UPS labor talks stall as union balks over ‘unacceptable’ offer

A UPS delivery person carries a package from a truck.
Weeks of talks between UPS and the Teamsters fell apart Wednesday morning as an end-of-July deadline looms for drivers’ current labor contract. Above, A UPS delivery person carries a package from a truck in Fort Worth in January.
(LM Otero / Associated Press)

More than 300,000 United Parcel Service workers are closer to striking after the company failed to reach an agreement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, threatening to plunge the U.S. supply chain into disruption if a deal isn’t reached this month.

Weeks of talks between UPS and the Teamsters fell apart early Wednesday morning in Washington after stretching through the July 4 holiday, with beleaguered negotiators emerging just after 4 a.m. Eastern time to say the talks had collapsed.

The two sides quickly traded barbs on who was to blame for the breakdown.

“This multibillion-dollar corporation has plenty to give American workers — they just don’t want to,” Teamsters President Sean O’Brien said in a statement. “UPS had a choice to make, and they have clearly chosen to go down the wrong road.”


The union tweeted that the company presented an “unacceptable offer” that “did not address members’ needs.”

In a statement, UPS spokesman Malcolm Berkley said it was the Teamsters who stopped negotiating despite a generous pay offer from the company.

Unionized UPS workers have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, setting the stage for a potential work stoppage if an agreement can’t be reached.

June 16, 2023

“We have not walked away, and the union has a responsibility to remain at the table,” Berkley said.

Shares of UPS fell 2.07% on Wednesday. The stock is up about 4% this year.

There is still time to reach a deal. The current labor contract — the largest private-sector union agreement in the U.S., covering 330,000 workers — expires at the end of July, but labor leaders have said they need a few weeks to educate their members and persuade them to ratify it. Union employees will not work beyond July 31 when the current contract expires, Teamsters spokeswoman Kara Deniz said. No more bargaining sessions are scheduled.

The Biden administration is in contact with both UPS and the union and remains “optimistic that they can reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” White House spokeswoman Robyn Patterson said.

The high-stakes negotiations had been teetering for several days, with the Teamsters walking away from the bargaining table, insisting that a strike was imminent, only to return. The union then struck a deal with UPS to eliminate a two-tier wage system that the Teamsters said underpaid part-time drivers.


But the two sides ultimately couldn’t agree on larger issues surrounding pay and cost-of-living increases. Full-time delivery drivers make $95,000 a year, and tractor-trailer drivers typically make six figures, according to UPS. But the Teamsters union says wages haven’t kept up with the profits the company raked in during the COVID-19 pandemic — or matched the risk workers faced to deliver packages.

Strikes against Starbucks stores get all the publicity, but a mass strike by UPS workers could be the turning point for American labor.

June 21, 2023

Tough talk

UPS is confronting difficult head winds with package demand declining and customers looking to claw back the surcharges and price increases that couriers applied liberally during the pandemic. The market weakness compelled one of UPS’ biggest competitors, FedEx, to undertake an effort to slash $4 billion in costs by fiscal 2025 and reap an additional $2 billion in savings by fiscal 2027 from the restructuring of its networks.

On the Teamsters side, talks were led by O’Brien, who campaigned on taking a tougher stance with UPS than his predecessor, James P. Hoffa. He has lived up to that promise during talks, hurling public insults at the company and practically daring its leaders to call his bluff.

The possible strike adds to a wave of labor unrest in the transportation sector over the last couple of years, with a backlog at ports leading to a protracted dispute with West Coast longshore workers and Congress intervening last year to prevent a nationwide rail strike.

Bloomberg writer Thomas Black contributed to this report.