Opinion: Time for Teamsters to seal a deal with UPS

Retired UPS exec: No one would benefit from a strike.

The Teamsters’ union is raising eyebrows across the country in the ongoing contract negotiations with UPS, on behalf of their 330,000 members. With the industry-leading pay and benefits that UPS already offers to its employees, you’d think this would be a lesson in good old-fashioned compromise. But, with less than two weeks left before the expiration of the contract, Teamsters leadership has continued to suggest the possibility of a strike and focusing on pay for part-time employees.

No one would benefit from a strike, especially part-time workers. Anyone like me who has worked part-time at UPS understands that a work stoppage of any kind would do more harm than good. Proposals for higher wages and better benefits are already on the table for their new contract.

Think about other companies in the logistics industry, which have no union representation and do not provide anywhere near the wages and benefits that UPS Teamsters receive. From my standpoint, the most important part of the package for part-time employees is benefits. They receive the same full-time benefits, including a pension, for part-time work. What other companies provide a pension to their part-time employees? And healthcare insurance comes at no cost to the employee, even though the cost of medical benefits continues to rise at an alarming pace. There’s also tuition reimbursement, which has only gotten more valuable as the cost of higher education has skyrocketed, as well as pension contributions that many Americans believe are a thing of the past.

John Coliton

Credit: contributed

icon to expand image

Credit: contributed

I worked for UPS for more than 37 years before retiring in 2021. My journey kicked off in 1984 as a part-timer loading trailers at midnight in Livonia, Michigan, to pay for college. I was fortunate enough to take advantage of UPS’s tuition reimbursement program where UPS helped me pay for both my undergraduate and master’s degrees. Through UPS’s culture of promoting from within I was able to become a full-time package driver in 1988. Shortly thereafter, I went into a management position where I had opportunities to advance in my career through four relocations and promotions and finished my career as the Global Director of HR Compliance and Employee Relations in Atlanta.

Each of these career advancement opportunities were life-changing events, all starting with part-time UPS roles that a strike could rob from future employees.

I always look back fondly at my time at UPS and am confused by the union’s claims about the treatment of part-time workers. UPS cared about me and clearly has a longstanding commitment to taking care of its union employees. Most part-time employees I have spoken to throughout my career chose these hours because they need the flexibility or wanted to use part-time work as a steppingstone into a full-time role like I did. Actually, half of the company’s non-union management employees started their careers as union-represented employees. Regardless, these part-time jobs are industry-best positions that need to be protected.

There’s a great deal on the table with a company that’s strengthened the quality of life for their employees as well as grown membership in the Teamsters union. While we should always advocate for workers, the threat of a strike – especially one that involves part–time workers – is misguided and dangerous. It’s good news that the two sides will be back at the table next week. It’s time for the Teamsters to seal the deal for their members.

John Coliton is former Global Director of HR Compliance and Employee Relations for UPS. He retired from the company in 2021.