I went to work at United Parcel Service when I was only nineteen years old, so I’ve been in this union for a long time.

UPS is infamous for its productivity standards and its “power-over” control of the workforce. Their whole MO was management by intimidation. But they paid well! They’d get you on the hook that way. But if you wanted to be sure that you had a job to come to the next day or keep the boss from harassing you to death, then you had better produce in spades!

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They had productivity standards—it was called the Smith Time & Motion System--and they measured your every movement down to the hundredth of a second. Stopwatches were their trademark. Work methods had to be strictly followed. Even the smallest detail like inserting the key in the ignition had a proper method—you had to time it with pulling the hand brake. Every thing that you did was measured and mapped out through the course of the day.

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I’ve always taken great pride in my work and believed in giving a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Sure, I’ll work hard for you, but I’m not going to kill myself doing it. I had a great shop steward that looked out for us, made sure we got our breaks, etcetera. As a result, he was terribly harassed by management. I’ll never forget the warning letter they gave him for “farting in the truck,” because their constant pressure gave him a hypertension condition called gastritis.

The questions I needed answered were: Where was the union?

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Why is the union in bed with the bosses? Why are workers fighting the union as much as they’re fighting the company? The answer was that the union needed to be reformed to represent the membership’s interests. We needed union democracy.

 

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The fundamental principle of trade unionism is solidarity, right? Anything that brings workers together is good. Anything that divides us is bad. That fundamental principle is one of the reasons I believe that the labor movement is at the point of any struggle for social justice. Everyone has to work for a living, and we all must stick together to claim the fruits of our labor. A progressive trade union that supports that fundamental principle of solidarity must be on the vanguard of the fight against racism, sexism and elitism, because those anti-social “isms” simply pit people against people rather than pulling them together.

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