Part 5 – A New Leader for the ‘60s

The new decade brought changes to the labor movement and America as a whole.  The baby boom generation, including more women, was entering the workforce.  The civil rights movement was taking hold and the demographics of the Local 804 membership was also changing.  By decades end, almost a third of Local 804 members were African American.   

There was also a growing recognition of the need to help workers and their families with mental health and substance abuse problems.  In 1962, Local 804 helped found Teamsters Center Services, which still provides confidential services to Local 804 members.

UPS continued its expansion.  In 1960, the New York Public Service Commission granted permission for UPS-New York to expand and operate a statewide delivery service for commercial and industrial companies. UPS estimated they would employ another 300 workers with an additional 272 trucks.

Jack Mahoney, elected Local 804 President in 1958, served only one term.  Vice President Thomas Simcox followed and was first elected Local President in 1962.

1960s union card 1962 Contract book det
1960s Union Card 1962 Contract Book


The media reported on increasing dissent within labor unions.  An unnamed labor lawyer told the New York Times in 1962 that there was a growing gap between the labor leaders and rank and file members, a deterioration in leadership resulting from the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field and the LMRDA of 1959, as well as “many workers have(ing) become union members only by virtue of union shop.  They know pathetically little or what it is all about.  Their basic attitude is ‘gimme’.”

The Militant newspaper declared “United Parcel Strike in N.Y. Illustrates New Union Mood.”  One month earlier, Local 804 UPS drivers struck after rejecting a contract that was endorsed by Local 804 leadership and International Union.  The Local and IBT did support the strike, however, and provided members with support and strike benefits.  The central issue of the strike was management’s demand for a “speed-up” clause and members believed the proposal gave the company “unrestricted flexibility” which threatened job security.  The contract also allowed UPS to hire part-time workers for evening shifts.  The strike ended 7 weeks later, though members accepted the exact terms that they had previously rejected.

 

 Militant 1962 det

  Dissent on the rise det2
 
Militant 1962   Dissent in Unions


Almost 600 Long Island City Macy’s warehouse workers also struck in the summer of 1962.  It lasted for six weeks.  They had greater success and won a contract that raised weekly wages 6 to 8 dollars a week, along with fringe benefits.

Numerous wildcat strikes would occur throughout the 60’s.  But Local 804 also worked with employers when it benefited workers.  For example, in 1963 the union mobilized members to oppose Mayor Wagner’s proposed sales tax increase.

In 1964, the first National Master Freight Agreement was signed.  It was a turning point for the Teamsters, the first step in a larger dream to nationalize union contracts and create a single, higher standard for all workers.  The first UPS national agreement would not be negotiated until the 1970’s.

In 1965, a UPS contract was reached without a strike “for the first time 12 years,”  according to Local 804 President Simcox.  The contract, covering drivers, deliverymen and inside workers, brought the average weekly wage to $134.80, made improvements to the pension and health funds, as well as three paid sick days.

Despite the success of the 1965 contract, internal dissention remained at the Local and members were ready to elect a new generation of leaders. 

 1966 wildcat strike det Ron Carey elected
1966 Wildact Strike Ron Carey

 

In late 1967, the “Security and Future” slate, headed by Ron Carey, was elected to lead the union.  Central to the slates platform was a $250 monthly pension after 25 years (regardless of age), increased welfare fund and fewer strikes.   After losing the election, former Local 804 President Simcox was appointed President of Joint Council 16 by the IBT.

 Security Future Slate pension Leaflet det   Who wins a strike det
Security slate   Who wins a strike

 

Despite leaderships pledge to resist striking, Local 804 UPS members went on strike in May 1968.  President Carey said that the main points of contention were stopping the company from increasing the number of student part-timers hired (they were not union members) and the company’s increased use of rail for long-haul operations.  

Two months into the strike, acting Teamster General President Frank Fitzimmons overrode Local 804 leadership and scheduled a membership contract vote.  A few days later, Teamster Locals 804, 177 and 138 announced a tentative agreement and scheduled a vote.  The New York Times reported that numerous members and shop stewards booed during the contract and called for members to vote the proposal down.  The contract failed to deliver the $1 an hour raise the union had fought for, as well as an end to the company’s use of “piggyback runs” – transporting trucks on railroads.

However, the tentative agreement did include many improvements.  It provided raises and increases to health and welfare benefits and created a member dental plan for the first time.  While a $250 monthly pension, regardless of age, was not achieved for members with 25 years of service, it was for members with 30 years of service (and to those with 25 years of service aged 55).  They would now receive a $250 monthly pension until age 65, at which time the payment would drop to $120.  Members with less time in (or a lower age) received a smaller pension. While the contract did not end the use of student part-time workers, UPS agreed to not increase the hiring of part-time workers.

Tent Agreement 7.10.68 det

 

mechanic strike7.22.68 det

Tentative Agreement   Mechanics Ratify Parcel Contract

 

Local 804 members approved the contract.  But as they prepared to return to their jobs, UPS mechanics, represented by IAM Local 447 mechanics, voted a contract down whose terms were very similar to the Teamster contract.  The mechanics had honored the Local 804 pickets, but when they called for their own strike, Local 804 ordered their members to cross the IAM picket lines.   Despite the lack of support from Local 804, within a couple of days, the mechanics voted for a contract deal that raised wages higher than the first offer.