If that happens, it will be the largest and most disruptive strike in the country in several decades.
The Teamsters union can no longer stifle the country’s trucking system, as it did in the 1960s when Hoffa’s father ran it. But it still accounts for 327,000 employees at UPS, the nation’s largest transportation and trucking management company.
Looks like O’Brien spoils the fight. “Don’t get into any situation where you want a strike,” he told CNN Business this week. “But these employers need to understand that we will not be afraid to pull the trigger if necessary.”
“UPS has succeeded,” O’Brien said. “We’re going to build on that success.” “People are tired of seeing these companies make billions in profits and not share the wealth.”
Despite record profits, UPS says it needs a competitive deal
UPS has not commented directly on O’Brien’s position, but said the company believes it can find a way to work with the union.
“UPS and Teamsters have worked collaboratively for nearly 100 years to meet the needs of UPS employees, customers, and the communities in which we live and work,” the company said in a statement to CNN Business. “We believe we will continue to find common ground with the Teamsters and reach an agreement that is good for all involved.”
The company’s statement appears to indicate that it will not agree to roll back some of its gains in previous decades that have upset critics of Teamster leadership such as O’Brien, such as the two-tiered pay system for some union members at UPS.
“The delivery and logistics industry is becoming more and more competitive. Our focus during negotiations will be on agreeing to a contract that will provide the flexibility UPS needs to maintain its industry-leading record of reliable services,” the company added.
‘almost certain’ blow
Some outside observers believe a UPS strike next year is inevitable.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but unless UPS reads the writing on the wall, a strike is almost certain to happen,” said Todd Vachon, associate professor and director of labor education at Rutgers University.
Vachon points to other recent strikes, as workers rejected lucrative principled agreements between their union leadership and company management.
UPS’s current contract was drawn up in 2018 due to the objections of 54% of staff members who voted against it. Union rules at the time allowed the agreement to go into effect If less than two thirds of all members participate in the endorsement vote.
Brown trucks carry 6% of US GDP
The blow to UPS would be large enough to take out a portion of the overall US economy. UPS estimates that its trucks carry more than 6% of US GDP, the broadest measure of a state’s economic activity. The company also handles 2% of global GDP.
UPS has grown significantly since its last, 16-day strike in 1997, when the union represented 180,000 employees. It was the largest layoff in the United States in 30 years, according to Department of Labor statistics.
UPS’s strike now will be the largest in decades – and perhaps the largest US strike ever against a single company.
O’Brien’s background is very different from that of James Hoffa, who was a union lawyer before he became president. O’Brien is the fourth generation Teamster who joined the federation at the age of 18 as a heavy equipment driver in the Greater Boston area.
“One thing is that we will have a captain who has worked his way through the ranks and files,” O’Brien said when asked about the biggest difference between him and his predecessor.
O’Brien is pleased with recent signs of strength in the American labor movement, and believes that the current environment is likely to be a turning point in labor-management relations after years of union acceptance of concessions, such as two-tiered wage systems.
“There is a desire to fight the president,” O’Brien said. “[Workers] They want to reap the rewards of their labor and not be a victim of balance sheet profits.”
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