The threat of an economically disruptive United Parcel Service (UPS) strike moved closer to reality Wednesday morning when the Teamsters Union rejected what it termed an “unacceptable offer” from the company.
Both sides accused the other of walking “away from the bargaining table” after the offer was dismissed, signaling an impasse to union officials.
The danger to an economy already reeling under President Joe Biden’s inflation should not be lost on either side.
Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien declared, “this multibillion-dollar corporation has plenty to give American workers — they just don’t want to.” O’Brien added, “UPS had a choice to make, and they have clearly chosen to go down the wrong road.”
Negotiations between UPS Teamsters, which boasts some 340,000 members, and the parent company have been ongoing since mid-April with no end in sight. That is, until last week’s proclamation from the union that UPS had until Friday to put its “last, best, and final offer” on the table.
UPS workers last month voted to authorize a strike if negotiations for a new agreement for drivers and warehouse workers failed. https://t.co/E675fEa0xE
— Barron's (@barronsonline) July 5, 2023
Talks continued into the July 4 holiday but broke down at around 4 a.m. with that offer’s rejection.
That action left only 26 days until the contract between the company and Teamsters expires on July 31. Bloomberg reported the stumbling block was worker pay, benefits and cost of living increases.
In a statement to The Hill, UPS accused the Teamsters of ending negotiations, saying the union “should return to the table to finalize this deal.”
The company said there is still nearly a month left to negotiate and that it had not walked away from bargaining. UPS said the Teamsters have a duty to stay at the table, calling the alleged refusal to do so a threat “to disrupt the U.S. economy.”
Part of the turmoil came after social media posts went viral in 2022 of drivers suffering from oppressive heat in trucks not equipped with air conditioning.
The company conceded to some improvements, including installing heat shields and fans in vehicles.
It agreed to ditch the UPS two-tiered pay system and recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a full holiday. It agreed to abolish forced overtime. The major sticking point was and remains wages and salaries, which the two sides have yet to find common ground on.
UPS hinges much of its business success on its ability to control labor costs, and its model is quite labor intensive.