Teamsters President Gearing Up For Potential UPS Strike

Sean O’Brien, the president of the Teamsters Union, is gearing up for what could be the biggest, and costliest, strike from a single private employer in US history for UPS; the single largest employer within the Teamsters Union. 

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The Teamsters union has 1.2 million members, making it one of the largest unions in the world. Under the Teamsters are a diverse range of employees, from police officers, to bakers, as well as warehouse workers and truck drivers. 

UPS is the single largest employer in the Teamsters Union. Sean O’Brien, the Teamster’s general president who has been within the union for 32 years now, is gearing up to help UPS with contract negotiations as a potential strike is looming. 

“We are going to set the tone – and we have – for how organized labor should deal with corporate America, with politicians, and how they should stand up and fight. We will set an example through this situation with UPS whether we get a deal or if UPS chooses not to do the right thing to strike themselves,” said O’Brien.

UPS’s 340,000 workers have authorized industrial action unless both side’s can agree on a new contract by the end of the month. If not, the strike could mark the largest strike in US history from a single private employer, and cause even more blockages as the nation continues to recover from the pandemic’s supply chain crisis. 

Economic estimates reveal that a UPS strike could potentially cause up to $7 billion in losses for a 10-day work stoppage.

“UPS knows what our members’ wants, needs and demands are, and if there is a labor strike over this, I want to be clear: the public should know this and everybody else should know that UPS will be striking. They know what our members want. They know what our members deserve.”

UPS would be joining a slew of other industries currently on strike for similar reasons, including thousands of hotel workers in California, TV/Film writers, and TV/Film actors, all of whom have walked off the job. Additionally, 150,000 autoworkers are preparing for a potentially massive strike in the fall in the lead up to their own contract negotiations. 

O’Brien was the Teamsters top negotiator with UPS during their 2018 union contract negotiations. “We had weak leadership in the past administration, and we just wanted to make certain that we enrolled our members to fight for what is right and just. The previous administration didn’t have its members’ best interests at hand and that’s when I made my decision to run for general president.”

Since becoming a leader for Teamsters, O’brien has also made efforts to take a more aggressive approach towards corporations and politicians who are known to be anti-union, trying to organize corporations like Amazon.

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“You have an employer like Jeff Bezos taking a joyride into space, and he bangs on his workers to be able to fund his trip.” 

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The deadline for the new contract with UPS is July 31st, and as that date approaches UPS workers in the US have been holding practice picket lines and rallies to highlight their demands of the workforce and prepare for a possible strike. 

“They’re fired up, but most importantly they’re fed up. To say the least, it’s one of the most impressive campaigns I’ve ever been involved in,” O’Brien explained. 

While the Union has secured agreements with UPS regarding issues such as installing air conditioners in delivery vehicles, they still haven’t made a lot of headway with economic issues. UPS is pushing for higher wages for part-time employees, higher wages for new hires, higher wages for full-timers, an increase in more full-time jobs, and to protect and improve upon pensions and healthcare. 

“We remain focused on reaching an agreement with the Teamsters that is a win for UPS employees, our customers, our union, and our company before Aug 1. While we have made great progress and are close to reaching an agreement, we have a responsibility as an essential service provider to take steps to help ensure we can deliver our customers’ packages if the Teamsters choose to strike,” a UPS spokesperson said in a recent statement.