. The following three articles -- on the UPS settlement, the latest in the Detroit newspaper workers' struggle, and denouncing police racism -- are from Detroit Workers Voice #16, August 30, 1997. (Reprinted in Communist Voice #15) DWV was distributed at the Detroit Labor Day march and elsewhere..
. Teamsters at UPS waged an important contract battle in August by carrying out a 15-day strike.This was the first nationwide strike against UPS. The main issue involved was the company's increasing use of part-time workers. Since 1982, when the Teamster leadership agreed to a two-tier wage system with lower pay for part-time employees, UPS has hired many thousands of part-timers. Many jobs that could have gone to full-time employees have been made part-time jobs, with lower pay and reduced benefits. In many cases these "part-time" jobs are a complete fiction, as many of the "part-time" employees work 30, 40 and even more hours per week. So they work full-time but are paid as part-timers. And UPS has not increased the starting wage for the part-timers for 15 years. Another issue was the subcontracting UPS has been carrying out, further undermining the security of UPS jobs. As well, a major issue in the strike was the pension plan, which has been a union-supervised plan. The company demanded the right to take over the pension plan.
. Job security is an issue that resonates with wide sections of the working class and made the UPS workers' strike very popular. Many sections of the working class have been decimated by corporate downsizing in recent years, and workers are increasingly angry about being pushed into part-time and temporary jobs with lower pay and benefits. And corporate-controlled pension plans are increasingly underfunded. Despite corporate promises, this threatens to leave the workers with little or nothing to retire on. These issues, and the fact that UPS monopolizes the package delivery system in the U. S. , made this strike an important battle.
. Given the way the Teamster leaders have undermined the Detroit newspapers strike, there was every reason to expect they would ruin this strike as well. Fortunately, however, UPS corporation was not well prepared for a strike, while the workers were enthusiastic for it. Well over 95% of the workers, both full- and part-time, refused to go to work. They manned picket lines and gave scab management personnel a hard time when they tried to cross the lines. UPS airplane pilots and mechanics also supported the strike, honoring the picket lines; this helped shut down the system, making it virtually impossible for UPS to deliver packages.
. UPS executives tried relying on company loyalty to save the day for them. They issued appeals to the workers, and tried to argue that their pension plan takeover would keep the pension funds inside the "UPS family. " But workers weren't buying it. They've had plenty of experience with how UPS treats "family" -- forcing workers to lift packages weighing 150 pounds, constantly speeding up the work while eliminating full-time jobs. So UPS then fell back into hoping for intervention by President Clinton. They wanted Clinton to declare a national emergency and order their employees back to work under the Taft-Hartley law. Clinton didn't rush to do this, though he did jawbone the Teamster leadership, lecturing them at one point that the company's latest offer seemed "reasonable" and "fair", in this way issuing a veiled threat of intervention if the Teamsters didn't hurry up and settle. Clinton also assigned his Labor Secretary to mediate, and she pushed through marathon negotiating sessions.
. Meanwhile UPS was shut down, and they were losing more and more business to competitors every day. So in the end, UPS conceded more than they had originally offered. The company promised to convert 10,000 part-time jobs into full-time positions. And the part-time workers get pay increases of about $4/hr. over the life of the contract. Full-time workers also get modest pay increases of about $3/hr. under this contract. As well, the company gave up its attempt to take over the pension fund, and they promised to eliminate subcontracting.
. Other provisions of the contract make it clear that this isn't really the great breakthrough claimed by the Teamster leadership. The new full-time positions opened up will be paid much less than the old full-time positions. So not only is the two-tier system maintained, but another tier of lesser-paid full-timers is added! And the starting pay increase for newly hired part-timers is a measly 50 cents an hour. Since there is a high turnover rate for part-timers, and the contract runs five years, most of the part-timers will never get close to seeing that $4/hr. raise. The union also agreed to changes in work rules to do away with "idle time"; some business commentators estimate that this speedup measure, by itself, will pay for the wage increases. The Carey leadership also caved in to company demands for a five-year contract as opposed to the previous three-year contract. Also, it appears that about 50 workers fired for strike-related activities do not get their jobs back under this settlement. So the Teamster leaders' claim of a great victory is actually quite hollow. The strike had the company on the ropes, but the Teamster bureaucrats let them off lightly.
. The major lesson of the strike is that it shows workers are getting restive, fed up with years of
corporate downsizing and wage cuts while corporate profits and executives' salaries were
soaring. It's about time things turned around. But nothing turns by itself; the corporations that
have been driving workers into the ground are not about to offer us better pay and benefits, on
their own. Struggle is needed. Let's get organized, and make the rich pay for a change! Let's build
up our own trend of militant struggle independent of the weak-kneed union leadership. 
. The AFL-CIO union leaders said that the newspapers workers didn't have to stop production at the newspaper plants, but could rely on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the courts to force the Detroit News and Free Press to come to an agreement. Strikers and supporters had blockaded the Sterling Heights newspaper plant in September 1995, but the union leaders called off these actions. The union leaders said that, instead, the workers should wait for the NLRB to act. Eventually, to help their case before the NLRB, these leaders told the strikers to make an unconditional offer to return to work. The picket signs were rewritten and the strike was rechristened a lockout. When an administrative law judge of the NLRB finally ruled in favor of the workers earlier this year, the union leaders said that now things would be fine and everyone would get their jobs back.
. But what happened? On August 14, U. S. District Court Judge John Corbett O'Meara refused the NLRB request for an injunction against the company. He simply threw out the ruling of the NLRB's judge, and substituted his own prejudices about the strike.
. Was this because O'Meara is a particularly bad judge appointed by Reagan or Bush? Actually, he is a Clinton appointee, and considered a "good pick" by the union's lawyers. (Detroit Sunday Journal, Aug. 24, p. 9) But the legal system is neither impartial, nor designed to help strikers.The courts and laws are a tool of the capitalists, and enforce capitalist law. The politicians, whether Democrat or Republican, appoint judges determined to uphold capitalist law and order.The courts and agencies are especially concerned to prevent mass action. But the AFL-CIO is telling the newspaper workers to wait patiently while each court ruling takes months and months to make, and is inevitably appealed.
. Even if O'Meara had issued an injunction against the newspaper companies, it wouldn't have meant that the workers had won their struggle. More workers would have gotten their jobs back, which would have been a very good thing. But the workers would still have lost all their demands, and the conditions and wages at the newspapers would continue to decay. Once the newspaper bosses knew that the union leaders wouldn't allow plant blockades and would rely on lawyers and courts, they had no reason to give anything to the workers.
. The UPS capitalists settled because the strike had stopped their business. (In order to get a fast settlement, the Teamster officials agreed to a weak contract, with some concessions as well as some modest gains, but overall the contract was an improvement over what UPS had demanded.) When the leaders of the newspaper unions recoiled in horror from the attempt to shut down the newspaper plants, they sentenced the workers to a full-scale defeat. Mass action and shutting down the newspaper plants made the newspaper bosses take notice. The courts and police would have opposed this, and the unions would have had to be willing to defy them. Instead the union leaders decided to appeal to the good nature of the courts and government agencies. They kept people busy with corporate campaigns and secondary activities, while smothering any serious action against the newspaper bosses. This is the path that led to O'Meara's decision of August 14.
. The newspaper workers and their supporters have held out heroically for over two years. On
June 21, thousands came out once again to march against the newspaper bosses. On Labor Day,
thousands will again come out to demonstrate their support for the newspaper workers and other
workers' struggles. It's time to sum up what happened to this struggle. Let's not be satisfied with
the sugary words of the union officials about fighting O'Meara's ruling--by appealing to yet
another court, yet another government hearing. So long as the struggles are dominated by
pro-capitalist and pro-court union leaders who smother mass action, there will be repeated
defeats. It's up to the rank-and- file to prepare itself for militant action, and to build up its own
organizations of struggle. No illusions in the AFL-CIO leaders, the courts and all the capitalist
agencies! It's time to return to the class struggle.
. The court's decision to grant Budzyn a new trial is an outrage. The court came up with some flimsy technicalities to support its claim that Budzyn did not get a fair trial. Bull!! It was Malice Green who never got ANY trial while it was Budzyn and Nevers who played judge, jury and executioner. They "tried" Green by smashing his skull with heavy metal flashlights. They murdered Green though he had committed no crime except to be suspected by the police thugs of having a "rock" of crack in his hand. For the Michigan Supreme Court to nevertheless grant Budzyn a new trial shows that no amount of evidence will prevent the capitalist courts from trying to find ways to protect the police thugs. Now Budzyn has been released from prison after serving a mere four years while awaiting a second trial.
. The police, as servants of the rich, have never needed much of an excuse to carry out atrocities against the Afro-American and Latino masses. Despite all the hand-wringing by the ruling class authorities in the wake of the uprising following the videotaped beating of Rodney King, racist murders and beatings by the police continues. Just a couple of weeks ago, the savage beatings of Haitian immigrants Abner Louima and Patrick Antoine by New York City police made the national news. . Louima, a security guard who used to like the police, was trying to break up a fight between two women outside Club Rendez-Vous when the police arrived and attacked him and, for good measure, Antoine too, who just happened to be nearby. At the precinct station house, the police sadists beat Louima up again and plunged the wooden handle of a toilet plunger into his rectum and his mouth.
. In the last few years the New York police force has been extensively praised by Democratic and Republican politicians for allegedly fighting crime. Yet during this time it has carried out a reign of terror against Haitians, Afro-Americans, Latinos, Asians and others. Ordinary people are attacked by the police on the most minor pretext, and sometimes just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Moreover, the number of people who die while in police custody has been going up.
. Nor are such atrocities restricted to New York and Detroit. Police abuse of ordinary people, and especially minorities, occurs around the country, often under the pretext of the so-called "war on drugs". For example, recently Marine snipers mobilized into stopping drugs from entering the Texas border gunned down a 15-year old Mexican-American youth who had merely been grazing goats near his farm.
. The workers and poor have never been able to rely on the capitalist courts for justice. Here in
Detroit, were it not for the mass protests following Malice Green's murder, the authorities would
have swept the issue under the rug as usual. Now that the situation has cooled down, the courts
have seen an opportunity to reverse even the small bit of justice that Budzyn's conviction
represented. The fight against racist police depends on building up a militant struggle of the
oppressed. If there is to be justice, there must be a mass struggle. The movement against racism
should be aimed against the capitalist ruling class, for they are the ones who benefit from racism
and protect their police thugs who uphold the oppressive status-quo.
Last changed on October 16, 2001.