Risk of big disruption as UPS strike looms in US
UPS and its US workers haven’t been able to reach an agreement on a number of issues. This could lead to the first strike by UPS workers in more than 25 years.
For months, the two sides have been talking about things like higher pay and better working conditions.
Workers say they should get a better deal, especially since there was a lot of work during the pandemic.
A slowdown at UPS could cause a lot of trouble for the economy.
Every day, the company sends out more than 24 million packages to more than 220 countries.
It thinks that the goods it handles in the US are worth about 6% of the US economy. Some of these goods are time-sensitive packages for health care firms and other businesses.
“This multibillion-dollar company has a lot to offer American workers, but they don’t want to,” said Sean O’Brien, head of the Teamsters, which represents about 340,000 full-time and part-time UPS workers in the US. “UPS had a choice to make, and it looks like they made the wrong one.”
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UPS said it was proud of its offer, which was based on what it called “the best pay in the industry.” It said that the union had “a responsibility to stay at the table” because there was still almost a month left to discuss.
“Refusing to negotiate, especially when the end is close, makes employees and customers very nervous and threatens to disrupt the US economy,” said the statement.
UPS has more union workers than any other company in the US.
As recently as last week, it looked like the two sides were making progress. For example, they agreed to put air conditioning in cars and get rid of a two-tier pay system for part-time workers. But pay raises continue to be a problem.
Teamsters said that talks ended at 4 a.m. on July 5 in the US without a deal, and that no more talks were planned. Last month, UPS workers voted overwhelmingly to allow a strike if the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement by July 31, when the present contract ends.
A walkout would be risky for both sides because the number of packages is going down as the economy slows and the pandemic boom ends. This means that competitors could pick up some of the business, said Satish Jindel, president of ShipMatrix Inc, a company that helps companies make shipping plans.
He said that some of the businesses he works with are already rerouting goods, and that many others are looking at other options.
Mr. Jindel said of UPS and the union, “If they want to play a game of who is going to go off the cliff, you know what? They will both go off the cliff.” “No one will come out on top.”
UPS’s last strike happened in 1997, and it cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.
The standoff is happening at a time when there are a lot of labor problems in the US, especially in the transport sector.
Last month, the US Labor Secretary stepped in to help ports and dockworkers on the West Coast reach a deal. Before that, there had been big slowdowns and stops in work. In December, the US Congress had to step in to stop freight train workers from going on strike.
Antonio Rosario started working for UPS in New York in 1994. He said he was ready to walk out after seeing how hard it was for workers during the pandemic, when the company’s profits were going through the roof.
“The amount of work was crazy. He said, “It was like a peak that never ended. I’ve never seen that many packages going through our system before.” He also said, “We don’t want anything crazy. They have enough money.”
When Mr. Rosario started working at UPS, he was in college and wanted to be a performer. After his father died, he got a job to help take care of his family. That job helped keep his family in their home. He said that workers today, especially those who work part-time like he did when he started, can’t find the same security. One reason he has been trying to get his coworkers to go on strike is because of this.
“There are a lot of kids like me,” he said, “so I really believe in this movement.” “Finding a union job for someone like that, who couldn’t go to school or college and can get a good union job and make a living, is a big deal, and these corporations are trying to take that away from people, which shouldn’t be the case.”
“I’d like to strike just to teach them a lesson,” he said. “I think they need to know how quickly we can get rid of our work.”