UPS Union Asks Biden Not to Intervene in Case of Strike

Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2023
Source: Bloomberg

United Parcel Service Inc.’s union president called on workers to be prepared for a strike as the Teamsters push for higher part-time wages, the last major sticking point for renewing a five-year labor agreement that expires on July 31, and said he asked the White House not to intervene in case of a walkout.

The Teamsters have communicated to the White House “on numerous occasions” to not get involved if there is a strike, which would begin on Aug. 1 if a deal isn’t reached, Sean O’Brien, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said on Sunday during a web cast with union members.

“The White House shouldn’t be concerned with the Teamsters,” he said. “They should be concerned with Corporate America, which continues to make billions upon billions of dollars off the sweat of our members. We’re not going to allow anybody to implement a contract.”

The US president could potentially step in under emergency provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, which former President Jimmy Carter invoked to end a miners’ strike in 1978. Biden and Congress intervened to head off a railroad worker strike in December, but did so under the Railway Labor Act, which covers the rail and airline industries and doesn’t pertain to UPS workers.

Union members already voted to give O’Brien the authority to call a strike, which he’s free to do after the current contract expires. O’Brien said Sunday that about 340,000 workers will go on strike on Aug. 1 if the two sides can’t agree on a deal.

If a tentative agreement is reached, the Teamsters will continue working until the accord is ratified, which will take about three weeks, O’Brien said. The union has been picketing across the country to prepare for a strike, he said.

It is “unacceptable” that 100,000 part-time UPS workers now make less than $20 an hour, according to O’Brien. The negotiating committee unanimously rejected a company wage offer, saying the proposal for part-timers was below what was offered to full-time workers.

The two sides haven’t been negotiating since July 5, O’Brien said. Both UPS and the Teamsters haven’t provided amounts for their wage proposals. “UPS can’t give our part-timers crumbs,” O’Brien said. “They’ve got to reward these folks.”

UPS hopes to return to the bargaining table soon, the company said in an e-mailed statement Sunday. UPS defended its wage-increase offer, adding that it’s one of only a few companies that provides part-time workers with the same health-care benefits and pension as full-time workers.

“Our most recent proposals include historic increases for all employees – including part-time workers – that build on our already industry-leading pay and benefits,” the company said in the statement.

A strike would be disruptive for US customers that send about 19 million packages a day through UPS. Chief Executive Officer Carol Tome said in May she’s confident a deal will be done before the deadline.

Still, the company moved back its date to report second-quarter earnings to the second week of August for the first time since it began trading publicly in 1999, from its usual timing of the last week in July or earlier. UPS also said last week that it’s planning to train some management employees on how to deliver packages, just in case of a strike.

O’Brien touted gains that the union has made, such as air-conditioning for new trucks beginning next year, the elimination of a category of delivery driver that gets paid less than regular drivers and a paid day off for the Martin Luther King holiday. There will be a record 60 changes to the contract by the time a tentative agreement is reached, he said.

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