Eight Decades and Going Strong!

It is said that “you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.” Since our founding, Local 804 members have fought for better wages, benefits and working conditions. Local 804 members deserve to be proud of all our union has accomplished over the years. Just as we are grateful for the struggles of our union brothers and sisters that preceded us, so must we keep up the fight to ensure a good future for the next generation of Local 804 members.

Part 1 – A Strong Union is Born (1937-1940)

Local 804 was formed in the depths of the Great Depression, during a period of great labor strife and activism. Our first charter, granted by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 1937, gave the union jurisdiction of UPS delivery drivers, as the company was expanding its operations to New York and the east coast.

A year after Local 804 was chartered, there was an all-out Teamsters strike New York City. Truck drivers effectively blockaded the city as union members fought for, and won, a 44-hour workweek.

Congress soon passed the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1938, providing health and safety protections for truck drivers. The law guaranteed drivers the right to have an eight hour break after working for ten hours in a 24-hour period and a maximum of 60 hours behind the wheel each week.

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1938 NYC truck strike
 

An early charter

The following year, 1939, Local 804 engaged in its first strike against UPS. Workers protested the suspension of a member in violation of the grievance procedure. The strike was effective; the workers returned to the job and an arbitration was scheduled. This spirit of justice and militancy has remained the hallmark of Local 804 throughout the decades.

 
Local 804's first contract

Joseph Tortorella, center,
Local 804's 2nd President

Early 804 members primarily delivered packages from department stores to customers’ homes. Until the 1930’s, most large stores had their own delivery departments, but during the depression they began to contract this work out to UPS in order to save money. As UPS expanded in New York City, so did Local 804. By 1940, the union had 1,800 members.

It was also at this time that the union decided that to increase its power it must expand and actively organize new workers. The Merchandise Delivery Drivers and Employees union expanded its jurisdiction beyond UPS and in the 1940’s aggressively organized department store and trucking employees.

1939 walkout