Teamsters union says tentative agreement reached with UPS

By Seth Galinsky
August 7, 2023
Hundreds of Teamsters Local 638 members, supporters held “practice picket” at UPS distribution center in Eagan, Minnesota, July 22. Real possibility of strike put pressure on UPS bosses.
Militant/Mary MartinHundreds of Teamsters Local 638 members, supporters held “practice picket” at UPS distribution center in Eagan, Minnesota, July 22. Real possibility of strike put pressure on UPS bosses.

The Teamsters and UPS announced July 25 they have reached agreement on a five-year contract covering 340,000 union members, less than one week before the current contract expires.

Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien had said repeatedly that if a deal wasn’t reached, UPS workers would strike Aug. 1. The union had carried out a series of “practice” pickets across the country.

Talks had broken off July 5 when the Teamsters reported UPS representatives walked out of negotiations. But as the union’s “practice” picketing spread, the bosses returned to the table July 25. The agreement was announced that same day.

The UPS Teamsters National Negotiating Committee unanimously endorsed the tentative contract. “This is going to improve workers’ lives tremendously,” O’Brien told Fox News. The Teamsters will use the gains they made to step up attempts to organize Amazon and FedEx workers, he said.

The agreement will be reviewed on July 31 by representatives of the 176 UPS Teamsters locals in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The union’s members at UPS will get a summary and vote online from Aug. 3 to 22.

According to the Teamsters’ press release, all current full- and part-time UPS workers will get a $7.50 per hour wage increase over the life of the contract, starting with $2.75 more this year. That comes to about an average of 6.5% a year.

Existing part-timers will be raised immediately to $21 per hour minimum, although most will continue to get only 20 hours a week.  Those who have been there five years or more, O’Brien said, will get a larger increase.

The union press release says that the two-tier wages system for drivers — where 25% or more of them earned up to $6 an hour less then more senior drivers — will be eliminated immediately. The two tiers were imposed in the 2018 contract.

Starting next year, all new UPS vehicles will be equipped with air conditioning. O’Brien told Fox News that existing trucks will get two fans and improved ventilation, what he called a “short-term fix.”

UPS bosses issued a statement saying that the tentative contract is a “win-win-win agreement.” It rewards UPS workers while allowing the company to retain “the flexibility we need to stay competitive, serve our customers and keep our business strong,” the statement said.

The Wall Street Journal reported July 25, “The company isn’t boasting about it, but we’re told the agreement will allow more warehouse and delivery shifts on Saturdays and Sundays, which are currently understaffed.”

Practice pickets took place in 12 states over the two days before the deal was announced.

Teamsters General President O’Brien was the main speaker at a rally by some 800 UPS workers and other union supporters at the Local 728 Teamsters hall July 22 in Atlanta, UPS’s corporate headquarters.

He said one of the key unresolved issues was part-time workers’ pay. “They hire in at around $16 an hour, they have to work two to three jobs, some of them live in homeless shelters. We know our worth, our value,” he said to applause. “The concession stand is closed.”

Picket signs saying, “Just practice picketing for a just contract!” and T-shirts reading, “Pay up” dominated the hall, backed by spirited cheers and whistles throughout the rally.

“We’re fighting against corporate greed,” George Berry, a UPS feeder driver who delivers packages to the company’s distribution centers, told the Militant. “We do the work, we want to benefit from it.”

Part-time UPS warehouse worker Mike Smith said, “The big issues for me are heat, safety and wages. You spend 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half in the back of a trailer where the heat gets up to 130 to 140 degrees, and the little fan they provide does little good. I need to work a second job just to afford an apartment.”

Jay Watson, a 30-year UPS veteran, traveled to the rally with several carloads of Teamster members from North Carolina. When asked what he wanted to see changed, he said, “Cameras! They watch you every day and then try to write you up.”

Watson noted the importance of the  “practice pickets,” which helped shine a spotlight on the workers’ determination to stand up to the company.

Several Teamster truckers in negotiations with Yellow Corporation attended the rally. Marvin Maple said Yellow had stopped paying health and pension contributions and wanted to reopen their contract to ask for concessions. “Solidarity with all our fights is needed.”

The next day, the Teamsters got Yellow bosses to reverse its decision, so health care benefits will be paid as negotiations continue.

A lively contingent of some 20 actors from the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists had a literature table outside the hall explaining the issues in their nationwide strike. “It’s essential to support other unions. The strength of unions is numbers and showing up for one another,” Michael Mau, an actor and writer in the Writers Guild of America, told the Militant. “Solidarity makes us all stronger. Our country is built on exploitation.”

Some 180 members of Teamsters Local 728, waste workers at Republic Services, who face a July 31 contract deadline, held a rally in Atlanta July 21.

Lisa Potash and Janice Lynn in Atlanta contributed to this article