UPS workers in Des Moines hosted a rally Friday morning to prepare and practice for the possibility of a strike later this summer.
The current contracts expire July 31, and union members voted in early June to authorize a strike on Aug. 1 if the company doesn’t meet demands. Talks between the company and the union, which began in April, stalled earlier this week.
“UPS will strike themselves if they don’t come back to the table with a real offer,” said Joel Campbell, trustee and assistant business agent for Teamsters Local 90 in Des Moines. “They have until today to come back with their last best offer. And if they don’t, I would say a strike is imminent.”
What’s at stake
Some of the big complaints include pay, six-day work weeks, UPS eliminating jobs, and working conditions like the lack of air conditioning in trucks and buildings.
“Currently, 60% of the 340,000 jobs at UPS are part-time,” said Tanner Fischer, Teamsters Local 90 President, in a news release before the rally. “Our members are united and ready to take a stand for full-time jobs and a living wage for all at UPS.”
UPS did agree to adding air conditioning to truck cabs, starting next January and rolling out through different regions. Campbell said the company has also agreed to fixing ice makers and drinking fountains, most of which are in “deplorable condition.”
“What we want is an increase in our pensions, more full-time jobs, protect our benefits and have a decent living wage with the creation of more full-time jobs,” Campbell said.
‘We’re in this fight for the win’
The last UPS contract was approved in 2018, and it included raises in wages and raised starting pay for part-time workers. Campbell said this was the first time since 1997 that the company’s offer doesn’t cut it.
“This is the seventh contract I’ve been through,” he said. “And in my 30 years, I haven’t seen a real credible strike threat since we went on strike in ‘97, which I was a part of.”
That 1997 strike disrupted the shipping industry over the course of 15 days. (Though shipping is different now, workers still carried about 24.3 million packages a day in 2022, leading to 6.2 billion that year, according to UPS. Total revenue that year was $100.3 billion.)
But it also worked: The 1997 strike was a success and workers succeeded in getting the company to add jobs, strengthen health care benefits and give them an additional week of vacation time.
Campbell and other speakers at the rally said they hope this year’s organizing has a spillover effect to other companies in the shipping industry—and to the labor force as a whole.
“It’s important for the rest of the unions to see such a large group as ourselves, for a single employer, win a strong contract—because it makes the other companies stand up and pay attention,” he said. “Then they understand we’re in this fight for the win.”
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