Victory of the Decade

Victory of the Decade

Copyright 2002, Traffic World Magazine

John Schulz refers to the United Parcel Service strike of 1997 as a "desperation move (by Ron Carey) to help his reelection chances against (James P.) Hoffa" ("Winning a War Chest," May 6).

This is a rewrite of real history.

Carey was not running for re-election at the time. The election was ordered rerun after the UPS strike. But even if Carey anticipated that a rerun would (or might) be ordered, that is largely irrelevant to the enormous victory won by the UPS Teamsters and Carey - a victory that was long in the making.

The strike won labor's victory of the decade. That was the assessment of everyone from John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO to The Wall Street Journal, and certainly of labor and management experts and academics, along with Teamster members.

UPS had concessions on the table at the time the strike was called. The strike defeated every single one. The strike unified the Teamsters and electrified much of labor. Polls indicated that 75 percent of the American people supported the strikers, as the union launched a major public campaign on "part-time America won't work." The strike converted 20,000 low-wage part-time jobs to 10,000 high-wage full-time jobs. The strike won higher wages, big pension improvements, an end to subcontracting and more.

The strike was won after years of preparation. Despite the fact that most union officials backed Hoffa and many tried to derail the victory, the unified members showed what it takes to win.

In Hoffa's wildest dreams he does not imagine doing half as well. I have on my desk Hoffa's tentative settlement in the Central Region UPS Supplement, covering some 70,000 UPS Teamsters. It is pitiful.

To win great labor victories like the 1997 UPS strike, it takes leadership that involves rank-and-file workers, not hot air or Las Vegas golf outings.

Ken Paff

National Organizer

Teamsters for a

Democratic Union