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Teamsters negotiators reject UPS contract offer, setting up potential August strike

About 12,000 UPS workers in the Louisville Metro area could go on strike in August.
Jacob Munoz
About 12,000 UPS workers in the Louisville Metro area could go on strike in August.

Around 340,000 unionized United Parcel Service workers, including about 12,000 in the Louisville area, are poised to strike on August 1. It would be the largest single-employer walkout in U.S. history.

Negotiators for UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters failed to reach a tentative agreement for a new five-year contract, according to statements from the two sides early Wednesday morning.

Teamsters said the company did not follow up with another contract offer after the union’s national negotiating committee unanimously rejected one package.

“Around 4 a.m., UPS walked away from the bargaining table after presenting an unacceptable offer to the Teamsters that did not address members’ needs,” the Teamsters’ statement said.

UPS blamed the breakdown on the union, saying its negotiators stopped working toward an agreement. The company called on them to finalize a deal.

“We have nearly a month left to negotiate. We have not walked away, and the union has a responsibility to remain at the table,” said UPS in its statement.

UPS workers in Louisville and across the country voted last month to authorize a strike. It would take effect if a national collective bargaining agreement isn’t reached by the time their current contract expires after July 31.

Despite several agreements made over the past few weeks, including adding air conditioners to new delivery trucks and eliminating what Teamsters calls a “two-tier wage system,” negotiators have not agreed to a full contract that can be voted on since national talks began in May.

Last week, Teamsters' leadership demanded UPS make a final contract offer by July 5. Teamsters’ General President Sean O’Brien said at a press conference Saturday the deadline was necessary to get a new agreement ratified by union members by the time the current one expires.

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

O’Brien said the UPS-Teamsters collective bargaining agreement impacts the most employees of any American private-sector union.

Louisville workers impacted

Teamsters union chapters Local 89 and Local 2727 are headquartered in Louisville, and their employees would participate in a national strike.

Local 89 represents about 12,000 employees in the Louisville Metro area, including workers at UPS Worldport and UPS Louisville Centennial Hub, according to its communicators director Stephen Piercey.

They’re bound by the national contract whose status is in flux. A variety of UPS employees also work under supplemental contracts that will expire at the end of this month.

Local 89 says all of its members at Worldport are affected by an Air Rider contract, which they’ve reached a tentative agreement with UPS on. The chapter’s leadership is recommending its members approve that contract. Doing so would not prevent local workers from striking.

Representatives for the local union previously said they were pushing UPS to add more full-time jobs and compensate workers for the time they spent using workplace shuttles.

Piercey said the workers his chapter represents are also covered by a regional supplemental agreement, and that they typically vote on all three contracts together.

He said he believes those workers would not vote on other agreements unless a national offer was included.

“I don’t know the status of national negotiations, but if push came to shove and it was getting close to the deadline, I imagine UPS would issue a last, best and final [offer] and ask us to vote,” Piercey said.

He said Local 89 is now focused on spreading info about the Air Rider agreement to the workers it represents.

Madison Carrico, a part-time worker who loads planes at the UPS Worldport, said many employees may not have seen union flyers about the potential strike.

“They were trying to inform people, but people that just badge in and go on about their day, they probably aren’t stopping to read that. They need to be a little more vocal about it,” she said.

Local 2727 represents UPS aircraft maintenance workers across the country, including at Worldport. Treasurer-Secretary Cliff Jones said his chapter would also participate in a potential strike.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.