UPS, Teamsters negotiate with summer strike worries looming large

The union’s tough negotiating stance has heightened worries about a strike, potentially knocking the nation’s supply chain off-course again.

The Teamsters union, which represents 350,000 unionized UPS workers, is currently negotiating a new contract with the shipping company with its contract up for expiration at the end of July.

The union is expected to take a hardline stance in negotiations, potentially leading to a strike.


Driving the News: The strike could have significant implications for the millions of Americans who have come to rely on doorstep deliveries for everything from food to household supplies. Higher prices and longer wait times are expected if a strike occurs.

  • 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. This represents about 6% of the nation’s gross domestic product.
  • The last time UPS workers went on strike was in 1997, when was just a scrappy upstart. Since then, the company has grown significantly, delivering millions more packages every day than it did five years ago.
  • The Teamsters feel that the last contract they signed with UPS in 2018 was forced upon them, and are seeking better pay, benefits, and working conditions for their members. They are also seeking to eliminate a contract provision that created two separate hierarchies of workers with different pay scales, hours, and benefits.
  • The union’s demands could have implications beyond UPS, as the Teamsters are also attempting to organize Amazon workers and have campaigns at other companies such as Apple, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s.
  • The strike threat comes at a time when supply chains are already strained due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with businesses struggling to get what they need and raising prices and wait times. A UPS strike could further exacerbate these issues.

What they’re saying: UPS CEO Carol Tomé has remained optimistic publicly, stating that the company and the Teamsters are not far apart on major issues. However, the Teamsters have set a deadline of August 1 for negotiations to be completed, and have warned that a strike is possible if a deal is not reached.

  • Jessica Ray, a New York City resident who relies on deliveries for everything from food to dog food, commented on the potential impact of a strike to the AP: “It has the potential to be significantly impactful. My husband and I have invested a lot in figuring out how to remove the burden of just making sure we always have toilet paper.”
  • Thomas Goldsby, logistics chairman in the Supply Chain Management Department at the University of Tennessee, warned that “higher prices and long wait times are all but certain if there is an impasse. The python can’t swallow the alligator, and that’s going to be felt by all of us.”
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