UPS contract will 'go down in flames,' Louisville union president says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The president of the Louisville union representing thousands of local UPS workers predicts that a proposed five-year labor contract will be handily rejected in an upcoming national vote.  

“This thing is going to go down -- it’s going to go down in flames – and it needs to because it’s a very bad agreement,” Teamsters Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman told about two dozen package car drivers at a “Vote No” rally on Friday morning. “We can do better.”

About 260,000 rank-and-file UPS workers are set to vote on the deal later this month, with results to be released Oct. 5. That includes 10,000 to 12,000 in Louisville, most of whom work part-time at UPS’ Worldport global air hub.

UPS and the Teamsters’ international leadership have said the proposed contract gives workers pay raises, adds at least 5,000 fulltime jobs and addresses issues like “excessive” overtime.

If approved, the lowest-rung part-time employees who work at Worldport and other facilities will get immediate raises to ensure they make at least $13 an hour, up from the current starting wage of $10.50.

“The vast majority of local UPS employees who will cast ballots are part-time package handlers. They will enjoy big jumps in starting pay and annual raises if they vote yes,” UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot said in a statement.

But Local 89 leaders have said the minimum wage at UPS should immediately go to $15 per hour. They have also raised alarm about the proposed creation of new type of worker who would deliver packages on some days, including weekends, but be paid less than fulltime package car drivers.

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UPS’ Mangeot said the new classification creates “a path to better pay for current employees working at lower package-handler wages.” Zuckerman said the company should just hire more fulltime drivers at the regular wage, which is currently about $36 an hour at the top end of the pay scale.    

Zuckerman has been a longtime critic of International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James Hoffa and nearly unseated Hoffa in an election for the top job in 2016. He will run for the No. 2 job alongside Sean O’Brien, the leader of Teamsters Local 25 in Boston, in the next national election in 2021.

Denis Taylor, the Teamsters’ package division director and chief negotiator of the labor contract, suggested Zuckerman's opposition to the deal is rooted in union politics.

“Unfortunately, some local union leaders have politicized the contract process,” Taylor said in an emailed statement. “We’ve negotiated a $14.5 billion contract that continues to provide wage increases, full health care at no cost to the members and a defined-benefit pension plan for all members - part-time and full-time.”

Taylor added, “We anticipate that the members will see beyond the politics and ratify an agreement that protects and rewards them for the next five years.”

Zuckerman told drivers Friday that Louisville is not the only local chapter to recommend a ‘no’ vote on the contract. He said the New England region and locals in Ohio and New York are also opposed.

Still, the contract won a majority of support in a vote of local leaders who gathered to review it last month.

If the contract is voted down, Zuckerman said workers shouldn’t worry about going on strike and being out of a job because the union’s top leaders are “very weak” and would keep negotiating with the company.

In the statement, Taylor said: “The members overwhelmingly voted in favor of strike authorization and clearly support a strike, if necessary.”

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822,, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2018 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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Chris Otts reports for about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and