NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who Won in UPS Settlement?

August 20, 1997

Analysts are trying to sort out whether the Teamsters Union or United Parcel Service management prevailed in the contract agreement that ended the UPS strike. The outcome is seen as a mixed bag by some observers.

Other firms and unions say the settlement isn't likely to make a big difference in coming contract negotiations -- not even on the issue of part-time work.

  • UPS's full-time workers got only a 3.1 percent pay increase over five years -- which is in line with inflation.
  • UPS lost in its efforts to create a new pension plan just for its workers and agreed to create more new jobs for part-time workers than it originally wanted.
  • The company won a five-year contract rather than the two- or three-year pact favored by the Teamsters -- giving management the stability over time to restore customer confidence and more time to move part-time workers into full-time jobs.

Analysts say the biggest gain the company made was to prevent any effort to limit its ability to hire new part-time workers. And since it has clearly lost future business, UPS may have to lay off up to 15,000 workers -- not exactly a win for union members.

Unions have staged far fewer walkouts in recent years than they did at their peak. Workers walked off their jobs an average of 289 times a year in the 1970s, but an average of only 38 times annually so far this decade.

Some of the major recent strikes -- such as those at Detroit newspapers and at Caterpillar -- have been failures for the unions. And today unions represent only 10 percent of private sector workers, down from 15 percent in 1983.


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