Friday, July 28, 2023

What the media missed in the UPS story

In the three days since the story broke, (see previous blogpost), neither the Times nor the Post has run a single opinion piece exploring the significance of the new Teamsters UPS contract.  They did run essays on Harvard University's admissions policy, Twitter's name change, online dating, how to quit your job, the aftermath of Dobbs, UFOs, "anti-Woke hysteria" in Tennessee and Florida schools, and of course a plethora of essays about Donald Trump. 

So what might they say about the new UPS contract? 

  • It averted what might have been the largest nation-wide strike in decades and illustrated that strikes and the threat of strikes is the most effective tactic that workers have for improving their working conditions.
  • It was a rare win for labor at a time when union membership is in decline but public approval of unions is on the rise. 
  • It pushed back against management's anti-worker tactics that have become increasingly common throughout the economy, including surveillance of employees, the hiring of underpaid subcontractors, and forced overtime. 

Most importantly, it represented a triumph of the reform wing of the labor movement, via Teamsters for a Democratic Union, over a sclerotic old guard--embodied in the person of Jimmy Hoffa Jr.--that has presided over the decline of unions in this country for most of the past 40 years.  The last UPS contract, negotiated by Hoffa in 2018, was imposed on the UPS workers in spite of a rank-and-file vote to reject it. This new contract reverses the most heinous element of that contract, creation of an inferior category of part time, low-paid drivers, a disastrous, solidarity-destroying provision that other old-guard unions have capitulated to.  

Under the new contract, part timers will make large gains, including a 48% pay increase over 5 years and the expansion of full-time positions for those who want them.  This runs counter to the practice of other national employers--like Starbucks--who brag about generous pay and benefits, but then limit workers hours so they are note eligible for benefits and get enough hours to make a living wage. 

These provisions and other elements of the UPS deal could be an inspiration to the 8,000 Starbucks workers who have voted to join a union but still have not been able to negotiate a first contract--if they manage to wade through the culture war coverage to find a story about it.

It's estimated that the Supreme Court's affirmative action decision might have a direct impact on 10,000-15,000 students. The UPS contract affects 340,000 workers.  There's no question that the Times and Post have published more articles on the former than the latter.  A lot more. And where elite college admissions are not likely to have much of a ripple effect on the vast majority of college students who attend non-competitive colleges and universities, a labor renaissance would have an impact on everyone in the US who works for a living.



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