Two hundred members of Congress have expressed their backing of the impending UPS worker strike and have pledged not to support any potential effort by lawmakers to prevent the workers from striking.
Lawmakers in the House and the Senate sent letters to Teamsters President Sean O’Brien and UPS CEO Carol Tomé this week stating their support for the workers, who are slated to go on strike as soon as August 1. If they go on strike, it will be the largest single-employer strike in U.S. history, with 340,000 workers involved.
“The Teamsters-UPS contract is the largest private collective bargaining agreement in North America, and given the recent increase in attacks on employees’ collective bargaining rights, it is critical that these rights are in no way undermined in the current contract negotiations between Teamsters and UPS,” the letters said.
The lawmakers said they wish to “strongly affirm” and commit to respect workers’ right to strike. They added that, if President Joe Biden and members of Congress move to block the strike, they would not support the effort, apparently alluding to Biden and Congress’s legislation last year to overrule railroad workers’ rights as they were poised to walk off the job to protest their grueling and dangerous working conditions.
“[W]e understand that Congress has not previously intervened in recent history to implement a collective bargaining agreement between workers and their employer under the National Labor Relations Act, and we commit to not intervening in the collective bargaining process between Teamsters and UPS,” the Congress members wrote.
The Senate letter was spearheaded by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), with 26 other Democratic caucus members signing on. The House letter was signed by 172 members.
“Today, I sent a letter with nearly 200 colleagues in the Senate and House with a simple message: All workers, including UPS Teamsters, deserve fair wages, safe conditions, and decent benefits,” Sanders said on Wednesday.
Negotiations between the Teamsters and UPS had broken down earlier this month, making a strike look likely. But the Teamsters announced on Wednesday that UPS has agreed to return to the bargaining table, with negotiations set to resume next week to agree on a contract before the current agreement expires on July 31. It’s unclear whether the parties will be able to resolve the vast gaps between them in terms of expectations for working conditions and pay that have aggrieved workers.
Similarly to the rail strike, the UPS strike has the potential to acutely interrupt the economy, with economists estimating that a 10-day strike could cost the economy $7 billion. Workers and union advocates say the blame for impacts to the economy would lie squarely on the company, which — despite making record profits of over $11 billion in 2022 — has refused to share its success with workers, as workers have lamented.
One of the main outstanding concerns are over wages for the company’s part time workers, for whom pay starts at $15.50 an hour — which reports have found isn’t enough for a living wage in any state in the U.S. Part time workers make up roughly half of UPS’s workforce.
Sanders has been a vocal supporter of the workers’ potential strike. “If UPS can spend over $8.4 billion on stock buybacks and dividends this year, it can afford to provide better wages, benefits, and working conditions to its employees,” he tweeted last month.
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