Robert Reich: UPS And The Summer Of Our Labor Discontent – OpEd


What would have been one of the biggest labor strikes in U.S. history has likely been averted, as Teamsters reps agreed to a tentative contract with UPS. The contract must now be voted on by the 340,000 unionized UPS workers.

The tentative deal reportedly includes $30 billion in wage increases for all UPS employees (including part-timers), elimination of the two-tier wage system, the establishment of MLK Day as a paid holiday for all workers, and a ban on driver-facing cameras in truck cabs as well as forced overtime on drivers’ scheduled days off. 

Oh, and the installation of air conditioning and fans in delivery trucks.

Temperatures in the back of delivery trucks have reportedly reached 120 degrees, which has resulted in over 140 UPS employees suffering severe heat and dehydration-related injuries since 2015.  One California driver died while delivering packages last June.

As a result of the tentative agreement, air conditioning will be equipped in new delivery trucks while existing trucks will receive additional fans and air induction vents to protect drivers. 

Folks, never underestimate the power and importance of labor unions.

UPS is one of the most profitable delivery companies in the world. In the past two years, its profits grew close to THREE TIMES what they were before the pandemic.

The company also spent $8.6 billion on stock buybacks and dividends in 2022, while paying its CEO $19 million — a figure 364 times higher than the earnings of the company’s median employee.

UPS workers rightfully wanted a bigger piece of the pie they helped create, and better safety protections while on the job.

As we’ve seen across so many industries, major corporations are making big bucks off the backs of their workers — many of whom were quick to be labeled “essential” as they risked their lives throughout the pandemic. 

But working people everywhere have seen their hard work result in stagnant wages while CEOs, other top executives, and major investors do gangbusters. 

Forty years of union-busting and trickle-down economics has made the rich richer, while eviscerating the American working class.

That’s why UPS workers fought back. And why over 320,000 other unionized workers across various industries have gone on strike so far this year. They are organizing to rebuild worker power and demand the pay and dignity they deserve.

Never forget this: Working people outnumber the billionaires and CEOs.

If workers stand together, they will win. 

It’s an old-fashioned idea that’s as true today as ever. It’s called Solidarity.

Unfortunately, after decades of union-busting and so-called “right-to-work” states, only 6 percent of private-sector workers are unionized today. When I was a kid in the 1950s, a third of all private-sector workers were unionized. 

Which goes a long way to explaining why in the three decades after World War II, America created the largest middle class the world had ever seen. And why, starting in the 1980s, that middle class has hollowed out — creating anger and anxiety that’s been channeled by cynical, power-hungry politicians into racism, xenophobia, and rage. 

Does this summer of labor discontent signals that the pendulum is about to swing back?

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *