The threatened strike of UPS workers that could have seen 340,000 workers walking off the job for 10 days has likely been avoided as the Teamsters union and United Parcel Service appear to have reached a provisional agreement over labor issues.
While the agreement for a new five-year contract still needs to be approved by the vote of the workers, union leadership has accepted a deal that, if successful, will give Teamsters members many of their demands, including increased pay.
Among the concessions UPS made to the Teamsters with the new contract were a boost to the wages of both part-time and full-time UPS workers. UPS also agreed to drop the two-tier wage system that allowed the company to use “hybrid drivers” for holiday and weekend deliveries instead of paying full-time drivers overtime.
Another provision of the tentative deal adds Martin Luther King Day to the lineup of paid UPS holidays. The Teamsters leadership openly expressed their satisfaction with the deal. Union president Sean O’Brien claimed “we demanded the best contract in the history of UPS, and we got it,” adding “UPS has put $30 billion in new money on the table” because of the Teamsters’ efforts.
Carol Tome, UPS CEO, was also positive, remarking that the deal will “reward UPS’s full and part-time employees with industry-leading pay and benefits while retaining the flexibility we need to stay competitive” and calling the outcome a “win-win-win” for UPS, its workers, and delivery customers.
The deal, if successful, comes just in the nick of time to avert a strike. If the Teamsters and UPS failed to hammer out an agreement before July 31st a massive strike would have begun on August 1st. With more than a third of a million delivery personnel off the job for two weeks, researchers predicted $7 billion in total economic losses and huge disruptions to transportation.
While the Teamster leadership and UPS seem satisfied with the new five-year contract, the deal still has to win worker approval. Ordinary union members will vote on the proposed contract between August 3rd and August 22nd, and multiple news sources are reporting a groundswell of opposition among some regular Teamsters.
Part-time workers will get a 48-percent pay boost over the course of the next five years, but many tell reporters this will still leave them critically underpaid relative to full-timers, and even describe the agreement as a “sellout.” The majority of UPS Teamsters are part-timers, making the ratification of this week’s deal somewhat more uncertain than the triumphal language of Teamsters leader suggests.
If the massive strike happens after all, it could have had logistic sector consequences strong enough to affect GM and other automakers, all of whom continue to struggle with post-COVID supply chain and delivery problems.
Additionally, just as O’Brien and his fellow Teamsters negotiators took inspiration from other recent union tussles with Amazon and similarly large companies, the UAW or United Auto Workers might be energized to be even more aggressive in its negotiations with the Detroit Three by the Teamsters’ example.
Among the UAW’s other demands is a call to end a two-tier wage system, reminiscent of the UPS situation. The auto workers’ union has also signaled its willingness to strike and to seek political support in its negotiations.