UPS Teamsters rally in downtown LA as contract deadline approaches, possible strikes looms

Jaysha Patel Image
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
UPS workers rally in downtown LA as as contract deadline approaches
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UPS employees picketed and rallied in downtown Los Angeles the Teamsters said they will resume contract negotiations with the shipping company next week.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- UPS Teamsters rallied and picketed in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, just over a week before their contract with the shipping company is set to expire, raising the specter of a possible strike.

"The starting rare for part-timers, it needs to be at what economy we're at," said Efren Esparza, a UPS employee who attended the rally. "Besides, we help the company profit -- record profits. And we're just asking for a little share of that."

Some members of the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America, which are both currently on strike, attended the Teamsters event.

"It's an incredible feeling to see that union solidarity across the way," said Jonny Gomez, a Writers Guild member. "Los Angeles is a union town, and seeing everyone come together to support each other, it means a lot."

Meanwhile, the union said they will resume contract negotiations with UPS next week, marking an end to a stalemate that began two weeks ago when both sides walked away from talks while blaming each other.

The union, which represents 340,000 UPS workers, credited the picketing and rallies it's been holding across the country for getting the delivery company back to the negotiating table before the current contract expires on July 31.

It said UPS reached out to resume negotiations.

UPS has agreed to install air conditioning in its trucks, a major issue in ongoing contract negotiations.

In a prepared statement, the company confirmed negations will resume next week and said it was pleased to go back and "resolve the few remaining open issues."

Before contract talks broke down, both sides had reached tentative agreements on several issues, including installing air conditioning in more trucks and getting rid of a two-tier wage system for drivers who work weekends and earn less money. A sticking point in negotiations has been wage increases for part-time workers, who make a minimum of $16.20 an hour.

"We are prepared to increase our industry-leading pay and benefits, but need to work quickly to finalize a fair deal that provides certainty for our customers, our employees and businesses across the country," UPS said.

The Teamsters represent more than half of the Atlanta-based company's workforce in the largest private-sector contract in North America. If a strike does happen, as the union has been threatening, it would be the first since a roughly two-week walkout by 185,000 workers crippled the company a quarter century ago.

On Sunday, Sean O'Brien, the head of the Teamsters, said during a webcast with union members that he has asked the White House on numerous occasions not to intervene if workers end up going on strike. Last year, President Joe Biden had intervened to avert a railroad strike and force workers to accept an agreement that wasn't broadly accepted.

On Wednesday, more than two dozen senate democrats sent a letter to O'Brien and UPS CEO Carol Tome pledging not to intervene in case of a strike, mirroring a similar letter sent on Monday by members of the U.S. House.

Earlier this month, UPS said it will temporarily begin training nonunion employees in the U.S. to step in should there be a strike.

Both sides will set dates soon as to when negations will happen next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.