UPS workers represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters voted in favor of authorizing a strike in the thick of national contract negotiations, the union said Friday.
Members voted 97% in favor of authorizing a strike, allowing the UPS Teamsters National Negotiating Committee to call a strike if an agreement isn’t reached by July 31, according to a Teamsters news release.
“This vote shows that hundreds of thousands of Teamsters are united and determined to get the best contract in our history at UPS. If this multibillion-dollar corporation fails to deliver on the contract that our hardworking members deserve, UPS will be striking itself,” said Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien in a statement. “The strongest leverage our members have is their labor and they are prepared to withhold it to ensure UPS acts accordingly.”
UPS said in an emailed statement that authorization votes and approvals are normal steps in the negotiating process, adding that the results do not mean a strike is imminent. The company remains confident it will reach a deal “that provides wins for our employees, the Teamsters, our company and our customers.”
The strike authorization, although expected, ramps up pressure for UPS to reach a deal with the Teamsters before the July 31 expiration of the current five-year national contract.
Teamsters leadership say a strike will happen if a deal isn’t reached by then. This would create immense disruptions for the customers who send millions of packages daily in UPS’ network, as the contract covers roughly 330,000 employees, including delivery drivers.
Progress has been made in contract talks, with tentative deals reached on topics such as UPS’ SurePost service, technological change and air conditioning in delivery vehicles. Economic issues such as wages, holidays and health and welfare benefits still need to be addressed.
Minnesota-based UPS worker Rikki Schreiner told Supply Chain Dive on Wednesday that she voted in favor of authorizing a strike, saying that UPS’ status as “the most successful shipping company” has been made possible by its employees.
Schreiner, whose “combo” job includes loading trucks, pointed to summer heat in the warehouse as an issue she would like to see addressed in ongoing contract talks. UPS recently highlighted various heat safety initiatives and investments it has made for employees.
“We deserve to have safety in the workplace and have jobs that we can retire from and enjoy our lives,” said Schreiner, who has been with the company since 1999.