They had two weeks to vote. However, less than half of the eligible Teamster voters voted on their UPS contract, which is causing big confusion at Big Brown.
In early September, more than 200,000 Teamster members employed by United Parcel Service received balloting materials on their new tentative agreements negotiated by their union and UPS.
Teamster members had a (roughly) two-week window to exercise their right to vote. However, in the end, fewer than half participated in voting on one of the two largest contracts—the UPS National Agreement.
As a result of low voter participation, under the Teamsters’ rule (Article XII in the union’s constitution), the Teamsters ratified the UPS National Agreement, despite a majority of voters voting against the contract.
On its web page dedicated to the UPS negotiations, the Teamsters explained the ratification of the agreement that was rejected by the membership [emphasis added]:
Despite of all of these efforts made by the NNC, Local Unions and individual members to encourage voting, only 44.3 percent of the eligible UPS membership participated in the ratification referendum on the National Master Agreement. Of the 209,043 members who were eligible to vote, only 92,604 (44.3%) cast a vote. The results of the tabulation show that 42,356 (45.8%) voted for the proposed contract and 50,248 (54.2%) voted against it.
In such circumstances where less than 50 percent of the membership votes on a final contract offer, the International Constitution provides that “a two-thirds (2/3) vote of those voting shall be required to reject such final offer…” Failure to reject the offer by at least two-thirds vote of those voting “shall require the negotiating committee to accept such final offer or such additional provisions as can be negotiated by it.” As the vote tally indicates, a majority of members did not vote and a two-thirds majority of those who did vote did not oppose the contract.
The International Constitution does not give the NNC an option in these circumstances. As required by law, the NNC informed UPS of the ratification requirements at the beginning of negotiations. This provision has been in the Constitution since the 1991 Convention. If a majority of the eligible members had exercised their right to vote in this ratification, as did the members employed by UPS Freight, then a simple majority of those voting would have been needed to either accept or reject the agreement. But not enough members covered by the National Master UPS Agreement exercised their right to vote. And as we saw in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, winning the popular vote does not necessarily win the election when the Constitution requires you to win the Electoral College vote. As Teamsters, we too must abide by the rules in our Constitution. Thus, the National Master UPS Agreement has been ratified.
“UPS acknowledges the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ decision to ratify the Small Package National Master Agreement,” UPS stated on a website dedicated to the negotiations. “We look forward to implementing the ratified Small Package National Master Agreement as soon as remaining local and supplemental agreements are ratified.”
On message boards and other websites, Teamster members are venting their confusion, frustration and anger at the union.
A video interview of a two Teamster members employed by UPS was published by WSWS.org (a socialist website). In it, the Teamster members chastised the union’s ratification of the contract.
Separately, Teamster members are both confused and, in some cases, livid with the union’s leadership.
“Serious question, why do we pay dues?” wrote one Teamster member on a UPS-related forum. “Is there a point anymore?”
Another Teamster member posted: “RTW here and not even 1/2 are in the union. Us other half are all saying WTF among ourselves! A lot of texts and calls since Fri night and the common theam is what exactly are we getting for our $1,000+ a year membership? We can’t get a steward to open his mouth when we get called into the office let alone actually “act” like they are on our side. Then we get bent over the proverbial wheel well by the top brass at the IBT.”
“Biggest story in the Union, and not a word on the votes,” wrote another member “There is an article about how Hoffa supports striking Iranian truckers.”
“Their PR spin doctors do not work weekends,” another member replied.
“It’s the go along to get along mentality among the leadership,” stated another member. “They don’t want to rock the boat with UPS because it’s every man for himself at the leadership level. They’ll be fine no matter what happens.”