Stepping up its hardball tactics, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters walked away from the bargaining table Wednesday in the midst of contract negotiations with UPS, demanding the carrier provide its last, best offer Friday or a strike would be a likely outcome, with worker pay the key issue.
The Teamsters also accused UPS of attempting to “move the goalposts at the 11th hour” during negotiations over health, welfare and pension benefits for members. The union last struck the carrier in 1997.
Also on Wednesday, Teamsters outside UPS’s massive Worldport air facility in Louisville, KY staged a “practice picket” session. Amazon is feeling labor heat from the Teamsters as well. Striking drivers and dispatchers working for a contractor at a Palmdale, CA delivery hub have extended their picket line to a sortation center in nearby San Bernardino, trying to get Amazon employees to honor it. Amazon said it dropped the contractor over performance issues.
The date of June 30 as part of the Teamsters’ ultimatum is interesting as it leaves a month before the UPS contract expires on July 31. The union said time is required for review and approval by the 340,000 UPS workers it represents.
“The largest single-employer strike in American history now appears inevitable,” said Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien in a release. “Executives at UPS, some of whom get tens of millions of dollars a year, do not care about the hundreds of thousands of American workers who make this company run. Their actions and insults at the bargaining table have proven they are just another corporation that wants to keep all the money at the top.”
The union and UPS have reportedly reached consensus on 55 non-economic issues in the contract negotiations, but pay and benefits remain sticking points. The Teamsters characterized the most recent compensation offer from UPS as inadequate. O’Brien has said he would reject any “cost-neutral” contract, meaning one designed to avoid a negative impact on the carrier’s bottom line.
“Our members are fighting for a post-pandemic agreement that honors the sacrifices they made to keep this country moving during the last several years,” said Teamsters General Secretary and Treasurer Fred Zuckerman. “Time has run out for UPS to give workers that honorable contract.”
A UPS spokesman said the company presented an economic proposal to the union last week, following it up this week with a “significantly amended proposal to address key demands from the Teamsters.”
“Reaching consensus requires time and serious, detailed discussion, but it also requires give-and-take from both sides,” the spokesperson said. “We’re working around the clock to reach an agreement that strengthens our industry-leading pay and benefits ahead of the current contract’s expiration on Aug. 1. We remain at the table ready to negotiate.”