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UPS is failing part-timers like me

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ILike many working-class people of color living in Los Angeles County, I work to support myself and my family. This includes my four younger siblings and my single mother.

I work hard at UPS part-time and have just completed my degree in Labor Studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills. I am proud to be a member of Teamsters Local 396, which represents transportation and sanitation workers in Southern California. As a steward, I apply my knowledge to help my colleagues at UPS defend their interests.

Every worker should be able to sit directly across from their employer to negotiate the working conditions they deserve. I am honored to do so, serving on the UPS Teamsters National Bargaining Committee as we negotiate our new five-year collective agreement covering more than 340,000 workers at UPS. We’ve had enough and we’re ready for the contract we deserve at UPS.

Learn more: What climate change has to do with the upcoming UPS union strike

Unfortunately, when we got to the part of the negotiations where we negotiate on wages, we hit a big hurdle. UPS walked off the table on July 5, refusing to give the Teamsters a last, best and final offer. It was disheartening to hear that from the employer I work so hard for, an employer that made a record $100 billion last year. Part-timers work extremely hard to make this company profitable, and we deserve to share in that success.

As thousands of UPS Teamsters practiced picketing, rallying and mobilizing across the country, UPS bowed to pressure and on July 19 contacted the union to resume negotiations next week. UPS must provide a fair contract with the wages we deserve.

As a part-time worker at the UPS Compton hub, I earn $18.85 per hour. UPS advertises that their jobs pay an average of $95,000 a year, but that’s not what I earn. My colleagues and I struggle to make ends meet on low wages, especially in a state like California, which has one of the highest living costs in the United States.

Inflation is rising and necessities like rent and food are becoming harder and harder to afford. Housing is a major expense for individuals and families. According to a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a worker must earn an hourly wage of $42.25 and work full time to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Southern California. For cities like Los Angeles, Berkeley and San Diego, a single person needs to earn more than $76,000 to “live comfortably,” according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator.

Income inequality in the United States has increased dramatically for decades. The wealthiest Americans are getting richer while the rest of us are struggling to keep up. The prices of goods and services are rising, but wages are not keeping pace. The result is an increasing number of workers who are forced to choose between paying rent or groceries, and that is simply unacceptable.

This trend is reflected in the salaries of part-time workers at UPS. UPS Teamsters are united in negotiating wages that respect the vital role we play in the company and the economy. The starting rate for a part-time UPS worker is $15.50 per hour. We do important work and are essential to the success of the company, but we don’t get paid for it. This is a multi-billion dollar company that can afford to do better with its workers.

Raising wages for part-time workers is the right thing to do. It’s also good for the economy. When workers have more money to spend, they reinvest it in their communities, supporting local businesses and creating jobs. This drives economic growth and benefits everyone, continuing a cycle of shared progress.

UPS needs to raise wages so UPS workers can live in dignity and safety. Part-time UPS employees, like me, overwhelmingly want full-time jobs. We often have to wait years for this opportunity and, in the meantime, work for a salary that cannot support an individual, let alone a family.

The best way for UPS to retain reliable workers is to pay us enough to live and create opportunity. The system that currently exists at UPS means that workers have to cobble together multiple jobs to make ends meet. It’s not good for us, and it’s not good for the company. It’s time for UPS to recognize the important role part-time workers play in the success of the business and invest seriously in our workforce for the long term.

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