Teamsters Break Off UPS Talks, Warn Strike ‘Inevitable’
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The Teamsters union gave UPS Inc. a June 30 ultimatum in labor talks after walking away from discussions June 28, warning a nationwide strike “appears inevitable.”
UPS and the union’s current National Master Agreement expires July 31.
Atlanta-based UPS said in response June 28 it would continue with negotiations and that “consensus requires time and serious, detailed discussion, but it also requires give-and-take from both sides.”
UPS, ranked No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America, said it made a “significantly amended proposal to address key demands from the Teamsters” prior to the two sides meeting June 28 after submitting an initial economic proposal a week earlier.
TEAMSTERS: NATIONWIDE UPS STRIKE IS IMMINENT
Today, the International Brotherhood of #Teamsters walked away from the national bargaining table and officially demanded @UPS exchange its last, best, and final offer no later than June 30. #1u pic.twitter.com/Q1JFUXsTZa — Teamsters (@Teamsters) June 28, 2023
In response, the Teamsters walked out and demanded UPS “exchange its last, best, and final offer” by June 30. The union said it gave UPS a week’s notice June 27 to act responsibly. It represents more than 340,000 UPS package delivery drivers and warehouse logistics workers.
However, a deal is very likely to get done, Bruce Chan, Stifel director of global logistics and future mobility, told Transport Topics on June 29. Neither side can afford a strike, he said.
The last strike was in 1997, Chan said, which led to UPS losing considerable market share.
“I doubt they will make that mistake again,” he said.
UPS can pay more than it has offered so far, the Stifel analyst said. However, Teamsters members employed by UPS are among the best paid in the industry by quite a margin, especially compared with their counterparts at FedEx, he said.
The Teamsters are demanding a five-year agreement that guarantees higher wages for all workers, more full-time jobs, an end to forced overtime and “harassment from management,” elimination of a two-tier wage system, and protection from heat and other workplace hazards.
Led by General President Sean O’Brien, the Teamsters leadership has publicly pledged to go on strike if no deal is reached.
The latest turn of the screw in the nationwide contract talks that began April 17 came after what previously had been characterized as positive negotiations. The Teamsters even noted June 28 that consensus on 55 noneconomic issues was reached June 19.
And on June 13, the union revealed UPS had agreed to equip delivery and logistics vehicles with air conditioning, new heat shields and additional fans. Still, on June 16, some 97% of union members at the carrier who voted in a ballot authorized a strike.
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The carrier’s proposal of the past few days was “appalling,” offering “minuscule raises and wage cuts to traditional cost-of-living adjustments,” the Teamsters said June 28.
“UPS doesn’t want to pay up. Their actions and insults at the bargaining table have proven they are just another corporation that wants to keep all the money at the top,” warned O’Brien, who made considerable revisions to a 2018 deal negotiated by his predecessor, James Hoffa, part of his election campaign in 2022.
A strike at UPS, the union argued, would cause devastating disruption to the U.S. supply chain and around the globe.
“We have an economy today that is reliant on parcel delivery … our members are fighting for a post-pandemic agreement that honors the sacrifices they made to keep this country moving during the last several years,” Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman said.
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O’Brien, Zuckerman and the rest of the Teamsters leadership have been in the spotlight multiple times over the past few days, with less-than-truckload carrier Yellow Corp. filing suit (June 27 against the union and certain affiliates in a Kansas court, alleging breach of contract, and accusing the union of causing more than $137 million in damages.
Yellow ranks No. 13 on the for-hire TT100 of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.
The suit alleges O’Brien orchestrated the breaches of contract and that the union endorsed the company’s modernization efforts “for several years” before reversing its stance. The suit, said Zuckerman, was “a desperate, last-ditch attempt to save face.”
Yellow’s complaint is a normal part of the back-and-forth between the company and the union in negotiations, Stifel’s Chan said.