(WASHINGTON) – With the start of the holiday shopping season just weeks away, mechanics and other workers who ensure UPS’s (NYSE: UPS) fleet of jet engine aircraft are operational and safe are heading into negotiations with the company.
UPS, a multi-billion-dollar company, is calling for a massive reduction in both active and retiree health benefits for 1,200 maintenance workers who are critical to the company’s supply chain. Most do physically demanding and often dangerous work around jet engine aircraft and equipment, and toxic fuel, chemicals and exhaust.
“Every day I go to work to service the planes that are essential to UPS’s success and to customers all over the world getting their important deliveries like text books, medicine and building supplies on time. Without operational aircraft, these important deliveries and holiday gifts won’t be delivered on time. I take my job very seriously, but it takes a toll on my body,” said Ralph Neapolitan, a 10-year mechanic at UPS in Louisville, KY. “UPS is hugely profitable because of the dangerous work we do, and it isn’t right that the company is trying to deny us of basic health benefits. We are standing up to UPS together to protect our health and our retirement.”
UPS is proposing to increase health care costs for families by as much as 430 percent in just the first year of a new contract with increases each year after, while the company’s record profits, huge dividend payouts, and massive executive compensation packages dominate headlines. In September, the company announced additional stock incentives and 10 percent raises for its top executives: Chairman and CEO David P. Abney, Senior Vice President and CFO Richard N. Peretz, CCO Alan Gershenhorn and President of U.S. Operations Myron A. Gray. The company predicts another quarter of record-setting earnings.
“Our breakrooms and offices fill up with toxic fumes when aircraft are moved in and out; jet engine blasts are a continual risk as is hearing loss due to dangerous working conditions; not long ago a member’s leg was crushed by a main landing gear wheel that fell on it; and we’ve had numerous members whose backs have been ruined by lifting massive charging cords with no assistance,” said Tim Boyle, President of Teamsters Local 2727, the workers’ union.
“These are just a few examples of the dangers facing mechanics, and it is unconscionable that UPS is coming after our members’ health care and retirement benefits during this holiday season. The company, millions of customers and pilots all rely on mechanics to keep this multi-billion-dollar company operating and delivering on time,” added Boyle.
In 2008, OSHA cited UPS for violations that led to, among other injuries, a worker breaking his neck when a truck he was parked in was blown over by the jet blast of a Boeing 747 aircraft. A recent OSHA complaint asserts these dangerous conditions persist. This physically strenuous and often dangerous work of aircraft mechanics, inspectors, utility employees and others is a key reason why health care cuts are a non-starter for Local 2727 members.
“Often there is just one mechanic assigned to an airport, and that takes a serious toll on us physically. Repetitive stress and lifting injuries are common because maintenance staff is operating solo and fast, in order to keep things moving on-time,” said Kevin Gawlik, a mechanic at Rockford, Illinois for the past 22 years. “We have members who are out on long-term disability at 60, who may never return to work because of injuries sustained after years of this demanding labor. What happens to them and their families if UPS guts their health benefits?”
Workers have held protests and informational pickets in front of retail giants like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), a major customer of UPS, calling on UPS to preserve good, middle class jobs for these vital, skilled workers. More protests and pickets are scheduled to occur as UPS attempts to deliver more than 1.6 million packages a day during the lead up to the holidays, which is peak season for the package delivery giant.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. For more information, please visit www.teamster.org.