UPS workers approve new contract with hard-fought pay and safety wins, ending strike threat

UPS workers ratified the Teamsters-negotiated labor deal unveiled nearly a month ago, allowing the next five-year contract covering 340,000 employees to take effect at the package carrier.

“This contract will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers,” Teamsters President Sean O’Brien said in a statement Tuesday. “Teamsters have set a new standard and raised the bar for pay, benefits, and working conditions in the package delivery industry. This is the template for how workers should be paid and protected nationwide, and nonunion companies like Amazon better pay attention.”

The decision, with more than 86% of UPS union members who voted casting ballots in favor of the deal, officially removes the threat of a strike at UPS. Logistics experts had warned that a protracted work stoppage at the carrier would have caused widespread disruptions across the U.S., halting many more deliveries than top rivals could have absorbed.

UPS confirmed the vote results, saying in a statement, “Our Teamsters-represented employees have voted to overwhelmingly ratify a new five-year National Master Agreement.”

The contract approval, following several weeks of voting, marks a labor movement victory that could add momentum to organizers in other major negotiations. The United Auto Workers union, for example, is now pressing Detroit car makers for substantial pay increases with just weeks left on the current contract, putting a potential strike on the table.

“It’s a very effective sales tool for the Teamsters and other unions organizing in the logistics industry and beyond,” said Seth Harris, a law and policy professor at Northeastern University who served as President Joe Biden’s top labor policy adviser until last year.

“Truck drivers, warehouse workers and others are going to look at this contract and say, ‘I want my pay to go up. I want to be protected from heat hazards. I want to be treated fairly in the workplace.’ And this contract is a powerful indication that joining the union gets you those things,” Harris said.

The new UPS agreement eliminates a widely criticized two-tiered wage system and institutes raises across the package carrier’s workforce.

Current full- and part-time union workers are guaranteed a $2.75 hourly pay increase this year, the Teamsters said, amounting to a $7.50 hourly increase through the duration of the contract. Pay for existing and starting part-time workers will be raised to at least $21 per hour immediately, advancing to $23 per hour.

Current part-timers also won longevity wage increases of up to $1.50 per hour. Wage increases for full-time drivers would bring their average top rate to $49 per hour, the union said.

UPS workers also secured hard-fought heat safety protections, including a plan to bring air conditioning to the company’s iconic brown delivery vehicles for the first time. The Teamsters have hailed those changes as a major breakthrough after years of complaints that working in hot weather has grown more dangerous, as climate change fuels extended stretches of record high temperatures across the country.

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