UPS and Teamsters Agreement Makes a Difference this Time

Biden Strike Unions

            Marble Falls     I would have hated to have acted with “premature certainty” when I predicted, after meeting with longtime TDU leader Ken Paff last month, that based on the non-economic progress in the UPS-Teamsters negotiations that there would not be a strike.  This is the biggest private sector contract in the US, covering 340,000 workers.  After UPS had walked away from the bargaining table on July 5th, strike preparations moved in earnest, but this was also the culmination of a year-long contract campaign, so when UPS came back, they put more money on the table and a tentative deal was agreed.  Members still need to ratify, but with an estimated $30 billion in goodies over a five-year deal, looking at the rank-and-file Teamsters for a Democratic Union website, they even seem to be enthusiastically calling for approval. There has been some carping about whether enough was done for part-timers and whether or not President Biden put pressure on the head of the Teamsters to make a deal, but looking at the key elements, I’d say they made huge progress for part-time workers, got rid of the two-tiers from the last contract, and were important enough that President Biden should have been on the phones to both the company and the union.

Judge for yourself, because here are some of the elements in the tentative agreement:

  • Existing full- and part-time UPS Teamsters will get $2.75 more per hour in 2023. Over the length of the contract, wage increases will total $7.50 per hour.
  • Existing part-timers will be raised up to no less than $21 per hour immediately, and part-time seniority workers earning more under a market rate adjustment would still receive all new general wage increases.  Current UPS Teamsters working part-time would receive longevity wage increases of up to $1.50 per hour on top of new hourly raises, compounding their earnings.  New part-time hires at UPS would start at $21 per hour and advance to $23 per hour.
  • Existing part-time workers will receive a 48 percent average total wage increase over the next five years.  Full-timers will average top rate to $49 per hour.
  • All UPS Teamster drivers classified as 22.4s would be reclassified immediately to Regular Package Car Drivers and placed into seniority, ending the unfair two-tier wage system at UPS.
  • UPS will equip in-cab A/C in all larger delivery vehicles, sprinter vans, and package cars purchased after Jan. 1, 2024. All cars get two fans and air induction vents in the cargo compartments.
  • All UPS Teamsters would receive Martin Luther King Day as a full holiday for the first time.
  • No more forced overtime on Teamster drivers’ days off. Drivers would keep one of two workweek schedules and could not be forced into overtime on scheduled off-days.
  • UPS Teamster part-timers will have priority to perform all seasonal support work using their own vehicles, with a locked-in eight-hour guarantee. For the first time, seasonal work will be contained to five weeks only from November-December.
  • The creation of 7,500 new full-time Teamster jobs at UPS and the fulfillment of 22,500 open positions, establishing more opportunities through the life of the agreement for part-timers to transition to full-time work.

I’m not a fan of newly unionized workers putting all of their eggs in the collective bargaining basket, but it’s still true that if you have a giant, legacy unit and enough industrial power to hurt the entire economy, there’s big power there, and when workers and their leaders are ready and able to fight, the benefits are huge.