Local UPS Workers hold “practice strike” as contract deadline looms

Published: Jul. 18, 2023 at 8:58 PM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) – Employees at UPS Presque Isle took practiced chants and brandished signs outside of their Customer Center on Airport Drive Tuesday morning as part of a practice strike organized by the Teamsters Local Union 340. A company-wide strike is expected to occur if the sides can’t agree on a new contract by the July 31 deadline.

“We’re just kind of letting the company know that we’re all ready, if need be, to go on strike,” UPS Presque Isle shop steward Lendell Buckingham said. “We don’t want to strike, but if need be, we’re all ready.”

The Teamsters Union represents over 340,000 UPS workers nationwide, setting the stage for what would be the largest single-employer strike in U.S. history.

The sticking point in contract negotiations is higher part time wages, which union representatives say are currently unacceptable.

“This is a billion-dollar company. These people come in here at 3:30, 4 o’clock in the morning sometimes, bust their a**, and deserve a fair wage,” said James York, a trustee for the Teamsters Local Union 340 and shop steward of UPS Rockland. “That’s what we’re asking for.”

The union is also looking to secure a better work-life balance for drivers by limiting late-night deliveries and improve driving conditions by adding air conditioning to vehicles.

“I’m sure that a lot of viewers will know. They see us out there, 9, 10, 11 o’clock at night walking up and down dooryards. We’d really like to put a stop to that,” Buckingham said. “We want to be home with our families like everybody else.”

If the company and the union cannot agree on a contract by the deadline, a strike could begin on August 1st, with the potential for devastating economic consequences.

“It would be crippling to the economy,” York said. “And that’s why we don’t anticipate it being a long strike because we do move a significant amount of GDP every day. A lot of people rely on us.”

Union officials and employees say they understand community frustration and have no desire to strike but are willing to do so to secure better working conditions.

“We don’t want to be a burden on our customers,” York said. “At the end of the day, our customers pay us and UPS kind of facilitates that money -- gets their chunk. As many of you know you see us out there, we’re part of your community, we’re part of the neighborhoods we service. We don’t want a long-drawn-out fight by any stretch of the imagination.”