Part 7 – 1970’s - Old Glory & Black Liberation; Local 804 Scholarship Fund

In its eight-decade history, Local 804 often struck over working conditions, but the cause of the 11-day strike in 1970 was unusual. Local 804 called a wildcat strike over UPS’s refusal to allow package drivers to wear lapel pins on their uniforms. With controversy over the Vietnam war raging, UPS workers, many of whom were military vets, wore patriotic pins. UPS did not object. However, an estimated 35% of UPS workers in the NY Metro area were African American and some of these members displayed black liberation buttons. Still others declared their political beliefs with anti-war buttons. At that point, UPS forbade workers to wear pins of any kind on the job.  

An arbitrator ruled in favor of the company and fined the union. Local 804 President Carey, a Nixon supporter, declared, “We are striking for the American flag and the pride of a man in his country or his race.” In the end, UPS agreed to allow workers to wear flag lapel pins but no others and members returned to work.

 

Edward Dougerty died while picketing in 1974.      (left) UPS Fleet, 1970, (right) Lapel pins in support of the Vietnam War
Edward Dougerty died while picketing in 1974.   UPS Fleet, 1970, (right) Lapel pins in support of the Vietnam War


The cause of the next UPS strike, in 1974, was a break down in contract negotiations.  UPS was seeking to replace full-time workers with part-time sorters. The strike began on August 24th. Rubin Tollincho, a Maspeth UPS worker, told a New York Times reporter, “that because of the strike, he had postponed his marriage indefinitely, sold his car, given up his apartment and moved in with his mother.”

Local 177 in New Jersey was no longer bargaining jointly with Local 804 and Local 804 believed that New York work was being diverted to the Local 177 represented Secaucus facilities. In protest, Local 804 set up pickets in New Jersey.

Tragically, on August 29, 1974, Local 804 Trustee Edward “Doc” Dougherty was killed by a UPS truck while picketing outside the Secaucus UPS facility. No charges were brought against the driver, a Local 177 member. To honor his memory, Local 804 created the Dougherty Memorial Scholarship Fund.  

During the strike, UPS was in the process of moving its headquarters from Manhattan to Greenwich, Connecticut. UPS claimed losses in its New York operations and threatened to shut them down. Having closed operations in Philadelphia several years earlier, this was not an idle threat. On November 21st a compromise was reached. The company won the right to replace full-time workers through attrition, but was limited to 180 new part-time positions per year. Wages were raised and members won cost of living increases.
For the first time, a national UPS contract was negotiated in 1979. The Local 804 leadership, which had operated largely independently of the national union for the previous decade, resisted inclusion in a national contract.