Teamsters Vote to Authorize UPS Strike as Contract Talks Continue

Date: Tuesday, June 20, 2023
Source: Wall Street Journal

United Parcel Service workers who are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters voted to authorize a strike if contract negotiations with the company fail to yield a new agreement.

The current UPS contract covers about 330,000 employees, including delivery drivers and package handlers, and expires July 31. The deal was signed in 2018.

“The strongest leverage our members have is their labor and they are prepared to withhold it to ensure UPS acts accordingly,” Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien said Friday.

The vote tally comes after West Coast dockworkers earlier this week reached a tentative six-year agreement with port employers after more than a year of contentious negotiations. The Biden administration sought to ease tensions between the groups as an impasse threatened to obstruct the movement of goods through some of the nation’s largest trade gateways.

In anticipation of a possible work stoppage, some customers of UPS have already started conversations with alternative carriers as part of business continuity plans. The last time Teamster-represented workers had a walkout at UPS was in August 1997.

“The results do not mean a strike is imminent and do not impact our current business operations in any way,” said UPS spokesman Glenn Zaccara. “Authorization votes and approvals are normal steps in labor-union negotiations. UPS remains confident that we will reach an agreement that provides wins for our employees, the Teamsters, our company and our customers.”

Current talks between the union and company have been focused on a five-year deal that would run through 2028.

In recent weeks, subcommittees between the union and UPS reached tentative agreements on several issues, including on operating priorities, the use of technology and in-vehicle cameras.

The parties have also reached an agreement on air conditioning in vehicles, including equipping newly purchased small-package vehicles with air conditioning, installing fans in package cars and heat shields on the cargo floor. The union said that drivers suffer extreme temperatures and some have succumbed to heat-related injuries during the summer when vehicles overheat.

Other issues still on the bargaining table include higher pay for part-timers and a second category of weekend drivers, which Teamsters want to do away with. The union has said that a two-tier system of drivers allows UPS to use lower-paid workers to deliver packages on weekends, curbing delivery costs.

UPS said that part-time roles are necessary as the nature of parcel delivery work includes alternating bursts of activity and slack time throughout the day. The company also said that its facilities are busiest when packages arrive to be sorted and slow down once trucks are loaded and out for delivery.

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