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I am an ex ups employee.  I was both hourly and management for 25 years.  I stumbled on to your sight, and I am amazed at how uninformed and how unrealistic you are.  Let's start with the fact that UPS owes you nothing.  99.9 percent of  UPS drivers never went to college.  The average education level in the 9th grade.  This company hired you, trained you, and paid you the highest rate in the industry.  They also paid the health care and retirement for you and your dependants.  All you need to do is keep your mouth shut, work safe and deliver and p/u parcels.  It is a very stressful job.  However, I bet you knew that when you took the job.  It is no secret, and it never was.  All of the part timers at UPS just think that they are entitled to a full time job.  That is not a fact,  You have to qualify.  You are obviously one of those socialist who think that seniority with the company is all that matters.  Try having a little pride in what you do.  Dont spend your whole career trying to do less for more.  This is a business.  Let me repeat; this is a business.  We are here to make money for the stock holders.  That is what businesses do.  We are not in the feel good business. We are in the transportation business.  It is a highly competitive industry.  We have managed to stay at the top of the industry for 100 years.  May we should strive to do less like your self.  Maybe we should remain uneducated and try to increase the cost and lower production.. Then you would have to go out and find a job that pays you what you are really worth.
Read some of the comments NABER received about this email....

It is pretty obvious that this mental midgets' only education was at the ups gestapo school, somewhere in the backwoods of Georgia were he married his sister on their first date. Because of his tunnel vision, I bet his eyes are real close together. Bet he plays a mean banjo too.                                                                  

It is also very obvious that he was trying to cover that fact by making up the ups educational hiring stats, that they recruited him while he was unemployed and while he couldn't get through the 9th grade. (Can you say peanut?) Unlike myself and many others, whom UPS sought after with a vengence from the local colleges. UPS had to get the brains somewhere. In fact, most of us college guys saw through all the ups bullshit and backstabbing and stayed on to make our careers on the truck and let the 9th graders get trained.  Hell, they had to graduate from somewhere! He also fails to mention that ol' Brown has gone out of their way to spend millions on their infamous 'earn and learn' program for college kids that they continue to recruit (and can't get because of the way they're treated) and even spent more millions to build their own college campus in the Louisville Air Hub so that they can keep their workforce on permanent lock down and guarantee that the slaves all show up! Just like their idols did in WWII.

What this little whore fails to mention is that UPS didn't give us nothing. WE earned every penny and had to put in our time and fought to get it. That is if we didn't get crippled along the way, then they just threw you out the door, watch you and your family lose everything, go bankrupt and they just say "Next". If he's so proud, why doesn't he spit out some OSHA stats.

All the while, this puke latches on to a shooting star that is propelled by the sweat and dedication of thousands of Teamsters everywhere. For the longest time ups just went along with the pay and pension rates that were establihsed through the Teamsters National Master Freight agreement. It wasn't till 1997 that we started pulling away. But this idiot wants you to believe that ups has been doing this for the past 100 years. But then again, look at who we're dealing with here. A bourgeois capitalistic pig dog that thinks he's Donald Trump.

It's someone elses turn now. Don't be bashful!

Steve Pocztowski
Teamsters Local 705

Is it even worth responding?  This rant harkens to mankind's base fears.  It is a diatribe of fear and intolerance.  It does not scare me that some people in the world are xenophobic, however, intolerance of opposing opinions causes great fear for the health our society.  Yes, this guy is entitled to his opinion.  As misguided and prejudiced I may feel his mindset might be, I would not dare infringe upon his right to voice it.  And right there, my friend, is the difference between us and him.  Rather than offer an opinion built upon facts, he chose to attack in vicious slanted diatribe.  I picture a little man foaming at his keyboard, with low self-esteem, frustration and inferiority causing him to inflate his self-worth at the perceived expense of others.  He has no clue, but he wants to make himself feel better.  A pretty lowbrow global view.  What a desperate life.

Me?  Before I begin citing ludicrous figures that "99.9% of UPS drivers" are uneducated, or the grammatically incorrect verbiage of "the average education level in the 9th grade" (isn't that against UPS driver hiring policy?), I would be ready to provide source references and make sure that I could write a simple note without making errors.  Hyperbole and untruth are tools of a desperate and deceptive agenda.  It foments cynicism of the source.  It undercuts one's credibility.  This guy surely has an ax to grind, but he appears to be only grinding it with his own ego.  I guess he skipped Psych 101... his phobias are transparent.

If this fellow is indeed UPS ex-management, it certainly bodes poorly for the future of the company.  Is this his only legacy?  Fear?  Such a sophomoric understanding of business.  Such poor regard for facts.  It explains his lack of integrity in making spurious claims and leveling unsubstantiated accusations.

The most immediate impression gleaned from reading this letter is his palpable fear.  He must, at all costs, feel superior to others.  Anyone boasting a lesser education than his is inferior to him, both intellectually and morally... and without realizing the three are entirely different qualities (and based upon his grammar, real inferiors encompass a much smaller subset than he actually imagines).  I have seen such overzealous, self-righteous intolerance before, with similarly worded prejudicial views covering all sorts of bias: race, religion, culture, handicap... etc.  The text is largely interchangeable here.  Fear and hate.  Where does this come from?  This time it is a rant from a delusional ex-UPS guy who feels (rather, who yearns to feel) superior to others, and he really-really-really wants them to know it.  He succeeded magnificently in achieving the opposite effect.  So sad.

Wisdom is acquired.  Some never achieve it.

We are what we are and there is no stereotypical profile that fits every peg into a single hole.  I grant that any organization has it's problems, both management and labor.  But I don't paint with the broad brush of stereotype, like our correspondent here.  Instead, I have him uniquely pegged in my mind for exactly what he seems to be.  Clearly, there are problems in management based upon what I just read.  The company was wise never to put this guy into any position of real responibility or he might have actually had an opportunity to do some serious harm to UPS.

Who wants to tell this guy that Jim Casey (currently rolling over in his grave) never went to college, and is therefore included in this derisive "99.9%" of the great unwashed?  I went to college, but I am not so delusional to believe I can build a multi-billion dollar multi-national corporattion like that poorly educated Casey guy did.  Oh, and while he is still so charged up, this guy ought to drop a note into the company suggestion box reminding everyone that "we are not in the feel good business".  Perhaps his wisdom can end this silly business of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Casey Foundation and the UPS Foundation.  Charity?  "We are in the transportation business", or so this guy keeps telling me.

Casey was "obviously a socialist", to paraphrase a quote from this silly guy's thinking.  The charitable foundations certainly add weight to his argument.

Fruits and Nuts.  I hope this wacko doesn't have anyone's home address.  Those restraining orders rarely work very well.  He seems to have bitter memories of UPS, his career, and a woeful life in general, based upon his tone.  Deep inside, he probably felt deserving of the CEO seat, but kept getting passed over for Pre-load Supervisor instead.  Perhaps he could go back to school, eh?  Start with English 101 and work up to Abnormal Psych in the second term.

Personally, I don't think it's worth a response, although I would be inclined to fire one off !!!  This 'take pride in what you do' crap.  Well, the notion isn't crap, but the suggestion that pride is absent is laughable at best!!  I love when strokes like this start shooting off the whole "it's a privilege to work here ...."  and the "you're uneducated, consider yourself lucky ..." crap-a-roo.  A college education doesn't guarantee "commitment" by an employee.  Indeed, from what I've seen, there is a far better chance that those folks are likely to get all comfy and cozy on there higher-than-life pedestals, with their shiny diplomas proudly displayed on their "All About Me Walls" while they watch the "uneducated" get their hands dirty.  This guy is a total ass.  Investment and commitment by an employee comes from within but is fed and fueled (or starved) by "management."  This ass makes it sound as if the dummies should be chipping in a few bucks for the privilege to be able to work there???  Or, at a minimum, pop for dry-cleaning the Armani suits so when the cameras are rolling, the top dogs can look all spiffy.

When companies genuinely invest in its staff, and demonstrate some commitment to its workers, maybe then there will be a reason to celebrate its ability to "stay on top for 100 years."   Who knows?  Maybe there's a chance it might even provoke some ... ah .... pride?  Good grief.

Oh, and I am  "educated" but I learned more from my firm which chose to forego to "bottom line" dollar figure and invest in me than I could have EVER learned from any institute of formal education.  And what does the firm get in return?  Commitment.  Loyalty.  Oh, and Pride.  Ironic.

WEEK ENDING 12/17/2005

Win-Win, Win-Lose, or Lose-Lose?
We have all heard the cliché, "When there is a strike, everybody loses." But being a "glass-half-full, silver lining, think-outside-the box" kinda guy, I can’t help but speculate how the UPS/ Pilots Union negotiations might play out next week. Does everybody really lose?
The pilots are looking for the National Mediation Board to declare an negotiation impasse if progress is not made by a December 23rd deadline. What does that mean? Well, barring any extension of talks, it seems like the only alternatives would be a job action (strike) by the pilots, or a lockout by UPS. Who gets hurt? Everyone. But UPS will look for that silver lining.
Mike Eskew and UPS will most likely also view a work stoppage as an opportunity. It’s a practice game. It’s pre-season for the Teamsters 2008 Collective Bargaining Agreement. The advantage for UPS here may well be to try out different contingency plans and strike breaking models in anticipation of the 2008 Teamsters D-Day.
So allow me a moment to speculate.
UPS has well crafted contingency plans in the event of work stoppages. To survive an extended work stoppage, UPS must be able to continue operations during a strike. No one is so naive as to believe these plans are not already in place.
Chief among these is the application of PAS/ EDD technology. Management has always said that PAS/ EDD enables unskilled workers to perform jobs previously considered skilled: loading, sorting and delivery. Make no mistake, PAS/ EDD is a premier strikebreaking tool. UPS can continue service during a general strike by using management and scabs to replace labor previously considered skilled. It won’t be good service, but good enough for UPS to survive a walkout. This scenario, however, does not directly involve the pilots, just ground operations that may, or may not, be handling struck goods. At the very least, a pilot’s work stoppage means Teamsters will not handle air packages, so a stoppage still provides an excellent opportunity for UPS to test their technology systems and contingency-delivery-plans for flaws without suffering a general strike.
The second step in surviving a work stoppage is diversion of volume. These plans include diverting volume to other carriers, or with management/ scab pilots. In a pilot’s strike, look for UPS to divert air volume to commercial passenger air carriers and charter air carriers. The key airline to watch is Northwest, the largest carrier of cargo among all US passenger carriers, which alone could transport a significant portion of our volume. UPS pilots were among the few that supported Northwest mechanics during their recent strike. Our pilots refused to fly any cargo diverted from Northwest during their strike. Let’s all hope that Northwest’s union members, and those of all airlines, remember our support and reciprocate now.
In the event of a general strike affecting ground packages, UPS has a distinct advantage. UPS has quietly built-up its’ network of sub-contractors and non-union divisions (UPS Logistics, Overnight, etc...) and it will be able to transport ground packages much easier than it could during the 1997 general strike.
The third tactic in strikebreaking is purely psychological: coerce, intimidate or entice labor to act against its’ best self-interests. Pressure workers, by any means, to handle struck goods, cross picket lines or vote against their union’s position. The primary means of pressure is purely economic. We all need money, and a work stoppage means we no longer have income. But even without a stoppage, UPS may try to influence your judgement on labor issues. Management may implicitly threaten or target those vocal advocates within our rank-and-file. One is less likely to stand up for oneself if it means UPS will target one for retaliation and get knocked down.
So next week, on December 23rd, 2005, let’s see how this scenario plays out. Will UPS and the pilots reach an agreement or an extension of talks.... or will the parties reach a deadlock that leads to a strike or lockout?
The latter is not a lose-lose situation. Sadly, UPS still wins, insofar as it has been given an opportunity. A practice game. A pre-season. It’s an opportunity to test the contingency plans developed for the Big Game, the 2008 Teamsters contract negotiations. Watch for those plans and learn from them. We may all be facing them again in 2008. Let’s hope our unions learn as much from those plans as does the company. UPS may get a practice game, but so do we.
Support the pilots in every way you can. It may be a very difficult holiday season for them. Watch their backs, and support their cause. You know they will watch yours– and they will support you in 2008– if only we watch their backs now.
WEEK ENDING 12/10/2005
When Is A Duck Not A Duck?

The saying "When is a duck not a duck?" is an old adage meant to convey the sense of absurdity inherent to a stated position or opinion.

"If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck... then it must be a duck." Damn right.

It is a phrase that underscores the obvious corollary of given evidence. For instance, if you see a masked man in a bank waving a gun, you can pretty much assume he is not there to make a deposit.

You see someone delivering UPS SonicAir packages, you assume he/ she is a UPS employee. You see someone delivering FedEx Ground packages, you assume he/ she is a FedEx employee. Right?

It’s obvious. It’s a no-brainer. It must be a duck.

Wrong! Delivery companies, including UPS and FedEx, will have you believe otherwise. Don’t believe your eyes... that duck is not a duck after all! Sometimes you can only throw up your hands and laugh at farcical and preposterous reasoning behind their logic.

Witness the assertion by FedEx Ground that their delivery drivers are actually "independent contractors." We see these people on the road every day. They have corresponding and identical jobs as UPS Package Drivers, also known as "UPS employees," and FedEx Air Drivers, also known as "FedEx Employees"; They deliver; They pickup; They even solicit new business volume. It walks, it swims and it quacks. It’s a duck!

Not so, says FedEx.

Yes, indeed it is a duck says Superior Court Judge Howard J. Schwab in ruling that FedEx Ground delivery drivers, who are required to buy their own delivery vehicles, should be classified as FedEx Ground employees because the company has "close to absolute actual control" over them. Last week FedEx Ground was ordered to pay $5.3 million in damages to a group of drivers (plus $12.4 million in attorneys’ fees) in a single state court decision. Thirty-one similar suits against FedEx Ground have been consolidated together in U.S. District Court in South Bend, Indiana. A FedEx Ground company spokesman insists that they intend to defend this practice "as much or as far as we need to."

But just ask former FedEx Ground "independent contractor," John Kirkwood of Orangevale, California. How was he treated by the company? In his example, Kirkwood says he obtained a $1.7 million-a-year shipping contract with a large stationary dealer, but the business and revenue from that account was actually given to other drivers. Were he in reality an independent contractor, one would naturally assume that he would retain the benefits of the business revenue he generated. "We had no say so," he says, "What they do is take advantage of the workers. It’s a way of getting out of paying stuff." Kirkwood, no is longer with FedEx Ground. He now drives a cement truck.

Why would a company classify employees as independent contractors? Because it’s less costly for the company. There is significantly less initial capital expenditure needed for equipment. Plus, compliance with all those nasty little labor regulations to which companies must adhere with their "bona fide employees" seem to magically disappear. Y’know, the little things like insurance, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, payroll taxes, liability, etc... It all boils down to the bottom line. Lean and mean. Cut labor costs.

But if it is so efficient why isn’t UPS, the 800lb-gorilla-of-the-shipping-business, involved in this practice, too?

Surprise! They are! And they were years ahead of FedEx in discovering this business model. UPS can squeeze a penny flatter than if it were left on the railroad tracks.

Ever heard of UPS SonicAir? That is the unit of UPS that specializes in same-day delivery. UPS initially contracted for this service, but eventually bought the entire SonicAir company in 1995. UPS now owns the company, and these drivers performing our identical jobs of delivery and pick-up of UPS packages are still classified as "independent contractors." UPS owns the company, the drivers handle UPS packages, yet they are not considered UPS employees. It looks like another walking, swimming, quacking duck to me.

And Superior Court Judge Patricia C. Esgro agreed. Her ruling stated that UPS SonicAir drivers were independent only in the terms of the "take-it-or-leave-it" contracts they signed. She wrote that these drivers "were performing an integral and entirely essential aspect of Sonic’s buisness, which is inconsistent with independent contractor status. Sonic’s drivers’ income was simply not dependent upon any initiative, judgement or managerial abilities demonstrated by a driver." Sounds like she told UPS it owned a Big Brown duck.

UPS’ SonicAir is appealing the ruling.

UPS spokesman Norman Black argues that Sonic’s contractors are independent because they are "not required to wear a uniform; own their own vehicle... and they are free to accept work any time from any other company." It may just be that Mr. Black has never before seen a duck.

Apparently these "quasi-employees," or alleged "independent contractors" are slowly winning their cases in court. Eventually UPS, FedEx and other delivery companies may relent and give-up-the-ghost, perhaps admitting that those people on the road performing our identical jobs are indeed employees. As a shareholder at any of these companies, I would be extremely upset that so much of the company's money and legal resources are being used to defend a seemingly indefensible position. That position being.... a duck is not a duck.

Let’s all hope the Teamsters can get their organizing-foot in the door when the legal dust finally settles on this whole fowl issue.

Work safely and watch-out for your union co-workers. We are only as strong as our weakest link.

WEEK ENDING 12/3/2005

If I could do one thing for every good UPS girl and boy this holiday season, I would place a business card of the local Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office inside their wallet, or on their cell phone speed dial. I hope you don’t need it, but be damned happy you have it, just in case.

Congratulations UPSer, you have just entered peak season! Your already tough job just got much worse. Kiss the spouse and kids goodbye, big hugs all around, and tell them you will see them after Christmas. Mommy or Daddy has to go to work... for a month.

Workers at UPS have been documented as working some of the most dangerous and stressful jobs in America. That’s not a guess... that’s a well-researched fact based upon a major university study. I am not surprised.

Package drivers? You are in the 98th percentile for workplace stress in America. Who is in the 99th percentile, maybe crash test dummies? Could be, I never asked. But the study says you are. Kind of hard to lead a normal life when your stress level is higher than all but 2% of the population. And then figure in the physical challenges and injury? Don't even get me started!

Peak season at UPS will transform an already dangerous and oppressive workplace into several weeks of sheer HELL for many of us. We will be coerced into working unsafely. We will be coerced into working when so tired, we are a danger to ourselves and others on the road. And that 98th percentile stress environment? Well let’s just dig down deeper and give UPS the ol’ 110% try.

Oh God, I hope you don’t. Respect your limits... respect yourself. See the bigger picture.

Peak will, again, run its ultimately successful, yet usual bumpy wild ride, not because of meticulous corporate planning– I have seen virtual kamikaze plans for employees at peak– but because it relies upon an iron fisted intimidation of its workforce. Can’t do four splits along with your usual route? "Just do it, maybe we will send you help later." Heard that one before? Help rarely comes. It’s just a disingenuous way of silencing opposition to our dangerous under-manning of UPS peak season. Injury and death, it seems, is more cost effective on the corporate ledger than hiring enough workers to do the jobs properly, safely and on-time. It's a calculated business decision, not the way it has to be.

Volume is about to skyrocket. Your work hours will skyrocket. Your frustration at safety conditions will skyrocket. What will not skyrocket, or even increase significantly, is manning, infrastructure, vehicles.... in other words, the basic help you need to do your job safely despite this overwhelming overload. Oh, there will be a minor amount of added resources, to be sure, but those increases– the help you need in doing your job correctly– do not even remotely correspond to the increase in package volume we see at peak. It’s sort of like, "well volume will increase 400%, so for efficiency’s sake, lets add 5% more manning and vehicles, and increase the workload of the regular employees to take up that other 395% of the slack."

You cannot do the workload of 4 employees. Well, let me rephrase that, "You cannot do the workload of 4 employees, for any extended period of time, and still follow proper methods." You can’t do it safely. You can’t do it without endangering your health. No sir, it just ain’t possible. You will cut corners, work unsafely and work when tired. And when tragedy strikes (and it always does for some people)... let’s say it all together... "the employee is at fault for not following proper methods." Good, right answer. Have a cookie.

Ok, let’s just focus quickly on the real purpose for this discussion: How to survive peak?

Assertiveness is the key, pure and simple. And guts. And courage. Are you given too much work for you to complete safely in a single day? That, by definition, means it’s a dangerous working condition. Never, never, never work dangerously. Put your expert assessment in writing immediately, give a copy to the steward and your manager. You know your job, your abilities and your limits better than anyone. Then, as? "work as directed" and grieve... but (in my opinion and experience) only continue to work until the point when it is clear to you that you have become a danger to yourself and others. At 10 hours? 11? 12? It’s subjective. But stop before you hurt yourself. You are your own best judge for safety...not an OMS, not a supervisor, not a manager, not Mike Eskew. OSHA says so. It's the law.

So, just put your job in jeopardy, right? You have just refused to work as directed, right? No, Wrong. You have just refused "to work unsafely"... it’s a contract protection, and it is OSHA law in most, if not all states.

Threatened with discipline? Call the union, THEN CALL OSHA. Remember that number Santa put in your wallet or cell phone speed dial? Use it. Immediately. Tell them you are being required to work, under threat of discipline, when you truly believe it to be hazardous to yourself or others. OSHA will be on the phone with UPS, probably within minutes. Fur will fly within management, heads may roll. (And if you are disciplined, deny that you "refused to work as directed" and write directly on the discipline form that "you refused only to work unsafely"). UPS now has a legal nightmare. They broke the law, and OSHA is in the loop.

This is war. UPS wants you to "just do it", by any means necessary, regardless of safety, contract or labor regs. Why? Because it is cost effective, and UPS can get away with it. Do not ever allow anyone to endanger your safety... we have all seen too many people without that foresight or assertiveness to say no, end up injured, crippled, and even dead..

Always write the dysfunction down. Document...relentlessly...before, during, after. For instance, "I am tripping over things in the dark during my 10pm deliveries. I need a company supplied flashlight." Submit letters in writing, copies to manager and steward. Same thing with, "I am scared for my safety delivering in that seedy neighborhood after dark, take it off my route," "I can’t keep my eyes open to drive after 12 hours of lifting, delivering, walking, etc... I need to go home NOW." Always in writing, copies to the manager and the steward. If the union won’t watch your back, the government should. UPS will hate your paper trail because it documents their willful violations of labor law.

Remember that OSHA phone number? Find it. Call it and ask questions about your rights (they will send you booklets on rights) and exercise those rights. Give the number to your co-workers, find out the name of the field investigator in your area, get a relationship started... OSHA is needed at UPS. Duh.

Why a relationship? Because, my friend, the UPS workplace is changing. You are being asked to perform more work, be more efficient.... more stops-per-on-road-hour... and there is no end. If you run a marathon route, just once, that will become your proven ability. That is the standard you are expected to meet every day. And no one can run a marathon each and every day. PAS? EDD? GPS? It’s becoming all-peak, all-the-time. In many areas of the country, it already is. A relationship, or even just a name at OSHA, will protect your safety and job, sometimes in ways that no union ever can. So learn these tools to protect yourself.

These tactics can play out to resolution in many ways, so please, use your discretion and caution when asserting your legal rights to workplace safety. Management, most likely, will relent to treating you properly when they see you have backup, at least they will in the short term. But management has long memories, and they might try to one day retaliate against you for not "working as directed" in lock-step with their plans during that long ago peak. You reminded them they are not above the law. Ooops! Not a good career move to remind UPS of the law... much less to call in the governmental cavalry to expose dirty management. You may eventually be in the cross-hairs for a head-shot. Don't panic, much.

Should any action be taken against you because of your actions, notify the union, then file a retaliation complaint with the labor board. UPS targeted you for filing a complaint. That is a violation of both state and federal labor laws. Now UPS is in huge trouble. Let me repeat, HUGE TROUBLE. These cases cost the company millions of dollars and lead to increased regulatory oversight. You can see how high the stakes are for them to do the right thing with your situation before they get caught. Proven retaliation digs a very deep grave for management.

And yes, the target on your back got larger, too. But the governmental agencies are vigilant for this stuff. They will, in theory, stop UPS from action against you... and then most likely prosecute UPS to the fullest extent of the law. This is already going on in parts of the country. UPS is in the legal hot-seat over safety big-time. It's just not common knowledge.

But, good or bad, this is the system we have. This is the system that works to protect us. We are not human machines, and clearly, the union cannot always protect us from this kind of management abuse. The government recognizes we are not machines, even if UPS does not, and government oversight is the boogeyman which UPS avoids at all costs.

Why? Because UPS is usually dirty, and the government can do something far beyond the scope and ability of unions in this sort of thing.

My final caveat: don’t get hurt, but don’t endanger your job by being a hero, either. Work closely with the union and OSHA, but if you are given a hard choice– job or safety– my choice would be safety. You can always get another job... your spouse and kids can’t replace you quite as easily. It’s a personal choice.

Still, I hope your choice wasn’t "job" over health. If so, it means you are just another "production tiger" that threatens the welfare of the rest of us. So sad. We are all in this together, so let’s work together, eh?

WEEK ENDING 11/19/2005
How Did That Get Into My Personnel File???

Many years ago when I was a rookie UPS Package Driver, devoutly signing the relentless certifications, tests, training evaluations, etc... I can recall a sage old veteran remarking to me, "you will never sign your name more often than while working at UPS." So true.
In fact, my signature actually morphed over the years into an unrecognizable scrawl– one that was really more an initial than a name– all for the sake of expediency. Signing my whole name on 60 pickup sheets daily was burdensome and slow, so my signature mutated into a slashing fluid scrawl that only I could recognize– but it was quick. Also quick was checking my watch for the accurate pickup time-- I simply stopped doing so. From the late 1980's onwards, all of my pickups occurred at exactly 3pm. It was faster for me to simply record 3pm on all pickups than check the actual time for each one. I guess DIADS record pickup times to the nano-second now, but just don't check the signed times on the "end of day"... old habits are hard to break. Management condones almost anything that saves time, even if it is contrary to policy (nod, nudge, wink).
Was it wrong. Yes, I was weak. They were strong.
I fell into that coercive UPS trap of bending and breaking rules. Shame on me. But how can you not? The pressure to do so is relentless and strong... and when you accede to this dysfunctional pressure, management will back off . That sentence summarizes the deliberate goals of management– persuade workers to break rules and accept responsibility for doing so, or else target them for extra "training," or "attention".... the UPS euphemisms for harassment and discipline. It's a simple Pavlovian thing---  cause and effect.
So let me get back to the subject: signing, paperwork and documentation. Eventually all UPSers discover the paradox of UPS documentation. You sign documents that indicate you know the rules, yet then we are coerced to violate those very same rules, or face punitive supervision until we do. Catch-22. You are damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Your choices are two:
1) An employee can risk his job and safety by going along with the program. Management has full knowledge that you, and your co-workers, are routinely breaking rules and policy, but they will leave you alone if you will simply sign their compliance documents-- then do the opposite of your training. Should and accident, injury or incident occur while you were following this unwritten implicit policy, YOU WILL BE HUNG OUT TO DRY. You may have been working as expected and with full knowledge of management, yet it is not officially per policy, so those official documents you signed will come back to haunt you. Double standard? Hypocrisy? Yes, but nevertheless, you are toast!
2) An employee can fight the system and refuse to sign bogus documentation, or refuse to work outside policy. Very noble. Very difficult. This employee has just painted a big target on his, or her, back. By refusing to sign-off, simply because the UPS culture will not permit real-world application of their methods, your actions will almost certainly lead to discipline
How about refusing to work outside UPS policy? Hold firm, stick to the rules... how about that?
Insisting on following proper methods will, perversely, will lead to the very same result. Following prescribed methods and policy is virtually impossible, as doing so will result in poor production numbers. And while a "production standard" is not mentioned anywhere in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the real-world fact is that any employee not meeting these disturbing and unrealistic production allowances is adjudged "substandard," or (and I really love this terminology) "least best." Production is king at UPS; above safety; above the contract; above the law; above integrity, at least in my humble opinion.
Employees that fail to fall-into-line will eventually face extreme over-supervision and retaliatory discipline, or termination, should they fail to succumb to overt pressure to break rules and methods.
This UPS "management school of thought" works brilliantly, for the company... not so good to for you, though. It’s tough to fight such a well organized, well oiled attack on ones own integrity and responsibilities. UPS has the power to make life difficult (at the very least).... or ruin it completely by willfully terminating employees (or permitting employees to injure or "terminate" themselves) simply for their desire to follow rules and methods, and work safely. Tough choice, a Faustian choice.
Naturally, you will find a lot more employees that fit category number one (above), than category number two. It’s the path of least resistance. But it is not the right path, and not the path we would choose if actually given a real choice.
What to do? First, don’t act alone. Involve your steward and your union in your problems. Try to make sure they "have your back." Next, play the UPS game, but better than UPS does itself... document things like crazy. Write things down. And when they ask you to sign their documents, write comments on those documents, too.
What do I mean? Take for example those open book CHSP tests. That info will come back to haunt you when you make a mistake. So tell the truth when you sign the test. Add, "I was given the answers to this test," "The supervisor helped me answering questions," or, "I was provided with a cheat-sheet for this test." It’s the truth. And you covered your ass. Just watch UPS try to use that document against an employee in a discipline... good luck.
Same goes for OJS rides. Supervisors must find errors in your methods. That is their job. On paper, you will have some problems, even if they are fabricated. This is an unwritten UPS policy. But before you sign that OJS review, ask the supervisor about your performance. Ask for verbal generalities, such as, "on the whole, are my methods acceptable," and note what the supervisor says... and keep asking questions until you get the response that is most accurate. Note his response on the review form: "My supervisor says my methods are good, no real problems" or, "My supervisors verbal review indicates that my performance on this OJS ride was excellent."
Imagine the managers surprise when he pulls out that form following an accident or injury, fully expecting to discipline you for failure to follow methods, and discovers that the opposite findings are noted on the form. It’s true. And it provides insurance to you.
Also important is acquisition of UPS records. Most states require that you be provided with a copy of any workplace document you sign. Tell them, in advance of signing, that you will want a copy. One method of enforcing this policy, when management indicates they will not provide a copy, is to then write on the document, "I refuse to sign this document because management refuses to provide me a copy of this document per labor law." You did not sign the doc, and you have just left a paper-trail of willful violations of labor regulations. Should the document be a discipline, indicate that you want the company to immediately provide a copy to either you, or your steward per the CBA.
Copies to the employee also prevents fraud by management. I cannot even begin to count the number of times that documents or disciplines have been altered following the signing by employees. Having a copy in your pocket is insurance. I have been in grievance hearings where the company produces a document, but I can produce a Xerox of the same document that is substantially different. What happened between the time the employee signed and now?
UPS must have a magic Xerox machine that alters documents, there is simply no other explanation for this, is there?
Throw these docs into an old drawer or box in the garage, but never throw them away. You will be surprised at how often you will be digging through that box in years to come.
Bottom line here, UPS has you sign things so as to protect UPS and aid in coercive management practices. That is their motivation.
You sign (and retain) UPS documents, in a qualifying and conditional manner, to maintain integrity and protect yourself from company abuses. You want transparency and honestly in the workplace, which often puts you at odds with UPS. Write the true story on those forms and keep a copy for yourself, it’s a no-brainer.
You are simply trying to level the field and keep UPS honest. It’s an uphill battle sometimes, but somebody has to do it.
Work safely and watch-out for your co-workers. We are all in this together.

WEEK ENDING 11/12/2005
The Complete Idiots Guide To Organized Labor

IThe Complete Idiots Guide To Organized Labor

I am still awaiting my copy of "The Complete Idiots Guide To Organized Labor", because I really need some help sorting this stuff out. My mind grows numb from the relentless drone of partisan dogma. Who can possibly sort through this stuff? Is it just me? Do others have trouble sorting through misdirection, agendas, deception and yes– it’s an unfortunate reality– sometimes even corruption? All the while, fingers point in every direction to assign blame. It’s like watching Surreal Life, only worse.

Therefore it is understandable this is one of the "Big Three" subjects guaranteed to incite arguments:  Politics, Religion and Unions.

As UPS workers fighting for our rights in the brown-collar-trenches, we see the raw and difficult truths about unions in America today. No one has to tell us about the abysmal dysfunction or decline of unions. We see it everyday. We see the end result of poor contracts and little, or no enforcement. Beyond that, everything else seems secondary. Recent events have, nevertheless, given us good reason to take a global view of organized labor-- the "big picture", if you will. Sometimes we see the small picture more clearly only by looking at the whole mural. Maybe, just maybe... the future could get brighter for UPS Teamsters.

Can we see that whole mural in a paragraph? Never. But a very oversimplified portrait of labor, in my opinion, is a movement that failed to keep up with changing times. Big Business grew bigger, and continued consolidating into ever-larger international conglomerates, carefully wielding increased power, influence and profits to squeeze every advantage, and grow even stronger. Unions, in general, continued the status quo, and became weaker. They were eventually dwarfed by the industries whose workers they served. A huge, profitable multi-national corporation, like UPS, can focus on a single agenda, but multitudes of fragmented locals, unions, joint councils, conferences, etc.. by definition, deliver a labor-front in dissaray, with multitudes of agendas and lack of a unfied direction. Too many chiefs, not enough indians. Where is the focus? Our own historic and successful strategies of "divide and conquer" are now being used against us by corporations.

For example, look at the recent grocery workers strikes: an assortment of individual locals, or regions, were negotiating, and some eventually striking, against just a very few corporate behemoths.....but with no coordination or timing with each other. The local contracts expired at different times, allowing the corporations to weather regional disruptions individually, rather than face a truly powerful national action. Compound this with the revelation that these corporations allegedly entered into an illegal trust, or "mutual aid agreement" to help each other endure any losses due to work stoppages. That case is currently being pressed by the California Attorney General, but it’s too late for the grocery workers who, basically, had their asses’ handed to them following long and bitter strikes. ....And we all take another step backwards.

Desperation has caused your Teamsters, and other unions, to split from the AFL-CIO. Again, I remind you, of religion, politics and unions... everyone has an opinion, and who really knows for sure whether this is a good thing? Time will tell if this move saves organized labor, or hastens the decline of unionism into irrelevance. One thing, however, can be examined with clarity and perhaps allow us to draw some helpful insight: This very same thing has happened before.  So, what happened the first time?

Here is the story in a nutshell. Bare-knuckle labor battles of the 1930's gave us John L. Lewis, who systematically parlayed his early success leading  the United Mine Workers into a succession of campaigns that unionized Big Steel, the auto industry, communications, electrical workers and more, as part of his Committee of Industrial Organization. Lewis advocated widespread organizing of industry, membership growth and the cultivation of political influence, while the parent federation, the AFL, continued to pursue a limited agenda geared towards skilled craftsmen, not industry. These two factions were poles apart, just like we are seeing with the Teamsters, et al, today. The issues then were chiefly organizing and politics-- just like today.

Believe it or not, his friction culminated in a fistfight, on the podium, of federation national convention in the mid-1930's. What happened after that? Lewis pulled the CIO, and it’s unions, out of the AFL, renaming it the Congress of Industrial Organization.

History largely repeats itself today..... except for the fist fight.

What is to be learned from the split of the AFL and CIO? Plenty.  Both organizations eventually competed against each other and each made huge individual gains. The CIO alone added four million members to its 500,000 base in just two short years (and remember, this is in depression-era America). The AFL grew, the CIO grew, and political influence of both organizations increased. Flush with independent success, the AFL and the CIO merged back together more than a decade later, in 1955, to form much larger, more powerful and cohesive labor front, the AFL-CIO, which existed largely unchallenged until last July.

Will the current split result in similar competition between federations, and ultimate gains for labor as a whole? Will the "Change to Win Coalition" finally prove to be the turning point for the Teamsters and organized labor? No one knows, but everyone certainly has an opinion. And the best opinion is an educated opinion, so learning some history of labor strife might just help us reach better conclusions about contemporary problems. Maybe we can learn something from history, see through all the mud just a little bit, and predict where these events might take labor in the future.

It’s your union. Get involved, or sit back and enjoy the ride......or enjoy the crash.

WEEK ENDING 11/5/2005

Coming Soon To An Employer Near You: Eugenics

This week I read an internal Wal-Mart healthcare and employment memo that was secretly leaked to the press. To paraphrase, it suggests only healthy people be hired by Wal-Mart. Yes, Wal-Mart, the huge multinational corporation is a massive profit machine, but are they so large that they are above the law? Apparently so. The ADA, or Americans With Disabilities Act, was specifically written to protect workers with less-than-perfect-health from discrimination in employment and hiring practices. The Wal-Mart memo seems to intentionally run ADA through the corporate shredder. Shhhh, nod, wink.

The memo, written by senior Wal-Mart executive, Susan Chambers, contains a stinging, and most likely illegal recommendation that Wal-Mart require "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart gathering)" to "dissuade unhealthy people from coming to work at Wal-Mart". I smell a smoking gun.

The pervasive insular culture found in corporate America imbues the mentality that nothing is wrong, nothing is illegal, unless you get caught. Otherwise, it is ok. Guess what? Wal-Mart seems to have gotten caught.

Discrimination seems to be ok, as long as the memo stays in-house.

That doesn’t mean Wal-Mart is alone in its agenda to weed out the disabled. Have you ever been injured at UPS? Ever filed a UPS Workers Compensation claim? If not, you probably know of someone who has. What I am driving at, is that it is rare such an incident, in my opinion, does not generate some sort of punitive retaliation or targeting for harassment by management. The only difference seems to be UPSers don’t wear little blue vests with smiley faces.

Many UPSers just assume that injury/ disability retaliation is isolated... maybe its just a rogue manager, maybe a personality conflict. But no, the practice is so widespread and uniform that it strongly suggests something more sinister and systemic at work here. An unwritten policy. Wal-Mart, unfortunately, got caught putting that proposed policy in writing.

Emails live forever in cyberspace. Perhaps one day we will discover a similar memo directing managers to target UPS employees. Who knows? But, I for one assume the pattern and practice of harassment started somewhere, probably in a memo way at the highest rung of the UPS corporate ladder.

Discrimination is a slippery slope. Yes, unfortunately there are some people so severely disabled they are unable to work in any job, despite extraordinary accommodations. But these account for relatively few seeking jobs. Most people can hold most any job, working both productively and safely, given a reasonable accommodation. But corporations find accommodations bothersome, and sometimes affects that golden calf of efficiency and profits.

The sliding starts by hiring only healthy people, followed by specific physical attributes limiting access to jobs, then there is no stopping the acceleration towards rampant and arbitrary discrimination. Don’t laugh, blue eyes clash with the brown UPS uniforms. Perhaps one day we will only hire brown eyed, or brown haired, or even brown skinned employees to display continuity and uniformity in the corporate identity. Or maybe we will only hire people that can bench press 300lbs. Rules me out. Or maybe only attractive people. There, I am disqualified twice.

I close this perspective on the dangers of discrimination, apparently found in corporate boardrooms accross America, with a definition of Eugenics, and the question to ponder...are we heading for Eugenics at Wal-Mart, and UPS?

Eugenics is a social philosophy which advocates the improvement human hereditary traits through social intervention. The goals have variously been to create more intelligent people, save society resources (emphasis added), lessen human suffering and reduce health problems. Proposed means of achieving these goals most commonly include birth control, selective breeding, and genetic engineering. Critics argue eugenics has been applied as a pseudoscience, that it has a potential for objectifiying human characteristics and note that historically it has been a means whereby social thinking culminated in coercive state-sponsored discrimination and human rights violations, even genocide.

There is no scientific consensus on what is a "defect" and what is not——it is more of a matter of social or individual choice. What appears to be a defect in one context may not be so in another.

Many people can succeed in life with disabilities.
If you ask me, it’s scary stuff for a corporation to have so much power over individual lives. Don’t ever give up your rights.

(Note- Eugenics excerpts provided with permission of Wikipedia, )

WEEK ENDING 10/29/2005
The Marathon Man

I am sure everyone has heard of Free Association Therapy. It’s a psychotherapy tool for discovering latent or repressed memories and conflicts. You know the drill.... therapist says black, you say white; therapist says wet, you say dry; therapist says brown, you say UPS. .....Uh-oh, it might be time for electro-shock.

Were a therapist to say to me, "safety", I might reply "Marathon Man." Then I would be fitted for a canvas jacket and a rubber room. Unless of course the therapist knew I worked for UPS.

The Marathon Man was a mid-seventies movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier as the sadistic Nazi death camp doctor who interrogated Hoffman’s character with a dentist’s drill, and no anesthetic. Olivier wanted to know, "is it safe?" Olivier would drill into the nerve of Hoffman’s tooth, then ask again, "is it safe?" Then he would do it again. "Is it safe?" And again, and again...

Well it may sound perverse, but whenever I think of safety at UPS, up pops Marathon Man in my minds eye. "Is it safe?", management asks. I am just supposed to give the right answer, "yes, it is safe." Spare the dentist’s drill, please.

I remember taking monthly "CHSP" tests– open book tests– that ask me safety questions. "When do you use a lockout device?" I wouldn’t know a lockout device if it fell on my head, much less know how to use one. But the answer is right there on the cheat-sheet, and the supervisor tells me to copy it, regardless of whether I understand what a lockout device is. "Is it safe?" "Yes, it is safe." Give the right answer or suffer another drilled tooth. The culture at UPS reminds me of the movie, except there are different devices for persuasion, besides dentist's drills.

Safety at UPS is a disingenuous process at best. We talk about it a lot, but we really don’t give it much credence. Safety testing and training are merely compliance tools. UPS seeks to be held blameless for any accident, injury or death on the job. This is their basic motive. And the result: "Look, the dead employee was at fault because he didn’t use the lockout device.... and we have this CHSP test to prove he knew the proper procedure." Voila, UPS is off the hook.

No one chooses to work unsafely. We are coerced, or even directly ordered to do so by management.

There are lots of ways UPS can target employees for discipline or termination, but generally speaking, working safely isn’t one of them. In broad terms, the only time an employee is specifically entitled to disobey a direct instruction by management is when that action, in the judgement of the employee, is unsafe.

UPS may try to terminate you for "failure to work as directed", or "insubordination", or some other manufactured cause, but not for working safely. Should they do so, (and I have seen it happen many times), get on the phone with your Union. Then call OSHA. Your local OSHA office would love to hear about your instructions to break safety rules. No one is supposed to ever be disciplined for working safely, it’s illegal.

Pressure and coercion to work unsafely is daily routine at UPS. Move faster, lift more than you are able, meet unrealistic deadlines or expectations. It’s a recipe for disaster. No wonder UPS has one of the highest rates of injury than almost any industry... except maybe for poultry processing.

Lots of missing fingers in assembly-line poultry processing, naturally. Lots of ACL, repetitive motion, and degenerative orthopedic injuries at UPS, naturally. If management really cared about safety, UPS wouldn’t have frightfully high rates of job related injury and death.

You have only one body to last your whole life. Protect it. When a supervisor instructs you to perform an unsafe task, remember you can say no. They might just let your disobedience slide, or they might target you for retaliation on some other bogus reason. But you will walk away from it uninjured. Too many other UPSers, in retrospect, wish they had said no before they became just another injury statistic. It’s no fun sitting at home watching Oprah and popping Percodan because you can no longer function physically. Plus, it doesn’t pay too well, either.

Work safe. And look out for your co-workers, too. Some of them just aren’t brave enough to just say no like you.

WEEK ENDING 10/22/2005
What BROWN did to MBE (Mail Boxes Etc.)

I had to declare bankruptcy and close my doors on September 15th. .. It has been a nightmare. We thought we had everything worked out so that the boxholders would have a seamless, painless transition from our store to the nearest The UPS Store, all arrangements made through the Post Office, approved all the way up to the station Manager, etc, giving our boxholders until Dec 1 to have all their correspondents notified of their address change. The UPS Store even bought five blocks of our mailboxes, and those customers could even keep their old keys!

Of course that fell apart the first day, and angry boxholders called everyone including the local newspaper, who wrote a scathing article about irresponsible store owners who just "closed their doors and abandoned all their customers", which only proves that it doesn't matter what the truth is, only what the first person to talk has to say. We just kept our cool, knowing we had done all we could, and continue to do all we can to solve the problem: working daily with various people at the Post Office, calling boxholders with updates, etc., while cleaning the store to leave it spotless for the leasing agent. We will be glad when it's all over. The strain has not only destroyed our joy in the business, which we had in building the gross sales 93% from when we purchased it in 2000, before Gold Shield took over and gradually took us down to 35%, but our health was also beginning to go. We just couldn't take the monetary and health drain anymore. We are managing to stay in the suit, by the skin of our teeth, but I sure hope it settles soon.

Good luck to all of you who are still "fighting the good fight".

Mtn Mama

Lifeboats, Titanic, And You

Accidents happen. That is why your car has airbags, a ship has lifeboats and a tightrope walker has his net. Why? So that when accidents occur, your injury is somewhat mitigated, you can walk away from disaster. Your car may be totaled, but you are alive; the ship sank, but you didn’t; the tightrope walker lost his balance, but he is not a greasy stain on the concrete.

You and your family lost one of these basic protections this week. Did you notice? Someone took away an important safeguard that has protected Americans for generations. And you probably won’t notice its absence until a tragedy occurs. Just like no one noticed the lack of suitable lifeboats on the Titanic until the ship was on the bottom.

On Monday, October 17, 2005, "Bankruptcy Reform" laws went into effect. "Reform" is a reassuring, but deceptive word. "Reform", in this case, means bankruptcy laws have been significantly changed in favor of lenders, leaving debtors already struggling to survive without the lifeline of last resort. The bias written into these "reforms" is shameful. Creditors, especially banks and credit card companies, are enjoying record profits. Rarely has legislation been written to benefit such a successful special interest, at the expense of the American public as a whole.

Bankruptcy isn’t entered into lightly. There is almost always a wrenching story behind each filing. Financial irresponsibility is not the most common cause for filing a bankruptcy petition, far from it. Job loss, layoffs, illness, medical bills and personal catastrophe top the list. Even the most responsible person can be devastated by any one of these tragedies, and America has long recognized provisions of law that give people suffering such adversity a second chance.

Its ironic that this law goes into effect weeks after two disasters bound to trigger a massive need for bankruptcy protection. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated millions of people financially– people that will eventually need protections offered under traditional bankruptcy laws– yet, as of Monday, that safety net is largely gone.

What can I say that we don’t all already know? This is Big Government run amok. Deep pockets and special interests lobbied for these changes to improve already bloated bottom lines. And they succeeded. Can you think of anyone these new laws truly help? Of course not.

Bankruptcy roles are public record. You can access them on the web. Scanning down the details of filings you notice patterns. Along with the names of debtors, the filings list the amount owed and the occupation of the debtor. The first thing that jumps off the pages is occupation: the unemployed and disabled are represented in a hugely disproportionate number. The new laws require many of these people to repay their debts and enter financial counseling programs.

Losing one’s job or one’s health don’t easily allow for repayment, and financial mismanagement isn’t what led them to insolvency. What does this achieve?

The second pattern I noticed is a predominance of debtors employed by companies that don’t provide suitable health insurance, if any. For example, Wal-Mart is highly over-represented on bankruptcy rolls. I can only assume that when their employees get seriously ill, there is inadequate insurance to prevent financial disaster.

UPS employees are under-represented on these same rolls. Why is this? Simply put, you have more safeguards to protect you and your family than most Americans. You have superior medical insurance, you have savings, pensions, 401k’s, and you have unions.... many of the things that most bankruptcy filers lack. But you are not immune to disaster, no one is. And should you ever need relief from a financial disaster, be prepared for a sobering reality. Your traditional lifeline is gone.

Your benefits, your safety net under the Teamsters Collective Bargaining Agreement, is not provided at the largess of UPS. It is something earned and built upon through years of negotiation and collective bargaining. It is not something to be taken for granted. Generations of workers contributed to the benefits you now enjoy. But listen, and you can hear the legislative threat at the door. Rights are being whittled away, the tide for workers is dropping.

The next year will reveal tragedy on an immense scale. Victims of the hurricanes will be unable to shed their debts and unable to rebuild their lives. Millions of Americans will succumb to overwhelming medical bills or job loss. Sadly, people will see no way out of their problems, and some will even take their lives.

A human life is more important than black ink on a corporate ledger. Too many lawmakers have been led astray by the lure of special interest campaign funding. Workers, the middle class and the poor, these are the ones who need protection the most, and receive it the least.

Mid-term elections are in 2006. Presidential elections in 2008. Your contract expires in 2008. These are three significant events that will determine your future. It would be better to become involved in the process, than to have life-determining decisions made for us. Like the much ballyhooed "Bankruptcy Reform." Who are we kidding?

WEEK ENDING 10/15/2005

A good Shop Steward keeps notes. Next time you happen to discuss a workplace issue with your steward, pay particular attention to his actions. You will probably see him pull a ratty little spiral notepad out of his pocket and jot down a sentence or two. Maybe he will wait until you are finished, then as you are walking away, look back and you might see that little notebook come out of his shirt pocket.

This practice is basic and universal in assisting employees in the workplace. No concerns, however minor, slip through the cracks. This is because the steward simply keeps records of every contact with employee’s concerns. When it comes time to address concerns with management, out pops the little notebook. The issues are addressed, and the resolutions, are again, entered into the notebook.

It is a deceptively simple process that management hates because it is so effective in advocating rights of employees. And more importantly, it helps keep management accountable for its actions. A Steward's notes not only aid individual concerns, but on a larger scale, documents willful patterns and practices of abuse among all employees in the workplace.

Should an employee’s defense in a discipline need documentation, those notes will prove indispensable. For example, assume an employee is suffering harassment on the job that results in he, or she, filing a grievance. The employee maintains he is being targeted for retaliation for filing a Workers Compensation claim. In this example, you might establish a pattern of management retaliation, not just against this employee, but a systemic practice of punitive treatment unfairly targeting injured employees in an effort to discourage further Workers Compensation claims in the workplace. Such management tactics have a chilling effect upon workers. It’s also illegal. And sadly, we see it all too often. Management may recognize the threat the notes pose to the company. Common sense should tell management to let the matter drop rather than face a possible complaint to the Workers Compensation Board. Nothing scares management more than legal and regulatory accountability.

Management keeps records ad infinitum, but primarily quantitative performance data. Your Steward keeps records that are primarily qualitative, that being the data that documents the underlying causes, violations and exceptions to rules and management's records.

It’s the ying and yang of resolving issues. For example, Disciplined for late air delivery 10 days ago? You don’t remember details? Company records coldly document a service failure. But your Steward might have notes about package cars being loaded late that day, or the NDA trailer arriving late, etc... Disciplines can often be proven fabricated and bogus with a Steward’s notes.

So, you are not a Steward? What does all this matter to you? Basically, all employees are stewards of the contract, and all employees must protect themselves and their co-workers. Every employee should keep notes or records, ideally in that same sort of ratty little spiral notebook that your Steward carries in the shirt pocket. Write down a sentence or two about your day, every day, before going home. Such things as, "I saw Supervisor Bluto doing bargaining unit work," "I was given extra split to deliver," "I was given special instructions to ignore broken safety equipment," etc..... It takes virtually no time to keep a short record of workplace incidents, yet you will be surprised how effective it proves in keeping management off your back. Often, just knowledge that an employee keeps notes is enough to discourage management from harassing that person.

One of most immediate and effective uses of workplace notebooks is with probationary employees seeking to attain seniority. I have always recommended every probationary driver in my centers carry a notebook and document his, or her, daily activities. I tell them to write down everything: routes, production, hours, splits, training and OJS rides, supervisory instructions, and most especially, anything that is exceptional or different about that day. Management often makes its decisions about a trainee early in the training process. When management does not like a trainee, they often predict his failure, and then set out to fulfill this prophecy. They will then set him up for failure by giving him unrealistic workloads, or assignments guaranteed to result in poor production numbers. At the end of the 30 day probationary period, management will produce production records that clearly document this horrid sub-standard performance. A Steward can easily argue in favor of this trainees seniority when supplied with notes that explain reasons for those poor numbers. Those reasons won’t appear on the company’s printout. They will be the variables inherent to our job that account for our production discrepancies. Company records are inaccurate and easily manipulated. The Steward can help the trainee establish that, despite the quantitative production numbers, the evaluations are inaccurate and poor numbers can be easily explained. His qualitative notes might show that he was dispatched late on certain days, given extra pickups, or that service failures were caused by management actions, etc... It really does work, and the company does not keep this same sort of qualitative data the driver has kept, so it is very difficult for them to argue against good notes. I know many seniority drivers who owe their jobs to notes.

The companion tool of record-keeping is the practice of submitting written notices and requests to management. Management hates when employees put things in writing. It creates a paper trail that haunts management and severely limits their ability to deny events. But I will save that tool for another day.

Work safe, be smart and look out for each other. Contract enforcement is an endless battle made easier when we use all the weapons, such as notebooks, available in our arsenal.

WEEK ENDING 10/1/2005
The Enemy Within.... It’s Not Always UPS

Oh, but to harness some of that mightily misdirected energy at our disposal! How powerful we could be if we used our Superhuman Union Powers for good, instead of evil! But, beware the dark side......

I went to a general membership meeting at my Local’s Teamsters Union Hall this week. It’s election season, with the various competing slates in attendance, and the resulting atmosphere was somewhat volatile. But, that in itself is OK. It is to be expected– there is a lot at stake, everyone has opinions, and no two people will agree universally on all issues. Still, it’s no big deal to disagree with other union members when it's done right. Meetings are meant for us to share information, inform the membership and engage in healthy debate. That’s how we work, for good or for bad, better or worse. Parliamentary procedure and Roberts Rules of Order are the guidelines we espouse. Be assertive, yet civil. Discourse is heated, yet respectful. It’s what we do. And it certainly ain’t hard.

I experienced a "personal first" at this particular membership meeting. Tempers were high. The acrimony was palpable. Yet, I still had faith that maturity would prevail, and everyone could vent opposing views without facing unfair challenge, or attack, from within our own ranks.

Call me a dreamer. I really hate it when I am proven wrong.

Shortly after the meeting began, we were visited by the Fire Marshals. Persons unknown (but assumed to be affiliated with one of the various candidate slates), telephoned an anonymous complaint of safety violations to the Fire Department. As a result, we spent a portion of our meeting proving to the Fire Marshal our safety compliance.... valuable time stolen from addressing our members business.

Members were instructed to sit in chairs, not stand, presumably for a head-count verifying we did not exceed the room’s capacity. That was followed by the usual safety and fire checks throughout the building. Then the marshals proceeded to the parking lot, where our parking skills were adjudged less-than-perfect, and the marshals instructed us to move our parked vehicles.

Attendance at the meeting was strong, but certainly not excessive for the room. Past meetings have been attended by over twice as many members, and no one (to my knowledge) has ever called the authorities on any of those occasions. What was different this time? Elections.

We are entitled to transparency and honestly in the union process. This is my union. My local. My meeting hall. For someone, anyone, to usurp that process by disrupting my meeting for personal gain is unforgivable. We are all adults, so lets play by the adult rules or else we automatically fulfill that legendary reputation of "corrupt Teamsters" we have been trying for decades to shed..

I cannot help but wonder at the gains our unions might achieve if we spent all our energy and efforts fighting against UPS abuses, instead of destructive infighting amongst our own membership. Try redirecting that acrimony, put the interests of the membership above all else, and respect our common differences by allowing civil debate. That’s how it is supposed to work. Once we can evolve beyond prank calls and dirty tricks, our unions might actually be allowed to operate properly, without dysfunction, and we can again gain strength. We will rock! And the inevitable result will be an improved and less oppressive UPS workplace.

But please, to arbitrarily try to deny us our process by shutting down a union meeting on fabricated pretense? That is simply criminal. Shame on those responsible!

Who called in the bogus complaint to the Fire Marshal? Who knows? But it really doesn’t matter. What matters above all else is the fact that some of us just don’t get it. Some of us take it upon themselves to deprive and punish the rest.

Someone stole my meeting. The enemy, it seems, is sometimes found within our own ranks. So sad. So anti-union. It reminds me of.... (gulp!) management tactics! Have we finally sunk so low?

Is this the integrity to be expected of those seeking elected office to represent me? It's leadership through example.... and I may finally have seen it all.

WEEK ENDING 9/24/2005
Men In Black: When A Judge Becomes Your Union Rep

The question I hear often lately has a common theme, "UPS is targeting and retaliating against me, does this happen to UPSers across the country?"

It’s one of those subjects where the more you learn, the more depressing it gets. Yes, it’s common UPS behavior, but more than that, it seems to be an unwritten policy implemented in an efficient (efficiency is the UPS mantra), deliberate and calculated manner.

But a policy? C’mon, that could never be. The "official" UPS policy prohibits that sort of behavior. But tell me, how else could one explain identical methods to harass and retaliate against employees everywhere? The same tactics, the same bogus disciplines and the same court cases are repeated over and over accross America– it’s just difficult to see the big picture, the universal pattern, from an individual UPS hub. Harassment, retaliation, discrimination and wrongful termination are the norm, not the exception, and the cases are eerily identical. Gotta be an unwritten policy, there is no other way. And that policy contradicts the "official" policy.

Yes Virginia, there is a dark underbelly to your employer. UPS cleverly manages to balkanize workers and prevent the widespread dissemination of information. I have seen very few union locals that are active in educating members on the big picture. We need to share our experiences and knowledge with each other. Our employer is a powerful multi-national corporation with influence and resources that dwarf anything a union can muster in today’s world. Sadly, the legal system seems to have become the great equalizer for UPSers, and workers in general.

And so I come full circle again, back to the subject of "corporate policy". How can an "official" corporate policy clearly contradict the "unwritten" real-world policy we see enforced by UPS daily? It can’t. Policy, many argue, is an enforceable unilateral contract just like your collective bargaining agreement. The reasoning is that when a company issues a policy book, they create a contract. You don’t have to agree to the contract for it to be binding, the company accomplished this merely by issuing the policy. And breaking a contract is illegal, therefore an employer is obligated to follow that official corporate policy, as are you.

The enforcement of policy (or more accurately, the lack of enforcement) is now hitting the courts. Last week, a teflon corporate giant, Wal-Mart, was served with a lawsuit over corporate policy. As I understand it, the novel lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart harmed it’s employees, and those of it’s subcontractors, by intentionally violating or failing to follow its own policy book. Specifically, it alleges that Wal-Mart violated its policy of guaranteeing everyone employed in the Wal-Mart supply chain of certain rights and working conditions. Basically, it was their own "anti-sweatshop policy". And while Wal-Mart officially espouses prohibition of sweatshop conditions, it seems to knowingly contract with manufactures worldwide that blatantly violate that policy. Workers are abused, underpaid, harassed and required to endure extremes of unsafe, oppressive working conditions in direct contradiction of Wal-Mart's policy. The fact that those violations may actually be legal practices in various countries involved is irrelevant. The suit doesn’t argue that the working conditions are actually illegal, but argues instead that the failure of a company to follow its own workplace policy is illegal. Wal-Mart created a unilateral contract by issuing a policy book, the suit contends, and breaking that policy, or "contract," is the actual violation. Wal-Mart apparently condones that behavior with a nod-and-a-wink, an intentional blind eye of the rules, and considers itself too big and powerful to face any real consequences for these actions. Does that behavior sound frighteningly familiar to UPSers? You bet.

I feel that real long-term reforms of UPS workplace conditions will certainly come...eventually. Sadly, that change may not come through the unions or by vigorous contract enforcement, but through the courts instead. Things have gotten so bad for many of us that "going legal" may be the only way UPS will address its dysfunctional management practices. UPS is currently facing an epidemic of class action lawsuits, and that may be exactly how workers finally find relief and affect a true change.

UPS can ignore the union, but not the courts.

I find it ironic and sad that Wal-Mart, America’s largest, most profitable employer– and a non-union employer at that– is being held to a contract by the legal system, and not by a union. Go figure.

Can a similar lawsuit against UPS be far behind? I wonder. RM

WEEK ENDING 9/17/2005
Minimum Wage At UPS

Organized labor is in a sorry state. Wages, benefits and contract enforcement are slowly circling the drain. Commitment and unity amongst our workers is a rapidly fading memory. And because we are weak, the battles are becoming harder, the gains fewer. Organized labor seems to be steadily losing more fights than it wins. A concession here, a give-back there.... before long all the hard won advantages we enjoyed over non-union workers will have evaporated.

Today I had a sobering wake-up call in the form of a news article. The legislature of the state in which I live, California, passed legislation that incrementally raises the minimum wage here to $7.75 per hour by July 2007 (CA AB-48).

I pulled out my Teamsters/ UPS Collective Bargaining Agreement to compare wages. A UPS part-time new-hire, at the lowest paid job classification in my Southwest Sort Rider, will be earning $8.50 per hour in July 2007. That will be just $ 0.75 more than minimum wage!

Allow me to put that $ 0.75 differential into better perspective. Make this simple, purely economic choice of the job you would rather take: you can choose a brutal, stressful, physically demanding union job in an oppressive UPS hub; or you can choose a leisurely stress-free job, for only 10% less hourly pay, standing in a non-union doorway repeating "Welcome to Wal-Mart" (and that 10% is further balanced somewhat by unspent union dues). It seems like a no-brainer to me, a blue vest with a smiley-face logo begins to look pretty appealing to that entry level employee.

A worker will see almost no distinction between these two wages on his or her paycheck, yet one job is difficult and skilled, the other is easy and unskilled. And according to this model, both will be considered minimum wage jobs in July 2007.

What will it take to wake up our membership? Will we finally smell the fire once wages at union UPS jobs are virtually indistinguishable from ordinary minimum wage jobs? That could be in July 2007. What can be more devastating than parity between union and non-union jobs? I can hear legendary labor leader John L. Lewis rolling over in his grave.

Granted, our illustrious Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, may still veto the bill (AB-48) authorizing a hike in California’s minimum wage, before it can become law. That’s unfortunate, too, because California is one of America’s most expensive places to live, and minimum wage workers here live in poverty. The average rent for an apartment in Los Angeles is currently $1300 per month. The median price of a home is now above $550,000 statewide... even higher in major cities. Society’s lowest paid workers desperately need a hike in wages. And to the shame of organized labor, this proposed minimum wage hike will guarantee that the lowest paid workers in California, without exception, will be virtually even with some of our union coworkers at UPS. I cannot imagine a more glaring example of my union's dysfunction than having even one member earning minimum wage, or anything remotely close to it.

The writing is on the wall. We can either choose to fight the looming labor battles in earnest, or simply give up the ghost. So far, we are giving up. Will things have to get so bad for all of us that organized labor completely crashes before we rally behind the basic principle of "strength through unity?" Or, will it be a long hard fall before everyone is compelled to face facts, and the necessary battles and sacrifices required to make us relevant once again?

The future is not rosy for UPS workers. Your contract expires in 2008. That leaves plenty of time for UPS to perfect PAS/ EDD. And mind you, it will be perfected. It will be perfected enough that unskilled scabs can perform our jobs. These strikebreakers won't provide great service, but it will be good enough to keep the business up and running during a strike. It's no secret PAS/ EDD gives UPS an enormous bargaining advantage-- suddenly employees are replaceable. And UPS is given new and powerful options for the very first time in its history: imposing a lockout or weathering a prolonged strike, using scabs as a tool to win at the negotiating table. This strikebreaking capability was basic to the development of PAS/ EDD. I strongly urge everyone, be prepared to fight and endure hardships in 2008, or resign yourself to accepting the pay of a non-union, unskilled worker. Our next UPS contract is going to be a watershed moment, and it will rule our lives for decades to come. It’s either a future of security, or a future of regret. You choose.

We can take a lesson from the bargaining failures rampant in traditional union industries; Airlines, Autos, Steel, Manufacturing (especially the current crisis at Boeing), etc...  Their slide down the slippery slope began with concessions, give-backs, longer contracts, outsourcing and the creation of non-union affiliates within their own companies. Let's not end up like them.

UPS is extremely profitable and grows more so each year. UPS needs no concessions or give-backs from the workers. Indeed the opposite is true, workers deserve to benefit more from the prosperity we have created. In real dollars (figured for inflation and actual hours worked), many of us take home less than we did 15 years ago. Our wages and benefits have not kept pace with the exploding growth and profits of UPS. Instead, the company is finally poised to break us. UPS has effectively targeted our jobs and incomes by making us replaceable, increased outsourcing and created non-union operations under the same corporate umbrella (such as Menlo, UPS Stores and UPS Logistics). These non-union operations are the spreading cancers our union has not yet seriously challenged. If left untreated, these cancers will prove fatal to your job.

Yes, you may earn a decent living now. But you deserve more. We are working harder, and often longer, than we once did. Our wages do not reflect the fundamentally basic and primary contribution we make to the bottom line. Hourly workers are the fuel that feeds the profits and growth at UPS. We built and sustain this company. You and I deserve to benefit from our efforts, yet UPS is preparing to wage an economic war against you in negotiations for the next contract. Make no mistake, UPS is confident it will further improve their bloated bottom line by drastically reducing yours. They will be ready for brinksmanship this time. What about us?

Winning in 2008 will require and ugly and costly fight. Organized labor is foundering on the rocks. Our battle at UPS may well determine the longterm future of private sector unions in America. Everyone is banking on us, union UPS workers, to turn the tide.

We cannot do it alone. We will need support of our pilot's union (watch for UPS to unveil a contingency plan for replacing them when they back us) and sympathetic work actions and support from other unions. Other unions can help prevent diversion of volume and halt the flow of packages, placing pressure on UPS to negotiate in good faith. The whole of organized labor recognizes that UPS negotiations may be the last big chance to reverse decline, but other unions will not risk their jobs for long unless we are determined to fight hard, risk and sacrifice ourselves for a strong contract.

I hope you a scared. I certainly am, and rightly so. Please, begin now to prepare for the inevitable. Save money to survive a strike. Schedule vactions for August 2008 ensure extra income. Save sick days to sell back, or use, in the event of a work stoppage. Become involved in your local and union. And educate your co-workers about the stakes at hand, and the consequences of a loss at the bargaining table. We all need to understand the big picture and unite together behind issues critical to our future.

Unite, negotiate from strength and don’t weaken..... or else organized labor will evenvtually become so weak that it can no longer win any fight.

And when that day comes, your job will pay minimum wage, too. RM

WEEK ENDING 9/10/2005
Supervisor's Loss In Lawsuit Is Bad News For Us

A Class Action Lawsuit brought by California UPS Supervisors was recently dismissed in U.S. District Court. The supervisors claimed they were owed compensation for hours worked for lunches, breaks and overtime The court ruled in a summary judgement that, per California labor law, management is excluded from overtime and break regulations. Much of this work performed by the supervisors was work contractional guaranteed to be done by hourly employees 

Why is this ruling harmful to UPS hourly employees?

As with most suits, there is more here than meets the eye. A ruling in favor of the supervisors might have significantly altered the landscape at UPS. The case is Michael Marlo v. United Parcel Service, 03-4336, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The lead plaintiff, Mike Marlo, was once my supervisor and we butted heads daily and hard– I imagine his head still hurts. He was not one of our favorite guys (I am being tactful here), however, when he began legal action against UPS in this matter, I still offered to share information that might be useful to his suit. He never followed up on the offer, and I never called him back.

So, why would I be willing to help a supervisor known to pick on our drivers? Just look at the root-cause of the suit, and the remedy that might have been imposed if the ruling had gone in his favor, and you will understand how a supervisor's victory might have helped the rank-and-file.

It is my understanding that this suit was filed because supervisors felt they were no longer actually management, but chiefly used as utility drivers instead. One could (arguably) claim they functioned as a sort of "Lead Driver", with some authority but not really management. The center at which Mr. Marlo worked was severely under-manned on a daily basis and supervisors were routinely doing bargaining unit work. They felt as if they had no real managerial authority, as all real management decisions were made by their superiors. The supervisors were merely the messenger between management and hourly– a messenger that also ran a daily delivery route, or did other bargaining unit work. The logic was, "if you treat me like an hourly employee, then pay me overtime and give me mandated breaks and lunches just like an hourly employee". Instead UPS worked the supervisors into the ground, just like we are accustomed to, but with none of the extra protections and compensation we receive under the contract and labor regulations. In fact, many new sups complain that they take a tremendous pay cut per hour worked when transitioning from hourly to management.

But the court ruled that supervisors were, indeed, management.... despite the fact they were doing bargaining unit work.

Nothing is truer at UPS than the obsessive focus upon the bottom line at the expense of all other considerations. Imagine the consequences of a court ruling requiring UPS to pay overtime to supervisors. Would supervisors still be running delivery routes or doing bargaining unit work? No, it would no longer be cost effective. Once the costs involved in relying upon supervisors to service customers exceeded the benefit, supervisors would no longer be doing our work. More hourly employees would needed, and it would be the proverbial win-win situation. Those nasty supervisors would be restricted to their regular nasty duties, and more hourly employees would be hired.

Had the UPS Supervisors involved in this class action lawsuit actually prevailed, you might have seen your workload decrease, if only just a little, and more hourly jobs would have to be created to fill the resulting gap in manning. And for that reason alone, I wish that Mike Marlo, and the other supervisors party to the class action, had won in court. SUBMITTED BY RM

WEEK ENDING 9/3/2005

Amnesia Day – The UPS ERI SURVEY

    One of my warm and tender memories of Christmastime at UPS (besides the merry splits and jolly maximum-DOT-hours) is the year of the missing turkeys.

    The alleged sentimental comradery with management is supposed to be displayed in the yearly distribution of Christmas turkeys to every UPS employee. That particular year, our division’s yuletide peak-season was celebrated with the usual trimmings of overwork and under-manning. We truly were the walking dead that year. Ho-ho-ho!

    The turkeys arrived in a big refrigerated trailer that stood next to the exit gate, awaiting eventual distribution to employees. There was, however, a rather significant logistical problem with the turkey distribution–– an overwhelming number of drivers (our building has approximately 400) were denied access to this time-honored tradition–– and management callously snubbed worker’s attempts to address their outrage.

    PCM’s were not given to alert drivers to the turkey distribution. Turkeys were distributed only during abbreviated hours, actually given out times when our drivers were on-road making their after-hours deliveries due to under-manning during peak. By the time drivers began asking why they had not received their winged-Christmas-bonus, their turkeys had all been given away to others, and mostly to people outside the company. No turkeys left? Uh, didn’t anyone notice there were flocks of unclaimed birds, didn’t anyone bother counting, or ask? No, they didn’t care. This deep "concern" for our people was so sincere and dedicated that, once drivers asked management to rectify this slap at hardworking hourly employees, it was arbitrarily dismissed by managements cavalier "oh well, whatcha gonna do?"attitude.

    The point I am slowly arriving at is that, had UPS conducted their yearly employee-relations survey (ERI) at that time, management would have failed miserably and discontent would have been the theme of the survey.

    Maybe this is why UPS schedules the ERI for September each year, so management can spend the weeks leading up to the survey coddling and wooing employee’s affections to achieve a high score on that single yearly survey. Relying on single yearly survey, can you imagine? Are we still incensed about the turkeys or peak season splits nine months later? Probably not as much. We will, unfortunately, most vividly recall the weeks leading up to the survey. How convenient. But, isn’t "this is all figured in?".... we can expect a fair and accurate survey, right?..... fairness is, after all, the hallmark of UPS!

    Let me tell you about the ERI survey. As I understand it, the methodology discards the extreme high and low responses, focusing instead on the middle core. Management bonuses are often based upon the results, so there is a monetary incentive for them to briefly suspend their harassment and bullying for a short period beforehand, and coax drivers into forgiving eleven months of hell-- with a "help me out just this once, and do-me-right on the ERI" plea from your manager.

    Every survey is designed to provide specific information, and in this case, the employee opinions will reflect the effectiveness of management goals. But just peek behind the curtain and see what the great-and-mighty Oz is really up to. Management’s goal is to squeeze every penny possible, by any means, out of every employee. Some common motivational methods are harassment, pressures to cut corners and a nod-and-a-wink disregard for proper methods, rules and safety. In other words, the "work ‘em into the ground" management philosophy we see every day. Don't be fooled, employee happiness is not the purpose of this survey, profits and margins–– and the effectiveness of long-proven management tools to achieve that aim–– is the real agenda here.

    It is my understanding that there is one way to sway the methodology and skew the results in favor of the employees– the essay answers. The results of the multiple choice answers are totaled, crunched and calculated. They reveal a wealth of motivational and psychological information that you will never see–– indeed few, except for the higher echelons of management, will access this data. The quantitative data is posted in the center a few months following the survey, but it is the closely held qualitative data that will be used to refine and target the harassment and enforcement we have grown to know and love.

    But, the one area you can tweak the survey, in my experience, is with the essay questions. Essay responses are not crunched and calculated, they are printed for review. They are the wild card. When the survey asks if you wish to elaborate on a response, or give a written explanation, don’t skip the opportunity, The survey will allow you to skip over essay responses, and doing so negates any real means of affecting change in your workplace. By all means, use this opportunity to spill your guts and tell it like it is. The essay is the weak link in the ERI. If you are looking for change, this is where you might see results.

    Now let me share a survey with very different motivations, results and agenda. Have you ever seen a FedEx ERI? It is a different animal entirely. FedEx surveys are given on a monthly basis, instead of yearly, providing a much more accurate and reactive methodology. The monthly FedEx ERI is short and consists mostly of written answers, not multiple choice. Management reacts immediately to local results, not crunched numbers from corporate headquarters.

    The basic agenda is still profit, of course, but FedEx has a primal incentive to keep their employees slightly happier than ours: the threats of inroads by organized labor and complaints to governmental agencies. Discontented non-union FedEx employees might seek union representation. Discontented non-union employees are also much more likely to report violations to governmental agencies, such as OSHA, DOT and state and federal labor boards, than are union UPS employees. These two threats are uniquely specific to FedEx and not UPS. Our people, for better or worse, usually pursue violations through the union grievance process, not to agencies. And the government is a much more formidable threat in legal and regulatory violations than is a union. The motivation, aside from the obvious profit concern, is to keep employees from getting so unhappy that they solicit union or governmental help in the workplace.

    And their survey clearly reflects this separate agenda, sometimes in humorous ways. For example, the very first question on the survey I have is (sitting down?) "Does your supervisor greet you each day when you arrive to work?" What? While FedEx certainly isn’t a pleasant place to work, the fundamental differences in the surveys are very telling. But, actually making a point of greeting all employees each and every day?

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

    When responding to the UPS ERI this September, try to make a difference and encourage your co-workers to do the same. And don’t be swayed by managements pleadings for a favor. It is not in your best interests. Just be honest. Best of luck.
Submitted by RM

Prescription Drug Advertising.
Where is the Outrage?

       The majority of legislators in Congress simply do not get it!
The largest contributing factor in the outrageous cost of prescription
drugs is advertising and promotion -- about 37% of the price we pay for
those drugs. The cost of research and development (R&D) for new drugs
does not even approach that percentage, since a huge part of the
research going into the development of new drugs is performed by our National
Institutes of Health. About twenty-five billon dollars of taxpayer
money goes to the NIH each year, much of which is spent on research for the
development of new drugs. It is the pharmaceutical industry's
advertising, promotion and excessive profits, not research and development, that
drives up the costs of prescription drugs.

       The incredible waste of valuable prescription drug resources is
appalling. Here's but one example of such waste: There are hundreds of
thousands of pharmaceutical company ads that appear in many thousands
of magazines and newspapers each year. Most of the major pharmaceutical
company ads in magazines usually contain a couple of pages of 'stats'
describing the product and its contraindications. These pages are
usually set in type so small that they cannot be easily read. And if one were
to take the time to read it, the technical language is virtually
incomprehensible to almost all readers. Since only a physician may prescribe
prescription drugs, such information properly belongs only in medical
and professional journals.

       Billions of dollars are spent (and wasted) each year on
television and print media ads. These enormous costs are reflected in the
price of the product. Direct to Consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription
drugs should be banned. The United States and New Zealand are the only
countries that permit DTC advertising of prescription drugs -- and
prescription drugs in New Zealand are heavily subsidized by the government
(and, as an indirect result of DTC advertising, so are pharmaceutical
companies). Drug prices in most other countries are about half those in
the United States.

       But the most damnable outrage is the recently-passed Medicare
prescription drug legislation language that prohibits Medicare from
negotiating Medicare prescription drug prices! You can bet that it was the
drug companies that wrote that provision into the bill. The gratuitous
'discounts' that are being offered to low income prescription drug
consumers by the pharmaceutical industry are a sham. What good is a 25%
discount when the product is 200% overpriced?

       The pharmaceutical industry does not need any more protection
-- it needs less! It is the drug consumer who needs protection from drug
companies. It's time to rein in the pharmaceutical industry drug cartel
and their congressional co-conspirators.

   Paul G. Jaehnert
   808 Bur Oak Ct.
   Vadnais Hts., MN 55127

WEEK ENDING 8/27/2005

A Shortcut To Termination

A life of frustration, stress and fear. Welcome to the world of UPS!

Old timers that I speak with recall that, while UPS was never a "touchy-feely" workplace, it was once tolerable. But unfortunately there has been a long, slow, downward slide towards  oppressiveness since the 1970's. The decline is most precipitous following significant corporate developments, such as the introduction of computerized information technology at the center level, the advent of DIAD, the August 1999 UPS strike, the company’s initial public stock offering in 1999 and, most recently, the insidious implementation of PAS/ EDD (Can you say "train-wreck"?)

Yes, things are currently hellish at UPS, nevertheless, it was greatly disturbing for me to read reports on NABER and Brown Café of a possible independent and unauthorized work action (in other words, a wildcat strike, or "sick-out"), by a handful of package drivers in a single center. In this alleged incident, eighteen drivers were no-shows, and 5 routes remained sitting in their building, undelivered, due to insufficient manning....despite the scrambling attempts by management to dispatch supervisors on delivery routes. This type of action is invariably a desperate attempt by individuals trying to improve intolerable working conditions not being properly addressed or resolved through the grievance process.

The troublesome aspect of an independent job action, in my opinion, is not that it is inherently wrong (it is not, but merely outside the contract), or that workers should not be assertive or aggressive in desperately pressuring for change. I strongly respect their zealousness by fighting injustice in the workplace.

My primary concerns are for three basic underlying issues; 1) the mere fact that such desperate measures are needed; 2) the intrinsically calculated and sordid backlash to be expected from management; 3) most importantly, the very real, grave and personal consequences to which these hardworking drivers have exposed themselves.

Those are three significant concerns. First, the need to take an independent job action means that your union and/or your local is not doing it’s job. United we can win, but isolated opposition can easily be quashed by management.... often with devastating consequences.

Second, management will twist this issue to exert divisiveness amongst the rank-and-file. I can hear them now, "these worthless drivers don’’t care about you because they left their work for you to deliver", or, "they don’’t care about the customers", to which I respond, "if management had cared enough to dispatch sufficient manning on a consistent basis, there would be no reason to overload drivers in the first place." But most alarming are the subtle deliberate methods of coercion and harassment management will now bring to bear against all drivers in this center. Harassment is specifically intended (in some deviant and sadistic way) to motivate drivers, and in this case, for them to exert pressure on their co-workers to show up for work. How perversely demoralizing! Don't let your co-workers succumb to management pressure and propaganda. Sick days are the right of every driver. You earned them... it’s a contract entitlement... use them! We do nothing wrong by simply calling in sick.

Third and last, I find it particularly frightening that these drivers feel forced to put their own livelihoods in jeopardy because their contract is not being enforced. The union is clearly not doing its job here–– true enough–– but I am alarmed whenever a driver feels so desperate as to place his or her own neck squarely on the block, just to achieve contract enforcement. Yes, there is a place for independent job actions, but if you participate–– and I can’t possibly stress this enough–– be meticulously cautious and vigilant about how you go about it. Make no mistake, given the chance UPS may target you for retaliation. And be assured, my friend, Big Brown is masterfully adroit at retaliation.

Q:"What can Brown do for you"? A: It can easily make a sorry example out of you...and it can ruin your life in the process.

It’s dangerous ground. Here, no protection is afforded you under the collective bargaining agreements, you are largely on your own. Remember that your actions are only as strong as your weakest link, and should anyone slip-up and talk, or stupidly confirm to management that an unusually high number of sick calls is actually a concerted job action, people may get terminated. So, for gods sake, be careful here! You are putting everything you have at risk, and if you choose to take this path, never-never-never admit to participating! No progress is made if you are unemployed.

Chief among a union's responsibilities is to protect workers and jobs. This is just my own opinion, but I strongly believe that the true long-term solution here instead, is a "job action", or campaign, against your union/ local and it’s officers. Vote and get involved. You cannot enforce the contract alone, you need a strong union behind you.

But still, after all I have just said— I really do admire the folks involved in this. No cowardly UPS lackeys here! These are strong men and women with convictions......and such cajones! Just be damn careful, Ok?

Submitted by R.M.

WEEK ENDING 8/20/2005

UPSers Could Be Fleeced Of Earnings: A Glimpse Into Our Future

Some of our parents, or grandparents, can remember a horse-and-buggy world. A gallon of gas was once twenty-five cents. They can also remember a world without Civil Rights, Social Security and Pensions (or more accurately, Deferred Benefit Plans).

"The times they are a changing" and sometimes not for the better. UPSers are now witness to a monumental crossroads of history. Many of us don’t realize dramatic changes just over the horizon may have a profound personal effect upon our generation’s retirement. It’s funny, things people often take for granted are only missed once they are taken away.

Americans have become accustomed to entitlements. Not so many years ago, before there was Social Security, the social safety net for the aged was limited to relying on one’s children. But now Social Security and Medicare, once the beacons of social conscience, are widely recognized as foundering on the rocks. The stark reality is it may not be there for our next generation. We hope "somebody will fix it". Don’t count on it.

The first half of the 20th century saw huge gains in our quality of life. Not just wages, but entitlements such as healthcare, working conditions, civil rights, safety, hours, but most significantly for our long-term security: Social Security and PENSIONS (Deferred Benefit Plans). Everyone could finally enjoy a retirement, people had security in their old age, and it was protected by the government!

Wake up---  your retirement, your Deferred Benefit Pension, is now in danger of being dismantled.

Look around you. The last third of the 20th century saw the decline of unions and the rise of special corporate interest groups in Washington. Unions were the force behind all of the gains enjoyed by workers in the past century, even among non-union workers. While corporate special interests were responsible for the losses. The union catchall phrase "a rising tide lifts all boats" was so true-- everyone benefited from union achievements.

Pensions were first negotiated by unions as a collective bargaining issue just like wages, healthcare and working conditions. Workers earned Pensions just like wages, but the actual payment was deferred until after retirement. Something earned should not be taken away, but that is exactly what is happening in workplaces across the country. Union airline pilot pensions were slashed by two-thirds by the PBGC. Unions haven’t been this weak in 50 years! Your UPS Deferred Benefit Plan could be next. The first domino to fall may be the UPS/ Teamsters Central States Pension Plan. There ought to be a law!

Well, there is... or rather there could be. Competing legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress to address the rickety house of cards known as Deferred Benefit Plans. The Senate Bill protects benefits from being changed, reduced or eliminated. The House version allows easier changes even after retirement. It would be truly criminal to take those earned benefits away. But that is exactly question being debated in Congress. That is why the Pension Protection Act of 2005 is so important to us all. Big Business has the political influence. Big Business has the money to buy professional lobbyists. And if allowed to go unchecked, Big Business will orchestrate the gutting of your plans for retirement with the blessing of the unions.

We, as workers, have one thing Big Business does not have.: We have votes. We can defeat the most corrupt and repugnant legislation with our voices. The keywords are "We Can", not the next guy, not somebody else. We can’t assume someone else will stand up for us on something as fundamentally important as our livelihood. It can be easy and simple as emailing your elected representative. Just a couple short minutes. NABER can help you do it. Click the link found on this webpage. Want to do more? Send a letter or make a phone call. Just make yourself heard. Find and Contact Your Senator. Tell your Senator, tell your representatives, "I want the pension that I worked so hard to earn." NABER will provide information about pending legislation from sources like the National Retiree Legislative Network and The Pension Right Center. Decide for yourself. And if you get as alarmed as I am about the future, look for NABER to provide you with email links, phone numbers and addresses for your elected officials.

Whatever your views on legislation governing Deferred Benefit Plans, please don’t let the decision simply be made for you, speak your mind. Your family’s future is too important to ignore.

Submitted by R.M.