Several local UPS drivers joined Teamsters representatives, Lancaster Stands Up volunteers, and others throughout the day Thursday for a practice picket outside the East Petersburg UPS Customer Center in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
As the July 31 contract deadline between UPS and their unionized employees approaches, similar practice pickets are happening across the nation.
Last month, 97 percent of UPS Teamsters voted to authorize a strike if their union representatives do not win their demands at the bargaining table.
Negotiations between UPS and Teamsters – the union representing more than 340,000 of the company’s workers – began over two months ago and reportedly ended early Wednesday morning.
Both sides are claiming that the other walked away from contract talks.
“The Teamsters have stopped negotiating despite UPS’s historic offer that builds on our industry-leading pay,” the company said, adding that the union should return to negotiations, according to Reuters.
Teamsters Union President Sean O’Brien told NPR that “the union did not walk away.”
Federal law requires both UPS and Teamsters to bargain in “good faith.” In certain cases, it is possible that the National Labor Relations Board can seek a federal court order to force the employer to “bargain.”
Last year, the Biden Administration and Congress forced freight rail workers to accept a Tentative Agreement with railroad companies, a decision that rankled many pro-union Democrat voters.
O’Brien accused the rail carriers of caring only “about making massive profits” and added that if “Congress is going to take over this process, they need to include paid sick days” for rail workers.
O’Brien began serving as the General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in March of 2022 and immediately stated that a UPS strike was a serious possibility.
“You don’t go into any situation wanting a strike,” O’Brien told CNN Business in early 2022. “But these employers have to understand we’re not going to be afraid to pull that trigger if necessary.”
In 2022, UPS had a revenue of $100 billion and over $47 billion in expenses for compensation and benefits.
The second highest 2022 expense for the company was “purchased transportation” at $17 billion.
With total expenses topping $87 billion, the company made approximately $13 billion in profits.
According to O’Brien, those profits should be lower, with more money going to UPS employees.
“People are sick of seeing these corporations making billions in profits and not sharing the wealth,” he told CNN Business last year.
Lancaster Stands Up
On July 3, the activist group Lancaster Stands Up shared a tweet calling for volunteers to join the practice picket in East Petersburg to “show UPS that workers matter.” The tweet claimed that UPS made $100 billion in profits last year and “can afford family-sustaining wages and benefits for the workers who make its money.”
As stated above, UPS did not earn $100 billion in profits in 2022.
Lancaster Stands Up and Pennsylvania Stands Up were co-founded by Jonathan Matthew Smucker, a pro-socialist activist who allegedly encourages activists to promote socialist policies without using the term “socialism.”
At least two men in the practice picket Thursday wore red t-shirts with the text “Party for Socialism & Liberation.”
The Party for Socialism and Liberation’s website includes the message: “For the planet to live capitalism must end.”
A representative from Teamsters at the practice picket told The Lancaster Patriot that Teamsters is not directly affiliated with Lancaster Stands Up but was happy to have people there to support the Teamsters.
Local pastor Joel Saint attended the practice picket to engage with people and discuss how the Bible applies to economics and employment.
In a recent podcast, Saint told The Lancaster Patriot that collective bargaining and voluntary strikes are acceptable, but government regulations or legislation meddling in those negotiations is “pernicious.”
“What business is it of the state to make [a] company bargain in good faith?” Saint said.
Saint also cited Matthew 6:24 where Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other,” noting that unions have a tendency to present the employers as the “bad guys.”
“This is what I saw happening with the union guys [in the concrete industry] – they clung to their union, and they despised…the people who were actually paying them,” Saint said. “They talk about the ‘greed’ of the employer, but there is nothing like the greed of the union fat cats who do nothing – they are producing nothing.”
O’Brien was reportedly paid over $300,000 by Teamsters in 2019 for his role as Eastern Region Vice President.
The union boss is currently paid over $220,000 per year as the Teamsters General President.