Although negotiations between UPS and Teamsters Union are set to resume on July 25, the threat of a UPS workers strike looms as the July 31, 2023, contract deadline nears.
UPS has stated: “We are prepared to increase our industry-leading pay and benefits, but need to work quickly to finalize a fair deal that provides certainty for our customers, our employees and businesses across the country.”
However, Teamsters Union president Sean O’Brien isn’t as optimistic about a resolution, fast or not. During a rally on Saturday, July 22, he said, “We’ve organized, strategized, now it’s time to pulverize.”
O’Brien has also publicly asked President Joe Biden not to intervene. And the Independent Pilots Association (IPA), which represents pilots of UPS cargo planes, has vowed solidarity with the UPS Teamsters, providing additional leverage for the workers.
According to Reuters, “A key sticking point in the talks is pay increases for experienced part-time workers who are making roughly the same or even less than new hires because starting wages jumped due to the labor shortage in the last few years.”
Here’s what you can do to mitigate shipping disruptions if UPS workers strike.
On July 10, Packaging Digest reported on the potential strike, and shipping expert Patrick Kelley, Executive Vice President of OSM Worldwide, advised packaging departments to immediately implement a multi-carrier strategy.
But as the possibility of a strike appears more likely, and the time to react shortens, here are more proactive moves you can consider:
• Understand that shipments will take longer and cost more during a strike. Look for that extra budget now.
• Ask customers to build up inventory of your products now. If they agree, rev up production and ship, ship, ship.
• Realize the danger of having UPS pick up your shipment, then going on strike. When will those products be delivered? This is especially critical for expensive or temperature-sensitive products.
• Start using other small-parcel shippers immediately — like FedEx, United States Postal Service (USPS), and DHL. You’ll find they are already busy with extra business due to the threat of a UPS strike. We’ve heard reports of delayed FedEx shipments last week (the week of July 17), although adverse weather conditions could also have contributed to slowdowns. And with fortuitous timing, USPS has just restructured its ground shipping options. Its new USPS Ground Advantage “provides a simple, reliable, and more affordable way to ship packages in two-to-five business days across the continental United States.”
• Investigate trucking companies and do a cost analysis of Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipments.
• Hire a third-party logistics company (3PLs) and tap into their extensive network and expertise.
• Consider alternative “transportation” like Uber, Door Dash, and taxis for high-risk items. Be prepared to pay exorbitant costs.
• Build your own delivery fleet. Consider the costs/value of “green” vehicles. Realize finding enough qualified drivers might be a challenge.
• Find companies that do 3D printing near your biggest customers. If your product can be made on a 3D printer and your customers don’t have one of their own, customers may be able to pick up what they need at these additive-manufacturing locations.
• Be prepared for a production slowdown if the strike is prolonged and you can’t ship any other way. What else can your workers do in the meantime?
• Increase your made-product inventory for the expected surge in product demand once a strike is settled.
• Share these and any other ideas with your contract packaging partner(s).