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National Labor Expert Offers Perspective on UPS Strike.

PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 21, 1997--Dr. Arthur B. Shostak, a professor of sociology at Drexel University and a nationally recognized labor expert, offers the following prospective on the impact on the labor movement as a wrap-up to the Teamsters-UPS Strike.

Carey, Sweeney, and PATCO: Hard-earned Lessons, Heart-felt Gains


Dr. Arthur B. Shostak, Professor of Sociology

Drexel University

As the strikers will never tire of telling their grandchildren, the 1997 Teamster-UPS strike ended in one of the clearest labor victories in modern times, one that may have enabled labor to finally put the ghost of the PATCO disaster to rest.

Not since 1981 when the White House fired 11,400 PATCO strikers has a labor-management showdown so captured public attention, inconvenienced so many, involved so many workers, and so tested labor's mettle. Organized labor showed it had studied fatal errors made 16 years ago by PATCO and the labor movement, errors it had no intention of repeating.

This time, for example, the union made a creative effort to win public support, something PATCO ineptly sought only after the fact. The Teamsters (IBT) held press conferences and public rallies before and during the strike, going so far as to make strategic use of web sites to update and rally its 185,000 members. (UPS chair James Kelly complained the union had a "media blitz ready to go.")

This time the union succeeded in linking its case to issues the whole country could identify with, something PATCO failed to achieve. The union sought a raise for part-timers and an option to go full-time, bargaining demands that resonated with all Americans who feel victimized by "take-it-or-leave-it" terms of employment.

Unlike PATCO, then, which lost badly in the Court of Public Opinion, the Teamsters won almost two-to-one over UPS in a Fox News poll, earned a 55%-to-27% win a CNN/USA Today Gallup Poll, and scored 39% to 30% in an ABC News Nightline poll taken shortly before the company came to terms.

This time the Teamsters sought and secured widespread support from other unionists, something PATCO was too proud and insular to bother with. The IBT earned critical support from the UPS Independent Pilots Union which honored the picket line. The AFL-CIO came through with a loan of $10-million a week to help cover the strike benefit bill.

And, best of all, diverse AFL-CIO local unions visited Teamster picket lines in a colorful show of solidarity, just what the labor movement needs to affirm mutual concern and buoy morale.

Unlike PATCO in 1981, the Teamsters updated traditional strike tactics to better fit the times. Recognizing the happy coincidence of many jobs available for strikers, the union scaled back the picketline hours expected for receiving strike benefits, and liberated many to supplement their takehome pay with temporary jobs.

Little wonder that the second week of the strike ended with 97% of the pickets firm in their refusal to heed company calls to cross the line (PATCO suffered a 20% defection rate, half of whom never struck, while the others crossed over).

Finally, the two strikes differ in that PATCO in 1980 supported a Republican candidate for the presidency, only to find to its astonishment that Ronald Reagan had no compunctions about breaking their strike, firing the strikers, decertifying their union, imposing a lifetime blacklist ban on their ever getting new federal employ, sanctioning the hiring of replacement workers, and signalling more virulent anti-union employers they had a friend in the White House.

The Teamsters, in contrast, helped a Democrat win re-election in 1996, and were been aided thereafter by Alexis Herman, Clinton's Secretary of Labor, to resolve their strike in a fashion that left all capable of getting on with business. As well, the White House declined to use the Taft- Hartley Act to force a cooling-off period on the workers, a move no president had taken in the last 25 years, albeit UPS urged this almost from day one.

In the aftermath of the historic UPS-IBT strike of '97, the American labor movement appears smarter, stronger, and more relevant than in many recent years. It is proud that nearly all of its contracts (5,000 this year alone) are settled without conflict, but proud also of its ability to hold its own -- and then some -- should conflict prove necessary.

It is especially proud that the nation's air traffic controllers, after trying life without a union for six years after the PATCO disaster, have since re-unionized as NATCA-AFL-CIO and rejoined the ranks of organized labor.

Like the 1981 PATCO strike, the Teamster-UPS strike already has a major place in American labor history. This time, however, it does not signal a sharp blow to, but rather a significant boost for labor's prospects. -0-

Arthur B. Shostak is an Industrial Sociologist and Labor Educator at Drexel University. He is the principle author of "The Air Controller's Controversy: Lessons from the 1981 PATCO Strike." He is also an Adjunct Sociologist at the AFL-CIO George Meany Center for Labor Studies. -0- A photo of Shostak is available upon request.

CONTACT: Drexel University

Preston M. Moretz, Drexel News Bureau, 215/895-1715
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Date:Aug 21, 1997
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