Just over a week after UPS contract talks with the union representing 340,000 of its workers broke down, UPS said it would begin training non-union workers in the United States to respond to disasters. to strike, which the union has pledged to do if no agreement is reached by the end of this month.
UPS said Friday the training is an interim plan that has no impact on ongoing operations.
“Although we have made great progress and are close to reaching an agreement, we have a responsibility as an essential service provider to take steps to ensure that we can deliver the packages of our customers if the Teamsters choose to strike,” UPS said.
Both sides last week blamed the other for walking away from the talks, which now appear to be at an impasse with the July 31 deadline fast approaching.
UPS workers represented by Teamster voted to authorize a strike last month and union leader Sean O’Brien had previously said a strike was imminent. On Friday, O’Brien joined union workers in a white-collar picket in Brooklyn, New York.
The Teamsters make up more than half of the Atlanta company’s workforce in the largest private-sector contract in North America. If a strike were to take place, it would be the first since a 15-day walkout by 185,000 workers paralyzed the company a quarter of a century ago.
UPS has grown significantly since then and has become an even more integral part of the US economy, with consumers relying on prompt delivery of most household essentials. Small businesses that rely on UPS could also be left searching for alternative shipping options if the company’s remaining workforce is unable to meet demand during a strike.
Companies have already begun preparing for a strike, seeking alternative delivery services, but the strike would likely cause significant disruption given the scale at which UPS operates.
UPS delivers about 25 million packages a day, which is about a quarter of all package volume in the United States, according to global shipping and logistics company Pitney Bowes. That’s about 10 million more packages than he delivered every day in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic.