Hd — Labor’s Charade

A union victory? That’s been the undisputed spin on last week’s settlement of the UPS strike, although upon closer examination it’s much more of a mixed bag than the Teamsters would care to admit.

For one thing, thousands of folks are likely to be laid off because of the lost business during and after the strike. For another, union officials agreed to a five-year contract instead of the three- or four-year pact they really wanted (and the average 3 percent-a-year raises seem hardly worth striking about, much less losing a couple of weeks pay for). In addition, the Teamsters’ refusal to let UPS operate their pension means the rank-and-file will lose out plenty come payout time.

All in all, it doesn’t seem like much of a “victory.” And organized labor could be in even worse shape than before the strike, because corporate management around the country is sure to be on the defensive for any hint of trouble from its work forces. If corporate America had been snoozing, Teamsters President Ron Carey has certainly shaken everyone up.

The one thing that the Teamsters did very well over the last two weeks was spin the story in their favor mostly by highlighting the plight of UPS’s part-time workers (a curious argument, considering that with an unemployment rate under 5 percent, there’s plenty of full-time work around). Somehow, they convinced the public that these part-timers were being enslaved by that cruel corporate brown monster of package delivery.

Unfortunately, UPS did little to counteract such a distorted picture an inexcusable sin in this media-conscious age. If there are any lessons to take away from the UPS walkout, it’s that managements must learn to better spin their side of the story.

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