On July 25, the Teamsters union announced that it had reached a tentative agreement with UPS over pay and conditions, just a week before 340,000 workers were poised to go on strike in what would have been the largest single-employer work stoppage in United States history.
The announcement followed months of tense negotiations and more than a year of preparation by the union. For weeks, UPS workers held practice pickets to show the shipping company they would not back down.
In a statement, Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien wrote that the contract was a historic achievement for workers.
“UPS has put $30 billion in new money on the table as a direct result of these negotiations. We’ve changed the game, battling it out day and night to make sure our members won an agreement that pays strong wages, rewards their labor, and doesn’t require a single concession,” O’Brien said.
He highlighted a number of key wins for the Teamsters, such as ending a two-tier wage system for package delivery drivers, giving general wage increases to all workers and including AC in new UPS trucks, starting in 2024.
In a press release, UPS CEO Carol Tomé said that the tentative agreement was mutually beneficial to both the company and workers.
“Together we reached a win-win-win agreement on the issues that are important to Teamsters leadership, our employees and to UPS and our customers,” she said.
However, not all workers were happy with the deal. Teamsters Mobilize, a group made up of rank-and-file UPS workers, called on members to reject the deal and go on strike if necessary.
One of their central demands is to raise the base pay for part-time workers to $25 an hour. Under the tentative agreement, part-timers are guaranteed $21 an hour. Under the previous contract, base pay for part-time workers started at $15.75.
Seattle UPS worker and Teamsters Mobilize member Tony LeMerise said that the $21 part-time wage floor was still far below what workers should be making if their wages from the 1980s had kept up with inflation.
LeMerise added that lacking a high wage floor leads to part-time workers facing arbitrary pay cuts.
“At my building last November, pay was at $27 an hour because of the pandemic conditions,” he said. “UPS was having a harder time finding workers, keeping workers there, because of the increased risks and the lack of any hazard pay or protections. … They decided to cut our pay down to $22 an hour overnight, without any notice.”
LeMerise also said that the contract offers far less generous terms for new part-time workers compared to existing ones, meaning that by the end of the five-year contract, new part-time employees would only make a base wage of $23 an hour.
“This [tentative agreement] is a bold-faced betrayal of the rank-and-file and serves the interests of UPS executives and shareholders at the expense of UPS Teamsters members,” Teamsters Mobilize wrote in a July 28 statement.
Members will have until Aug. 22 to read, debate and vote on the tentative agreement. If rank-and-file workers reject the contract, Teamsters leadership would be tasked with going back to negotiations to try to achieve better terms, putting a potential strike back on the table.
Read more of the Aug. 2-8, 2023 issue.