Transportation Labor Gets Biden Administration Attention
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Transportation leaders from government and industry are closely watching labor negotiations that hold consequence for the nation’s supply chain, including pending contracts with workers from both UPS Inc. and Yellow Corp. — two of the largest freight carriers in the United States.
“These are certainly talks we’re monitoring, whether we’re talking about the ports or whether we’re talking about large trucking operations,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Transport Topics during a recent appearance on the Newsmakers program. “We really count on them — we count on these workers every day. So our main message is for the parties to work through all of the different legitimate issues that are there at the negotiating table. A lot of concerns, not just around things like compensation, but quality of life.”
The contract talks underway between UPS and more than 330,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union — most of them drivers — are working toward renewal of an agreement that’s set to expire July 31. Thirteen supplemental negotiations are taking place around the country, and national negotiations began April 17 on a five-year deal. The union has said it would stop working if a deal isn’t reached before the deadline.
“Good progress has been made on many of our local, supplemental agreements,” UPS CEO Carol Tomé said during an April 25 earnings conference call. “We are aligned on several key issues, like solving the staffing needs for weekend deliveries and ways to mitigate the summer heat in our package delivery vehicles. While we expect to hear a great deal of noise during the negotiations, I remain confident that a win-win-win contract is very achievable and that UPS and the Teamsters will reach an agreement by the end of July.”
The Teamsters have said they want higher wages, more manageable work shifts, improvements in safety conditions, and resolution of differences in pay and working conditions that exist between weekday and weekend drivers.
UPS ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America and No. 4 on the TT Top 100 list of the largest logistics companies.
In an April 26 letter to the company, the union said, “While we would like to see Yellow be successful and grow, we are not interested in ‘one-way’ bargaining where the company takes and we only get vague promises of future benefits that never materialize for the membership.”
Yellow has said it is ready to negotiate with the union, and is committed to finding an outcome that keeps its ongoing operational reorganization moving forward. “It is imperative that we complete our One Yellow strategy, which will strengthen the company, protect 22,000 union jobs and ensure that our customers are well care for and receive the range of services that today’s market demands,” CEO Darren Hawkins has said. The current contract ends March 31, 2024. Talks are expected to begin later this year.
On the West Coast, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union continues its nearly yearlong negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association at 29 ports and warehouse location. On April 20, ILWU, which represents 22,000 workers, said it had reached a tentative agreement with PMA “on certain key issues,” adding that talks will continue until an agreement is reached. Both parties have agreed not to disclose terms of the tentative agreements, with key issues being wages and the role of automation.
The sides announced in July 2022 they had reached a tentative agreement on terms to maintain health insurance benefits for the workers. After that, talks stalled for months over a jurisdictional issue between separate unions at the Port of Seattle. That issue eventually was resolved by the National Labor Relations Board.
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