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‘An insult’: Teamsters slam UPS training non-union delivery drivers during deal talks

UPS workers “practice picket” at Teamsters Local 804, outside of a UPS facility on Thursday, July 6, 2023 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Contract negotiations between UPS and the union representing 340,000 of the company’s workers broke down early Wednesday with each side blaming the other for walking away from talks. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

United Parcel Service (UPS) said Friday it will be training non-union delivery drivers in the coming weeks as the threat of a strike from tens of thousands of unionized workers looms closer. 

In a statement Friday, shipping giant UPS said many of their employees will “participate in training that would help them safely serve our customers if there is a labor disruption.”  

UPS said this “temporary plan,” will not affect its current operations or service for customers.

“These activities also will not take away from our ongoing efforts to finalize a new contract that increases our employees’ already industry-leading wages and benefits,” the statement continued.  

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Contract negotiations between UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters fell apart last week, increasing the chances the estimated 340,000 workers could strike after their current contract expires at the end of July.  

The UPS Teamsters, which represents over half of the UPS workforce, is fighting for better benefits and working conditions.

“What an insult this is to the hardworking men and women who do backbreaking work every day to make this company $100 billion a year,” a Teamsters spokesperson said. “The full-time drivers, and the part-time workers making poverty wages, deserve better from this company.”

UPS drivers make $18.05 an hour in Arkansas, $17.63 in Oklahoma and $21.02 in Connecticut, according to Indeed.

UPS made $11.5 billion in net income in 2022, as profits exceeded fourth-quarter expectations. The company’s 2022 operating profits hit more than $13 billion, for an operating margin of 13 percent.

Last month, the union voted 97% in favor of authorizing a strike should they not reach an agreement with UPS by the time their contracts are up on July 31.  

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“If this multibillion-dollar corporation fails to deliver on the contract that our hardworking members deserve, UPS will be striking itself,” Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien said in a statement in June. “The strongest leverage our members have is their labor and they are prepared to withhold it to ensure UPS acts accordingly.” 

A United Parcel Service delivery driver steers his truck, Friday, June 30, 2023, in the East Boston neighborhood of Boston. Frustrated by what he called an "appalling counterproposal" earlier this week, Teamsters General President Sean O'Brien, the head of the union representing 340,000 UPS workers, said a strike now appears inevitable and gave the shipping giant a Friday deadline to improve its offer. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
A United Parcel Service delivery driver steers his truck, Friday, June 30, 2023, in the East Boston neighborhood of Boston. Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien, the head of the union representing 340,000 UPS workers, said a strike is on the table. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

O’Brien joined members of Local 804 UPS in Brooklyn, New York on Friday morning in a practice picket line. 

“Our United Parcel Service members in New York and all over the country have never been more prepared to strike,” O’Brien said Friday.  

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The Atlanta company often touts it is the single-largest employer of Teamsters in the United States and states it transports over three percent of global GDP and around six percent of U.S. GDP daily.  

Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, previously said a UPS Teamsters strike could cause a significant supply chain disruption, using the supply chain issues during the pandemic as an example.  

If the strike does take place next month, it would be the first in over 25 years since workers walked out for 15 days in 1997.   

Hiring non-union workers is likely an escalation of the tension between the Teamsters and UPS’s negotiating team.

“UPS is making clear it doesn’t view its workforce as a priority,” a Teamsters spokesperson said.

“Corporate executives are quick to brag about industry-leading service and even more quickly forget the Teamster members who perform that service,” she said. “UPS should stop wasting time and money on training strikebreakers and get back to the negotiating table with a real economic offer that respects and fairly compensates 340,000 UPS Teamsters.”

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