Teamsters Authorize Nationwide UPS Strike

Workers voted 97 percent in favor of authorizing a strike.
teamsters sign reading "united for a strong contract"
Image Credit: Getty Images

Teamsters at UPS have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a national strike if the union and the company cannot resolve their contract negotiations by the expiration date of July 31, according to an announcement by the union on Friday. Workers voted 97 percent in favor of authorizing a strike, though it’s not clear how many of the 340,000 eligible unionized UPS workers voted in total.


“This vote shows that hundreds of thousands of Teamsters are united and determined to get the best contract in our history at UPS,” said Teamsters general president Sean O’Brien in a statement. “If this multibillion-dollar corporation fails to deliver on the contract that our hard-working members deserve, UPS will be striking itself. The strongest leverage our members have is their labor and they are prepared to withhold it to ensure UPS acts accordingly.”

The last time UPS workers went on strike was in 1997, after unsuccessful contract negotiations. Organizers were then fighting to improve wages and benefits for part-time jobs, and help part-time workers transition to full-time jobs. When the contract expired, workers went on strike for 15 days, after which the company finally reached an agreement with the union. 

“I feel like I’m 23 years old all over again,” said Anthony Rosario, a former UPS driver in Teamsters Local 804 in New York, who was part of the 1997 strike and now works as an organizer. “It’s hard to describe the feeling. I haven’t felt this way in 25 years. And I think that says something—we had our strike authorization vote in 2018, but did we strike? No. There was no credible threat there. I feel like now, this is a credible threat. [The company] knows this is real.” 


A UPS spokesperson, when asked for comment, quoted a UPS statement on the company’s contract negotiations update site. The statement says that strike authorization votes in general “do not mean a strike is imminent and do not impact our current business operations in any way. Authorization votes and approvals are normal steps in labor union negotiations.” 

When asked how likely he thought it was that the Teamsters would call a strike, Rosario said that he had been almost certain a few months prior, when contract negotiations first started. “I was at about 98, 99 percent sure a few months ago,” he said. “But then with all the supplements [to the national contract], and they're already working through a lot of the national language, the percentage for me keeps going down.”

National contract negotiations began on April 17, and seemed to stall for weeks. Earlier this week, however, the Teamsters and UPS came to a critical tentative agreement regarding air conditioning and better heat protections for drivers. 

“Yes, there’s still a strong possibility [of a strike],” Rosario said. “It’s not a bluff. I’m lowering my percentage to 85, maybe 86, because they have been making some groundwork, but I think we’re under 50 days now, so there’s not a lot of time to hammer out these major issues.” On June 16, the day the strike authorization vote results were announced, there were 45 days remaining until the contract expiration date. 

According to the Teamsters press release, the major issues that have yet to be hammered out include higher wages, more full-time jobs, and the elimination of a two-tier wage position known as the “22.4,” named after the article and section of the previous contract which introduced it.