Health care benefits and pensions as well as wages will top the agenda when the Teamsters union and UPS, the largest Teamsters employer, begin negotiations for a new contract later this month, IBT General President James P. Hoffa said.
The union has been meeting with rank-and-file UPS members and union local leaders in preparation for talks set to start Sept. 27, about 10 months before the current five-year UPS contract expires at the end of next July, he said.
“We’ve got a pretty good idea where we want to go with this contract,” Hoffa said at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington Thursday. “It’s going to be more wages, more pensions, and we want to maintain health care benefits.”
[Watch Hoffa discuss UPS talks and other issues.]
The Teamsters also want to convert more part-time jobs at UPS to full-time jobs. “We’re always working to make sure we get more full time jobs. There are a lot of part time jobs there, and we’re always trying to move that (full-time) number up.”
“UPS is a unique company,” Hoffa said. “We want to make sure working conditions are better ... There’s going to be a lot of pressure to increase our pensions to make them better,” he said. “Pensions will be a big issue in the negotiations.”
The UPS contract is one of several major employer agreements Hoffa and the Teamsters will negotiate in the next five years. The union's contract with less-than-truckload carrier ABF Freight System expires March 31, 2013. Contracts with YRC Worldwide and the National Master Automobile Transporters Agreement expire in 2015.
UPS employs approximately 250,000 Teamsters in its package and trucking divisions. The union has separate agreements with for UPS package workers and UPS Freight, a less-than-truckload carrier.
Hoffa discussed the UPS contract talks, UPS Freight and multi-employer pensions during a question and answer period following a speech largely focused on the November elections and what he called a Tea Party-led “war on workers.”
He also stressed organizing efforts at the 1.4 million-member union. “We’ve organized more than 150,000 people in the last five years. That is a tremendous achievement in this economy and these tough times,” Hoffa said.
“We’ve been able to reach out to bus drivers and port workers, airline pilots and airline mechanics. We’ve been able to organize where other people haven’t, and our union, while other unions’ numbers have gone down, has kept its numbers.”
Although the Teamsters union has deep roots in trucking, its membership is increasingly diverse. “So many people say we’re all truck drivers, well it’s not true,” Hoffa said. “I always say the Teamsters union is A-to-Z, airline pilots to zookeepers.”
Last month, pilots at Allegiant Air voted to join a Teamsters Local in Wilmington, Ohio, adding 350 members to the Teamsters Airline Division. Dairy workers at YoCream International in Portland, Ore., joined the Teamsters in July.
Organizing new employers is crucial to the union’s multi-employer pension plans, Hoffa said. Those plans have come under stress as the number of retirees rises and the number of Teamsters employers, especially in trucking, dwindles.
When those plans were established in the 1950s, “there were four people working and one person retired,” Hoffa said. “That was eas. ... Now we have one guy working and five guys retired. That math is harder to maintain.”