“This multibillion-dollar company has plenty to offer American workers — and they don’t want,” Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien said in a statement. “UPS had a choice to make, and they clearly chose to go down the wrong path.”
But UPS argues that the Teamsters have “ceased negotiations” and have a month left to finalize a contract.
“We are not walking away, the union has a responsibility to be at the table,” the company said in an unsigned statement.
It is the latest labor dispute to threaten the backbone of the country’s transport and environmental system. A nearly year-long dispute over wages and automation led to intermittent shutdowns at several West Coast ports earlier this year. President Biden had to personally intervene to prevent a walkout among railroad workers last year.
A walkout by UPS, the country’s largest shipping company, would disrupt the movement of goods and materials across the country and have serious implications for the economy. About 6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product moves through UPS each year.
Last month, union members voted overwhelmingly to approve the strike. Teamsters leaders have said they will not work until their current contract expires at the end of July. As of early Wednesday, no new negotiations were scheduled, according to a statement from the union.
It is not clear what to do in particular. Compensation was a key issue in the negotiations, as were questions about creating more full-time jobs and UPS’ reliance on low-paid delivery drivers.
The union has criticized pay increases included in the company’s previous offers, which they say don’t keep up with the cost of living, particularly for part-time workers. Company drivers earn an average of $95,000 per year, while part-timers earn an average of $20 an hour after 30 days.
The two sides have tentatively reached agreements on a number of issues, including the fitting of air conditioning to new vehicles and regulations barring the installation of driver-facing cameras.
The talks come as UPS faces declining revenue and significant competition for its core business. The company reported revenue of $22.9 billion in the first quarter, down 6 percent from last year. Operating profit fell 21.8 percent to $2.5 billion.
It has deep competitors investing deeply in expanding their logistics networks. The U.S. Postal Service has begun a $9.6 billion plan to electrify its fleet with 66,000 new delivery vehicles over the next five years.
This is a developing story and will be updated.