Stalemate between UPS and union workers reaches bitter end - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Stalemate between UPS and union workers reaches bitter end

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The nearly year-long stalemate between Louisville's largest employer and its union workers has reached a bitter and controversial end.

UPS Worldport has been forced into a new deal, when almost all of the local union voted it down.

Kevin Vial joined the crowd of UPS workers walking into Worldport Thursday, saying he's been betrayed.

"I feel let down," Vial said. "I thought we had a strong union, but by what they just did, I don't know."

"What good is a union if they're not going to represent you?" he asked.

Vial is outraged by a memo that states that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters plans to override a local vote and sign a new five-year contract with UPS, effective Friday. With 8,000 employees, Worldport is the company's largest operation, and 94 percent of the ballots from Teamsters Local 89 said no.

"They're stripping that right to vote away from the membership," said Fred Zuckerman, president of Teamsters Local 89. "And you clearly can't bargain like that. It's unprecedented."

Local 89 was the largest of the last three local union holdouts. National and regional contracts for all 240,000 UPS teamsters had already been ratified, but couldn't take effect until the locals agreed.

"The goal post kept moving," said Leigh Strope, assistant director of communications at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. "What was acceptable one day was unacceptable the next."

At first, the biggest issue was healthcare. Then the parties couldn't agree on things like pensions, sub-contractors and other insurance benefits. So the union's top executives literally re-wrote the rules to have the final say.

"About 5 percent of members were holding up an entire national contract and wage increases for the other 95 percent of UPS teamsters," said Strope. "I think their voice was heard. Unfortunately, there were a lot of political games being played at their expense."

A deal means UPS will pay $300 million in wages and contributions to its union employees, backdated to summer 2013, when the last contract ran out. But the fight may not be over.

"We got to take a good, hard look at this and find out what we can do," Zuckerman said.

If Worldport in Louisville is the main artery of the entire UPS operation, as the company says, then the facility may be primed for a heart attack.

"They shouldn't have the ability to override what the majority votes on...this is a democracy," Vial said.

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