Last week, there were two breakdowns in talks between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union and UPS. The first incident occurred as June came to a close when the Teamsters walked away from the table, demanding that UPS present their “last, best, and final offer.” The negotiations fell apart again on July 5, with both parties blaming each other.
The contracts for over 330,000 UPS delivery drivers and warehouse logistics workers are set to expire at the end of the month. The Teamsters are increasing pressure on UPS, as well as Amazon. Two weeks ago, workers contracted to deliver goods for Amazon began picketing, and in the past week, they have expanded their protests to the East Coast, coinciding with the breakdown of negotiations with UPS.
Amidst the ongoing dispute, acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su expressed on CNN that there was no need for the Labor Department to intervene in the talks. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also stated that there were no plans to increase administration involvement, but they remain in contact with both parties.
UPS, on July 7, claimed that “significant progress” had already been made and placed the responsibility for continuing negotiations on the Teamsters. The company stressed the importance of reaching an agreement, as refusing to negotiate, especially with the contract expiration just three weeks away, could create unease among employees and customers and threaten the U.S. economy.
In response, the Teamsters issued a statement on July 5 accusing UPS of walking away from the bargaining table. They claimed that after marathon negotiations, UPS refused to give their “last, best, and final offer,” stating that the company had nothing more to give. The Teamsters’ last strike occurred 26 years ago in 1997, and it cost UPS $850 million.
As of 2022, UPS reported making 24.3 million package deliveries daily, totaling 6.2 billion packages annually worldwide, and generating $100 billion in revenue. While UPS recently agreed to eliminate a two-tiered wage system, a main demand of the Teamsters, disagreements still persist regarding the rules for part-time worker pay.
In addition to the negotiations with UPS, the Teamsters have organized picket lines outside several Amazon warehouses, possibly in an attempt to increase pressure on UPS. The Teamsters’ members voted 97 percent in favor of authorizing a strike if the UPS contract expires without a new one in place. Delivery drivers and dispatchers from Palmdale, California, have extended their protests to East Coast warehouses in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
It should be noted that the 84 workers involved are employed by Battle Tested Strategies, not directly by Amazon. Amazon released a statement indicating that they had plans to stop working with Battle Tested Strategies even before the strikes took place.
Labor unions have faced challenges organizing within Amazon. Last year, the Amazon Labor Union on Staten Island, New York, succeeded in becoming the first Amazon union. However, union membership has decreased over the years, standing at 10 percent in 2022, despite a historic approval rate of 71 percent.
Although the news of the stalled negotiations caused a drop in UPS stock on June 30 and Wednesday, the stock has since recovered. The coming weeks will be critical as both parties strive to reach an agreement before the current contracts expire on August 1.