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07/10/2007

Overnight shipping: UPS offers us a reply

by Jeremy Hooper

Picture 9-40So yesterday we told you how UPS was denying partner benefits to a lesbian employee who was "civil unioned" in "New Jersey," because the company claimed that civil unions were not equal to marriage. Well, today we received more information from another UPS wage earner:

I noticed that you had posted an item about UPS and same sex benefits that was sourced from Lambda Legal. What Lambda doesn't explain is that UPS doesn't legally have the right to give same sex benefits to Ms. Brazier because she is part of the Teamsters and any changes to benefits have to be done as part of the collective bargain process.

The contact expires in 2008. Absent a law that specifically categorizes same sex partners as married spouses such as in Mass., UPS cannot unilaterally change a union contract to offer same sex benefits. We have already brought up this issue to the Teamsters for consideration.

As a matter of corporate policy, UPS currently offers same sex benefits to all non-union employees -- management as well as administrative workers. This includes all such employees in New Jersey, even though the state has failed to recognize gay partners as married spouses. Beyond health care, UPS also offers benefits such as medical leave, pension rights, funeral leave, relocation and transfer benefits. We recently added same-sex benefits as part of a new contract with UPS pilots too.

The situation regarding Ms. Brazier and her partner is just as disappointing to UPS as it is to them. Our corporate policy is very clear. But for unionized employees, we can only address the issue through the union at contract renewal time.

Lynnette
UPS

Interesting.

We do need to state for the record that we wholly refrained from criticizing UPS for the decision, instead only criticizing the Jersey legislature for stopping short of full marriage equality in the first place. We have always heard UPS was a good company, so we felt we needed to wait for more of the story before confining our shipping habits to FedEx. So it's good to hear the company calling the situation "disappointing" and expressing a commitment to their gay employees' well-being. As fans of online retail, we were genuinely worried about how a "brown"-specific boycott would affect our consumer habits.

But on a side note: How is this for customer service? Who knew that to get the company to deal with you on a one-on-one basis, you had to publicly speculate about their benefits policies? Hell, next time we need to track a package, screw the usual channels! We'll just write about Jane Doe and her quest for company-sanctioned equality, and we're sure they'll install a personal GPS inside of our shipment!

In fact, UPS, we need to send a gift to our friend in London by Friday and we're really, really cheap. Hmmm....you wouldn't want us to publicly debate the lack of Pride flags in your offices, now would you?

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Your thoughts

Ineresting. But there's maybe something slightly contradictory. Lynette says that UPS can't change the collective bargaining contract "unilaterally" and that "we can only address the issue through the union at contract renewal time." But then she also says that UPS has "already brought up this issue to the Teamsters for consideration."

So UPS approaced the Teamsters about changing the contract but they can't change the contract until it expires? I believe that a contract can be changed if both parties agree. I'm not sure why they need to wait till contract renewal time.

Posted by: Jonas | Jul 10, 2007 9:50:37 AM

I got the same form email, verbatim except that "Lambda" was spelled "Lamda." (Or were you being nice by correcting it yourself?)

Interestingly, my blog post directly debunked the "union contract" argument. It's total nonsense. So clearly "Lynnette" isn't even reading the posts in their entirety before she shoots off the emails.

Posted by: KipEsquire | Jul 10, 2007 9:52:03 AM

Interesting, Kip. Admittedly, this is not a strong point for me and I have not pured over the minutiae. Do you think she's completely blowing smoke? I'll link to your analysis if so.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jul 10, 2007 9:56:05 AM

My post is here:

http://kipesquire.powerblogs.com/posts/1184016367.shtml

There's not much to analyze: Provisions of contracts that are subsequently held to violate public policy (i.e., court decisions and legislative acts) are unenforceable. That's basic contract law.

Consider an analogy: Suppose NJ passed a law requiring the immediate installation of carbon monoxide detectors in warehouses. Could UPS say, "Gee we'd love to, but our union contract forbids asking our workers to install carbon monoxide detectors. We can't do anything about it until the union contract is up for renegotiation."? It's facially absurd.

Did you also notice that Lynnette's email didn't say what department she worked for? I suspect she is just a random employee and not speaking in an official capacity.

Posted by: KipEsquire | Jul 10, 2007 10:22:12 AM

Ah, the plot coagulates. But thanks for the further research.

Posted by: Michael | Jul 10, 2007 10:34:58 AM

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