back to article No parcel drones. No robo-trucks – Teamsters driver union delivers its demands to UPS

The Teamsters labor union wants package delivery giant UPS to promise not to replace any of its drivers with drones and self-driving trucks. The demand was made as part of ongoing negotiations between UPS and its 260,000 union workers in North America. The Teamsters presented the biz with a 91-page document detailing demands …

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Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

The drivers of horse carts want delivery companies to promise not to use those newfangled automobiles.

The delivery companies can't entirely tell the horse cart drivers to fuck off yet, because automobiles aren't ubiquitous enough to take over.

But as soon as autos become cheap & plentiful enough to replace those uppity horse cart bastards? They're out on their ass.

Replace "horse cart driver" with "UPS driver" & "automobile" with "drone" to see how/why this same argument keeps going round & round like a disfunctional merry-go-round.

It's called progress & either you adapt or die because of it.

Nobody owes you a job, & if the job you're doing can be done faster, cheaper, & more efficiently by some(one/thing) else, you either have to up your game or be replaced.

It sucks, we all need to eat & pay bills, but that's the hard fact of life: adapt or die.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"Nobody owes you a job, & if the job you're doing can be done faster, cheaper, & more efficiently by some(one/thing) else, you either have to up your game or be replaced.

It sucks, we all need to eat & pay bills, but that's the hard fact of life: adapt or die."

Well, look at it from another perspective. At least trucking companies still hired humans and actually reduced the biological burden by reducing the need to exploit horses. Here, however, the plan is to remove the human altogether, which raises issues. What happens when humans get dead-ended? Forced into a corner, they usually fight back: either by turning to crime out of desperation or rising up a la the Luddites. Either way, an increased crime and destitution rate is going to have collateral effects that creep onto the rest of us. Nobody may owe you a job, but the quality of life in general starts affecting us specifically eventually. Saying they can just die sounds great until you realize that MAD sounds nice to someone with nothing left to lose, meaning they may just decide to take you with them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

Replace "horse cart driver" with "UPS driver" & "automobile" with "drone" to see how/why this same argument keeps going round & round like a disfunctional merry-go-round.

Except that, in this case, no amount of clever drone technology is a realistic alternative to delivery drivers, for all but edge cases. For the vast majority of consumers, a delivery by drone will never be a sensible option. It is the classic case of a solution looking for a problem.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

In which case the union has nothing to worry about, does it?

Of course if it doesn't work out that way, and they could somehow force UPS into not using the technology when other delivery companies did, then they wouldn't be in a job with the then-bust UPS anyway.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

> Well, look at it from another perspective. At least trucking companies still hired humans and actually reduced the biological burden by reducing the need to exploit horses. Here, however, the plan is to remove the human altogether, which raises issues.

Who's going to write the code to allow the AI in the trucks?: humans.

Who's designing the electronics (Chips, circuits, etc.)?: humans

Who's doing the maintenance on the trucks?: humans.

Who's issuing the instructions?: humans.

Humans are still very much in the loop, humans aren't being removed, truck drivers are being removed.

If the youngish drivers (i.e. anyone under 30) wants to get involved, they can get some education and enter the other areas where humans are still needed and allow the over 30's to keep being drivers and allow natural attrition - it'll take decades to replace a significant number of drivers with automation - to take the jobs.

Anyone under 18 should strike truck driving off their future career possibilities, anyone under 30 should consider it a temp job while they adapt to a new profession.

There are no longer people who come around in wagons to empty the outhouses and chamber pots.

There are no longer people who come around in the morning with large urns of fresh milk to fill people's mil pails.

There are no longer people who ride on horses from coast-to-coast in relays to deliver mail.

There are no longer people who come around with large ice-blocks to fill ice-boxes.

There aren't many people who come around delivering bottles of gas for household gas usage (stoves), it's mostly all piped in now.

Things change. Adapt or stagnate.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"Forced into a corner, they usually fight back: either by turning to crime out of desperation or rising up a la the Luddites. "

Or adapt and find another type of work.

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Stop

Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

What happens when humans get dead-ended? Forced into a corner, they usually fight back: either by turning to crime out of desperation or rising up a la the Luddites.

More seriously, they vote for Trump and Brexit and a host of other stupid, self-destructive things. The elephant curve has a lot to answer for.

Society, and these companies through the taxes they pay, does owe the poor they create a living. Even the Romans knew that with their bread and circuses. Not for moral reasons, which count for nothing in our globalist corporate lobbyist world, but to prevent civilization imploding.

Let me put it this way. 1920s mass unemployment. 1930s facism. That didn't turn out well even for the very rich.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

Well, there is one thing a lot of you are still forgetting. The goal of automated technology is to reduce the amount of people a company has to employ.

This will happen over many industries in the coming future hopefully reducing the total amount of people companies need to employ overall to save money.

So while you could train yourself to do AI programming etc, there won't be as many AI programmers needed as there were drivers for example.

A couple of things though:

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Who's going to write the code to allow the AI in the trucks?: humans.

We have automatic programming (google it), but it's still quite primitive sadly, luckily we are working on improving this situation.

Hopefully in the future we are able to expand that technology to include more languages and such to reduce the overall number of humans necessary.

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Who's designing the electronics (Chips, circuits, etc.)?: humans

Mostly likely yes for the considerable future. However, luckily we don't need many humans to achieve this (we only need a select few big companies like Intel/AMD and they only need a small pool of humans to design the chips, keeping the cost of wages down.

But hopefully again this is something we can automate.

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Who's doing the maintenance on the trucks?: humans.

Sadly, yes once again we need humans for this for now. Luckily however one human can service many trucks as is currently handled, for example a common truck depot in the UK will have one on-site mechanic for 100 trucks or more.

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Who's issuing the instructions?: humans.

Yes, well sort of. We can have AI issue instructions like telling the drone to go here, do this deliver here etc. The end game is that when you order online, your package is packed and delivered to you without any human interaction.

We'll still have a couple of "main managers", for monitoring and such. But we hopefully won't need half as many humans as we do now.

--

All said and done, I'm very excited for the future and hope that technology can continue to advance to fix the above issues and significantly reduce the painful cost of employing humans.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

Except that, in this case, no amount of clever drone technology is a realistic alternative to delivery drivers, for all but edge cases.

For now. Until the houses are equipped with a robo-receptacle. This is the changing point - when your house can accept the parcel for you and store it. At that point in time the deliveries will go robotic overnight.

Prior to that there is a need for a human because each and every delivery is different and someone needs to get the things to the right place based on a on-the-spot decision.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

Who's going to write the code to allow the AI in the trucks?: humans.

The whole thing about code is that you write once, and copy and tun many times. It never was or will be a major employer. And, if you've got AI bright enough to drive trucks, the automation of coding won't be far behind. And what is done by humans won't be done by former UPS drivers

Who's designing the electronics (Chips, circuits, etc.)?: humans

Again: Very specialised, very skilled, very small numbers.

Who's doing the maintenance on the trucks?: humans.

At best a zero sum game - chances are AVs would have lower maintenance needs than manned vehicles.

Who's issuing the instructions?: humans.

Customers maybe. From a jobs point of view for UPS employees, a less than zero sum (ie fewer jobs). Customers place orders electronically, WTF will the current despatchers be needed for? Or HR, payroll, trainers?

This IS progress, but we are potentially at a point where there won't be alternative, valuable roles for displaced humans.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"Except that, in this case, no amount of clever drone technology is a realistic alternative to delivery drivers"

Speak for yourself.

There's at least two Amazon distribution centres within 45mins of my house (one of them is a 10 minute walk away) we have a garden big enough for a drone to land.

Last time I looked at the population data for the town (don't ask) there were 35k people here. There are other similarly sized towns within similar distances from the distribution centres.

Drone delivery is very much viable for us.

Hell, if you live in a city centre tower block all you need is a designated drop off point, like the roof or nearest shop (like Argos or loads of corner shops are now designated pick up points)

And then driverless cars/vans could fill in the gaps.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

@d3vy:

Hell, if you live in a city centre tower block all you need is a designated drop off point, like the roof or nearest shop (like Argos or loads of corner shops are now designated pick up points)

The problem with that idea is that it's impossible to ensure the package gets to the correct person. Theft of parcels is already problem. Imagine the difficulty in getting parcels to only the rightful receiver if you have to drop it off in a public place. It'd be a thugs dream. Camp out, claiming to wait on a parcel, wait for something interesting looking to arrive (size/weight-wise) and either just grab it if no-ones around yet or jump anyone who comes to pick it up.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

Because they can't possibly find another job doing something else?

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Re: Adapt or die

There are other options, depending upon your leverage - for instance, we still have tube train drivers on various London Underground lines that were designed to be run with no drivers, because the union shut down London if it is ever considered to go automated.

I expect we will have them forever.

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Re: no amount of clever drone technology

Drones, perhaps. Self-driving trucks should cover some cases fine. I currently have my purchases delivered to an Amazon locker at a nearby supermarket, and collect them from there myself. There's no reason why lockers couldn't be built into a self-driving vehicle and work in broadly the same way. It'd be an option you could select while ordering, if you are the kind of person who is able to walk to a curb and walk back with a package. The security isn't a problem. (Self-driving vehicles, to this level, are.)

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

Unless they change the rules on where drones are allowed to fly then drone deliveries not an option in most of UK due to proximity of other houses, roads etc.

If location is within current rules then its a long walk in your (IMHO huge) garden in (e.g. hail, torrential rain, driving snow) to collect your delivery, compared to merely opening your door to a human delivery driver (and she has had the PITA of dealing with UK weather)

Unless regulations have changed since I last looked to see if I could fly a drone near me .. must be at least 50m from people / property, and 150m from built up areas and large groups of people.

.. ignoring any other geofencing and other restrictions

So, most people would not be able to get drone deliveries in UK

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

Who's going to write the code to allow the AI in the trucks?: humans.

Who's designing the electronics (Chips, circuits, etc.)?: humans

Who's doing the maintenance on the trucks?: humans.

Who's issuing the instructions?: humans.

Actually, many of those jobs can also be automated in the future, so that few if any humans are needed...

Even if not, those employ much fewer people than was needed for driving the trucks: Once the code is written and electronics designed, they can be replicated automatically and with next to no cost.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"The problem with that idea is that it's impossible to ensure the package gets to the correct person. Theft of parcels is already problem. Imagine the difficulty in getting parcels to only the rightful receiver if you have to drop it off in a public place. It'd be a thugs dream. Camp out, claiming to wait on a parcel, wait for something interesting looking to arrive (size/weight-wise) and either just grab it if no-ones around yet or jump anyone who comes to pick it up."

Yeah but as you say.. its already a problem.. You just need to have it dropped off somewhere reputable, like you do now, if your not home it either returns it or leaves it in a designated spot, like a neighbour or local shop.

Its a problem, but its not like anyone is suggesting that the drones just drop off in the middle of a public space and hope for the best.

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Re: Adapt or die

"There are other options, depending upon your leverage - for instance, we still have tube train drivers on various London Underground lines that were designed to be run with no drivers, because the union shut down London if it is ever considered to go automated.

I expect we will have them forever"

I expect we will have them until the other functions that the union controls can also be automated...

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"Unless they change the rules on where drones are allowed to fly then drone deliveries not an option in most of UK due to proximity of other houses, roads etc.

If location is within current rules then its a long walk in your (IMHO huge) garden in (e.g. hail, torrential rain, driving snow) to collect your delivery, compared to merely opening your door to a human delivery driver (and she has had the PITA of dealing with UK weather)

Unless regulations have changed since I last looked to see if I could fly a drone near me .. must be at least 50m from people / property, and 150m from built up areas and large groups of people.

.. ignoring any other geofencing and other restrictions

So, most people would not be able to get drone deliveries in UK"

Ahh, now you see these are more valid points than the last guy who seems to think theft will be an issue.

As far as I can see these are all regulatory limitations rather than technical ones.. Once enough companies want to start doing drone deliveries and it can be proven to be safe I expect these to be relaxed for licenced operators.

Much the same as the requirement to have the guy walk in front of your car with a red flag was lifted when safety was proven.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"Who's going to write the code to allow the AI in the trucks?: humans."

A FEW humans, not several thousand. Furthermore, most of the jobs are already filled. So Zero opportunity.

"Who's designing the electronics (Chips, circuits, etc.)?: humans"

Again, A FEW humans, not several thousand.

"Who's doing the maintenance on the trucks?: humans."

Don't be so sure. Standardize the robotrucks and you can just put them through automated tunnels.

"Who's issuing the instructions?: humans."

To a lesser and lesser degree. As more and more orders are processed electronically, they become more machine-readable, reducing the human angle. Remember, elevators once had human operators. See any now?

"There are no longer people who come around in wagons to empty the outhouses and chamber pots."

Thanks to indoor plumbing. But go out into the sticks where they don't exists and you'll still find the odd outhouse.

"There are no longer people who come around in the morning with large urns of fresh milk to fill people's mil pails."

No, they come with pre-filled bottles. The milkman still exists in firms like Oberweis Dairies. That said, I still think they're vulnerable to automated deliveries.

"There are no longer people who ride on horses from coast-to-coast in relays to deliver mail."

They just drive trucks instead, so they still exist for now. And if you want a hurry, you now have pilots, who for the moment are still human.

"There are no longer people who come around with large ice-blocks to fill ice-boxes."

Maybe not in homes, but there are still ice chests in stores.

"There aren't many people who come around delivering bottles of gas for household gas usage (stoves), it's mostly all piped in now."

Maybe not, but the tanks still exist, the trucks still exist to transfer them. They just go to store cages instead of the home. Sort of a compromise to keep costs down. Plus, the delivery still exists in certain areas where the infrastructure's different.

"Things change. Adapt or stagnate."

Don't leave the proles behind. History shows that dead-ended proles with no food on the table tend to get violent.

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Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"More seriously, they vote for Trump and Brexit and a host of other stupid, self-destructive things. The elephant curve has a lot to answer for."

That's easy. Desperation means anyone charismatic enough who says, "I can fix your problems for you" is going to get a lot of attention. That's part of the reason a desperate proletariat is dangerous: they become the fuel for a revolutionary fire.

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Facepalm

Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

They're out on their ass.

I saw what you did there...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"Except that, in this case, no amount of clever drone technology is a realistic alternative to delivery drivers, for all but edge cases. For the vast majority of consumers, a delivery by drone will never be a sensible option. It is the classic case of a solution looking for a problem."

Exactly.

It's the same as those pesky fools who want to replace switchboard operators and make people keep track of, and actually dial, tens of different telephone numbers, rather than just telling the operator you want to talk to the pharmacist at the corner of Main and King streets. People will never stand for that - it can't possibly work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"Forced into a corner, they usually fight back: either by turning to crime out of desperation or rising up a la the Luddites. "

Or adapt and find another type of work.

====================================================================

Or not.

I recall reading about a strike by typesetters protesting the introduction of typesetting machines in a newspaper. They were still on strike many years after their jobs had been deleted. There were no actual jobs to go back to - any settlement that put the workers back in those jobs, which is what they wanted, would have resulted in automatic unemployment, and if done right, the appropriate notice could have been given during negotiations, do dismissal could have been instant.

I don't see the point of staying on that picket line. At least buggy whips might be a novelty item with other uses.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"Well, there is one thing a lot of you are still forgetting. The goal of automated technology is to reduce the amount of people a company has to employ.

This will happen over many industries in the coming future hopefully reducing the total amount of people companies need to employ overall to save money."

Exactly. That's how economies and societies become richer. If we still had to get ore out of mines with picks and shovels we wouldn't have a problem with automobiles, or phone plans, or more than one set of clothing because metal would be too expensive for widespread use.

Somewhere in the mid 20th century the volume of phone calls reached a level that would have needed over half the population to work a switchboard operators. And we lost a lot of jobs and some (obsolete) skills when we took the operators out of elevators.

Increasing productivity is the only way we can have more of the things we want for less money. And one of the best underexploited ways of doing that is automation to replace humans so they can do other things,

Displaced phone and elevator operators did not mean a drop in employment, it meant that those people and their successors were free to take on other jobs providing other goods and services.

Even with huge productivity improvements in the last century, we have only kept up with the demand for labour by bringing women into the work force (and thus increasing production while reducing wage increases - you can pay people less when families can have two incomes).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

The problem with that idea is that it's impossible to ensure the package gets to the correct person. Theft of parcels ....

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Not that hard. Encrypted RFID/NFC tags in all packages.

Vendor/delivery firm link to building systems.

Dedicated secure drone landing.

Direct automated insertion of package into secure 'mailbox' (low tech) or building pneumatic tube or equivalent system going to secure apartment holding area.

Encrypted checkpoints at all stages, reporting to responsible parties.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Horse carts vs delivery trucks again.

"So, most people would not be able to get drone deliveries in UK"

... until they change the rules to let rich corporations and their faceless employees do what individuals cannot.

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Well that's dumb

Two things happen in business, companies either adopt new technology or they get replaced by new ones that start off using it.

If UPS doesn't adapt, someone else will come along and do what they do, better and cheaper.

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Re: Well that's dumb

It's already been done; you could ship a rock to your next-door neighbors via UPS and they'd open up a box full of sand five days later.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well that's dumb

"Two things happen in business, companies either adopt new technology or they get replaced by new ones that start off using it."

Nope.

Any big company will buy any small company trying to do that and big company stays big. It will never be replaced until it somehow kills itself.

10-fold that if the big company is a monopoly by regulation, no small company has even a chance.

You still believe in capitalism ideals which never has been true in any actual society.

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Blockbuster

Does UPS own any of the new drone technology?

If not, then UPS will leave a bigger crater than companies like Blockbuster Video.

Teamsters will just make the explosion more fun to watch.

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Trollface

The Teamsters labor union wants package delivery giant UPS to promise not to replace any of its drivers with drones and self-driving trucks.

"Sure, so long as you promise to never strike again."

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Thing is, the Teamsters are one of the biggest unions in the country, meaning if they decide to go FU and go on strike, that's gonna put a crimp on UPS's business, especially the time-sensitive part (meaning a serious potential to lose money here). Trying to replace all of them at once and with immature tech is going to be difficult, meaning the Teamsters are currently bargaining from a position of strength.

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the Teamsters are currently bargaining from a position of strength.

The UAW probably thought that also. The scenario that can play out is that the company that employs you goes out of business and your work is taken over by firms that use the new technology.

Are drone technology and autodriving trucks really a threat? I'd say not for years to come, if ever.

I wouldn't stake everything on those conditions with this contract.

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"if they decide to go FU and go on strike, that's gonna put a crimp on UPS's business,

Sounds like they are going to do that anyway.

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"Trying to replace all of them at once and with immature tech is going to be difficult, meaning the Teamsters are currently bargaining from a position of strength."

Yes, they are at the moment but going in strong now isnt going to win them any friends.. friends they may well need when the tech is mature enough to replace them all.

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Unions tend to keep their own company and look after their own because they can't rely on anyone else to do it for them. That's the reason for the unions in the first place.

So basically, WHAT friends?

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"So basically, WHAT friends?"

Fair enough, as long as they are aware that by sticking to this path they are all shooting themselves in the foot.

In 20 years you can strike all you want but well have a T800 driving and unloading those trucks.

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20 years is a lot better than two, especially if you have spouses and children to feed right now and no hope for other employment (because the available jobs is shrinking, not expanding or holding steady like before). If you can't stop the inevitable March of progress from killing you, the best you can do is to slow it as much as possible.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Feel sorry for the union

They have already lost this case.

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Anonymous Coward

They'll be fine

After all, it is not like the Unreliable Parcel Service have much of an habit of actually delivering parcels in the first place. At least not to the right person or at the right time.

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Anonymous Coward

This is pretty mild

... I remember the bad old days when the teamsters in New York would break your nose, break your knees, torch your car, or whatever else they felt needed doing to express themselves. This protest is shockingly tame fare.

Ya wanna swim?

AC obviously

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Uniins

You must be from the USA!

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You must be from the USA!

Unions are allowed, but just haven't been popular where people have a choice.

BTW: Former teamster and former CWA member. It was required in both cases, and they never did a damn thing for me except take a cut of my paycheck.

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Bet the teamsters thought they were set for life controlling manual work.

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Perhaps we can repeal the Jones Act and they'll really have no control as a large majority of trucked freight will be moved by ship between ports as it is in most of the rest of the world. It would also be a tremendous boost to island territories like Puerto Rico. It might even shave 10% off my commute time.

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Um, so you expect a ship to get from say Newark, New Jersey to Long Beach, California with any reasonable speed? Besides, a lot of cross-country cargo trips go by freight rail as the most economical solution; the bulk of a ship and no need to take the long way around.

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