Butch Traylor, UPS Driver

Butch Traylor, UPS Driver

A weeklong electronic journal.
Aug. 26 1997 3:30 AM

Butch Traylor, UPS Driver

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       Strikes are not unique to any one culture. What makes a strike unique is how it reflects its culture. In the Bible Belt you might just as easily find a picket sign with a scripture quotation on it as one with an unfair labor charge on it. Therefore it wasn't unusual when the drivers asked to meet early Friday morning to have prayers of thanksgiving for a safe and successful strike. Although my own faith at times feels battered and bruised I have to admit that I drew a great deal of solace from the faith I saw on the picket line at UPS in Valdosta, Ga.
       On the way to work after that I pulled into the Amoco station for a cup of coffee. There I ran into Kim, a friend and driver for FedEx. She is about four months into her first pregnancy, and is just beginning to show. She gave me a hug and congratulated me on the successful contract agreement. We could only talk for a minute before I had to leave, but before I did I told her to make sure that she took care of herself and that baby. A cool front passed through last night and the stifling humidity that dominates south Georgia seems to be subsiding. When you live outdoors you learn to appreciate good weather.
       When I arrived at the center I found that management had laid off the preload shift, which is made up of part timers, and was having us drivers sort our own packages. There are two shifts--the first is the preload or morning shift that loads our cars before we come in at 8 o'clock and start to do deliveries. At the end of the day there's a reload shift. They fired everyone in the first shift. Management may be pitching a little fit about the spanking it took at the bargaining table, and laying off part timers--the most vulnerable workers, and the ones with the most at stake in the strike--just for spite. In a couple of days local management is going to regret it because the volume is growing, and this is really going to slow us down.
       After loading my car I left for my first stop. When I backed up to the dock at the federal building a group of employees taking their break nearby gave me a standing ovation. This was made even sweeter by the fact that these were U.S. Postal Service clerks.
       At the mall that afternoon one lady to whom I had been delivering for 15 years ran up to me, put her arms around me, and said: "I'm so glad you're all right. Since you've been delivering to me, I've had three jobs and two husbands. You're the only stable relationship in my life. If anything happened to you I don't know what I'd do." This is shaping up to be a pretty good day.
       I worked until late in the afternoon before I could stop for lunch at Taco Bell. Just after I got started Kenny Walker joined me. Kenny is a former driver who'd filed a racial discrimination suit against UPS several years ago when he was discharged. From the smile on his face it was obvious that he was thrilled at the turn of events that has befallen his former employer. He asked what it felt like coming back to work. I told him it was like a ticker-tape parade without the ticker tape.

Butch Traylor is a driver for United Parcel Service, and shop steward for the Teamsters Local 728 in Valdosta, Ga. He went back to work last Wednesday, Aug. 13, after a 15-day strike.