IRVING, Tx. – Teamsters are holding mass rallies all over the United States as they prepare to represent over 200,000 members in negotiations with the UPS delivery company. Around 1,500 of them rallied outside the Sheraton Hotel here March 10. Negotiations were scheduled to begin in the hotel a week later.

Teamsters President James Hoffa had been expected, but was apparently taken ill. They prayed for his recovery as they prayed for unity during negotiations at the beginning of the rally. An array of national and local Teamster leaders, including National Secretary-Treasurer Tom Keegel, addressed the group. Fort Worth Local 767 President Wesley Jenkins emceed. Jenkins’ local has around 5,000 members at UPS in North Texas.

The National AFL-CIO representative for Texas, Paul Vasquez, gave a rousing pledge of unity to the enthusiastic crowd. He recalled the historic 1997 strike and the general labor unity that came together to win.

Vasquez said, “We stand with you and will stand with you to see that you get justice and a fair contract … The teamsters are not alone in this fight … There’s no going back.”

In 1997, a major issue was solidarity between the Teamsters who carry UPS freight on the ground the the Independent Pilots Association (IPA), whose members carry it in the air. Mike Webster of the IPA pledged “unqualified support” for the Teamsters’ contract fight. “We told the company and we told everyone that we will stand with you!”

Negotiator Bill Lichtenwald said that UPS gained $2.4 million in profits last year from the work of their employees. He said that the main issues in the contract negotiations are subcontracting, work preservation language, air operations, health care, pensions, the addition of more full-time jobs and wages for part-time workers.

Even though the successful 1997 fight centered on creating more full-time positions instead of part-time positions, Teamster spokespersons say that the majority of their members at UPS are part-timers as negotiations begin.

Teamsters will be able to get information during the negotiations by calling (866) TRAK-UPS or going to the web site