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UPS Workers Ratify New Agreement, Averting Strike

In a move that prevented a potential strike and its impact on the U.S. economy, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced on Tuesday that its members, who comprise more than 300,000 United Parcel Service (UPS) employees, have ratified a new labor agreement with the company.

The five-year contract, approved by over 86 percent of UPS members, includes significant wage gains for current employees. It guarantees at least a $7.50 per hour increase over the contract’s duration. Additionally, the agreement raises the minimum pay for part-time workers to $21 an hour, up from less than $17, and the top rate for full-time delivery drivers is set to average around $49 per hour.

Compared to the previous contract, which expired on August 1, the new agreement offers improved compensation, with full-time drivers earning an average of approximately $42 per hour after four years on the job.

The union president, Sean O’Brien, hailed the contract as the most lucrative ever for UPS workers. He indicated that it would serve as a guiding model for unionization efforts, specifically mentioning Amazon as a company that should take notice of the fair treatment of workers. The statement emphasized the Teamsters’ intention to prioritize unionizing Amazon, which would require substantial gains for workers at other firms first.

Despite the ratification, the new UPS contract will not immediately go into effect. The union revealed that a group of workers in Florida rejected one supplement to the national contract. There are a total of 44 supplements negotiated by the union. They plan to address the outstanding issues with UPS promptly to enable another vote for the Florida members. Only once the supplement is approved will the national contract take effect.

UPS declined to comment beyond a brief news release acknowledging the ratification vote and stating that the Florida supplement would be finalized shortly.

The Teamsters demonstrated strong mobilization efforts in recent months, including strike training sessions and picket-line preparations. Sean O’Brien, in his criticisms of corporate leaders, has referred to them as a “white-collar crime syndicate” and argued that UPS has the means to offer better benefits to American workers but chooses not to.

According to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index, UPS is responsible for transporting about one-quarter of the millions of packages shipped within the United States each day. Its adjusted net income increased over 70 percent from 2019 to last year, exceeding $11 billion.

Negotiations for the national contract between UPS and the Teamsters began in April. In mid-June, the union announced that its members had overwhelmingly authorized a strike. By early July, many key issues had been resolved, such as the elimination of a lower-paid category of full-time drivers and the inclusion of air conditioning in new trucks for enhanced heat safety. However, negotiations stalled when the Teamsters felt that the company did not offer sufficient improvements in pay for part-time workers, who constitute over half of the union’s UPS members.

After weeks of condemning what they called “part-time poverty” jobs, both parties resumed negotiations in late July and quickly reached a tentative deal. UPS employees represented by the union began voting on the agreement in early August. While some part-time workers argued for larger wage gains and urged a “no” vote, the final margin suggests that the majority were satisfied with the terms.

Unique Perspective: The ratification of the new labor agreement between UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is a significant development that benefits both UPS workers and the broader labor movement. The wage gains and improved working conditions outlined in the contract set a precedent for fair treatment and compensation across various industries. This victory for the Teamsters further strengthens their position in pushing for better working conditions and wages not only at UPS but also at other companies, such as Amazon, where unionization efforts are gaining momentum. It serves as a reminder that collective bargaining and strong union representation are essential tools for securing workers’ rights and achieving economic justice.

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