A proposal by the head of the Teamsters union's package division to allow UPS Inc. drivers to work on Sundays for the first time, and to create a two-tier driver structure to do it, has led to three members being dismissed from a Teamster committee negotiating a new contract with the transport and logistics giant because they opposed the proposal.
According to a notice appearing late Friday on the website of the dissident group Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), Denis Taylor, head of the union's package division, removed Avral Thompson, John Bolton, and Matt Taibi from the union's National Negotiating Committee.
Thompson and Bolton are officers at Louisville's Local 89, arguably the country's most powerful UPS local because it is based in the city of UPS' global air hub known as Worldport, and because it is run by Fred Zuckerman, who came very close to unseating General-President James P. Hoffa in the 2016 general election. Taibi is the principal officer of Local 251 in Rhode Island. Thompson is also a vice president at the international union.
Zuckerman confirmed the dismissals in an e-mail late Friday. The Teamsters have declined comment, citing the on-going negotiations with UPS to negotiate new contracts covering small-package and less-than-truckload (LTL) operations. Both contracts expire July 31.
The proposal floated by Taylor would create a classification of "hybrid drivers" to work Sunday through Thursday, or Tuesday through Saturday. The proposal, which was disclosed by the dissident group Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), calls for these workers to perform any "recognized part-time work," and not to deliver packages full time.
The hybrids would get 40 hours of work, thus fulfilling a contractual pledge made in 2013 during the last contract to combine 40,000 part-time jobs into 20,000 full-time positions. However, critics of the proposal, notably TDU, said they would not be paid overtime wages normally called for to drive on weekends. Instead, they would be paid at a much lower wage scale because they would not be on a Monday through Friday driving schedule, TDU said.
The dissident group, which loathes Teamster leadership and is suspicious of UPS' motives, said the proposal would establish a two-tier labor structure and create a caste system within the package division. Current drivers would be "bribed" to protect their interests, while future employees would be sold down the river, TDU said. It has called Taylor's offer "the worst giveback" in the long history of the union's relationship with UPS, which dates back more than a century.
Comments made by three sacked officials echoed those claims. "UPS Teamsters are the ones who are going to have to work under this contract," Thompson said on the TDU site. "They deserve a union that keeps them informed, keeps them united, takes on givebacks, and fights for a fair contract." Thompson added that Hoffa and Taylor "cut backroom deals, keep members in the dark, and lash out at anyone who believes in standing up to the company," Thompson said.
Taibi added that he was "proud that I opposed 'Hybrid Drivers' and other givebacks. If that gets me removed from the Committee so be it."
The two contracts cover 268,000 workers, 256,000 in the company's package operations and 12,000 more at its UPS Freight unit. Combined, it represents the largest collective bargaining agreement in North America. UPS is likely looking for expanded operational flexibility with the union to better compete in a parcel delivery world that has changed dramatically since 2013. The most notable change over the past 5 years has been the emergence of Seattle-based e-tailing giant Amazon.com Inc. as a force in transport and logistics.
Amazon is building a large-scale shipping network to manage deliveries for businesses that use its fulfillment services. It is also courting those businesses that don't, a strategy that could put it in direct competition with UPS, which today is a major provider to Amazon. Amazon has a Sunday delivery relationship with the U.S. Postal Service. UPS began systemwide Saturday deliveries last year through its formidable ground delivery network. It has offered Saturday service for years through its air operation. It has never offered Sunday service.
The removal of the three Teamster officials extends the turbulence within the union that began last September when Hoffa removed Sean M. O'Brien as head of the package division after only 7 months and replaced him with Taylor. The union said at the time that it wanted different leadership. O'Brien said he was removed because he wanted input on the UPS contract from officials like Zuckerman who have taken issue with the Teamster hierarchy.
In March, Taylor removed Mike Rankin, also a member of Local 89, from the negotiating committee at UPS Freight, whose separate contract is being negotiated concurrently with UPS' small-package operations. Rankin was purportedly removed for publicly disclosing some of his concerns with the direction of the talks.