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UPS workers in Maine are gearing up for a potential national strike next month

View of a UPS facility on Thursday, July 6, 2023 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Contract negotiations between UPS and the union representing 340,000 of the company's workers broke down early Wednesday with each side blaming the other for walking away from talks.
Brittainy Newman
/
AP
View of a UPS facility on Thursday, July 6, 2023 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Contract negotiations between UPS and the union representing 340,000 of the company's workers broke down early Wednesday with each side blaming the other for walking away from talks.

Contract negotiations between the delivery service company UPS and its union have stalled over wages, and the prospect of a national employee strike is just three weeks away.

Some 98% of the unionized UPS workforce in Maine voted to authorize a strike, said Brett Miller, president of Teamsters Local 340, which represents as many as 2,000 employees in the state, depending on the season.

Maine UPS workers have practiced picketing in anticipation of a potential strike. The current collective bargaining agreement between the company and the union is due to expire at the end of July.

"It's about being unified and it's sending a message to the company that if you don't come to the table and good faith bargain, then obviously, we'll be on the street," Miller said. "We're willing to go on the street on Aug. 1 if you don't come to the table."

Miller said the $16 hourly starting wage for UPS workers in Maine is not competitive with other retail businesses. UPS is understaffed as a result, he said, and drivers and warehouse employees are working long hours to keep up with the workload.

"You have drivers who are delivering at 11:30 at night on a continued basis right now," Miller said. They're being mandated to work six days a week and up to 60 hours-plus with overtime every week, and this has been going on since the pandemic. Our folks haven't had any relief in sight."

Both the union and the company have accused each other of walking away from the bargaining table.

"Refusing to negotiate, especially when the finish line is in sight, creates significant unease among employees and customers and threatens to disrupt the U.S. economy," UPS said last week in a statement. "Only our non-union competitors benefit from the Teamsters’ actions."

Miller agreed a strike could have an impact on the public.

"If we do go on strike, there is going to be a slowdown of delivery, because there aren't enough people and not enough companies to pick up that volume and not have smooth operations," said Miller, who was a driver for UPS out of Auburn when employees at the company were last on strike in 1997. "It's going to cause some problems. But I don't think the message changes at all. The message is that we've worked hard for what we do."