NATIONAL NEWS

One of the biggest strikes in US history is brewing at UPS

Sep 6, 2022, 7:54 AM | Updated: 11:13 am

FILE: A UPS driver operates a UPS delivery vehicle on Feb. 1, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Pho...

FILE: A UPS driver operates a UPS delivery vehicle on Feb. 1, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Over the past year, the nascent labor movements at mighty corporations like Starbucks and Amazon have grabbed national attention. But less well-known is a looming high-stakes clash between one of America’s oldest unions and the world’s biggest package courier.

Contract negotiations are set to begin in the spring between UPS and the Teamsters Union ahead of their current contract’s expiration at the end of July 2023. Already, before the talks have even started, labor experts are predicting that the drivers and package handlers will go on strike.

“The question is how long it will be,” said Todd Vachon, professor of Labor Relations at Rutgers. “The union’s president ran and won on taking a more militant approach. Even if they’re very close [to a deal], the rank and file will be hungry to take on the company.”

If that happens, a strike at UPS would affect nearly every household in the country. An estimated 6% of the nation’s gross domestic product is moved in UPS trucks every year. The explosive growth of online retail has made the company and its drivers more crucial than ever to the nation’s struggling supply chain. Beyond the company’s home deliveries, it also delivers many of the goods found in stores, factories and offices.

About 350,000 Teamsters work at UPS as drivers and package sorters out of a global workforce of 534,000 permanent employees. And that’s growing fast — the company has added some 72,000 Teamster-represented jobs since the start of the pandemic.

While there are competing services at FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service and Amazon’s own delivery service, none of them have the capacity to handle more than a small fraction of the 21.5 million U.S. packages that UPS moves daily.

“We want a contract that provides wins for our employees and that provides UPS the flexibility to stay competitive in a rapidly changing industry,” the company said in a statement this month. “UPS and the Teamsters have worked cooperatively for almost 100 years to meet the needs of UPS employees, customers, and the communities where we live and work. We believe we’ll continue to find common ground with the Teamsters and reach an agreement that’s good for everyone involved.”

The union has not gone on strike against UPS since a nearly two-week protest in 1997. If the union does go on strike, it would be the largest strike against a single business in the nation’s history.

Anger over current contract

There are certainly signs of strain in relations between the company and the union — both its leadership and its rank-and-file members.

A majority of members voted against ratifying the current contract in 2018, only to see the previous Teamster leadership, led by then-President James Hoffa, put it in place because not enough of the membership participated in the ratification vote to trigger a strike.

The union’s new president, Sean O’Brien, won his office earlier this year by making the UPS contract a central focus of his campaign. He has vowed to make UPS pay Teamster members far more this time and he often talks about a $300 million strike fund the union has accumulated to pay members in case they go on strike.

“Do our members wake up every day wanting a strike. I’d say no. But are they fed up? Yes they’re fed up,” O’Brien told CNN Business last week. “Whether or not there is a strike, that’s totally up to the company. We’re going to utilize as much leverage as we can to get our members the contract they deserve.”

UPS said the average pay for its delivery drivers is $95,000 a year, with benefits such as a traditional pension plan, worth an additional $50,000 a year. UPS’ semi-tractor drivers are paid even more. That’s far higher than most wages at FedEx and Amazon, where many drivers work for small independent contractors.

The current contract expires at 12:01 am on Aug. 1. O’Brien vows the union will not grant any kind of contract extension past that deadline.

And he added that on top of improved pay and benefits, the union will demand better working conditions, including adding air conditioning in the panel trucks used for UPS deliveries which the union says poses a health risk for drivers.

“It’s not a heavy lift for the company to install air conditioning,” he said. “There’s a lot of heat stroke going on.”

Record profits at UPS

The company often speaks about how much it values its Teamster-represented workforce.

And in one important way — employment numbers — UPS is one of the best friends labor has in the ranks of U.S. corporate management, despite the obvious tensions. UPS is one of the few unionized employers that is significantly adding payrolls, and to union membership. At other businesses, union membership numbers have been steadily declining or decades.

The increase in Teamsters jobs at UPS has come from the steady growth in online purchases, especially during the pandemic-era surge. Last year, it took only nine months to report what was already a record profit for a full year. UPS ended 2021 with operating income up 50% to $13.1 billion. In the first half of this year, earnings rose another 10% compared with a year ago.

“Everyone keeps getting richer except for our members,” said O’Brien.

UPS CEO Carol Tome, who started that job just as the pandemic began, says that the company’s union contract is a competitive advantage at a time of worker shortages.

She also is trying to assure both investors and UPS customers that the company will be prepared in case the union does go on strike. She declined to comment on what those preparations are.

“Our goal with the Teamsters is win-win-win,” she told investors in July. But she added that UPS is “building contingency plans.”


The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

A local organization is keeping kids away from crime and drugs one bike at a time. (KDRV via CNN Ne...

Rocky Walker, CNN

Familia Unida: Keeping kids away from drugs and crime by teaching them to work with their hands

A local organization is keeping kids away from crime and drugs one bike at a time. Familia Unida is a nonprofit that teaches children to channel aggression and negative experiences into healthy and constructive life skills through activities such as bike and car building.

6 hours ago

FILE - Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice, on Aug. 11, 2023, in W...

Larry D. Curtis

Justice Department says Phoenix police violated rights. Here are some cases that drew criticism

Phoenix police use unjustified deadly force, discriminate against people of color and routinely violate the rights of homeless people, the Justice Department said in announcing the results of a sweeping civil rights investigation.

9 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump gestures after speaking during the North Carolina Republican Party Co...

Samuel Benson, Deseret News

Poll: Trump leads big among Utah voters; Biden, Kennedy tied

After viewing both Trump and Biden unfavorably in August, most Utahns now see Trump favorably

10 hours ago

Katia Hetter, CNN

Mosquitoes and ticks are showing up with greater frequency. Here’s how to stay safe this summer

Welcome to summer in the Northern Hemisphere, with all its fun in the sun – and little critters who want to take a bite out of you.

11 hours ago

A deer took the "Visitors Welcome" sign seriously at a church building for the Church of Jesus Chri...

Eliza Pace

Oh deer! Wisconsin church gets an unexpected visitor

A deer took the "Visitors Welcome" sign seriously at a church building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Viroqua, Wisconsin.

11 hours ago

A tourist jumps from a rock into the blue-green water of Havasu Falls in Havasu Canyon, Arizona, Ap...

Scott Sonner and Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Dozens of hikers became ill during trips to waterfalls near the Grand Canyon

Dozens of tourists say they became ill after visiting a popular Arizona tourist destination known for its towering blue-green waterfalls.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

One of the biggest strikes in US history is brewing at UPS