It’s been a week since negotiations between the United Parcel Service and the union representing 340,000 of its workers broke down. If a deal isn’t reached by July 31, when their current contract expires, UPS workers have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike that could paralyze shipping throughout the country.
“Right now we’re at a standstill,” union representative Sean O’Brien told CBS News this week. The General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters that represents the UPS workers said the ball is in UPS’s court “to reward Main Street and stop being focused on Wall Street.”
Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su told Spectrum News the parties “are at the table. They are negotiating. That’s what they’re supposed to do. And we have faith that they’re going to get it done.”
But no progress has been reported since July 5th, when negotiations came to a standstill.
Higher pay is the main sticking point. O’Brien said both full- and part-time UPS workers need to be compensated in a way that reflects the profits UPS has made. Last year, UPS brought in $100.3 billion in revenue, according to its web site.
While 95% of the issues between the two sides have been resolved, including a tentative agreement to equip more trucks with air conditioning, O’Brien said the union is asking UPS to increase the starting wage rates for part-time workers and reward the entire workforce.
In June, 97% of the Teamsters’ unionized workers voted to authorize a potential strike if their demands are not met.
The last time UPS workers went on strike was in 1997, when operations were shut down for more than two weeks. Since then, UPS has doubled the number of packages it handles each day. It currently delivers 25 million packages daily — the equivalent to 6% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
“I think we take it for granted exactly how much we’re purchasing, shipping,” Virginia Tech Economics Professor Jadrian Wooten told Spectrum News. “For a lot of Americans, we’re probably getting a package maybe every other day.”
The Teamsters say all those packages are delivered through hard work that needs to be fairly compensated. O’Brien told CBS News that UPS knows “what we need to get this deal done.”
But according to UPS, the Teamsters have stopped negotiating “despite historic proposals that build on our industry-leading pay,” the company said in a statement the day after negotiations broke down last week. “We have nearly a month left to negotiate. We have not walked away, and the union has a responsibility to remain at the table. Refusing to negotiate, especially when the finish line is in sight, creates a significant unease among employees and customers and threatens to disrupt the U.S. economy.”