June 22, 2023: Approximately 340,000 workers at shipping giant UPS, represented by the Teamsters union, have voted to authorize a strike if a new tentative agreement is not reached with the company by July 31. The voting process took place last week at local union halls across the United States, with an overwhelming 97% of workers approving the strike authorization.
Negotiations between UPS and the Teamsters began in early May 2023 and are ongoing. The workers are hopeful that a strike can be avoided, as they acknowledge the financial impact it would have on them and their families and the potential effects on UPS customers. However, they believe that the company is responsible for meeting their demands and finalizing the contract.
The UPS workers have several key demands for their new contract. These include the installation of air conditioning in UPS vehicles, pay increases for part-time workers to a minimum of $25 per hour, the elimination of two-tier wages for package drivers, an end to subcontracting, the removal of driver-facing cameras, the cessation of a forced sixth day of work per week, and the creation of more full-time employment opportunities.
One worker, Viviana Gonzalez, emphasized the challenging conditions under which UPS employees have worked, particularly during the pandemic. She highlighted the risks they faced, the long hours they dedicated, and the lack of additional compensation despite being classified as essential workers. The workers argue that UPS has generated substantial profits, amounting to $56.3 billion, during the current contract period from 2019 to 2023, and they believe these gains should be reflected in their next agreement.
Ted Breen, a pre-load worker at UPS, shed light on the physical demands of the job and the inadequate wages for new employees. He expressed his concern that the current starting wages are insufficient to retain workers in the local job market, considering the strenuous nature of the work. Breen felt like he performs a full-time workload in four or five hours.
In response to the workers’ vote to authorize a strike, UPS acknowledged the outcome but clarified that it does not automatically trigger a work stoppage. The company emphasized its commitment to ongoing progress in key issues and expressed confidence in reaching an agreement that benefits employees and the company.
The next steps involve negotiations on economic proposals, which are set to commence in the coming week. The Teamsters union has already achieved 43 non-economic changes to the UPS Teamsters national agreement during negotiations. Additionally, the union recently secured a significant demand by obtaining a commitment from UPS to introduce air conditioning in their delivery vehicles, addressing concerns over extreme heat exposure.
The UPS workers’ decision to authorize a strike reflects their unity and determination to secure the best contract in the company’s history. They believe that if UPS fails to meet their demands, it will be a strike against the company itself. Both parties will continue their negotiations to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.