UPS, Teamsters get head start on negotiations

August 1997 remains fresh in the minds of United Parcel Service and its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. That was when an unprecedented 15-day Teamsters strike crippled the parcel carrier, leading a number of catalogers to seek refuge with the U.S. Postal Service and other alternatives. But in hopes of avoiding another strike when their contract expires July 31, UPS and the Teamsters have already started negotiating.

Both parties exchanged initial proposals on Jan. 30, and they have been meeting regularly ever since, says UPS spokesperson Malcolm Berkley. “We’ll continue to meet until we reach an agreement,” he says. “Over the past five years, we’ve shown an ability to work with the Teamsters to reach mutually beneficial goals, such as when we won the right to fly into China last April.”

Berkley notes that during the past four years, UPS has created 10,000 Teamsters jobs, “and overall, we’ve shown that our growth is linked to the Teamsters.”

For his part, Teamsters general president James Hoffa, in a March 3 rally before more than 700 members, said that the union will “win the strongest contract ever at UPS. UPS is the goose that laid the golden egg,” he said, “and we will grab that goose by the neck and get every one of those golden eggs.”

Although UPS doesn’t break out volume or revenue figures on catalog parcel shipments, the strike appears to have taken its toll on UPS’s catalog parcel shipping business. Among catalogers surveyed in the 1997 CATALOG AGE Benchmark Report on Operations, UPS was the standard delivery carrier of choice for 69%; among those surveyed for the 2001 Benchmark Report, only 50% said UPS was their primary carrier.

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