Saturday, June 03, 2023|
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UPS delivers millions more packages every day than it did just five years ago and its 350,000 unionized workers, represented by the Teamsters, still seethe about a contract they feel was forced on them in 2018.
In an environment of energized labor movements and lingering resentment among UPS workers, the Teamsters are expected to dig in, with the potential to cow a major logistical force in the U.S.
The 24 million packages UPS ships on an average day amounts to about a quarter of all U.S. parcel volume, according to the global shipping and logistics firm Pitney Bowes, or as UPS puts it, the equivalent of about 6% of nation’s gross domestic product.
Higher prices and long wait times are all but certain if there is an impasse.
“Something’s got to give,” said Thomas Goldsby, logistics chairman in the Supply Chain Management Department at the University of Tennessee.
Annual profits at UPS in the past two years are close to three times what they were before the pandemic. The Atlanta company returned about $8.6 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks in 2022, and forecasts another $8.4 billion for shareholders this year.
The Teamsters say frontline UPS workers deserve some of that windfall.
“Our members worked really hard over the pandemic,” said Teamsters spokesperson Kara Denize. “They need to see their fair share.”
Union members rejected the contract they were offered in 2018, but it was pushed through by union leadership based on a technicality. The acrimony over the current contract was so fierce that last year workers rejected a candidate to lead the Teamsters favored by longtime union head James Hoffa, instead choosing the more combative Sean O’Brien.
O’Brien went on a nationwide tour of local Teamsters shops preparing frontline workers ahead of negotiations.
In addition to addressing part-time pay, and what workers say is excessive overtime, the union wants to eliminate a contract provision that created two separate hierarchies of workers with different pay scales, hours and benefits.
A win at UPS could have implications for the organized labor outside the company.
Teamsters are attempting to organize Amazon workers and dozens of company delivery drivers and dispatchers in California joined the union last month. There are also prominent labor organization campaigns at Apple, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Apple.
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