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UPS, Independent Pilots Association to start union contract negotiations. Here's what we know

Olivia Evans - Louisville Courier Journal

Louisville's Largest Employer, UPS, and the union representing more than 3,200 pilots are expected to begin contract negotiations on June 11 for a new labor agreement.

According to a statement from the Independent Pilots Association, the union representing the pilots, this year's negotiations will be the "first full contract negotiations between IPA and UPS since 2016."

"The goal of these negotiations is to deliver a new industry leading contract for the pilots who fly for UPS," Brian Gaudet, a spokesperson for IPA, told The Courier Journal in a statement. IPA is headquartered in Louisville, with its office located off Fern Valley Road. On top of being based here, many IPA members live in the Louisville area.

This year's negotiations come one year after UPS and the Teamsters, the union representing roughly 340,000 UPS workers nationwide, tensely negotiated and ratified a new contract that included significant wage increases for full- and part-time workers, an additional holiday day off, the addition of air conditioning in vehicles and a slew of other benefits.

UPS has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

While negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the Independent Pilots Association and UPS get close to starting, here's what we know:

When do UPS and IPA negotiations start?

Negotiations between UPS, the world's largest transportation company, and the IPA are set to kick off June 11.

Why do the UPS and IPA negotiations matter in Louisville?

Louisville is uniquely positioned for these negotiations as the city is the headquarters location for both UPS Air and the IPA.

UPS's largest and main air hub globally, UPS Worldport, is located in Louisville and sees roughly 360 flights each day, according to a company fact sheet.

How long are UPS and IPA negotiations expected to last?

Negotiations start in June with the two parties meeting "face-to-face" monthly over the next 15 months, according to the IPA statement.

When does the contract expire?

Unlike the Teamsters contract, which had a firm expiration date, the IPA and UPS contract does not have an expiration date but instead, becomes "amendable" starting Sept. 1, 2025.

When a contract becomes amendable, the two sides will come together to work through contract changes. Once a contract has hit its amendable date, employees are still covered by the provisions of the pre-existing contract until a new contract has been ratified, a very different process than collective bargaining agreements regulated by the National Labor Relations Act such as the UPS and Teamsters contract or the United Auto Workers and Ford contract.

The UPS and IPA contract is regulated under the Railway Labor Act. This federal act, which was enacted in 1926 and came to oversee the airline industry in 1936, is intended to "avoid any interruption of interstate commerce" by providing regulated and mandatory dispute resolution processes that make it more burdensome for the involved parties to execute a strike or other actions.

This means negotiations could drag on for months, or years. And in extreme cases, Congress and the president can step in to prevent a strike. In December 2022, President Joe Biden signed legislation to prevent a strike by the railroad companies under the Railway Labor Act.

Can the IPA strike?

While it is a more tedious process under the RLA for unions to strike, they still can.

A strike over "major disputes" is allowed, but only after the extensive negotiation and mediation process has been "exhausted." Strikes are, however, prohibited over "minor disputes," according to the RLA.

What happened at the last full contract negotiations in 2016?

In 2016, the IPA and UPS contract negotiations went back and forth over items such as work rules to avoid fatigue with pilots eventually setting up a strike center at their Louisville headquarters, The Courier Journal previously reported.

The contract negotiations, which took nearly five years, involved federal mediators but the two sides eventually reached an agreement in June 2016. The contract was ratified in August 2016. The 2016 contract provided pilots with an immediate pay increase and annual wage increases, a signing bonus of either $40,000 or $60,000 depending on pilot classification, a 40% increase to pension plans, additional rest enhancements, and more.

That contract, which was originally set to become amenable in September 2021, received two, two-year contract extensions, bringing the negotiations to start in 2024.

Teamsters-UPS Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

Release Date: 7/31/2023 10:48:00 AM

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and UPS announced a tentative agreement (TA) on July 25, 2023 averting a potential national strike. The IPA Executive Board was pleased to learn of the TA.

"This has been a long, hard-fought battle for improved working conditions, as well as wages and benefits for UPS employees. We applaud General President Sean O'Brien and his team for securing what he calls a 'historic' TA and are heartened by the unwavering solidarity and support the IPA membership has shown for their fellow UPS employees." said IPA President Bob Travis.

IPA President Travis spoke with President O’Brien shortly after the tentative agreement was announced and personally congratulated him and his negotiation team. The ratification process is expected to last several weeks. 

July 3, 2023

On behalf of the pilot group, IPA President Bob Travis sent a letter dated July 3, 2023 to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) General President Sean O'Brien reaffirming that the IBT can count on the IPA's support during their negotiations with the Company. President Travis also thanked O'Brien for his commitment to support the IPA when the Association begins negotiations with the Company in September 2024. Travis called for continued communication and collaboration between the IPA and IBT.

View the full letter from IPA President Bob Travis

June 26, 2023

In a letter dated June 26, 2023, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) General President Sean O'Brien thanked the Association for its show of solidarity during the IBT's negotiations with the Company. In the letter, O'Brien also reaffirmed the IBT's commitment to support the IPA when the Association begins contract negotiations with the Company next year.

View the full letter from IBT General President Sean O'Brien