A looming UPS strike could be bad news for online shoppers and small businesses.
But what about Amazon, the online retail giant that ships thousands of packages each week?
Despite the threat of a UPS work stoppage, Amazon spokesperson Steve Kelly said the company does not expect a significant impact on customer deliveries because most of the company’s orders are processed through its own network. Amazon does deliver a portion of its packages through UPS, but its use of the company has been waning.
Though Amazon is expected to fare better than smaller retailers if UPS Teamsters strike, logistics experts warn that some Amazon deliveries may take longer in rural areas that rely more heavily on UPS. Others say a strike could influence union organization among Amazon delivery drivers.
“Just in general, in the e-commerce space, people need to be expecting more delivery delays,” said Jason Miller, interim chairperson for the department of supply chain management at Michigan State University. “Even with Amazon, even for folks who get the Amazon deliveries from the post office, there could be some delays.”
How will the UPS strike affect Amazon shoppers?
Of the 8 billion parcels shipped by Amazon last year, 60% were sent through Amazon’s logistics network, according to shipping technology company Pitney Bowes.
That leaves 40% – or about 3.2 billion packages – shipped by other carriers. About 28% was shipped by the United States Postal Service and 8% by UPS, according to Pitney Bowes.
While UPS’s 160,000 nonunion employees are expected to work during a strike, a work stoppage from its 340,000 Teamster members means the company would be able to handle just a fraction of the nearly 25 million packages it typically delivers daily. Competitors like FedEx and the postal service could also see delivery times slow if the carriers get inundated with additional demand from UPS customers.
Amazon has “a lot more ability to move orders in and around their network,” said Gregg Zegras, executive vice president of Pitney Bowes. “That said, they rely pretty heavily on a combination of the USPS and UPS.”
That could affect delivery times for Amazon shoppers in rural areas, who are more likely to have their packages delivered via UPS or the Postal Service.
“Amazon's delivery service providers, the Amazon vans, those are more for denser urban areas where you have a lot more package density, so deliveries per square mile,” Miller said. “So your Amazon shoppers in rural areas, and just in general areas that have less customer density, they're the ones that are most likely to be affected.”
Purchasing from third-party sellers on Amazon also could take more time because some handle their own shipping, Miller said. That means “there's a good chance that they could be using UPS.”
Amazon spokesperson Kelly said the company has been working to streamline its network and expects record Prime delivery speeds this year.
What would a strike mean for unionization efforts at Amazon?
Amid the ramp-up to a possible UPS strike, Teamsters leaders have been clear that they have their eyes on Amazon.
Last year, the Teamsters launched an Amazon Divison dedicated to organizing Amazon employees, with General President Sean O’Brien noting that the division offers a network of resources to all Amazon workers ‒ including those “behind the wheel of any truck.”
The division already has seen some success. Earlier this year, 84 Amazon drivers and dispatchers working with Battle-Tested Strategies, an Amazon delivery service partner, organized with Teamsters Local 396 in Los Angeles. It was the first union contract to cover Amazon delivery network workers.
O’Brien called the contract “just the beginning” in a press release and said Amazon had “better pay attention because there’s more to come.”
A UPS strike could help pave the way for further organization efforts at Amazon, accordion to Robert Anthony Bruno, a professor at the University of Illinois’ School of Labor and Employment Relations.
“I think it would have an enormous effect on Amazon,” he said. “Whatever agreement they got at UPS would serve as a platform to take to Amazon workers.”
The efforts would come amid rising public support for unionization, with 2022 Gallup data showing Americans' support for unions is at its highest point since 1965. That could bode well for unionization efforts at companies like Amazon, especially if they see UPS Teamsters pull off what would be the largest single employer strike in U.S. history.
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“Striking is contagious,” said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research and a senior lecturer at Cornell University. Other workers might say “‘If they can do it, we can do it.'”
But because Amazon's logistics network is made up of more than 1,500 independent delivery service partners that contract with Amazon ‒ meaning many of Amazon's drivers are not technically Amazon employees ‒ organization among drivers is expected to be difficult.
“The delivery service providers are independent of Amazon, and they're going to be spread out among hundreds of companies. And so that effectively makes unionization broadly, I think, nearly impossible,” Miller said.
Unionization efforts aside, Amazon may need to prepare for changes once Teamsters and UPS finalize their new contract.
“All the things that Teamsters has achieved through their negotiations with (UPS) thus far will create a new standard as it relates to how delivery workers are treated,” said Terry Esper, a logistics professor at The Ohio State University. “Amazon is going to have to react to that in some capacity.”