It is appearing the health insurance debate is beginning to rise to the top. Obama’s push seems to be motivated by the desire not to have the debate occur in an election year. My goal here is not to comment one way or another, just bring you the coverage. The interesting part of the debate will be the special interests that rise to the top, and which one the politicians listen too. Obama campaigned on a “people, not lobbyists” mantra. We’ll see if he sticks to it. He needs to remember it was the people that funded his campaign, and the people that voted for him. Not the lobbyists. Be ready for the media blitz.
Some good news for drivers who are concerned about safety.
U.S. Department of Labor orders United Parcel Service to rehire, compensate Bay Area driver Employee terminated for refusing to drive due to safety concerns
SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered United Parcel Service (UPS) to immediately rehire and pay back wages, benefits, compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages to a former Bay Area driver who was wrongfully terminated after he refused to drive after raising safety concerns.
A whistleblower investigation by OSHA found that UPS terminated the employee in retaliation for his refusal to work in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, 49 U.S.C. Section 31105 (STAA). OSHA determined that the driver was terminated after refusing to drive his vehicle because he felt it was unsafe to operate due to vision problems and poor weather conditions resulting in visibility concerns. Although the driver notified UPS management of the unsafe conditions, UPS management continued to order the unsafe operation of the vehicle. Either party in the case can file an appeal to the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
“It is vital that employees be able to raise safety concerns to their employers without fear of retaliation,” said Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA’s regional administrator in San Francisco, whose office investigated the complaint. “This order reaffirms both the right of drivers to refuse to operate vehicles when they reasonably believe it is unsafe and the Labor Department’s commitment to taking the necessary steps to protect that right.”
NOTE: The Labor Department does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
In case it isn’t obvious to you, the corporatist agenda has been to gut the American Dream of having a good job, owning a home, retiring with a comfortable pension. We all used to sit back and watch as the corporate thieves gutted the airlines. They would create scenarios where they would sell off the assets, inflate the stock, then throw away the trash, after everything was gone. Leaving the poor employees, and the stupid investors that were left holding the stock, to pick up the pieces. Sounds like today. Our country has been gutted. Notice the disparity in wealth in our country. The middle class has decreased, with many people falling into the poor category. While the top 2 percenters have gained more wealth than ever before in our country. Meanwhile every move has been to sell out our pensions, steal the equity from our homes, or own our homes outright, and also to steal our health care so we will all just die and go away. The gutting of the airlines was successful. The gutting of the American dream continues without fail. Many of us sit back and support it all with our vote, and our political dollars. I have one question for you all. Has your financial life improved with the corporatists in power? Better rise up or better yet, wake up!
Gotta question. Does it make much sense to cut management pay? Do away with safe driving incentives? Get Rid of Safety programs and rewards? Then turn around and spend millions on a system that will cost production. Reduce volume. Waste time. I guess it’s UPS management at it’s best.
In a world of homogenized, generic, look alike products and services, UPS has risen to the top of the delivery world. When you compare the companies out there doing the same thing, the outward appearance would be a simple color choice. Brown for one, purple and orange/green for another, yellow for another, red and blue yet for another. Even though they are different colors, the overall appearance is the same. The trucks are similar, the planes are similar, the delivery process is similar. So why would one company rise to the top over another when they all perform pretty much the same function in the delivery of goods and merchandise? The only difference would be the customer contact. The extra little time the UPS driver gives to the customer makes the delivery experience more personalized. The time it takes to ask the receptionist how her sick kid is doing. The minute it took to ask the dock foreman how his car ran in the race over the weekend. The discussion with a small business man about his new business and his future needs for shipping to make his business successful. All of these conversations go on every day. The UPS customer has come to rely on and trust their faithful, friendly UPS driver. The customer knows what time of day it is by the driver’s consistent arrival to their business or home. They know they will be greeted with a friendly “hello” or “how yah doin'”, and that this person truly cares about their business, and their lives. The company has even sold these relationships in their commercials. The truth is most drivers are truly special people. The company goes out of it’s way to hire personable people to represent them in the public eye. With Telematics those days are over. There is no sensor in the system for customer contact. Everything is a function of time. There is no sensor for establishing professional relationships that could lead to future business. Again it’s all about time. There is no sensor to determine whether the driver was shooting the sh–, or discussing future business for both the customer and UPS. Many times one eventually leads to the other. It is the trust built up over time that leads many of UPS’s customers to use them over FedEx. With todays Telematics system there will be no time built in to build that trust or to take that time. To most customers that driver is UPS! The company has dictated that there will be no more! In their zeal to improve efficiency the company is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. They are doing away with the very thing that has made the company special in an otherwise humdrum world. The drivers will now live in fear that they will be disciplined for any extra time that will show up on Telematics in their delivery day. The first thing to go will be taking time to service the customer. After the center manager has hauled the driver in the office a few times, (like it or not “company” the driver perceives that meeting as discipline), the driver will cease to make that special effort to help the customer. The driver will conform to the company demand of efficient production without customer contact, and the customer will be left with that uncaring, unfriendly feeling they get from the other delivery companies. When the time comes for them to make their decisions about who they want to handle their shipping needs, there will be nothing to differentiate UPS from all the other wannabes. The disappearance of customer contact will certainly make each driver more efficient on a day to day basis. The question would be, “what will be the overall effect on the company’s goals of volume development”. It’s just another one of those unintended consequences of Telematics. The other effect will be the driver’s sense of pride in UPS. Without the opportunity to show they care, and with the constant scrutiny, the tendency will be for the driver to become less caring, and involved, in the success of the company. For many people the world is all about money. The truth is, money doesn’t make the world go around. Many drivers take pride in what they do because they know they are having an effect in people’s lives in even some small way. Telematics will see to it that those days are over. Another unintended consequence!
UPS has stopped giving safe driving awards. They also are stopping their years of service awards. To the best of my knowledge there will be no Circle of Honor Banquet either. It’s really no surprise. If management gets no raises, the good drivers get no reward. There take that. I guess it will be the end of unreported accidents as well. We now go into “who cares” mode, which is where everyone should have been to start with. Just another example of how the company looks at you as a liability, not an asset. They can spend Millions on Telematics, but they can only trash the real producers for this company. Roll over in your grave Jim Casey.
A most glaring example of the power imbalance on the job concerns the freedom of speech. Often celebrated as the most cherished right of a free citizen, most Americans are astonished to learn that freedom of speech does not extend to the workplace, or at least not to workers. It is literally true that free speech exists for bosses, but not workers. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights applies only to the encroachment by government on citizens’ speech. It does not protect workers’ speech, nor does it forbid the “private” denial of freedom of speech. Moreover, in a ruling that further tilted the balance of power (against workers) in the workplace, the Supreme Court held that corporations are “persons” and therefore must be afforded the protection of the Bill of Rights. So, any legislation (e.g. the National Labor Relations Act) or agency (e.g. the National Labor Relations Board) that seek to restrict a corporate “person’s” freedom of speech, is unacceptable. Employers’ First Amendment rights mean that they are entitled to hold “captive audience meetings” – compulsory sessions in which management lectures employees on the employers’ views of unions. Neither employees nor their unions have the right of response. It’s almost as if the worksite is not a part of the United States. Workers “voluntarily” relinquish their rights when they enter into an employment relationship. So, workers can be disciplined by management (with no presumption of innocence) and they can be denied freedom of speech by their employer. The First Amendment only protects persons (including transnational corporations designated as persons) against the infringement of their rights by government – but not the infringement of rights of real persons (workers) by the private concentration of power and wealth, known as corporations. Such limitations on workers’ rights are incompatible with the requirements of a genuine democracy. In comparison to European countries, the legal rights of workers in the US are remarkably limited. For a country that prides itself on individual rights, how can we permit the wholesale denial of those rights for tens of millions of American workers? Think about it. Elaine Bernard
One of the roles a steward often plays is the job of Mr. Information. People have all kinds of questions and it’s often up to us to have all kinds of answers. Most people want answers to immediate problems, like how many 8-hour requests does the center allow off each day? Are option days given by seniority or first come, first serve? What do I do about excessive hours? I don’t mind being the Answer Man, it’s kind of fun sometimes. But sometimes I give people advice on questions they haven’t ask. Especially new hires. New hires are often so engrossed in trying to get the job done that they can’t see the forest for the trees. One area where new hires often need some friendly advice from the old steward is in the area of retirement planning. Now I’m not a financial advisor and I don’t claim to be. In fact, those are the first words out of my mouth. “I’m not a financial advisor, but…”. The most important part of financial planning is to start as soon as you can. Like now. The company offers a payroll deduction for the Teamster-UPS 401(k). It amazes me that only about half of the full timers take advantage of this easy way to save. It’s simple and painless and 20 years up the road you will kick yourself in the ass if you didn’t bother signing up for it. That’s always the first thing I tell newbies. Then I direct them to the resources they can use to get signed up. Every steward should know how to get a new hire signed up with the 401(k). The next thing I talk to people about is the pension. I encourage them to go online and read everything they can about pensions and pension legislation. I give them the addresses of a few pension activist websites that allow people to keep abreast of and participate in pension reform. I never say it, but secretly I fear that many of the drivers starting out today will not have a fixed amount pension like we know when they reach retirement age. By fixed amount, I mean things like $2500 at 25 and out. That’s why it’s so important to start saving from day one as a driver. Some people look at me like I’m crazy because they think they will always have enough money or enough time to save some money for retirement. Those people need a little wake up call. PBS did a story on Frontline that is available online to watch from the comfort of your own computer chair. It’s called “Can You Afford to Retire?” You can watch the whole 60 minute show online and believe me, it’s scarier than any Stephen King novel. They make the case that the reality of the situation is that pensions are disappearing and most of us will outlive our savings. Every steward should watch this show. People count on us to give them advice and if we aren’t scared shitless by what the future holds financially, then we probably aren’t giving them the right answers. So strap yourself into your computer chair and start the movie. Believe me, this ain’t no love story.
Of course, I’m talking about soliciting grievances. UPS management loves to accuse Stewards of soliciting grievances. They act like it’s a felony offense. I used to get hauled into the office regularly and the boss would point his finger at me and growl, “I think you’ve been soliciting grievances.” He’d look real pissed off and imply that I had committed a Cardinal Sin. Soliciting grievances is not a Cardinal Sin. In fact, it’s another Right of Union Stewards that is protected under the National Labor Relations Act. You can solicit grievances all day long. In fact, it’s your duty to encourage workers to grieve about legitimate issues — or file it yourself. Don’t let management fool you.