does the steward yell back at the manager, telling him he’s not leaving when the manager tries to throw him out of the office?
     All of these talents are what really makes a quality steward. The contract allows the steward to introduce himself into the situation without fear of reprisal. Many stewards shy away from the “Wading In” talents needed. Confrontation is a hard thing for some people. Once management knows the steward is going to get involved, whether they want him involved or not, the conversations between management and the drivers  change. Management will learn that the steward is going to tear up the situation if the steward is not involved in the process from the beginning. Of course the steward will be known as a radical, and a rough guy to deal with, and every other name the company can throw at him.
 Believe me, that is the kind of steward you want as a driver, and if you are a steward, that is the kind of steward you need to be.

As FedEx, UPS Slug It Out, Rural Service At Stake

     BILLINGS, Mont. — In the multibillion dollar world of overnight package deliveries, Mike Overstreet knows his Billings-based company, Corporate Air, is at the “tail end of the dog” as a small FedEx contractor serving rural areas of the Rockies and Midwest. 
     Yet with FedEx engaged in a fierce Washington, D.C., lobbying battle with the industry’s other private sector titan – United Parcel Service – Overstreet worries his business and customers in 10 states could go down as collateral damage.
     At issue is whether FedEx Express, the company’s delivery division, should be reclassified as a trucking company, like UPS, or retain its federally granted status as an airline.
     If FedEx loses its special status under a measure now before Congress, its employees could more easily unionize. That in turn could drive up costs for the Memphis, Tenn.-based company, forcing it to trim services in rural areas where costs are highest and profit margins thinnest, said shipping industry expert Satish Jindel.
     UPS, which says it merely wants a level playing field, dismisses warnings of potential service cuts as fearmongering meant to bolster FedEx’s bid for special treatment.
UPS is right behind you      But Overstreet’s loyalties are clear. He says Corporate Air “bleeds purple” – FedEx’s brand color – as a contractor delivering FedEx packages to 23 cities on 290 flights a week.
     If Congress sides with UPS, Overstreet warns he could get pinched out of business. He said the result would be rural medical clinics, farmers and others in remote areas losing a key provider of the goods they need to operate.
     “They (FedEx) will have to reconsider going by air,” Overstreet said. “The farmer or rancher who needs that part to fix his tractor is not going to get it. They will be delayed by another day.”
     FedEx spokesman Maury Lane said the impact could be widespread. He said rural contractors are heavily relied on by the company in all or part of at least 19 states – North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont      
     Workers at UPS are organized by the Teamsters, and company and union have united behind the anti-FedEx provision. It was introduced by Minnesota Democrat Rep. James Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
     “There’s no difference between a FedEx driver and a UPS driver,” said UPS spokesman Norman Black. “We believe it is a fundamental issue of fairness.”
     Some divisions of FedEx already are allowed to unionize without the hurdles faced by FedEx Express. Teamsters Vice President Ken Hall said that underscores that more access to unions wouldn’t break FedEx.
     Hall dismissed warnings of rural service cuts as an intimidation tactic.
     In April, the Teamsters launched an Internet campaign – FedExDriversAren’tPilots.com – meant to ridicule UPS’s rival. It includes video clips of what appears to be an airline stewardess instructing truck drivers on how to buckle their seat belts.
FedEx has shot back with claims that UPS is seeking a “Brown bailout” – a reference to the company’s signature brown uniforms that attempts to capitalize on anti-corporate sentiment following the Wall Street and auto industry bailouts.
     Combined, FedEx and UPS move almost 23 million packages a year, said Jindel, whose company, SJ Consulting, has done work for both companies. Their rivalry dates to at least 1996, when FedEx briefly lost its airline status before getting it restored by Congress.
     UPS briefly attempted to follow FedEx’s lead, unsuccessfully appealing to the government in 1996 to get its status changed to an airline.
     That would have put both shippers under the Railway Labor Act, which places sharp restrictions on attempts to unionize.
     The 1926 law was meant to protect critical transportation networks from disruptions caused by strikes.
     Jindel said both UPS and FedEx rightly belong in that category, since they have nationwide networks that move goods equivalent to 12 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product. However, the debate in Congress is stuck on the question of unions.
     No end is in sight for the shipping squabble. Oberstar’s provision was in the House version of a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill that has yet to pass in the Senate.
     Jim Berard, a spokesman for Oberstar’s committee, said lawmakers from FedEx’s home state of Tennessee are holding up a conference that could break the deadlock on the bill.
7NEWS Denver, CO


     Here are some news shorts from the world of UPS.

With more airlines imposing checked bag fees and with security being a burden for travelers, United Parcel Service of America Inc.’s UPS Stores are expanding luggage shipping solutions. The company has introduced three luggage shipping alternatives, including a new luggage box that takes the place of a suitcase, to help reduce the hassles of long lines, security searches and increasing baggage fees. When shipped through UPS Ground service, the luggage box is competitively priced with the airlines’ baggage fees, especially when compared with the major airlines, many of which are charging well over $100 for comparable baggage. Available at select UPS Store locations only, the luggage box comes in two sizes, large and small, has a handle for easy carrying and is made of recyclable corrugate. Because it weighs less than an empty suitcase, packing directly into the box can help lower shipping costs. Travelers also can include packaging tape and a return UPS shipping label for use when returning home. Portland Business Journal

Westmoreland County jurors set free a United Parcel Service deliveryman on Monday, finding him not guilty of the murder of his wife last year in Arnold. The jury deliberated more than 3 hours last night before acquitting David Eugene Clarke, who was on trial for the Jan. 17, 2009, death of his 40-year-old wife, Doreena. The 42-year-old Clarke, who had been in jail since his arrest just three days after his wife’s death, was to be released from jail last night, according to defense attorney Dan Joseph. Had he been found guilty of first-degree murder, Clarke would have faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Atlanta, Georgia-based package delivery company United Parcel Service, Inc.  Monday said it appointed George Brooks as president of the company’s new and expanded Central Region, directing small package operations in an area that covers all or parts of eighteen states. Brooks most recently served as president of UPS’s North Central Region. RTT News  (Most Denver drivers remember George Brooks, a former Distr. Mgr based at the Denver Commerce City building)

OAKLAND — A man who first asked about missing keys robbed the Lucky supermarket in Montclair on Monday night of an undisclosed amount of cash, police said. Police said a man wearing brown clothing similar to that of a United Parcel Service deliveryman first asked a clerk about some keys he claimed to have lost at the store. Another employee brought some keys to the checkout stand, and the man said they were not his. He then followed the other employee back to an office, pointed a gun at her and demanded money, police said. He fled with an undetermined amount of cash. MercuryNews.com

The conflict between state and federal laws over the legality of medical marijuana is forcing some law enforcement officers to take on the unwelcome duty of delivering pot that caregivers attempt to ship through a parcel service. Over the past year, the Billings Police Department has received an increasing number of calls from FedEx and UPS workers who discover packages containing what appears to be legal medical marijuana. A police investigator must then pick up the package, make phone calls to determine whether it is a Montana-legal product produced by a “caregiver” who is registered with the state and notify the distributor to retrieve the pot. All that can add up to several hours of police time. Then, the caregiver may not pick up their product, saddling the cops with returning the marijuana to them personally. Billings Gazette

FedEx Corp. won partial dismissal of a class-action lawsuit brought by contract drivers who contend they are entitled to full benefits because the company treats them as employees. A federal judge in South Bend, Indiana, threw out some claims in the suit, saying the workers failed to exhaust out-of- court, administrative procedures that might help them get the medical, dental and retirement benefits they seek. FedEx saves money by using contractors because it doesn’t offer them the same benefits and vacation time as it does for employees. The contractor model gives FedEx’s Ground unit a cost advantage of as much as 30 percent over rival United Parcel Service Inc., University of Pittsburgh business professor Marick Masters has estimated. Bloomberg Businessweek

OSHA has ordered United Parcel Service to pay an Earth City, Mo., truck driver $111,008 in back wages, benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees, following an investigation conducted under the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act . OSHA’s investigation found the driver had been terminated, by the Atlanta, Ga.-based UPS, after raising safety concerns, and refusing to drive a vehicle, because the lights on its trailer and tractor did not work. The evidence showed the driver had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to himself and the public. Although the driver notified UPS management of the unsafe conditions, the employer continued to order the unsafe operation of the vehicle. CCH

A Shot to the Head

     I love it when UPS shoots themselves in the head. I don’t know how many years you have to go to college to lose contact with the real world, but UPS management must be in a post graduate program.  Shoot, shoot

     Here is the latest brainstorm by management. Anyone who works 3 days over 9.5 hours has to take the 4th day off. That’s punishment. A day off without pay. They always think that anyone working excessive hours is doing so intentionally to rip off the company. And the best way to punish that scumbag is to send them home without pay. 

     They never even consider that maybe the dispatch is f****d up and that maybe they are sending this driver out with too much work. Oh no, this guy is ripping the company off and they are going to pay him back by sending him home. 

     The part that they don’t understand is that anyone working 3 days over 9.5 probably WANTS the day off. And they can afford it.  And it’s a contract violation since the drivers are guaranteed eight hour a day. 

     Unless you mutually agree to go home without pay, a simple grievance will get you paid for that day. So what they think is a great way to punish the drivers they don’t like is really a contract violation and a welcome blessing to any driver working too many hours. In fact, maybe you could go over 9.5 every Tues, Weds and Thurs and get a nice 3 day weekend whenever you need it. 

     It must take a college education to come up with this kind of a program.    

10 Things I Love About Retirement

     I’ve been retired long enough to realize that I should have done this a long time ago. I drove for 30 years and there wasn’t a day I didn’t think about retirement. I thought my day would never come, but it did. 

     Here are 10 things I really like about retirement.

     1.  I can take breaks whenever I want. Nobody says I have to be busy every minute of every day. Take a break, knock off early, get sidetracked, who cares. 

     2.   Nobody examines my work except  me. There is no WOR or Telematics or 3 day rides. If I have a non-productive day, then that’s what I have. Nobody beats me up for it except me. 
      3.   I don’t have to wear brown. I know a lot of guys who saved a few old uniforms thinking they would wear them if they were painting or changing the oil in the car. I don’t know of anyone that has ever put one back on. 

      4.   I can travel in December. My first Christmas I took my wife to the Cayman Islands. I felt so guilty I could hardly enjoy myself, but I tried. 

      5.   I can volunteer at my nephew’s school. Going on a field trip with 28 second graders may not sound like fun, but it is to me because I missed all of that with my own daughter.  UPS came first, family came second.

      6.   I don’t live in fear. I’m not looking over my shoulder all day long wondering who’s tailing me, who’s watching and criticizing me and wondering if I’m going to be nailed tomorrow for something I did today.

      7.   I can set my own daily schedule. Sometimes I sleep in, sometimes I stay up late. I eat whenever I want. I can start early and quit before I’m done.

      8.   I make the rules. There are no methods. I try to work safely and stay healthy, but I don’t carry my keys on my pinkie and I even make left turns sometimes.

      9.   I can have sex on weeknights. Enough said. 

     10.  I’m “off the clock” FOREVER.

What Comes Next

   The New Corporatist  Life at Brown has been interesting over the last couple of years. Given the economic downturn, a number of things have happened due to the financial stresses the company has been under.
     Management promotions have essentially been stopped. The usual movement of management has also been stopped. Everyone basically has been told they will be successful where they are or they will be gone. The question would be, what has happened to the drivers? The most noticeable would be the lack of new hires, but everyone continues to work, and through attrition, no one has suffered an extended layoff.
     Management has had to pay more for their benefit package. Their “out of pocket” cost has increased in order for the company to offset some of their costs of providing benefits. What have the drivers faced? No change in the benefit package and it’s cost to the drivers. It’s a very good thing at a bad time. Of course it raised the eyebrows of management.
     Management has taken a decrease in wage levels. No raises were given, and rumor was that most management actually took a pay cut. The drivers on the other hand not only kept their wage levels intact, but were awarded all contractual wage increases provided for under the contract. It wasn’t for the lack of the company asking.
     Given these changes that have occurred in the last couple of years, what would you think will come next?
     Let me again remind you of a very special year. 2013. That is the year of the expiration of the Teamster/UPS contract. July 31st to be exact. Would any self respecting driver expect that management will take all of these cuts, then turn around and give the hourlys wage and benefit increases? Also with the competitive climate the way it is, would any driver expect the company to maintain wage levels when the nearest competition is taking wage cuts, and benefit cuts across the board?
     There is such a thing as pricing one’s self out of the market. While you would never hear the Teamsters make such a forecast, (it would be political suicide), the worries have been expressed behind closed doors.
     So back to that “self respecting driver”. Without involvement both politically, and within the Union, the s.r. driver is going to take a hit in those contract negotiations. The support can’t suddenly come on the 30th of July, 2013, it has to happen in the years preceding the expiration of the contract. The more formidable front the Teamsters present, the less demanding the company will be upon negotiation time.
     That includes an increase in Union membership outside the company. One of the biggest fears of large corporation is the “boots on the ground” mentality of the Unions. If the corporations are successful in reducing the membership of the Unions to a meaningless number of people, they will win. Your wages go down, your benefits disappear, and you get to do the job of being a driver with the same amount of hassle, for less, and less benefit.

     We all need to wake up to the “Ogre in the den”. The corporations want you to believe the “Ogre” is the government. 
                             The “Ogres” are the Corporations. Wake up!

In My Mind’s Eye

   I know everything!  I love to look into my mind’s eye. As long as I hide out inside my head, I am whatever I want to be. When I’m in there it’s easy for everyone else to see what a wonderful, thoughtful, all knowing, tough, individualist I am. 
     I am never influenced from the outside because I know what’s right and wrong in my mind’s eye. I am terribly intelligent also in my mind’s eye. I get to treat other people the way I think they should be treated in my mind’s eye.
     I am the toughest person on earth in my mind’s eye. Since I know best, I get to spout whatever I want. I know I am right to be a racist in my mind’s eye. Since I know everything, I get to tell everyone how screwed up the government is, and what the solution to everything the government does, would be. My mind’s eye tells me who is right, (they’re right if they agree with my vast intellect), so I know what and who to listen to, and who is a truth distorting jerk. I know all of that in my mind’s eye.
     In my mind’s eye I believe the Unions are all crooked. I believe what I have heard about them because I once had that thought, and they take my money every month, and of course I know everything in my mind’s eye. When I heard some talking head radio guy say it also, I knew he was right because my “all knowing” mind’s eye had already had that thought.
     I am so worth the money I get for what I do, I don’t need the unions to negotiate on my behalf. It is how I see myself in my mind’s eye. I am the best driver ever, and no one can compare to how expert I am at whatever I do, in my mind’s eye. The company would pay me double what I get, if they only knew my value the way my mind’s eye knows my value.
     Listening and learning are not necessary for me, because I am the smartest person on earth. Nobody that disagrees with me should ever question what I think. Don’t they know I am the smartest person in the universe in my mind’s eye? I know how stupid everyone else is, and by damned if they try to question what I think and say, I have the obligation to shout them down, and call them stupid. I know I’m just a driver, but I should be king of the universe, and control all thought with my incredible powers in my mind’s eye.
     I hear people say that I am easily influenced by what I hear, and that I wouldn’t help my own mother cross the road. What they don’t know is that I would let them all starve to death, but my mother would never have to worry in my mind’s eye.
     I want my mommy, in my mind’s eye.

     We all know people with this type of mentality. They usually hide in the background, but leap to the front when they feel empowered. They will never come forth for the people that fight on their behalf because their ego is such that they think they are owed what they have. After all, they are the most important people in the world “in their mind’s eye”.
                We all know where they keep their “mind’s eye”.

The End of the Gravy Train? 2013

     I can see it coming. The end of the gravy train is approaching. The 2013 contract negotiations will tell the tale on the Teamsters that work for Brown. My prediction is that the company is prepared to stomp the living daylights out of the drivers. They are after all the highest paid and compensated drivers in the small package trades division.
     The company has all ready set up the, “we need you to give back for us to remain competitive”, mentality. Given the layoffs, and production pushes currently going on, the only end result can be give backs by the employees.
     We have talked long and hard on these pages about supporting your union, supporting your negotiators, and voting “Labor friendly” politicians. Many drivers just continue to ignore the need for the support of the rank and file.
     Many drivers think the union isn’t necessary, and are in for a rude awakening when the wrecking ball comes to town in 2013. It will be interesting to hear them whine when they reduce wages by 5 bucks an hour. It’ll be interesting to hear them whine when they have to pay 3 grand a year for their healthcare per person. It’ll be interesting when their pension benefits are reduced, or better yet, dropped entirely.
     What a waste of a good thing. What a waste of many good Teamster’s efforts.
                                                      What a waste of a good life!

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