By Ülvi Gitaliyev & Lily Barnette
While United Parcel Services (UPS) is one of the most profitable companies in the United States, many of its workers struggle with low-wages and sub-par working conditions, with a lack of air conditioners in UPS trucks being a prime example. Therefore, earlier this year, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), which represents 340,000 UPS workers, entered negotiations with the UPS management for a new work contract that would raise wages and improve working conditions.
Instead, while UPS agreed to some demands, such as adding air conditioners in trucks, they were opposed to any major wage increases and so, negotiations broke down after the July 4th weekend, with a strike by the IBT looking ever more likely. Interestingly, IBT members at UPS had striked once before in 1997 and while a contract was reached, many workers felt that the contract did not go far enough, a thought that has gained further credence following the latest round of negotiations. The main group that fought to push the IBT for a better contract was the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a group within the IBT that is now working together with the latter organization to get a contract that both can agree on.
A worker at UPS summed up the situation as such:
“I think it would be more accurate that the two groups combined their efforts to try and take the IBT in a new direction and thus, the IBT has been much more aggressive during this contract struggle. This reflects not only what’s at stake presently, but making up for the Hoffa Jr. administration pushing a bad contract last time and having to make up for it.”
One of the most important aspects of a strike is the act of picketing, when striking workers protest outside of their workplace to dissuade people from supporting the company. Though there is no strike against UPS, workers across the United States are already practicing for one. On July 12th, dozens of UPS workers, as well as their supporters, protested at the front entrance of the UPS Lexington Shipping Center, shouting union slogans and holding up signs that said “Just practicing, just contract.” Representatives from other unions in Kentucky came out to support the workers, such as the United Campus Workers (UCW) of Kentucky, who are affiliated with the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employeesas and the Bluegrass Labor Council as local activists in the area.
If there is no contract by July 31st, then the UPS Teamsters will go on strike and use all of their practice experience to picket outside of UPS locations until a new contract is reached. Such a strike would cause thousands of parcels to be undelivered for weeks, if not months, but most UPS workers believe that is a worthy cost in the struggle for workers rights and a livable wage.
If you want to learn more about the UPS Teamsters and their preperations to strike, you can go to their website here.