UPS Workers Say a Strike "Appears Inevitable"—What That Means for Your Packages

This would be the first worker strike for the shipping company since 1997.

For most of us, postal deliveries are a regular part of our lives. Whether you're fond of grocery delivery or getting your prescriptions in the mail, we rely on having basic necessities dropped off right on our doorstep. But for those of us partial to online ordering, a UPS worker strike could upend things considerably. Expected to be the largest labor strike since the 1950s and the first for UPS workers since 1997, experts say the consequences of a strike could be disastrous. Read on to learn what that means for your packages.

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A labor contract for unionized UPS workers is expiring soon.

KEHL, GERMANY - APR 6, 2017: UPS United Parcel Service worker leaving the brown van delivery UPS truck parked on a street to deliver the parcel to the client
iStock

More than 340,000 full-time and part-time UPS workers are currently covered by the Teamsters Union. But the labor union's contract with the shipping company expires on July 31—and the two parties have been in the midst of labor negotiations to reach a deal for a new agreement.

Last month, Teamsters managed to get UPS to agree to equip delivery vehicles with "air conditioning systems, new heat shields, and additional fans" during contact negotiations. But that's not all the union has been fighting for in order to settle a new contact.

According to CBS News, the Teamsters union has also been trying to secure higher pay and more full-time jobs for UPS employees, as well as the removal of delivery trucks' surveillance cameras.

"We are here to protect more than 340,000 UPS Teamsters and get the best contract in the history of our union with this company," Teamsters General President Sean M. O'Brien said in a June 14 press release statement.

But negotiations have stalled on both sides.

Washington, DC, USA- January 13, 2020: Sign of International Brotherhood of Teamsters at the entrance of its office in Washington, DC. IBT is a labor union in the United States and Canada.
Shutterstock

Despite the looming deadline, an agreement for a new contract has not yet been reached—and now, both the Teamsters and UPS are accusing each other of abandoning labor negotiations, per CBS News.

In a July 5 press release, the labor union said that the shipping company "walked away from the bargaining table after presenting an unacceptable offer." UPS was supposed to give their "last, best, and final offer" to Teamsters by June 30, as there have been no further negotiations meetings scheduled.

"This multibillion-dollar corporation has plenty to give American workers—they just don't want to," O'Brien said in a statement for the July release. "UPS had a choice to make, and they have clearly chosen to go down the wrong road."

For its part, UPS is denying that it ended negotiations with the Teamsters—instead claiming that the labor union has decided to stop communicating.

"We have nearly a month left to negotiate. We have not walked away, and the union has a responsibility to remain at the table," UPS said in its own July 5 press release. "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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UPS workers will go on strike if an agreement is not made.

San Francisco, USA - May 29, 2014: Packages on a UPS truck out for delivery in San Francisco.
iStock

The Teamsters union has made it clear that union UPS employees will not work without a new contact in place as soon as the current one expires. So, what's keeping a deal from being reached? In a June 28 press release, the labor union revealed that there is one major point that UPS is refusing to compromise on: more pay for its workers.

"Executives at UPS, some of whom get tens of millions of dollars a year, do not care about the hundreds of thousands of American workers who make this company run," O'Brien said. "They don't care about our members' families. UPS doesn't want to pay up. Their actions and insults at the bargaining table have proven they are just another corporation that wants to keep all the money at the top."

Last month, 97 percent of voting members from the Teamsters union voted to approve a worker strike if no agreement is reached with UPS by July 31. "The largest single-employer strike in American history now appears inevitable," O'Brien warned.

Your deliveries could be delayed as a result.

A man with UPS delivering boxes on LaSalle street in the Loop late in the day.
iStock

The imminent strike of hundreds of thousands of UPS workers is likely to bring significant disruption to the postal system.

"Everything will get delayed. I mean, everything, anything that you ship via the mail," Patrick Penfield, a professor of supply chain practice at Syracuse University, told local radio station WAER, adding that while you'll still get your packages, "you're going to get them later and later and later" starting at the end of the month, if the strike moves forward.

Alan Amling, a lecturer at the University of Tennessee who formerly worked in marketing strategy at UPS, confirmed to NewsNation that the delays will appear similar to what we saw at the beginning of COVID due to the unexpected surge in demand for online orders. UPS delivers 20 million packages each day, which is a volume that other shipping companies won't be able to absorb quickly, according to Amling.

"Think about the early days of the pandemic, that's what's going to happen," he told NewsNation.

But it's not just your packages that will be impacted. You may also have a harder time finding certain products in stores, as companies who rely on UPS to deliver products or materials will be out of luck as well.

"It's going to affect all of us. It's going to affect restaurants, stores, and it's really scary," Sabrina Harris, an assistant manager at a UPS delivery and drop-off point in Brookhaven, Georgia, told local radio station WSB. "So many lives will be affected if this does not get resolved and really quickly before the end of this month."

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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