UPS workers may be on their way to delivering the largest labor strike in America since the 1950s.
On Wednesday morning, the Teamsters union announced that contract negotiations between workers and the company broke down, after “UPS walked away from the bargaining table after presenting an unacceptable offer to the Teamsters that did not address members’ needs. The UPS Teamsters National Negotiating Committee unanimously rejected the package.”
UPS, meanwhile, blamed Teamsters for rejecting the offer and walking away from the table.
Either way, the UPS Teamsters contract is set to expire in just over three weeks, with no additional negotiations on the calendar. There are over 340,000 workers covered by the contract.
And just weeks ago, an overwhelming 97 percent of workers voted to authorize a strike if a contract was not agreed upon.
“This vote shows that hundreds of thousands of Teamsters are united and determined to get the best contract in our history at UPS. If this multibillion-dollar corporation fails to deliver on the contract that our hardworking members deserve, UPS will be striking itself,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien. “The strongest leverage our members have is their labor and they are prepared to withhold it to ensure UPS acts accordingly.”
Both full- and part-time workers have been vying for a contract guaranteeing higher wages, more full-time jobs, an end to forced overtime and harassment from management (like surveillance cameras on trucks), the elimination of a two-tier wage system, and protections from hazards like dangerous heat.
Hundreds of delivery workers have been known to have fallen sick and even hospitalized from heat exposure while on the job. Last year, a UPS driver collapsed to his death one day after his twenty-fourth birthday; his family believes he died of heat stroke.
Days ago, UPS did agree to some of the demands, including ending the two-tier wage system, establishing Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday, and ending forced overtime on unscheduled workdays. Last month, UPS made the brave commitment to install air conditioning and fans in most trucks.
“But make no mistake—we are not done,” O’Brien still said after those demands were met. “UPS knows we must reach full agreement on other economic issues, including higher wages, within the next few days.”
And it seems UPS was not willing to budge any further.
While there are still a few weeks left, and some demands have been met, the pressure is on for the shipping giant to ensure it will take care of its hundreds of thousands of well-recognized workers. If not, the company may cede massive ground to competitors, all while dramatically upending the U.S. economy.