UPS Aircraft Mechanics Taking Vote for Strike Authorization Over Health Benefit Impasse

John Sommers II/Reuters

The UPS mechanics who service the planes that ship packages around the world began voting on Oct. 21 to authorize a strike after an impasse in negotiations over reductions in health benefits.

The strike vote comes after three years of prolonged negotiations during which, according to the mechanics’ union, UPS Inc. continues to demand huge concessions.

UPS, according to the union, proposes to increase health care costs for all Teamsters Local 2727 members by as much as 430% for retiree family coverage in just the first year of a new contract — with increases each year thereafter.

UPS ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

“All we're asking [is] to keep what we have, and UPS is trying to take it away from us,” said Tim Boyle, president of the union. “We came to an impasse last March.”

Mike Mangeot, a spokesman for UPS, said through a statement the recent union activity is “typical negotiations posturing,” but the company remains confident it will “reach a win-win agreement.”

Before a strike moves forward, a federal mediator must consider the vote, if it is successful, and then decide to “release” the union to move forward with a strike. The mediator will review the vote tallies at the next bargaining meeting between the union and UPS on Nov. 14.

“The reality is, talks continue to progress under the control of the [National Mediation Board], which under U.S. labor law controls the pace and timing of negotiations,” Mangeot said in a statement. “We have dates scheduled through the end of the year. It’s important to remember that U.S. labor law contains numerous protections against any type of job action during airline negotiations.”

The proposed cost increases, according to the union, come at a time when the company boasts record profits, huge dividend payouts and raises for top executives.

UPS is also calling for a significant reduction in benefits for retirees. The mechanics and other maintenance workers represented by the union work at 90 UPS locations across the nation.

“I work hard to make sure UPS planes are operational, on time and, above all, safe. It’s a responsibility I take seriously and don’t think it is too much to ask in return to have reliable health insurance that keeps me healthy and able to do my job,” Juan Flores, a 15-year aircraft mechanic at UPS’s Dallas, Texas gateway, said in a statement. “No one wants to strike, but I am voting to authorize a strike because UPS is refusing to work with us, and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect good, middle-class jobs and the health of myself and my kids.”

Union members say health care cuts are a nonstarter in talks because the work they do is physically strenuous and dangerous.

Voting will continue through November via mail-in ballots to ensure all members are able to vote, according to the union.

A mechanics' strike would put a halt to the UPS global shipping operation, according to the union. During the holiday season, the company delivers more than 1.6 million packages a day and is a primary delivery service for Amazon shipments.

A strike "would have a huge impact to the company if Amazon decided to put their business somewhere else,” Boyle said. “If UPS doesn’t try to be reasonable, they should consider shipping their packages with somebody else. That would have a significant impact on UPS.”