As the 2018 Elections for Teamsters Local 804 approached, many were confounded with the idea of how to fix the union. The idea of how to fix the union is complicated, but in many ways it was the simplest idea. One of the biggest problems that will faced by anyone who sits on the Executive Board for Teamsters Local 804, will be raising the awareness of the new members in regards to their rights as union members. The void that exist between any real effort in educating the member in understanding unionism compared to the system adopted by UPS is immense. Most individuals step into the role as a union representative with a vision or plan usually run into problems in executing their plan. Often words filled with promises are given, but those promises are never recorded on paper was a reference in sitting down and writing out an actual plan.
The most difficult obstacle facing any union representative, in the future, is changing the perception of the union. The perception is one of lazy and corrupt individuals. The past three years has seen charges levied against two consecutive executive boards in Teamsters Local 804. The first charges levied were initially for embezzlement against former Teamsters Local 804 President Tim Sylvester and the entire Executive Board. Then active Local 804 President Edween Vihalta then was charged with improper use of funds in connection with the improper relationship with an co-worker. He was ultimately removed from office.
What inference can a member draw, when charges are being levied against former and present union representatives; eventually union members will show up campaigning as the champion of change. The message of “change” has always been the selling point used to gain votes? The cynic will see right through this message and the naive are not anymore with the introduction of the smart phones. They are able to access information and in some ways have a better understanding of why they do not want to engage in union activities as they have access to so much negative information including the scandals within their own union.
When promoting awareness amongst the members, the union risk causing members to becoming too aware of the corruption that presently exist within and outside of Teamsters Local 804. Transparency under the guise of informing the members has only exposed them to the fact that the dirty business know as unionism still exists and a “broom” does not exist to sweep the corruption away. This can potentially cause the opposite reaction compared to the one sought. The members have already seen how their votes literally did not count as the “Vote NO” campaign was successful yet ultimately a failure.
Accounts of how management has been harassing UPS members litters Facebook pages on a daily basis. Teamsters Local 804 is no exception to the rule. Several groups have been created by cliques in order to air their grievances against each other and the company. Podcast and live radio shows now exist in which members can both call in and participate in the process of air out their gripes with both the union and UPS. The single argument that will hurt and make it difficult in recruiting the “New Hires” into adopting the unionism is the fact all these forums in reality become arenas in which members debate, chastise, and flat out threaten each other. The differences that all the members have with each other become more apparent by the day. Political differences, racism, and cultural beliefs.
Skepticism of the union easily can be summed up by any member with a cell phone and basic knowledge of research. The positives are few, and only those positives are the rights fought for and won nearly 100 years ago. Teamsters Local 804 as of recent memory has no real victories or news that would be successful in galvanizing the members into being engaged in union activities. Speeches fill the airwaves and Facebook pages; but none of these speeches have yielded any real action plans or effective idea that may have any real chance of being achievable.
Another obstacle a union representative will face is what message are they selling to the members. Unity is an impossible task, as the demographics of the union will not allow the same type of unity that once was shared by the “Old Immigrants” of the past. Race is a very real issue that the union has ignored for nearly seventy-five (75) years, after the second world war. Not directly dealing with the issues of race, feminism, and immigration has cost the unions over the years in maintaining the unity that is necessary in being successful. Teamsters Local 804 is no different. Recent election results have caused this very issue to come to the forefront. A particular contingent believe the last election was won based on race (Latino) and no other reason. This type of thinking only causes more of a divide that may or may not have existed. More importantly, the legitimacy of the election is being questioned. The unfortunate part of this one individual’s opinion, is the fact he has a live stream radio who in which he air his opinions for the members to listen to.
The reality that most individuals have a hard time in realizing is the fact that schism exist between members down racial lines. Other than unity, what other message does Teamsters Local 804 have to sell. A typical member can easily observe the infighting and corruption; and wonder when will the union have time to engage the company. The first order of business would be for those members who are engaged to stop the infighting. Selling the idea of unity to such a large demographic is difficult enough as it is when they observe disorganized nature of the union itself. It is an easyargument,”Why should we get along with others, who are not like us, when you don’t get along with yourselves?” This question must be answered first, before selling an idea that was initially thought of a simple. The simplest idea is actually complicated. In the end, what is the simplest idea that a Teamsters Local 804 members can sell to the members, that they would both buy into and participate in?
The final and biggest issue confronting Teamsters Local 804 is convincing a certain segment of members that by letting certain types of individuals into your tent, that years ago you would not have normally considered as members is the biggest problem confronting the local. This is the same problem that was confronted by the union after World War II. The assimilation of the members that were rejected for various reasons, demographics, sex, and age have always been a problem that continues to cause a gap in sharing ideas for a better union. Changing one’s values and being to follow this idea becomes the biggest problem. Being able to accept and change a detriment to the change that is needed.
Finding a unifying symbol for all to follow is now an almost impossible task, because not understanding all involved the so called “fight” makes if extremely difficult to unify them for the “fight.” The value system that each individual functions within is the the search any leader must undertake if they are to be able accomplish the goal of unifying a membership within a local union. The biases the members have towards each other is layered from racism, age, social class, and even each individuals attitude towards work. The membership constantly is at war with each other for various reasons that should not exist in the first place; but is a reflection of issues society as a norm deals with on a daily basis. Changing that perception is the task at hand is there is going to be any progress within a union. Not understanding the various groups and sub-groups within a local becomes the most imperative issue in dealing with unification of a union.
Finding a unifying message the main goal that must be achieved in order to unify a union. The typical message of us against them, being management, does not work anymore as the complex organization, known as UPS, has a system in place in which management is not so much the enemy as in years past. The system has turned the lowest tiers of management into the very same type of employee that works underneath them. They serve in the same manner, but have a title that make it clear their place within the hierarchy, but participate in the same work as their underlings and they do not truly enjoy much of a financial advantage compared their underlings as well. A sort of camaraderie exist between the two, that makes it difficult for the union to paint them as the enemy.
A new message must be found, which would be normally considered simple, but more complex when searching for such a message that would unify all. Understanding the values and background of all involved is the first step. The most difficult step is finding a way for all involved to put aside their biases towards each other and learn about each other. If such a thing can be accomplished, it is possible the the simplest idea can be accomplished.