July 20, 2024

VOX: 340,000 UPS workers could go on strike July 31. Here’s what it means.

When UPS workers last went on strike in 1997, the New York Times reported that the labor stoppage “created myriad inconveniences, large and small, for companies and consumers across the nation” and “largely crippled” the company. It lasted 15 days before the delivery company acceded to many of the union’s demands.

Now, UPS workers are slated to strike again at the end of the month if they don’t come to a union contract agreement. If they do strike, things could be a lot worse this time around, putting even more pressure on companies, consumers, and UPS. That’s because the economy a quarter-century ago is entirely different than now — one where package delivery is more important than it’s ever been.

“That was a very long time ago and the world was very different,” said Gregg Zegras, president of the global e-commerce business unit at shipping technology company Pitney Bowes, which collects data on the package delivery industry. “Everybody shopped in stores.”

While competitors like FedEx and the US Postal Service could pick up some of the deliveries, experts said logistics networks are too strained to fill many of the gaps that would be created by a UPS strike. That means headaches and delays for many of the people relying on UPS, which is responsible for about a quarter of all parcel delivery volume in the US, according to Pitney Bowes.