Don’t Rely on the Law:

By Ryan Boyd, Day Ramp Steward

In other countries, workers have greater say in the decisions companies make. Worker representatives may hold positions at the corporate board level. This is a result of strong labor laws and assertive union movements.

The US has long distinguished itself for having weak labor protections, by comparison. When laws like the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) were established in the early 20th century, the labor movement was probably the strongest it has ever been in this country. 

Since that time businesses have worked tirelessly to erode and restrict the protections that were conceived nearly one-hundred years ago. By the same token, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) , the agency that ultimately decides the fate of unsettled grievances, does not always act like the independent mediator it was intended to be. Under the Trump administration, it has barely pretended to give workers any consideration at all. A change in administration will help, but it is not enough to reverse the overall trend.

I mention this because while the underlying rules and principles of labor law are interesting (at least to me), what makes them work is member mobilization and member participation in their union. When we protested the split-wage issue — peak hires earning $2 more than regular new hires — we didn’t get any traction because we didn’t have enough people creating a scene in the streets that could end up on the nightly news. UPS was extremely concerned about the possibility: the demonstrations were monitored constantly by obsessive Labor managers.

At the end of the day, disruption and public exposure are the keys to getting UPS to negotiate, whether the issue is hazard pay, sanitary conditions, or anything else.

Nothing happens automatically. And by no means should grievances be viewed as a good offense; they are slow, bureaucratic, and more often than not achieve only a partial justice. To gain the upper hand, we have to get back to traditional techniques of unionism. It means you have to think seriously about getting involved.

— Ryan Boyd, Day Ramp Steward 

Shoptalk is a space for Local 623 members to publish their views on the union website. If you would like to write for Shoptalk email [email protected] with "SHOPTALK" in the subject line.