teamsters, UPS strike, FEdEx, US postal, negotiations

UPS Strike Looms As Negotiations Stall

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters voted in June 2023 to authorize a strike if they can’t agree with the United Parcel Service (UPS). According to The Hill, as the union represents 340,000 UPS employees, this would make the strike the most prominent work stoppage in United States history.

The Teamsters and UPS fundamentally disagree on wages, benefits, and compensation for workers, and the union is pushing the shipping giant for improved working conditions.

UPS’ employee are not uniform. They vary from state to state, according to salary information posted to the online job board Indeed. In July 2023, UPS and the Teamsters reached a tentative agreement regarding two-tier wages, holiday pay for Martin Luther King Day, and overtime pay, indicating that an agreement was on the horizon, but talks have since stalled.

Sean O’Brien, president of the Teamsters, discussed the union’s aims with The Hill: “Our administration has made it clear. We will not be working beyond the expiration date without the contract our members have demanded, and more importantly without the contract our members deserve,” he said.

The Teamsters Union has been active on Twitter, posting several messages indicating it is willing to escalate to a complete work stoppage if a deal is not reached by July 31. The last time a work stoppage occurred was in 1997, resulting in a 15-day strike that adversely impacted the global supply chain.

In order to offset this, FedEx requested that companies begin working with it as soon as possible so they’re not caught unprepared if UPS workers strike.

The United States Postal Service has also created a two- to five-day shipping service. On its website, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy described it:

“USPS Ground Advantage is a game changer – for our customers, the industry and USPS. By efficiently and effectively integrating our ground transportation model to the magnificence of our last mile delivery operations, we can now offer the most compelling ground shipping offering in the market. With USPS Ground Advantage, we are ready to compete for an increased share of the growing package business.”

Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University, contextualized the fight the Teamsters are taking on, telling Vox, “They’re fighting for the little guy. It’s not just, ‘We have all the strength of all the drivers because the Teamsters are known for truck drivers.’ This is for those moving boxes. It’s a little lower on the totem pole or the hierarchy of the company — it’s the lower levels is what they’re really fighting for.”

Both sides have been playing the blame game for why negotiations have fallen apart. UPS’ deliveries to businesses comprise about 40% of its business, meaning a strike would be disastrous the company and its customers alike. Those familiar with the negotiations say that gives the Teamsters additional leverage in the negotiations. While that may be the case, UPS workers have been staging practice pickets across the country in case they go through with the strike on August 1, 2023.