Over the course of the next 12 months the potential for mighty class battles will be mounting in logistics across the United States. One of these will be at UPS, where more than 340,000 workers will be faced with the expiration of their contract on August 1, 2023. Sean O’Brien, the newly elected president of the Teamsters, has staked his political future on delivering an outstanding contract. UPS workers at dozens of warehouses have already turned out to demonstrations demanding a decent contract. Many workers are still simmering because UPS and former Teamsters President, James Hoffa Jr., combined to shove a substandard contract down their throats in 2019. This summer’s heat has only added fuel to the fire with some package-truck drivers suffering heat stroke while driving trucks without air conditioning.
O’Brien says that if no contract has been agreed to by August 1st of next year, workers will be hitting the bricks. UPS provides “just in time” delivery to hundreds of thousands of businesses, big and small, across the nation. These workers have raw industrial power, power to impact the entire economy. We have already seen the impact union victories at Starbucks have had, as workers at Trader Joe’s and other retail outlets point directly to Starbucks as the source of their inspiration for organizing. If Teamsters are victorious in confronting UPS, they will provide another powerful example to both union and non-union workers that there is real power in collective action. This will be especially true for Amazon workers.
At Amazon the union victory of 8,000 Staten Island, New York warehouse workers has placed joining a union squarely on the agenda at dozens of other facilities. Already the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) has filed for an election at Albany, New York. Workers in North Carolina and Kentucky are actively organizing for an election. Chris Smalls, former Staten Island Amazon worker and now President of the ALU, says the union has received hundreds of requests for help and information from Amazon workers around the country. The momentum is gathering even with the defeat of ALU at a smaller warehouse in Staten Island. Negotiating a first contract with notoriously anti-union Amazon will likely requirestrikes, job actions and huge amounts of working class solidarity. This will mean sharp class conflict.
An organization like DSA – which aspires to be a central voice for the multinational, multiracial working class – must be deeply involved in these labor struggles at UPS and Amazon. They offer us the chance to drive our roots more deeply into the labor movement and the working class, a chance to become younger and more multiracial. Nationally, DSA has launched the Logistics Project. The goal is to get more of our members hired at UPS and Amazon, to raise solidarity with these fights in our unions and communities, and to recruit more workers into DSA. Members of our TCDSA chapter will have an opportunity to learn much more about the class confrontation in logistics on Thursday, August 25 at 6:30PM. DSA members who work at UPS will be presenting on how every DSAer can take part by doing everything from door knocking to getting hired at UPS or Amazon. It’s a chance to be part of some of the biggest labor battles in decades. The meeting will be held via zoom. Register here.
– Kip H., TCDSA Labor Branch co-chair