UPS aircraft maintenance workers are threatening to strike over health benefits ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Delaware today.
UPS is headquartered in Atlanta, but most of its 1,200 airline maintenance workers and its union, Local Teamsters 2727, are in Kentucky.
If the union goes on strike, it could ground UPS planes worldwide.
The union president, Tim Boyle, says nearly 78 percent of its members want to consider a strike if the negotiations, which have been going on for three years now, fail.
"You know there's no reason for us to be in a race to the bottom, and that's what this whole thing is about,” Boyle said. “This is about the company being greedy."
Boyle said if UPS does not agree to keep members' health plans intact at its next bargaining session on May 11, the union would ask for permission to strike.
The union published an open letter signed by more than 900 employees asking UPS CEO David Abney to allow them to keep their current level of health and retirement benefits.
"We are exposed to the harsh elements every day as we work around the clock to maintain UPS’s aircraft. We do work that is physically demanding, and oftentimes, quite dangerous. We push our bodies to the limit, moving heavy equipment and aircraft parts. Lifting injuries and accidents are common, and hearing loss is normal. Many of us have been with the company for decades, and the demanding work has taken its toll on our bodies."
UPS Airlines spokesman Mike Mangeot called it “typical union rhetoric.”
“Our negotiations continue under the direction of the National Mediation Board,” Mangeot said. “The reality is that talks continue, and we remain confident that these negotiations will produce a win-win agreement.”
Aviation analyst Ashley Nunes said in the long term, a strike might not affect the brand much, but does raise a question of corporate social responsibility.
"You know companies are trying to pare back on expenses. There is a legitimate question to be asked, at a time when a company is posting record profits, whether cuts should occur."
The maintenance workers say their jobs are dangerous and they should be able to keep their level of health care benefits.
Boyle said many workers collect disability benefits after working at UPS because of what they call a physically demanding job.
UPS said it's the only group of employees in the company that doesn't pay for health care premiums.