My review of The Package King: A Rank and File History of the United Parcel Service by Joe Allen–

The Package King

“Working at UPS should be the best job in America and it just isn’t.” — — a Teamster negotiator to a UPS official during the tense 1997 national contract negotiations.

I was once a package driver for a brief time back in the 1970’s at a non-union local Silver Spring MD delivery company. I did enjoy being out on the road, meeting people on the loading docks, listening to the occasionally humorous chatter on the dispatch radio and knowing the best places around DC to cop a submarine sandwich for lunch.

But one day after almost 12 hours on the road, I fell asleep in the slow lane of a Northern Virginia highway and woke up in the fast lane. I was lucky. I could have killed several people including myself. I quit that company soon afterward and found warehouse and trucking work at a place with regular hours and a union.

Yes, working for United Parcel Service, the leading US package delivery company should be a good job, as the anonymous Teamster negotiator indicated. Joe Allen’s new book, The Package King: A Rank and File History of the United Parcel Service , explains why it isn’t.

Today’s UPS package drivers are subjected to intense surveillance, constant speedup, are subject to serious injury and face a harsh disciplinary system where guilt is assumed. In the warehouses, workers are subjected to brutal unsafe working conditions and many are part-timers laboring at poverty wages.


UPS worker

UPS worker

But wait! Aren’t they in a union? Isn’t the union supposed to protect them from that kind of exploitation? Yes, they are in a union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), once so powerful that the government worried that it could shut down the nation if it wanted to. Today the union is a shell of its former self and while things would be worse without Teamster representation, they could be a helluva lot better.

The power of today’s UPS management and the present weakness of the IBT have deep historical roots that are closely intertwined with one another. With an upcoming Teamster election and allegations of corruption being lodged against allies of IBT President James Hoffa Jr., the timing of this book is right on the money.

Joe Allen is uniquely positioned to write this book, A former UPS worker and a longtime teamster activist, Allen has a deep insight into the logistics industry. He places the history of UPS and the IBT within the development of the modern global logistics industry and the militant, often violent struggles that accompanied that history. The book is brilliant blend of solid socio-economic analysis with the very human stories of workers and management alike.

The rise of UPS: from bicycles to cargo planes

UPS was founded in Seattle, Washington as the American Messenger Service in 1907 by Jim Casey and Claude Ryan. Casey would go on to be the president when the company became UPS in 1919. Originally a bicycle messenger service, the company now flies cargo planes around the planet.

Joe Allen details the almost monomaniacal obsession with packages that would cause the normally taciturn Casey to glow with enthusiasm. He quotes Casey from a 1947 New Yorker interview:

“Deft fingers wrapping thousands of bundles. Neatly tied. Neatly addressed! Stuffed with soft tissue paper! What a treat! Ah, packages!”


Jim Casey

Jim Casey

But packages don’t send themselves, that takes human beings, far more difficult to handle than cardboard, string and tissue paper. Casey had learned how rebellious working class people can be during the Seattle General Strike of 1919.

Seattle at that time was a center for labor radicalism and a stronghold of both the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist Party. In 1919 the organized working class ran the city for a week in a general strike that some hoped would touch off a workers revolution. That didn’t happen, but according to Joe Allen, the strike made a “deep impression on Jim Casey”.

Casey’ brand of military-style workplace discipline was designed to extract maximum profit while molding the minds of UPS workers into an unthinking obedience that would immunize them from labor radicalism. There were the 138 rules UPS employees had to memorize, the aphorism filled company newsletter; the careful screening of applicants for being too intelligent or too unintelligent; the brown uniforms along with a “clean-cut” personal appearance and even a summer camp to learn the UPS way.

This is what I call corporate totalitarianism, the efforts by powerful corporations to control not only the actions of their employees, but their thinking as well; to instill fear and a culture of conformity; and to discourage free and open discussion of company policies. This spills over into the public sphere as corporations use their power and influence to shape social policy to the detriment of the working class.

But unthinking obedience was always an aspiration that never materialized for UPS. UPS workers wanted more workplace democracy, to have a voice in company decisions that affected their lives. UPS would be rocked by rebellions both great and small, mutinies that often resulted in grudging concessions being offered by the UPS leadership to bring temporary labor peace. People want their packages delivered on time and delays through work stoppages can cause customers to switch to competitors.

UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters: A marriage of convenience

If Jim Casey had been influenced by the 1919 Seattle General Strike, so had a young laundry truck driver named Dave Beck. Beck had argued against joining the strike and became a sworn enemy of democracy within the union, an advocate of class collaborationism and a major force for business unionism within the Teamsters. With some help from then IBT President Jim Tobin, a staunch labor movement conservative, Beck rose in the ranks of the West Coast Teamsters and later became the iron fisted International President. Beck was also closely aligned with organized crime because after all, wasn’t the The Mob just another business? Mob control over the Teamsters eventually grew into a lucrative stranglehold.


Dave Beck

Dave Beck

Joe Allen quotes Beck about how he viewed the rank and file teamsters whom he purported to lead:

“Why should truck drivers and bottle washers be allowed to make decisions affecting [Teamster] policy? No corporation would ever allow it”

Beck developed a close relationship with Jim Casey of UPS in the 1930’s, basically promising Casey labor peace if he signed with the Teamsters. Casey was very aware of the growing rank and file labor militancy as symbolized by the bloody 1934 San Francisco General Strike that began with a work stoppage on the waterfront and the violent Minneapolis General Strike of 1934 which began as a truck drivers strike.

Both strikes had been headed by a leftist leadership. Although the classic union demands for wages and benefits played a major role in these strikes, they were also about control over the work process itself, a battle for workplace democracy against the totalitarian model of the US corporation. This was class war, sometimes to the death.


Minneapolis General Strike

Minneapolis General Strike

As Casey saw it, Dave Beck, with his taste for the perks of wealth and privilege, along with his sneering contempt for his own members, seemed a better alternative than the labor radicals who coming to the forefront in during the Depression years. It was an example how two dictators can work together, even while agreeing to disagree at times.

It also represented the shallow roots of democracy within the US socio-economic system, hardly surprising within a nation whose economic origins lay in slavery, indentured servitude and expansion through nearly constant war. The battle over who controls the labor process has always been central to US capitalism and worker participation in deciding the details of that process is key to extending democracy in the workplace. And neither the leadership of UPS or the IBT had any interest in workplace democracy.

The growth of both UPS and the Teamsters Union in Post-WWII USA

The end of WWII in 1945 ushered in a period of sustained US economic growth that would last until the 1970’s. Both UPS and the IBT would grow with it. But there were birth pains to the boom. Joe Allen quotes the Bureau of labor Statistics:

“The first six months of 1946 marked ‘the most concentrated period of labor-management strife in the country’s history.”

The labor radicalism of the Depression Years was still very much alive in 1946, concentrated in the CIO strongholds in basic industry, but extending far beyond the big factories. There were general strikes in several US cities. Eventually the labor radicals would be driven underground by the Red Scare and by racist attacks, only to re-emerge in new forms in the 1960’s-1970’s. UPS, now based in New York as it worked dominate the package industry nationwide, had the rebellious NYC Teamsters Local 804 to contend with. In 1946, defying the Local 804 leadership, UPS workers staged what the NY Times called a “a protracted union rebellion.”

The workers eventually won significant concessions from UPS in a strike the Local 804 officialdom had originally labeled, “foolish and futile.”

Local 804 would continue its tradition of rank and file rebellion in the years to come. In 1955, UPS hired a young man named Ron Carey who became a member of Local 804. Despite his conservative political views, Carey would become the leader of a working class democracy movement that would challenge the dictatorships that ran the IBT and UPS and bring the question of workplace democracy to the nation as a whole.

UPS transforms itself into a freight company as rebellion grows in the Teamsters Union

When Ron Carey was hired at UPS, the company was in the midst of a major restructuring. The explosion of suburban home construction coupled with the building of a vast mostly federally financed interstate highway system had given birth to the shopping mall and the slow decline of the high end department store. If UPS was going to survive, it needed to reinvent itself. Joe Allen:

“The future of UPS lay in becoming a general freight company, a ‘common carrier’ shipper in the industry lingo, a much broader business that connected manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and customers.”

UPS growth was aided by its increasingly close relationship with the federal government. UPS was learning how to lobby the US Government to regulate interstate commerce for the benefit its own profit margin. By the late 1960’s UPS, was putting other freight companies like Railway Express Agency (REA) on the road to bankruptcy.

Ron Carey in 1997

Ron Carey in 1997But in addition to its profits growth, there was something else growing within UPS. a rebellion within the ranks of UPS workers. But for a UPS worker rebellion to succeed, there needed to be drastic transformation of the Teamsters Union.

Rank and file teamsters had begun to tire of the sumptuous lifestyles, personal corruption and gangster ties of both local and and national leaders. Braving violence from the mob-linked Teamster officialdom, local leaders like Ron Carey began to emerge, demanding better contracts, a clean union and more union democracy.

Carey won the presidency of New York Local 804, and led a 1968 local strike against UPS that was a significant victory for NYC UPS workers. Carey’s success must be seen in the context of the times.
Joe Allen:

“1968 was tumultuous time for Ron Carey and Local 804 but it was part of a wider transformation of American society. The civil rights and Black Power movements, the Vietnam antiwar movement, and women’s liberation movement revolutionized the political, cultural. and workplace life in the United States. Women entered the workforce in larger numbers and into fields that weren’t traditionally considered “women’s work” such auto, steel, and fast growing UPS. While Vietnam veterans, who had had their fill of the petty tyranny of military life, were not willing to put up with it on the job. Many radicals who cut their teeth in the civil rights and antiwar movements began to look towards the rank-and-file struggles of U.S. industrial workers as the next step in their political evolution.”

The 1960’s-1970’s was a time of labor revolt, a revolt not only against corporate domination, but a revolt against the established labor leadership who were at best, too comfortable and too complacent, and at worst, openly class collaborationist, corrupt, racist and sexist. Some of the new labor radicals had direct family connections with the labor rebels of the 1930’s and had grown up during the Red Scare. To them, this was personal.

Much of the labor radicalism came from African American workers who were openly defying racism in the workplace as part of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Joe Allen noted that until the mid 1960’s, UPS workers were usually “…white males, many of them Irish Catholic, many with a background in the military.”

With pressure from social movements and well justified fears of expensive lawsuits, UPS began hiring African Americans in significant numbers. Local 804 was 35% Black when Carey took the helm.

Labor radicals helped form opposition caucuses within unions, helped produce rank and file union newsletters, and helped organize solidarity networks. Most of this happened under the radar of the mass media, but both corporate and labor officialdom were very aware of it. The Labor Left was back, UPS and the IBT being no exceptions.
Joe Allen:

“UPS was shaken by an unprecedented militancy of its workforce from 1968 through 1976 when local and region-wide strikes shut down the company for months on end. This era of workplace rebellion throughout the Teamsters — what historian Dan La Botz’s calls ‘The Tumultuous Teamsters of the 1970s’ — produced one of the most dynamic, though short-lived, rank-and-file movements of its time — UPSurge.”

UPSurge was the voice of the Labor Left within UPS. Organized in 1975, primarily by Teamster women, it also owed much to members of the International Socialists (IS), who took jobs at UPS as part of their mission to organize a revolutionary working class movement.

UPSurge women

UPSurge women

UPSurge helped lead battles against sellout Teamster contracts and put out a lively newsletter that eventually reached 15,000 in circulation. UPSurge came up with a list of basic demands that would guide UPS activists well into the future, even after the dissolution of UpSurge. The main ones were:

  • full-time wage rates and benefits for part timers
  • an innocent until proven guilty grievance procedure
  • an end to military style dress and appearance
  • a national contract with rank and file control of bargaining
  • elected business agents and stewards
  • no discrimination against racial minorities and women

UPSurge eventually merged into Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a rank and file industry-wide organization founded in 1975, again with input from the International Socialists. Armed with its Convoy Dispatch newspaper and bulldog-like determination, TDU took on The Mob, corrupt Teamster officialdom and the shipping industry corporate moguls. One of their specialties was organizing resistance to the sell-out contracts negotiated by the top IBT leadership. Another was their fight for free elections in the IBT, including the right of the rank and file to elect the top leadership.

The end of an economic boom is accompanied by major defeats for the US working class

The post WWII US economic boom came to an end in the early 1970’s. When the economy was booming, companies like UPS were more willing to meet Teamster demands, which given the corrupt leadership of the union, were never all that demanding. But when the economy began to sour, a company hardline became the rule at contract time.

Across the economy, rank and file movements faced increased employer pushback and an increasingly hostile federal government, culminating in the the dark days of the Reagan Years. Entire industries were decimated by shutdowns, outright unionbusting, and jobs moving to countries where both labor and human life were cheap. Many of these countries were US-backed dictatorships.

The airline and trucking industries were deregulated. Employers used this new economy of deindustrialization, deregulation and disinvestment to attack unions where they existed and quash any organizing efforts where a union was not present.

The Global South had become a vast sweatshop for global capitalism, led of course by the USA. The appalling workplace conditions that spawned disasters like the NYC Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1912 were reproduced in nations where similar tragedies killed even more workers than the Triangle fire did. But how were these sweatshop products made in the Global South supposed to get to the wealthier nations like the USA?

The answer was logistics, the science of getting stuff from point A to point B. It is no simple matter to get a t-shirt made in Bangladesh to the local Walmart. Even with sophisticated computer networks, logistics still requires actual people to load and unload the products as they go from transfer point to transfer point by railroad, ships, planes and trucks. And global capital was determined to make those people as low paid and non-union as possible.

Under these conditions, UPS launched a full scale assault on its own workforce. Joe Allen quotes from UPS union activist Gerald Gallagher who called it the “pusher mentality”, a strategy to increase workloads and speed up the movement of packages.
Joe Allen:

There was an historic change beginning in the mid-1970s, when working at UPS became more dangerous, part-time work triumphed, and the union was significantly weakened. It became the company that the millions — who have since worked for UPS for the past four decades — would recognize. For UPSers, whose work lives traversed the 1960s and 1970s, the change was palpable.

Along with the brutal speedup, came a deluge of part-time work assignments at poverty wages. For a time UPS had cultivated the media image of being a “liberal” company, and had actual liberals in key positions. That window dressing quickly disappeared and the essentially totalitarian nature of UPS was unleashed with vengeance.


UPS workers

UPS workers

The IBT, still married to The Mob, was in no position to stop the corporate onslaught. That was about to change. Although what Allen calls the “mobbed up” IBT leadership may have once had a tacit alliance with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party, by 1986, the Feds decided that enough was enough. Federal prosecutors launched a RICO case to dissolve the marriage of The Mob and the IBT. That would require close government supervision over the IBT. The Feds might have deregulated the trucking companies, but they were about to exercise serious regulation over an entire union. For Teamster reformers, the federal intervention helped bring about reasonably honest elections, but in the end, would be a factor in overturning the results of one of the IBT’s most critical votes.

Ron Carey: Revolution and counter-revolution in the Teamsters Union

In 1991 Teamster reformer Ron Carey was elected president of the Teamsters Union, aided by federal oversight of the election, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, plus other union members and local officers who wanted a militant and democratic organization. It was a bitterly contested campaign against the “Old Guard”, the former Teamster leadership with its corruption, Mob ties and contempt for the rank and file .

Carey and his team faced what Joe Allen calls “a daunting task”:

“Our mission is to take the enormous resources of this union and give them new direction and new purpose, to win better contracts, to improve pensions, and to organize new workers, to pass national health insurance…Now I invite all of you to join me. This building belongs to you once again.” — -from Ron Carey’s inaugural speech in front of the Teamster HQ in Washington DC

Carey’s team had to clean out decades worth of corruption, remove mobbed-up Teamster officials, as well as prepare for the expiration of the UPS contract in 1993. The union had lost members and had made numerous concessions to employers under the Old Guard. Rank and file morale was low and cynicism was widespread. Some Teamster rank and file supported The Mob because they figured that was the only way to get concessions from powerful employers. Just taking over the Teamster HQ was not enough, the Carey team had to rebuild an entire union that had lost its way under the dictatorship of the Old Guard.

The IBT headquarters in Washington DC is within sight of the US Capitol grounds, convenient for the complex relationship between these two institutions. Carey began walking across the street to testify in Congress against NAFTA and in favor of stronger OSHA enforcement. Usually IBT officials were in the capitol building pleading the 5th Amendment to allegations of Mob ties. Clearly, things were going to be different.

But UPS was visiting Congress also. According to Joe Allen, by the 1990’s UPS was,”…the single largest campaign contributor to federal candidates…” UPS allied itself with the Newt Gingrich forces in Congress with their broad anti-labor agenda and opened its checkbook to anti-labor politicians.

But their biggest nemesis was the Occupational Health and Safety Administration(OSHA). UPS had racked up an impressive number of OSHA violations, especially when UPS upped the weight limit on its packages. UPS wanted the right to maim its own workers with impunity. The Carey team wanted a safe workplace, a demand that goes to the very core of workplace democracy and who controls the work process.

In 1994, Carey called for a strike against UPS for raising the limit from 70 to 150 pounds. Despite an injunction, Old Guard opposition, and threats to fire strikers, the union did manage to win some concessions. UPS hated the fact that Carey was acting like a genuine labor leader and the corporate owned media ran a slew of anti-Carey stories causing a former New York Times labor reporter to describe the effort as, “…“one of the most egregious disinformation campaigns in modern American journalism.”

That the corporate world preferred the old fashioned gangster-led IBT became crystal clear when James P. Hoffa Jr, son of the slain former IBT President Jimmy Hoffa, ran against Carey in the 1996 Teamster election.
Joe Allen:

“Despite James P. Hoffa’s Jr. long association with organized crime and corrupt union officers well documented by the Carey campaign, he was largely treated with kid gloves by the media.He was continually referred to as ‘son of the legendary Teamster leader,’ for example.’”

The Hoffa Jr. campaign was supported by elements of the Teamster Old Guard who hated that Carey threatened their power and privilege. They much preferred expensive steaks and leisurely golf games to the complicated and risky business of leading strikes, conducting tough negotiations and acting on the demands made by an increasingly outspoken rank and file.

Carey won the 1996 election, but behind the scenes, some staffers in his campaign had secretly organized illegal campaign contributions when faced with the strength of Carey’s opposition. When the ill-conceived scheme was finally revealed it, proved to be a dangerous blunder, with terrible consequences, not just for Ron Carey personally, but for the labor movement as a whole.

Part-time America Won’t Work!

The Carey team knew full well that democracy requires an educated involved citizenry. For the IBT, this meant its members. I recall members of the IBT before the big changes of the 1990’s who said they were never informed of union meetings, never saw a union rep, and only knew they were in a union because dues were being deducted from their checks. When pressed they weren’t even sure which union it was. Others were terrified to even talk about the union because its local leadership was made up of mobsters who killed without mercy or regret.

As soon as they took office, the Carey team had put major resources into the communications department, changing the name of their main publication from The Teamster to the The New Teamster. They put out a survey of their members to gain information and advice from teamsters of all types. As a run-up to the critical 1997 UPS negotiations, the IBT ordered all UPS locals to set up a member-to-member networks and provided resources and trained people to help make that happen.

According to former Field Services Department director David Eckstein, “We wanted people we could count on. We wanted to create an army the company couldn’t buy.”

And Ron Carey personally laid it on the line to any Old Guard obstructionist local leaders:

“I know some of you don’t like me but this is a national contract campaign and it is going to happen. We have two plans, Plan A is where we give you everything you need to move the campaign in your local, and Plan B is the same as Plan A but we move it in your local without you.”

UPS was furious about the Carey team’s new policy of rank and fill participation in the contract negotiations as well as the noisy public rallies that were being organized across the nation. The company that had no problem dealing with corrupt IBT autocrats was now dealing with honest, tough and aggressive negotiators.

They were also facing an aroused and organized rank and file in numbers they had never seen before. UPS management was caught flatfooted when the 1997 strike began on August 3rd 1997. The IBT led by the Carey team had been preparing for a possible strike for months. The UPS management had not. Joe Allen:

“Packages piled up in enormous mounds everywhere. UPS never believed there was going to be a strike and left its customers hanging. It had no Plan B. The other big shipping companies including the U.S. Post Office, Emery, FedEx, Airborne, and DHL couldn’t handle the increased volume of work.”


UPS workers

The 1997 UPS Strike

The 1997 Strike

Armed with the slogan “Part-time America Won’t Work”, one that resonated with a US population anxious about their own economic futures, the strike had massive public support as people brought food, drink and moral support to the picket lines. UPS workers were people that many Americans dealt with regularly, not remote strangers they had never met.

As Jim Kelly, CEO of UPS put it:

“If you were to pit a large corporation against a friendly, courteous UPS driver, I’d vote for the UPS driver, also.”

The Carey team also went international and sought solidarity from UPS workers of other nations. There were sympathy strikes and other actions around the planet. Globalization had globalized labor as well as capital, something the Carey team was acutely aware of. Workers of the world were uniting. The strike ended with concessions from UPS on wages, pensions, part-time work and the creation of full-time positions.

The Empire Strikes Back

What happened next was a tragedy that would strain the abilities of even a Shakespeare or a Sophocles. Within a relatively short time, Ron Carey was disqualified as a candidate for re-election and was banished from the union. James Hoffa Jr became union president. Joe Allen goes into great detail about how the convergence of anti-Carey forces came together to make this happen: Hoffa supporters within the IBT, Republican congresspeople, UPS itself, the federal government and the court system.

The scheme concocted by 3 former aides to funnel illegal campaign contributions to Carey’s 1996 election became the wedge to destroy his presidency and deeply wound the IBT reform movement. It was also a blow to the labor movement as a whole as Carey’s rank and file organizing strategy was seen by many labor activists as the wave of a union revitalization future.

That Carey denied knowing of the scheme and was found innocent in a federal perjury trial related to the incident, mattered little. Carey’s militant labor actions and his alliance with the Labor Left through TDU and other connections, was seen as dangerous, not just to UPS, but to much broader corporate interests. It became obvious that the US government, which was still overseeing activities within the union, opposed not only outright Mob domination of the IBT, but also militant class struggle unionism.

James Hoffa Jr.

James Hoffa Jr.

The UPS top leadership was overjoyed that the troublesome Ron Carey, former UPS worker and fighting labor leader, was out of the picture. The company made no secret of its affection for James Hoffa Jr, the IBT president who succeeded him. Since that time, Hoffa has led an ignominious retreat from the courageous rank and file organizing that won the 1997 UPS strike and the admiration of so many working class Americans.
Joe Allen:

“While the Teamsters have given away billions in concessions, UPS continued to ruthlessly pursue its goal of being the most important transportation company in the world, or, more specifically, the most important logistics company in the world. What does the reshaping of the company around logistics mean for the potential power of UPS workers? Are they stronger or weaker today?”

“Amateurs talk tactics, professionals study logistics.” — -General Omar M. Bradley

In the final chapter of the book, Joe Allen raises critical questions about the future of the logistics industry. As one industry veteran put it, his business was once a trucking company that did logistics; now it’s a logistics company that owns trucks.
Joe Allen:

“The production of capital goods (machines and tools for manufacturing) and consumer goods (for personal consumption) has been and will be central to the capitalist system. Every generation or so, however, capital reorganizes its methods of production and circulation (what bourgeois economists call distribution) and in the process remakes the composition of the industrial working class. These changes can be gut-wrenching and disorienting, and it can take a significant amount of time for socialists and other working-class activists to reorient themselves. These changes include modernization of production techniques (the means of production), the organization of production and labor management, the methods of transporting goods to the market, and how goods are actually sold to the consumer.”

To even call this complex relationship a “supply chain” is misleading, as it is far more complex than the “chain” metaphor suggests. It is also a visible reminder of the immense power of global capital to shape the destinies of entire nations and regions. One only has to study the trade deals like the TPP to see global capital is organizing itself not just to generate more profit, but to severely limit democracy itself. Contrary to the delusions about spreading freedom and democracy voiced by rightwing ideologues, capitalism seeks to limit democracy by restricting the ability of the working class to influence the organization and direction of economic life. Today’s global corporations, all of whom are organized as individual totalitarian entities, are trying to develop even closer alliances and closer relationships.

This is not good news for the global working class and the ongoing battle for workplace democracy. But Joe Allen sees a silver lining in this ominous looking cloud. The vast global logistics network has built concentrations of distribution centers such as the complex of warehouses and fulfillment centers located southwest of Chicago. Joe Allen calls these the “‘chokepoints in the modern industrial system that runs backward to the manufacturer and forward to the customer.” Strategically, the workers in these facilities potentially have great power if they are able to organize and join with others in the global logistics industry to gain a voice in determining policy.

There are efforts going on to organize these workers who endure poverty wages, brutal speedup and unhealthy dangerous working conditions.Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) in the Chicago region is one of them. WWJ members are well aware of the global nature of their jobs as they unload trucks filled with products of many nations. At this stage these and similar efforts elsewhere are basically workers centers, one step in the long and difficult road towards unionization and workplace democracy.

For UPS workers, the battle for a better informed and more active rank and file continues despite the best efforts by the forces around IBT President James Hoffa Jr. to quash it. The upcoming Teamster election will be a good test of how well the democratization of the IBT is going.

The 1997 UPS strike was one of those brief and shining moments when a strike becomes a mass movement beyond the ranks of the strikers themselves and drives hopes for a better future across the broader working class. It also showed how such moments create a dangerous fury among the wealthy corporate-owning minority and their allies, a fury that resulted in the ouster of Ron Carey and a setback not only for UPS workers and their union, but for the working class a whole.

Joe Allen’ s book is a great gift to UPS workers and other workers in the global logistics industry, a powerful tool for achieving not only workplace democracy, but an extension of democracy across entire societies facing domination by corporate totalitarianism. It deserves the widest possible circulation.

September 29, 2016 by
Filed under: Global issues, Society and Economy, Unions, US politics 


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