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PAUL SOLMAN: In the wake of yesterday’s UPS/Teamsters settlement both sides talked about whether the 15-day strike would have a longer-term impact on labor/management relations in the U.S.. Here’s what Teamsters President Ron Carey had to say in reference to victory celebrations around the country planned for tomorrow.
RON CAREY, President, Teamsters Union: As you know, many events around the country have been planned for the action day, for good jobs. People will be celebrating our victory over corporate greed. But more than that people will be showing their support for other workers, for standing up for the great American dream. Non-union workers will be talking about how this victory has inspired them to fight for the future, just as UPS workers did. If your company comes to you and says they want to shift your job to part-time, temporary, or subcontract it to low-wage firms overseas, you have to be organized. You have to have leverage in order to do something about it.
PAUL SOLMAN: UPS Chairman James Kelly was also asked at a press conference whether this strike will energize the labor movement and create problems for management. Here’s his response.
JAMES KELLY, Chairman, UPS: Our job was to try to get the thing done and get our people back to work and serve our customers. We weren’t in some national issue, but I think what we’ll have to do is we’ll have to revisit this. We’ll have to come back in a year and in two years and three years and see how it’s impacted UPS, see how it’s impacted the number of jobs at UPS, and see what’s happened in the country as a result of this, but my answer is no. I mean, we’ve always had great part-time jobs, and we continue to. The temporary jobs they were talking about, the jobs–they were low-pay jobs without benefits that we were talking about never existed at UPS and don’t continue to exist at UPS, but are those watershed issues that are going to change the history of labor relations? I don’t believe so, no.
PAUL SOLMAN: So what’s likely to be the fallout from the strike? We get three views: Harley Shaiken is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies labor relations. Edwin Potter is president of the Employment Policy Foundation, a largely business supported group here in Washington, and Stephen Cabot is a corporate attorney with the firm Harvey Pennington in Philadelphia. Gentlemen, welcome to you all. Prof. Shaiken, the rebirth of the labor movement here, solidarity forever once again?
HARLEY SHAIKEN, University of California, Berkeley: Well, I think certainly we’re seeing an important element of that. This strike was a big victory for labor. It is a watershed event. It really demonstrated two things very clearly: first, that determination on the picket line does pay off. This is a very generous settlement, far more generous than most observers predicted. The union won not simply full-time but important gains in pensions and subcontracting. And second, in addition to that, the union movement–the labor movement, itself, spoke for working Americans in this strike. That’s a role that labor has historically played but really hasn’t played all that effectively in the last several decades. So in that sense, this was already a major watershed event for labor. And I suspect the fallout of this will be very positive for union organizing and for the strength of the labor movement.
PAUL SOLMAN: Any other evidence, I mean besides this one victory it seems a slim lead perhaps on which to base a notion about rebirth?
HARLEY SHAIKEN: Well, this is actually a pretty thick and pretty vibrant reed. If this is all we were talking about, I think we could make a compelling case by what we’ve seen already in the lat two weeks. But, in fact, I think this has to be put and really ought to be put within a larger context. The new reform leadership of the AFL-CIO under John Sweeney is a very important part of this, that is, transforming labor from a lobbying organization in so many ways in Washington to an organization in communities and factories and work places, really in the streets. That’s an important part of this.
If we look at other labor initiatives, such as in Watsonville, a very large campaign to organize strawberry workers, or a successful campaign in Las Vegas to organize hotel workers, where 8,000 workers have joined unions in the last year alone, I think those are two examples among many examples that give us a sense of the renewal of the labor movement today. It’s not going to be an easy fight. I mean, it’s not going to be without problems or automatic, but I think we have seen some important changes in process.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, Mr. Cabot, what do you think? Is this going to set back labor-management relations from the point of view of your clients, your business clients?
STEPHEN CABOT, Labor/Management Attorney: I think it has the potential. Sadly, what the Teamsters have tried to do and what Ron Carey did in the news conference that we saw is to try to popularize the notion of a strike. It’s my hope that when the facts become clear and the fallout is over, that working Americans will be much and are much brighter than Ron Carey would give them credit for. When working Americans look at a strike and see violence and deaths and risk and loss of income and people having to garner $55 a week to strike and to strike over what, because UPS had offered a very fair contract, which the union never even allowed people to have the chance to vote on.
PAUL SOLMAN: But you do think it’s significant?
STEPHEN CABOT: I think it is significant. I think it’s significant if two things occur: that the working public does not grasp the reality of what really occurred during the strike, and more importantly, that corporate America recognize what labor’s plan is, to use the UPS issue as a political benchmark, as a jumping off point to garner a type of enthusiasm. If corporate America wakes up and really does what it should do–and I believe many of it is doing now–treating people fairly, paying them well, paying them right, providing the proper types of benefits, then I think Carey’s effort to try to use the UPS strike as a springboard will fail. But corporate America has that responsibility. If it lives up to it, then Carey’s efforts will fail. If corporate America fails to respond, then Carey might be successful.
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, let me get Mr. Potter in here. Mr. Potter, they both think it’s quite significant, although for different reasons, or we’re getting it from different points of view. What about you, do you think this is a really significant event?
EDWARD POTTER, Employment Policy Foundation: Well, I actually disagree. I don’t think it’s a watershed event. I think it’s a dispute involving the employer-employee relations, a particular set of circumstances do not generally apply across the economy. In fact, I think if we step back for the moment, I think we could view this as–as really a tragedy for the American public, American business, UPS in particular, and American workers, and especially the UPS strikers because essentially they economically did not get anything out of this agreement that really was not already on the table in the employer’s last offer.
PAUL SOLMAN: Let’s get the larger level of abstraction here for a second. We have a couple of charts, and I think you can see them over here. The first one is–I think it’s the percentage of union members in the work force and in the total work force–there it is. Do you think–are you saying that you do not think that that’s going to be reversed now? I mean, that’s a pretty precipitous decline over a very long period of time. That’s 20 years or more.
EDWARD POTTER: Yes. The circumstances involved in the decline of the labor movement go well beyond anything that would be involved in this particular strike. And–
PAUL SOLMAN: But, Mr. Shaiken, Professor Shaiken is talking about a revitalization.
EDWARD POTTER: Well, yes.
PAUL SOLMAN: Setting an example. And Mr. Cabot seems to agree.
EDWARD POTTER: There’s no question that there’s going to be an energized labor movement. The question is whether or not what they do with this energy is effective in organizing workers, but they’ve got some long odds stacked against them. You’ve got an economy that is structured quite differently today than at the period when it was at 24 percent. You’ve got a larger service economy, smaller manufacturing economy, service workers are traditionally harder to organize.
PAUL SOLMAN: Why? Because–
EDWARD POTTER: They are smaller work places. Service workers are a little more transitory, a little harder to organize. We have an aging work force. The older workers are unionized; younger workers have proved to be more difficult to unionize. Women have been hard to organize. Labor relations practices, as Mr. Cabot pointed out, have improved in the work places. We have labor-management laws that cover a broad range of terms and conditions of employment that traditionally were a part of a collective bargaining agreement, and now individuals can go to attorneys like Mr. Cabot and seek their rights.
PAUL SOLMAN: So you mean this would be bucking all those trends. Mr. Shaiken, we have another chart for you here of work stoppages over the last 20 years and again I think you’ll see if it comes up on the screen a precipitous decline just like union membership. I mean, with all the reasons Mr. Potter just gave for why those trends might continue, or certainly wouldn’t turn around, I mean, what’s your response?
HARLEY SHAIKEN: Well, I think Mr. Potter raised some very valid and important points, but, in fact, those are precisely the points where I think the strike is a watershed event, and why I think the prognosis in part, only in part, as a result of the strike, is very good for labor. Mr. Potter indicated that union s have historically been weak in the service sector, yet, this is an important victory for unions precisely in the service sector. Where unions have succeeded I think most effectively in the last couple of years, in fact, has been in the service sector, whether in hotels in Las Vegas, in nursing homes in Florida, in supermarkets in New England, it’s been these new gains in the service sector where 3/4 of the jobs in this economy are.
So there’s no question that we’ve seen a tough decline for labor for a variety of reasons over the last several decades. It’s unlikely that that’s going to turn around in a year or two years. It took us two decades to get here, but I think the signs are there, particularly with this strike that’s hardly exclusively as a result of this strike that labor is being far more innovative, far more effective, and has the possibility of raising a banner that working Americans feel are their issues. The issues, in this strike in particular at the bargaining table, are the very issues that are causing such anxiety at the dinner table.
PAUL SOLMAN: Mr. Cabot, what about this whole issue of part-time work, which seemed to get Americans behind the Teamsters and two to one at last in the polls that I read? Is that now a big, big issue for your clients say and for the American public?
STEPHEN CABOT: As a management-labor lawyer for 31 years I have never seen this as a material issue. And I’ve seen it become, if it ever once was material, it’s becoming less and less an issue. Most people–as I mentioned–working Americans are bright enough to understand that corporate America needs flexibility. And sometimes that flexibility results in the use of part-timers. We’re not talking, as Chairman Kelly said, being abusive to people by underpaying work, creating sweatshops. We’re talking about paying an excess of $10 an hour for somebody to work part-time who wants to work part-time. And I think what the Teamsters have tried to do is to use a make-way argument, try to create a populous appeal.
PAUL SOLMAN: But they have created that, haven’t they, at least a benefit?
STEPHEN CABOT: Of course they have, and they’re going to use that as an issue. And I hope they do because if they keep using that issue, they’re going to make my job easier; they’re going to take–
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, you’ll get more business, anyway.
STEPHEN CABOT: Whether I do or I don’t, I think what’s going to happen is they’re going to build a foundation that’s–that has its base on sand. And they’re going to sink. I think what labor has done however, and I said this earlier, is that there will be a populous appeal where some people will react emotionally in the short run to what labor is trying to use as its new energy or energizing tactics. I think in the long run, when the fallout occurs, and the bright working Americans understand what really occurred, and what Chairman Kelly said, they’re going to realize ultimately that the union movement has been–and what it is espousing now–is built on a mound of poppycock.
PAUL SOLMAN: Okay. Those bright Americans, Mr. Potter, perhaps you can speak to them as well. What do you think about this part-time issue? How–how much has it caught people’s imagination?
EDWARD POTTER: Well, I think the issue is frankly misunderstood. The impression that’s created by this dispute as part-time work is growing, in fact, is declining. It’s gone down from 20 percent of the American work force to 18 percent of the American work force. For every new part-time job that’s created ten full-time jobs are created. And in this particular UPS/Teamsters dispute, it wasn’t a question of the–of the employer here replacing full-time employees with part-time employees. In fact, they created 1,000 full-time jobs during the last contract.
PAUL SOLMAN: All right. Well, Mr. Shaiken, we’ll end with you, please, if you wouldn’t mind responding to this part-time issue and how important you think it is.
HARLEY SHAIKEN: I think it’s very important. One out of every five jobs in this economy is part-time. It’s true, part-time jobs in the last several years have declined somewhat in large part because the Bureau of Labor Statistics changed how part-time work is defined. We have over 4 ½ million people who are working part-time for economic reasons, and I think American working people are, in fact, very bright, and few are brighter than the UPS drivers and package handlers that were engaged in this strike. This wasn’t a strike against UPS as a firm. These workers want to see this company succeed as it has succeeded in the past. This was a struggle really to ensure that competitive success translates into full-time jobs that pay decent wages.
PAUL SOLMAN: Harley–
HARLEY SHAIKEN: That’s the American story.
PAUL SOLMAN: Okay. Thanks. We have to go.