UPS workers inch closer to strike as union negotiations stall

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By Elizabeth Napolitano

/ MoneyWatch

United Postal Service (UPS) workers are gearing up for what could be the largest U.S. labor strike in decades. 

The Teamsters Union which represents roughly 340,000 full- and part-time drivers, loaders and package handlers reported Wednesday that the United Parcel Service “walked away” from efforts to iron out a new contract. UPS denied the claims, alleging the union is stalling negotiations. 

“UPS had a choice to make, and they have clearly chosen to go down the wrong road,” Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien said in a statement.

A contract is due to expire at the end of the month. The package delivery giant’s employees have authorized a work stoppage should the parties fail to strike a deal. 

The union last week gave the company a deadline of Friday, June 30, to bring its “last, best and final offer” to the table, warning that a strike would be “imminent” if the company didn’t come to the table with a significantly improved financial offer by then.

Failure to finalize the contract could precipitate the largest U.S. labor strike since 1959, jeopardizing millions of daily deliveries. UPS workers last striked for 15 days in 1997, in a walkout that led to $850 million in company losses, Reuters reported. 

UPS Workers And Teamsters Union Rally
Demonstrators during a rally outside a UPS hub in the Brooklyn, New York, in April. Failure to finalize a contract by end of month could precipitate  largest U.S. labor strike since 1959, jeopardizing millions of daily deliveries. Paul Frangipane/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fight for full-time jobs and higher pay

The union is trying to secure higher pay and more full-time jobs for UPS employees. It has also requested delivery trucks’ surveillance cameras be removed and that employees, regardless of their tenure, be paid the same wages for working the same job. 

Workers are largely unhappy with their current contract, which the union’s former leaders secured on a technicality. Discontent over the contract inspired union members to push out their former leaders and install the group’s current president, O’Brien, who has embraced the possibility of a strike. 

“Threatens to disrupt the U.S. economy”

Union members on Wednesday unanimously rejected UPS’ offer, prompting the company to walk away from negotiations, the union said in a statement.

The Teamsters Union did not immediately reply to CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment. 

However, UPS argued its “historic” offer was competitive in a statement on Wednesday, asking the union to return to the bargaining table.

UPS workers vote to strike for better pay and safety improvements 03:25

“We have not walked away, and the union has a responsibility to remain at the table,” the company said in a statement seen by CBS MoneyWatch. 

It added, “refusing to negotiate, especially when the finish line is in sight, creates significant unease among employees and customers and threatens to disrupt the U.S. economy.”

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