How would you feel if, one day in January, you opened your pay stub and saw that your wages were cut by up to $6/hour? You’d probably be angry, wondering how a company that’s been going gangbusters since the start of the pandemic and has recently raised its prices to customers could do this to you. That’s just what happened to about 4,000 part-time workers at UPS—most at big-city hubs where the cost of living is highest, who discovered on their paychecks in January that the “Market Rate Adjustment” (MRA) was being revoked and their wages were dropped to $17.50/hour from $21.50/hour. The company also announced that part-timers would get a $150 bonus for perfect attendance, but this bonus is not available to everybody and does not get paid if a worker misses a day for vacation or because they’re sick.
As soon as the Nor Cal Teamsters UPS Committee learned of the cuts, they organized the first of several actions—rallies at eight UPS HUBS across Northern and Central California and Reno, NV, all held on January 27. The next action, held on February 23, brought about 500 UPSers from the Greater Bay Area and the Central Valley together for a rally at the San Francisco UPS hub. In addition, these actions sparked rallies in Ontario, CA (Feb. 24) and in Philadelphia, PA (Feb. 28).
Capping off the actions was a rally at the California Capitol building in Sacramento on March 24, where nearly 600 Teamsters and friends heard from numerous state legislators who all pledged their support to UPSers across the state. The group also heard from several UPS part-time workers who shared stories about how the cuts are impacting their lives.
The night before the Sacramento rally, UPS issued a statement touting the great benefits it pays, falsely asserting that the Attendance Bonus paid more than the MRA, and proudly listing part-timer wages at $15-17.16/hour—just barely over minimum wage and far from a living wage in the larger cities.
How the cuts came about
UPS uses MRAs to increase wages to help attract and retain workers in high-cost areas and tight labor markets yet the company stripped these wages from part-time workers in January. Because the raises weren’t negotiated into the contract, the union can’t use the grievance process to fight the cuts.
“It’s disgraceful that UPS would slash wages of its lowest-paid workers when the company has raked in record profits from their labor,” said Teamsters Joint Council 7 President Jason Rabinowitz at the San Francisco rally in February. “The 325,000 Teamster essential UPS workers throughout the country have been working hard on the front lines throughout this pandemic, keeping America moving and making the company billions [reportedly $13 billion in operating profits in 2021 alone].
Rabinowitz added that with the cost of living skyrocketing, many part-timers are already struggling financially. “UPS Teamsters have fought for decades to win a labor contract that provides fair pay and benefits for our hard work, unlike non-union companies like Amazon that pay poverty wages and offer minimal benefits. Teamsters will fight UPS’ efforts to transform our good union jobs into Amazon-like poverty jobs.”
“Teamsters will not back down from this fight,” said Peter Nuñez, Chair of the Teamsters Northern California UPS Committee to the rally crowd, explaining that the $6/hour pay cut comes out to about $5,500/year. “It probably doesn’t sound like much to UPS CEO Carol Tomé, who makes millions, but it’s pulling the rug out from under thousands of families.”
“The [Teamsters Nor Cal UPS] Committee is committed to keeping up the fight until UPS restores the MRA,” said Nuñez. “We need to be in a position of strength when we start negotiations for a new UPS contract later this year.”