Local business owners said they were concerned about the impact a UPS strike could have on their shipments, and with only days left for negotiators to avoid a nationwide strike, some owners are preparing.
Businesses reliant on shipping products for customers say they hope the Atlanta-based package delivery giant and the Teamsters union reach a deal soon. The union represents 340,000 UPS workers — more than half the company’s workforce — in the largest private-sector contract in North America.
The union said Wednesday it would resume negotiations with UPS next week after the company reached out to resume talks. The union previously authorized a national strike if a new contract isn’t negotiated before the current one expires July 31.
“It’s definitely a concern if anything delays our customers’ ability to get our products,” said John Hoge, co-owner of Sea Eagle Boats in Port Jefferson, a maker of inflatable boats, kayaks and paddleboards.
WHAT TO KNOW
- A potential strike by UPS workers some Long Island business owners are worried.
- They are preparing now in case the strike, threatened for Aug. 1, disrupts their shipping methods.
- But one local delivery businessTrellus, sees an opportunity to fill the gaps.
Hoge said the ecommerce business ships 300 to 400 mostly large packages a day to consumers across the country. Normally, products are out the door one to two days after an order is placed, and with the looming strike, he worries about disruptions.
“Summer only lasts for so long, so people want to get their paddle boards as quickly as they can,” Hoge said. “No business wants to tell their customers that the product will be late.”
If talks don’t lead to a new contract soon, he said in the coming days he will start rerouting package pickups to FedEx to avoid packages getting “trapped on the way to customers.”
Challenge for FedEx, USPS
Norman Querido, who runs a package shipping retail shop, says he’s holding out hope for an 11th hour deal between workers and the company.
“There’s nothing I can do,” said Querido, vice president of Island Packaging & Shipping in Setauket.
“Since we have other carriers, we won’t be down and out, but the problem is FedEx and USPS can’t handle the extra volume that UPS handles,” Querido said.
Before last week’s announcement that talks would resume, negotiations had been at a standstill for nearly two weeks after both parties walked away from the table.
“If we go on a strike that UPS basically forces us into, it’s going to hurt the economy, and I think they know that,” said Vincent Perrone, president of Teamsters Local 804, which represents union UPS workers on Long Island, in New York City and in Westchester County.
Perrone, who was on the picket line when UPS workers last went on strike in 1997, said many of the issues workers have had with UPS management have been simmering for years.
Both sides had reached tentative agreements on several issues before negotiations broke down, including installing air conditioning in more trucks and getting rid of a two-tier wage system for drivers who work weekends and earn less money. A major sticking point has been wage increases for part-time workers, who make a minimum of $16.20 an hour, according to UPS.
“Just because it’s a part-time job doesn’t mean you have to have substandard pay,” Perrone said. “Part-timers have been left behind for way too many years.”
Dave Carew, a union shop steward at UPS who works as a delivery driver, said workers wanted to avoid a strike but that the company had more than enough time to present a fair and equitable contract.
“The fact that we’ve been preparing for this for over a year and given the company plenty of time to negotiate a fair contract just goes to show that the way corporate America is treating its workers just isn’t fair,” Carew said.
In a statement, UPS said it was “proud of the progress we have made to date negotiating a new contract that includes increases to our industry-leading wages and benefits for our people.
“We agree on the vast majority of the issues the union and our people have raised,” the company said. “We look forward to returning to the negotiating table next week to come to an agreement by August 1 that represents a win for our customers, our employees, the union and the company.”
Trellus sees opportunity
While businesses prepare for potential disruptions, one local company sees the possibility of a strike as an opportunity to grow its customer base.
Adam Haber, cofounder and chief executive of Trellus, a Long Beach-based technology and local parcel delivery company, said a strike would be “chaos” for small businesses who rely on UPS to deliver goods locally.
“I’m a union supporter; however, so many small businesses across Long Island use UPS ground for Long Island deliveries,” Haber said. “This could be a huge opportunity for Trellus to gain a lot of traction.”
The company, which Haber describes as “if UPS and Doordash had a baby,” delivers around 1,000 packages locally each week. The business focuses on delivering goods from one Island location to another and uses 20 to 25 gig drivers to do pick-ups and drop-offs.
“We have the capacity to handle a substantial influx of business seamlessly,” he said.