UPS workers face job cuts due to automation, stagnant wages under new contract

UPS workers face job cuts due to automation, stagnant wages under new contract

Have you experienced cuts to jobs or wages at your facility since the UPS contract was passed? Contact the WSWS by filling out the form below. All submissions will remain anonymous.

UPS workers before a rally on July 21, 2023, in Atlanta. [AP Photo/Brynn Anderson]

Two and a half months after the “passage” of the sell-out United Parcel Service contract, there are growing signs that cuts in jobs and wages are imminent. UPS is seeking to recoup its small cost increases under the new contract to offset decreasing volumes resulting from the ongoing recession in the shipping sector, and to accelerate the shift to automation which is a clear threat to jobs.

The contract was “ratified” as the result of carefully-orchestrated theatrics by the Teamsters union, which spent months falsely claiming it was prepared to call a national strike. In reality, the union did not even bother to make preparations to strike and constantly walked back each of its “red lines,” eventually announcing a deal at the last minute which it claimed was the product of a “credible strike threat.”

From the beginning, the contract was a sellout which falls far below workers’ demands. The new $21 per hour starting rate for part-time workers does not come close to making up for nearly four decades of declining wages, and the contract freezes increases to pension contributions in many areas of the country. It does not even secure air conditioning in vehicles for the vast majority of delivery drivers. The contract was eventually declared “ratified” under dubious circumstances, in an online balloting process with significant vulnerabilities.

However, the full extent of the betrayal is only now becoming clearer. A recent article in FreightWaves explicitly states that Teamsters general president Sean O’Brien and his negotiators understood that jobs would be lost due the company’s move to automation and to lower package volumes. Law professor and Teamsters insider Michael Duff is quoted as saying, “I believe the Teamsters, at some point, just said that ‘These [job losses] are costs we are willing to live with.’”

UPS has already begun to automate many tasks inside its facilities with the goal of reducing its 140,000 part-time workforce inside its sortation centers in the next couple of years. As recently as September 29, UPS announced it was implementing “pick-and-place” technologies to move packages onto conveyor belts for sorting, a robot to unload trailers, and driverless inside vehicles to move items that cannot be processed by automated sorting.