Acting Collectively “What is the Union doing for me? What are my dues going for if they can’t fix my problems? “ Sometimes it seems we forget what the Union is all about. The Union is not the President of the Teamsters, not the President of your Local, your Business Agent or your Steward. The Union’s true strength is in it’s members. This mentality of “Why isn’t the Union doing it for me?” is part of what has lead to the weakening of the Teamsters at UPS today. You should be asking yourself “What can I do to give my Union leadership power at the negotiating table?” The Grievance process is a necessarily slow one but by acting collectively you can have a greater impact upon your workplace. Know your members In this technological age there are multiple ways to reach out to each other. It’s easy now to build a text message list so you can keep in contact with your membership. Email, cell phones, even social network sites like Facebook can help you organize. Start small More than anything, Management fears an organized and galvanized bargaining unit. Look around your work place tomorrow: who is flying the Teamster flag? These signs may seem benign to you but they are as clear as a flashing strobe to Management. Start by organizing your work group to pick a specific day to wear in Union T-shirts prior to start time. A brown or white T-shirt is a good choice because it can be worn under the uniform shirt, which can be buttoned up prior to start time. Over time you can spread this practice to other work groups, centers, and eventually the whole Building. If you live in a Right-to-Work (for less) State you can encourage non-members to show their support for co-workers by wearing a plain shirt on your chosen day. Perhaps as your movement progresses you may encourage them to join. Use positive peer pressure to encourage participation and have a supply of cheap T-shirts ready to hand out to the excuse makers. Later you might expand this to the wearing of Union pins or message specific buttons which can be mass-produced at minimal cost. Expect push back Management will notice your early attempts to organize and push back right away. As they say, “things will get a lot worse before they get better”. It’s important to stay the course and dig in. Identify your more motivated members and assign them a list of others to motivate. Try not to include only those in their circle of work friends but instead look to have senior members reach out to younger, less experienced ones and so on. Management will surely be doing this too so it’s important to stay one step ahead. Expect some discipline and some members may be limited in their participation because of this. However, there is safety in numbers so it’s important to stay the course and dig in. Make sure your members “clean their own house” and don’t invite opportunities for discipline. Surely someone will leave this door open but don’t let it dissuade the majority from continuing with your campaign. It’s natural for people to fear for their jobs but use their anger and frustration to motivate them to rise above it. Are they satisfied with the way things are now (and getting worse)? Can they live with this the rest of their career? Isn’t it better to fight for the way you want the job to be than to shut up and take it? Send a Stronger Message Once you have identified your core issue you must address it in the most specific, simplest terms possible. We’ll use the 9.5 issue here for example: Two Steward’s in Arizona came up with a great campaign. They purchased T-shirts with their own money that had a red circle with a slash through it, the universal sign for “NO!” and “9.5” within the circle. Below this it read “What’s it going to take?” in white lettering. These Stewards handed the shirts out at the gate asking for donations so they could purchase more. Impressed with their creativity, the Local took up the cause and had shirts printed for other buildings in the area. The message “What’s it going to take?” was a strong one. The message meant “Today it’s a T-shirt, tomorrow a picket line, the next day could be a Brownout. Fix the problem!” So now that you have your T-shirt day started, try amping it up with message shirts. Organize your members to meet at the gate and walk in as a group. When that gets going, organize them to walk an informational picket line for an hour prior to going in. Take a page from the Pilot’s Unions and call all your local news shows to come film your picket line (they love putting that on the evening news). Have a clear message on your picket signs and be peaceful yet loud. Workplace action Acting collectively in the workplace will send the strongest message to Management. Organize your members to refuse to do any work prior to start time. Here again, positive peer pressure will keep those who can’t seem to help themselves in line. Organize a “no-cell phone” campaign. Have an “Over 70 Day” where everyone requests help with Over 70’s as we won that right in our Contract and with a 1 day strike. Look around at your co-workers during their pre-trip routine. Is it “kick the tires and light the fire?” Not only is this unsafe, it’s illegal. Educate your members to perform a full proper D.O.T. pre-trip/post-trip to their vehicle. Work closely with your local D.O.T. to find out what their Level 1 inspection requires and about how long they would expect it to take (typically 15 minutes). This should be your model. Familiarize yourself with OSHA rules and file complaints wherever possible. Publicize these complaints to the news organizations you call for your informational pickets. Any discipline for attempting to perform more thorough safety inspections should be followed with a grievance and an OSHA complaint. File NLRB charges wherever possible and bury the Company with as many grievances as you can muster up. Do only specifically what you are asked to do and don’t bail the Company out. Let them fall on their own sword wherever possible. Brownouts should be a last resort and must be handled carefully. Besides opening up an avenue for discipline, the Local could be sued for such actions. The Stewards should openly discourage such action regularly. Expect Incremental Change We’d all like to see the day that nasty Center Manager is walked out the gate and the sun shines in your Center again. This is unlikely to happen. However, even your current center manager can be pressured to change. Celebrate each of these changes as a victory, however small, and use them to motivate the membership. Perhaps the answer is adding a few more Drivers or more routes, anything that takes the pressure off. This should let you scale back your collective action to an appropriate level. Keep the Solidarity going by sticking with “Union shirt day” etc always ready to tap your contact network to ramp it up if needed. This is UPS? Success is achieved and you have a new center manager who is motivated to follow the contract and work with the membership. Run with it! Use your collective action to show them that we work together as Teamsters and it’s a lot better working with us than against us. Use your positive peer pressure to get the habitual bad apples in line (and out of discipline’s way). Will this be quick and easy? No, struggles never are; but by showing the Company that you are organized, galvanized, and ready for action you will give your Steward, Business Agent and up the power to get issues resolved quicker and more leverage at the negotiating table.