Philadelphia, PA – UPS Teamsters in Philadelphia long critical of General President James P. Hoffa’s leadership and most recently, ratification of the Small Package National Master Agreement last fall, will have a new committee of rank and file members to monitor contract negotiations the next time around.
“There won’t be none of this, we’re going to tell you what we want to tell you…and when you vote no…we’re gong to take away your vote anyway,” Local 623’s Richard Hooker recently told LaborPress. “You’re going to be able to vote better — and with more information — than you were able to before. No matter who’s in office; it protects us now and in the future.”
IBT Local 623 members, earlier this month, gave their enthusiastic support to the bylaws amendment calling for the creation of the new monitoring committee. Consisting of the most senior workers or shop stewards from each UPS area, the group will sit in on negotiations and report back directly to the rest of the rank & file.
“The last few contracts, there was no information,” Hooker says. “Our officials told us whatever they wanted to tell us. And they gave us the information that would fit their narrative.”
Back in 2013, Hooker says the IBT leadership foisted a change in healthcare plans on workers that ended up costing rank & file members more money.
“They made us think that we had the same level of coverage because it was the same company, but it was totally different,” Hooker says. “Now, we have bills we never had before.”
Fast forward to the most recently contract, and Hooker says the IBT leadership, once again, failed to represent the best interests of rank & file workers.
“They told us pretty much the same thing,” Hooker says. “If you don’t vote yes, UPS is going to take part of the raise you were going to get and put it towards the shortfall in the pension. Why is our pension in the shortfall? What investments were made that put our pension in the position that it’s in? They didn’t tell us anything. They didn’t tell us anything about how the company was going to use a two-tiered system. They didn’t tell us about how the negotiations were going. They didn’t tell us why we couldn’t get certain things that other locals got. There was no information.”
A spokesperson for the IBT leadership declined to comment on this story, saying that locals are autonomous and free to make amendments to their own bylaws.
They don’t like the direction we’re moving in,” Hooker says. “They didn’t support the bylaws amendment. They didn’t promote it, they didn’t do anything to help us on it. It gives us a chance to hold them more accountable. And they don’t want that. — Richard Hooker 623 Lives Matter
“They don’t like the direction we’re moving in,” Hooker says. “They didn’t support the bylaws amendment. They didn’t promote it, they didn’t do anything to help us on it. It gives us a chance to hold them more accountable. And they don’t want that.”
In addition to the new monitoring group, Hooker and the rest of the 623 Lives Matter movement agitating for change, are hoping to implement further tools and mechanisms aimed at increasing transparency and keeping the membership more engaged.
“We want it to work just the way an ATM works,” Hooker says. “You can’t pull out more money from an ATM than you put into your account; we want to be able deposit info to our members. So, when it comes time to have rallies and demonstrations, we won’t have to worry about tepid support. We want to deposit as much information — tools to win — and any other support system for our members. [It’s about] community action. We need them to stand with us, but we need to stand with them, too.”
Hooker makes no bones about 623 Lives Matter’s campaign to shake up the union.
“We’re trying to give it a facelift,” he says. “We’re trying to transform it. We’re trying to reform the members — and transform the members. We need a transformation because we can’t keep going down this same stagnant complacent, capitulated way of thinking that we’re in.”
After the last round of contract negotiations, Hooker fears that the next time a UPS contract is up for negotiations in 2023, workers will be at an immediate disadvantage.
Says Hooker, “Moving forward, the company is not going to negotiate in good faith with us at all because they know our officials are not going to have our backs. We have to transform the membership so, when it comes time to vote — when it comes time to participate — we can have new leadership in place. They’re not going to be able to hurt members.”