Why Unions Matter…….. Free Speech for Whom?

        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.
        Freedom of Speech?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

Mr. Information

        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.
The Answer Man        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).Retirement        
        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.


“Can You Afford to Retire?”



Accused of Solicitation OMG

Who me?

         Have you ever been accused of solicitation?
 
         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. 

        Solicitation is not a crime.

More March Madness

     People love to talk about agendas. There’s the gay agenda, the conservative right agenda, the liberal agenda and so on. Do you think  that UPS has an agenda?
     I  think UPS has an agenda and I think it comes down from On High and is played out in every center in every building in the country. The UPS agenda these days involves cost cutting. In the past it used to involve service issues, or getting new volume. But today the whole agenda might revolve around reducing operating costs. 
     The March UPS agenda would have had some old familiar songs in it, but a few surprises too. Check out this list and see how much of it was implemented in your center last month. Now I don’t claim to know exactly what the March agenda was but if I did, I think it’d be something like this.

1.  Reduce the overallowed hours by 50%. No more than 15% of the drivers should be dispatched under 8 and that should be reduced to none. No one over 10.5 hours. Anyone going over 10.5 or dispatched under 8 should be reported.
2.  No part time overtime. None. Zero. Zilch. No double shifting.
3.  No overtime for 22.3 jobs. Reduce customer counter paid hours. No OT.
4.  Cut out supervisor use of credit cards.
5.  All uniform ordering has to go through one person and one person only.
6.  Turn off the lights when you aren’t using them.
7. Grievance pay must be preapproved.
8. Cut back on safety spending.
9. This is the good one……….Catch somebody abusing the lunch hour and fire them. That will scare everybody else into stopping their lunch hour abuse.

     These aren’t bad things (until you get to that last one). I’ve always said they need to keep us under 10.5. In fact why not just eliminate all OT for everyone, even the drivers. The part about not being under 8 is a tough one because the time allowances are so screwy. How can you dispatch someone over 8 and keep them under 10.5 if the dispatch is off by 2 hours. That like trying to thread a needle with your eyes closed. 
     But that last one, that’s the good one. They still think we are hosing them on the lunch hour. With all their spy technology, they still think we are hosing them. That’s just madness.

Telematics and the Supervisor of the Future

To continue in my theme of Telematics and unintended consequences, I felt we should look at what the future holds for the new supervisor candidate. All of you drivers know that it is the running, jumping, leaping, throwing, cheating, maniac, of a driver that ultimately gets promoted and becomes your new supervisor. Under Telematics that will be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, (or fortunately), I will not be around to see what kind of person they will promote after years on Telematics. The only guys that will survive Future Stupidvisorthe driving rigors will be the steady, consistent type of driver that can do the right thing at every stop, every day. Of course the guy that can do that will not necessarily be the fastest guy in town, so what kind of mentality will he or she have when it comes to management. Managers for years have taught drivers to lie, and cheat, and steal to get the job done the fastest way possible. Now what? Will they be the nerdy, careful, meticulous type of person? Soft spoken, but right to the point. Will they be a perfect physical specimen with exceptional ability to perform any task in a robot like manner, never wavering from the task at hand, spewing the 5 seeing habits in their sleep, or sitting on the pot? Will they be able to drive exactly at the posted speed limit, never wavering, never speeding, better than electronic cruise control? Will they be a social misfit that is able to go without any customer contact, yet sell the company, and fill out lead cards without using any time that would show up on Telematics? Will they have the work ethic of an Amazonian Unick, with no other purpose in life than to do the perfect job 24 hours a day? Probably! It may be the reason we are seeing the company turn to the outside for their new management people. We currently have 2 supervisors that were never drivers. How can the company make ridiculous commands, and expectations without someone that knows nothing about doing the job? Never doing the job allows them to be stupid in their demands and expectations. It is the new UPS under Telematics! Coming to a center near you!
                                               

The End of Over/Under Allowed

I never thought I’d see the day where UPS has thrown the idea of Over/Under Allowed performance in the trash, but it’s happening with Telematics. Telematics is becoming a story of unintended consequences. With the company’s disdain for it’s employees, and their attitude that the drivers are all ripping off the company for time, they have come up with what they thought was a foolproof system to keeping everyone in line, and doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. What has really happened is they have taken a driver’s You Drivers are Ripping Us Offability to hurry up away. The concept really never came to mind until I received a message the other day from my dispatch supervisor telling me he had dispatched me near an 8 hour day, and that I should, “be in somewhere near 8 hours”. It suddenly dawned on me that with Telematics it would take as long as it took, and that I had no control over time, space, and safety. I began to think about what Telematics doesn’t see. It doesn’t see the bunch of kids riding their bikes in a neighborhood. It doesn’t see the semi blocking the dock you need to get into to make a bulk stop. It doesn’t see the shiny road from an afternoon shower. All it can see is a bunch of numbers, and where you are at any given time. The new response from the driver to management will become
             That’s how long it took!”
There will be no other answer. They will already have any information regarding the delivery. They will know how long you were there, (of course they won’t know why), they will know how fast you were driving, where you were before, where you went after, and how much time elapsed, but they will not know why. They will not know about the customer that is pissed about a mis-delivery, or a missing package. They will not know about the receiving clerk that has disappeared into the bathroom with a comic book while you need a signature for a hundred boxes. They will not know about the driveway you had to walk because the customer always parks in the turnaround. They will not know about the drunk going twenty in a fifty mile an hour zone or the lady on the cell phone blocking the right turn lane talking to her mother about her cheating husband. The fact is all of these things and so many others go on in a driver’s day to day life. Telematics cannot see any of these things. Of course in the “Olden’ Days” a driver could, and usually would, hurry up to make up the time these, and many more issues cost them. No longer! Hurrying up would mean driving faster, (not allowed). Hurrying up would mean running up the sidewalk instead of walking, (not allowed). Hurrying up would mean leaving the bulkhead door open for a few stops, (cardinal sin). Nowadays the driver can never look back. If they lose time, it’s lost forever. Management will see, and discipline, for any infractions that show up on Telematics. There will be no knowledge of why, just that it happened. Therefore there will be only one answer from any driver for anything!
                  “That’s how long it took!”     
 

UPS Ditches O’Reilly

Just as ThinkProgress.com was launching its campaign to punish Bill O’Reilly for harassing his opponents with physical, trespassing confrontations, United Parcel Services became the first major sponsor to dump him today.


“Thank you for sending an e-mail expressing concern about UPS advertising during the Bill O’Reilly show on FOX News. We do consider such comments as we review ad placement decisions which involve a variety of news, entertainment and sports programming. At this time, we have no plans to continue advertising during this show.”

Since Rupert Murdoch is losing money on his Fox News empire, you have to wonder how many sponsors he can afford to push away by condoning O’Reilly’s illegality and unstable public presence.


O’Reilly is acting as an agent of Fox News and Murdoch when he sends his producers out to stalk, threaten, and trespass against his perceived opponents. I wonder how long it will be before someone sues O’Reilly and Murdoch, or files a criminal complaint against both of them for this behavior.

Deacon Blues, The Left Coaster

One of Those Days

     Today is one of those days.
     It’s one of those days when retirement is sweeter than a sticky bun and hot cup of coffee. This is the kind of day I used to only be able to dream about.
     It snowed today. It snowed big time. One of my driver friends called me about 1 o’clock from the parking lot formerly known as I-70. UPS had sent the trucks out on a mission of failure and now they had called them all back in. But of course, by this time, driving back in was nearly impossible.
     I remember days like this when I was a driver. The TV  stations had been talking about a blizzard for the last 3 days. They were predicting anywhere from 8 to 15 inches of snow in Denver and more on the west side near the foothills. It’s the kind of forecast that can give a UPS driver insomnia. I remember that feeling of impending doom.
     When we woke up this morning it was already snowing hard. We had about 6″ on the ground out west here in Lakewood, they had a little less in town, but the forecast was unchanged. Driving into work was Demand your rightslike walking up the steps to the gallow, you knew this was not going to be a good day.
     True to form, UPS is loading the trucks and getting ready to dispatch everybody into the teeth of the storm. They were giving advice on what to do if your businesses were closed. DUH. Do you think anybody is really going to be open today. Not anybody with any common sense. But UPS is not able to see the futility of sending out 400 routes on a day when the forecast calls for heavy morning snow intensifying in the afternoon.
     So out the trucks go. You know that if your first 20 stops aren’t open for business, then you’re screwed because you can’t empty the truck enough to get organized. And sure enough, your worst nightmare unfolds. Parking lots are not shoveled, businesses are closed, traffic is impossible to work around. And the snow keeps on falling. Now it’s 9″ and the wind is picking up. You begin to curse the fools that sent you out here.
     By noon you’ve got about 30 stops attempted and half of them were closed. The truck is still packed. You can’t get to the boxes you need to scan and service cross. You are getting messages on the DIAD that various highways are closed. How much longer will they keep this fiasco on the street?
     By 12:30 you get the message to come in. You head for the highway and see it’s at a standstill. Great. Now what?? You go over the options in your mind. The side streets might have less traffic but they aren’t plowed. There is always a bottleneck intersection or hill that will be tough to get around. The traffic moves a bit on the highway and you decide to get on.
     Now you are sitting on I-70 and wondering why management would send out 400 drivers on a day like this. It can’t be cost effective. The risk must be unbelievable. How many accidents have they had already? During the 2006 blizzard, the only reason they called us in when they did was because they had 10 accidents in one hour. Didn’t they learn anything from that? Who could possibly be dumb enough to send us out into a growing storm? God, I wish I was retired……
     And that brings me back to the reason I’m writing this. I AM retired. And I’m watching it snow and wondering if I ought to go out and do a little preemptive shoveling. Maybe if I shovel off every 5 inches tas it falls, then I won’t have to shovel all 15 inches at once. Sounds like a good idea. Maybe I should call UPS and ask their advice, they’re got the brilliant minds. They know what to do in a blizzard.

STEWARD’S RIGHTS

         Don’t let the boss con you! As a Teamster Steward, it’s your job to represent your members — a job that most bosses would like to keep you from doing. Here’s a brief list of some of your rights and obligations.

        You have the RIGHT to grieve about unfair treatment — whether you saw it happen or someone calls it to your attention. Bosses may accuse you of “soliciting grievances,” but don’t be fooled! It’s your duty to encourage workers to grieve about legitimate issues — or file them yourself.
        You have the RIGHT to carry out investigations of grievances, including interviews of grievants and witnesses. Most Teamster contracts provide for investigation on “company time.” For those that don’t, there is often a clear past practice that allows this. But, if not, every grievance must be investigated as thoroughly as necessary, even if it’s on your own time.
        You have the RIGHT to organize and encourage your fellow workers to take action in support of an issue or grievance, so long as it doesn’t take place on work time and interfere with production. The boss can’t stop you from getting people to wear stickers, sign petitions, carry signs, or take similar actions on break or lunch time. (Of course, stickers, buttons and caps can be worn all the time, unless there’s a special reason for a dress code.)
        Demand your rightsYou have the RIGHT to request the information you need to process a grievance from management. You should put these requests in writing. Management is obligated to respond.
        You have the RIGHT to be present every time a grievance is being “adjusted” or settled. Even if a worker has taken up the grievance on their own, the boss can’t bypass the union when responding.
        You have the RIGHT to stand toe-to-toe with your boss when you’re conducting union business. You can get loud, angry, forceful, and speak your mind during grievance meetings. This is the “Equality Principle” that says you and the boss are equals in grievance discussions.

        All of these rights are legally guaranteed, but they depend on how well you use them. When you do, your members will find their rights are protected, too.

A Lifetime of Fear

I’ve been having some interesting conversations with drivers about the new Telematics system. It turns out that the Denver Metro Scared of Telematics?South building is the first building in the Rocky Mountains to get the new system. What I find most interesting when I talk to these people is the level of fear I hear in their voices and see in their eyes. Many of these drivers have really never experienced the severe harassment the company is capable of, because they kept that, all magical production over/under number, in line. They have been able to rob, cheat , and steal, (and some just actually had a decent time study), in order to make that number. Now they live in great fear, because the boss has taken away their bag of tricks. The interesting thing is the way the company is going to implement the system. The regular center managers are not even looking at the system. It’s I.E. that goes over all of the information, then sends a packet down to the managers and says “hey, look at what your dirt bag driver is doing, clean it up!” The manager is then forced to deal with what ordinarily would not be a problem. Most drivers do their job. When they get held up by a customer, or a traffic delay, or any of the myriad of things that can happen through they day, they just automatically hurry up to get back on track for the day. Most drivers know what is expected of them, and they simply care, and do their job. Now they’ll get beat up no matter what. Not only is the company taking all of the incentive away to make up time, they intend to discipline drivers even though they maintain an acceptable level of production. They will discipline for excessive speed. They will discipline for improper backing. They will discipline for bulkhead doors being open. They will then go back and discipline for any excessive, (in their eyes), lost time that shows up on the report. Their attitude being that any lost time is a theft from the company. I have decided to adjust my Lord and Master Theory in name only. The stupidvisor, (who could never have done this job in the first place), that sits behind the computer, is now the Tyrant and Master. He or she is the guy with the whip. Back to the fear I see. I have no prediction how the new technology will play out on a day to day basis. My feeling is that it’s a new toy, that will be totally abused by the zealot management of this company to justify the cost and expense of the system, and to make a name for themselves. Eventually I feel that new people coming in will be trained in beating the system, but for now the existing driver is left to wonder what the hell the Tyrant and Master will nail them for today. I feel it is going to be the first major cause of turnover in the driver ranks I’ve seen in thirty years. People are not going to deal with the stress daily and quit. I also feel that the turnover will come from the company using the system to kill off the people that simply can’t change years of habit. Of course the most interesting thing to watch is what will happen to the already fearful, jump and run, hotdogger, who are the reason and cause of the system being implemented. The problem I see is that the union has no teeth. The system can simply be used, and the discipline given, without much intervention. What am I, (as a steward), supposed to say? It’s all right there on the paper. The new system weakens our union within UPS more than any other technology. It makes the Union obsolete. There will be nothing to discuss. My feeling is that our contract has just been reduced to a useless book. Nothing in there applies to life at UPS under Telematics. The only usable language will be the hours languages. The company has established that anyone can be disciplined under “other serious offenses”, for anything, and that is where they will go. That is where the drivers will be marched out the door. You will see the company attempt to create a 2 tiered system of pay in the next contract with their idea being that they can properly train the new driver to function under the system better than they can adjust the behavior of the current crop of drivers. That, along with a reduction in pay and benefits, will give them the incentive to clean house on the old drivers using the system. We will have Red Circle drivers, (the guys that survived somehow). Again all of this is based on todays situation. My hope is that someone smarter than me within the Union will see the writing on the wall, and be planning for the possibility of the future. My doubts come because I have continued to watch our reactionary union system, move slow as molasses, to respond to the changing technology within our industry. The corporatist that run our company are way ahead of our union with their plans for the future. Ok enough gloom and doom. My feeling about what may change all of the above is the rank and file, that will be forced into becoming solid Union people. Hopefully they will turn to the Union as their only means of protection, and that is their only hope for the future. The Union loses touch with its rank and file members unless the rank and file have an occasion to rise up, usually to counteract abuse of some form or another. Our Union (in my opinion), should be down there several times a week to let the people know where to turn. It will also educate our Union officers to the issues involved with the new Technologies. That will help when Counting On the Teamsters for Help!the day comes to negotiate our contracts. Their being around will also give our members a sense of safety, and will show our members who they can turn to. Whom they can count on when they are afraid. It can be one of the most important Union strengthening techniques available to our officers. It will strengthen the officers Politically within the Union, as well as strengthening the Union in the negotiating process. If the officers don’t jump on the bandwagon that is presented before them, the Union will become a footnote in history. I’ve seen them rise to the occasion before. Let us hope we see it again. 
                                                                                    It’s time.                                                
  

             South Building Drivers Contact Local 455

                      
                Everyone Else Contact your local Union and ask them for help

UPS driver information