United Parcel Services’ (UPS) more than 250,000 union members have the option to go on strike later this year if contract negotiations fall through, which could deal a blow to the U.S. economy.
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In a vote on Tuesday, UPS package members approved the right to strike by a 93% margin and UPS freight employees voted in favor by a 91% margin, thereby increasing their leverage in discussions.
The current contract, which was for a five-year duration, expires at the end of July. Only after its expiration can members strike.
“It is very helpful to have the members’ backing as we work toward negotiating strong contracts at UPS and UPS Freight,” Denis Taylor, director of the Teamsters Package Division and co-chairman of the Teamsters National UPS Negotiating Committee, said in a statement.
Taylor noted that this does not necessarily mean UPS workers will strike, but that the group has a “credible strike threat.” During the last two negotiation periods, UPS workers did not have strike authorization, according to The Wall Street Journal. The group’s only stoppage occurred in 1997.
Up for negotiation are employees’ wages, pension and welfare contributions, improved overtime provisions and worker safety.
Meanwhile, the courier giant said it is has already reached tentative agreements with union members on a variety of non-economic issues.
“UPS is confident in our ability to reach an agreement that meets the needs of our employees and the business,” a spokesperson for the company said. “Strike authorization votes do not mean a strike is imminent.”
The Teamsters division encompasses UPS drivers, pilots, part-time loaders and unloaders, dockworkers, among other employees.
UPS transports shipments are equal to 6% of the nation’s GDP, according to CNN. The company generated $66 billion in revenue in 2017.
Shares of UPS were unchanged during the midmorning hours of Wednesday’s trading session.