Potential UPS Strike: A High-Stakes Labor Standoff Threatens US Economy
July 17, 2023: The United Parcel Service (UPS), a major package delivery firm, faces the risk of a significant strike by around 340,000 union-represented workers, members of the Teamsters union. According to a study by the Michigan-based Anderson Economic Group (AEG), this potential strike could have severe consequences, making it “one of the costliest in at least a century” for the US economy, with an estimated impact of over $7 billion over ten days.
The study predicts that UPS could suffer losses of approximately $4 billion due to disruptions caused by the strike, along with lost direct wages exceeding $1 billion for its employees. The potential losses for the company also include the negative impact on its suppliers and reduced tax revenue for the government.
In the event of a strike, customers would be severely affected, facing delays in receiving their packages. Notably, UPS handles about a quarter of all parcel deliveries in the US, serving almost every city and town. As a result, millions of daily deliveries, including crucial items such as Amazon.com orders, electronic components, and life-saving prescription drugs, could face delays. This could further exacerbate supply-chain disruptions, contributing to inflationary pressures.
The critical point of contention in the ongoing negotiations between UPS and the Teamsters union is related to pay increases for part-time workers, who comprise about half of the UPS workforce. Tenured part-time workers are particularly frustrated as they earn slightly more than newly hired employees due to wage increases in a tight labor market.
The potential UPS strike carries far-reaching implications beyond just the company. It poses a more significant risk to the US economy than a work stoppage by UAW workers at the “Detroit Three” automakers. This is because UPS is an essential service provider, and the scope of its operations extends throughout the country. Small businesses, household workers, sole practitioners, and online retailers across the nation would feel the negative consequences.
The situation is critical as the current contract between UPS and the Teamsters Union is set to expire at midnight on July 31. The union has vowed to go on strike if an agreement is not reached before the deadline.
In such an economically consequential situation, UPS urges Teamster negotiators to return to the bargaining table. However, the union officials argue that UPS must sweeten its offer to adequately compensate the workers who risked their lives during the pandemic to help the company generate substantial profits.
The UPS strike carries two unappealing options for the company. If UPS risks a strike and customer losses, it could significantly damage its reputation and market position. On the other hand, giving in to Teamster’s demands could create a labor cost disadvantage compared to nonunion rivals in an inflationary environment.
As the situation unfolds, it remains to be seen how UPS and the Teamsters Union will navigate the negotiations. A potential strike could have far-reaching implications for the US economy, affecting businesses, consumers, and the supply chain. Both sides need to find a middle ground to avoid the potential $7 billion economic hit and the associated disruptions. The outcome of these negotiations will determine the fate of millions of daily deliveries and the nation’s economic stability in the coming days.