UPS workers in Westchester rally amid looming threat of nationwide strike
UPS workers in Westchester County rallied Tuesday morning before a potential nationwide strike.
The union drivers walked what they called a practice picket line before heading into work at the Customer Center in Yorktown.
The deadline for a contract agreement between UPS officials and the Teamsters Union is getting very close and workers met to send a message before that happens.
It comes in the aftermath of failed contract negotiations between UPS officials and the Teamsters union last week.
The UPS Teamsters represent approximately half of the company's workforce, totaling around 340,000 employees.
Union officials have declared that if a new contract is not agreed upon, they will commence a strike on Aug. 1. Both parties are now accusing each other of abandoning the negotiation table.
Prior to the breakdown of talks last week, tentative agreements were reached on various issues, including implementing heat safety measures such as installing air conditioning in more trucks and eliminating the two-tier wage system for drivers who work weekends and receive lower wages. However, a point of contention remains – the wage increases for part-time workers, who currently earn a minimum of about $16.20 per hour.
"The part-timers do not get a good wage here. The company has made billions throughout the pandemic and doesn't want to share the wealth," says Dave Guest, the Yorktown UPS shop steward.
"Maybe in the middle of the country you can survive off of that wage, but here you cannot, not even close," adds Teamsters Local 804 President Vincent Perrone.
UPS officials said in a statement to News 12 that, “they have reached agreements on a wide array of issues. Even so, we are not surprised to see some union members making their voices heard. We plan and expect to reach agreement on a new contract before the end of July.”
Some local lawmakers lending their support say they hope to see negotiations resume.
"To ask for a fair wage, to ask for better working conditions I don't think that's a hard ask," says Assemblyman Matt Slater (R-94).
In preparation for a potential strike, UPS officials have started training non-union employees to handle deliveries in case the drivers walk off the job.
There is still time to go back to the bargaining table, but union officials say if an agreement is not reached, workers will walk off the job on Aug. 1.
The last UPS strike occurred in 1997, lasting for 15 days, and resulted in a near-complete shutdown of all U.S. operations. At that time, the company had 180,000 Teamster-represented workers, slightly more than half of the current workforce.