UPS employees who are members of Teamsters Local 340 demonstrate at the Waterville UPS facility during a practice picket session on Friday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

With contract talks stalled between the giant delivery service UPS and its largest labor union, Mainers are bracing for a potential strike that could upend lives and livelihoods.

At Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness on Marginal Way in Portland, a UPS driver drops off medication ingredients once or sometimes twice a day. At Print, a bookstore on Munjoy Hill, 50-pound boxes of new volumes arrive daily via the familiar brown delivery vans. Countless other businesses depend on UPS to obtain inventory and supplies, or to send products to customers.

At the Freeport warehouse of L.L. Bean, UPS tractor-trailers routinely come and go. The outdoor goods merchant ships around 15 million packages a year, primarily through UPS and the U.S. Postal Service.

Nationwide, UPS delivered 5.2 billion parcels in 2022, accounting for one-fourth of the total, according to an industry report.

But the steady flow of shipments and deliveries could logjam if UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters don’t sign a new contract in the next three weeks.

The Teamsters and the Atlanta-based company have been negotiating since April over a collective bargaining agreement for 340,000 U.S. employees – primarily package delivery drivers and warehouse workers – including 1,600 in Maine.


The Teamsters want UPS to hire more full-time workers, increase wages, institute stronger safety policies and improve working conditions. UPS says it’s made reasonable concessions. The current five-year contract runs through July 31, and the union has pledged to strike then if a new agreement isn’t in place. The walkout would be the largest single-company strike in U.S. history, experts have said.

The two sides narrowly averted a strike on July 1, then on July 5 each accused the other of leaving the bargaining table.

“This multibillion-dollar corporation has plenty to give American workers – they just don’t want to,” Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien said in a statement. “UPS had a choice to make, and they have clearly chosen to go down the wrong road.”

Mitch Polikoff, Northeast spokesperson for UPS, sees it differently.

“The Teamsters have stopped negotiating despite historic proposals that build on our industry-leading pay,” he said. “We have nearly a month left to negotiate. We have not walked away, and the union has a responsibility to remain at the table.”

As of Sunday, no further negotiations were scheduled.



In Maine, 98% of the UPS workers represented by Teamsters Local 340 have voted to authorize a strike, slightly more than the nationwide percentage, according to the union.

The local’s president, Brett Miller, and steward Jason Dube said staffing shortages have forced employees to work longer hours and to face unsafe conditions, often late at night. The number of Maine UPS drivers who have been bitten by dogs or violently threatened is up this year, Dube added.

“The company, for whatever reason, doesn’t understand that one problem creates another problem creates another problem. It’s exponential,” he said.

Over the course of Miller’s 24 years at UPS, he said, employees typically worked 9½ hours a day, with anything more than 10 a “foreign concept.” Now it’s common for UPS  workers in Maine to put in 13 or 14 hours a day, six days a week, according to Miller.

Contract negotiations so far have resulted in some improvements for drivers, like stronger heat safety and air conditioning requirements in trucks. But there’s reportedly an impasse around wages.


During the busy 2020 holiday shipping season, a UPS truck heads to L.L. Bean’s Fulfillment and Returns Center in Freeport. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer, file

“When the pandemic hit, everything just flew off the handle. They didn’t have enough people,” Miller said. “There was a lot of talk of ‘essential worker pay’ that other industries got. UPS employees didn’t get that. They just came to work; they did it proudly and worked hard. But now it’s time to pay up.”

UPS declined to discuss wages, hours and working conditions specific to Maine. But on its website, the company describes its pay and benefits as “industry-leading,” with delivery drivers earning an average of $95,000 a year. In addition, full-time workers receive $50,000 in annual health, welfare and pension contributions. Operations employees in the U.S. received more than 6 million hours of safety training last year.

In a statement, the company said, “We have encouraged the Teamsters to return to the table to continue building on the significant progress we have made, including the recent completion of all local supplements. … Refusing to negotiate, especially when the finish line is in sight, creates significant unease among employees and customers and threatens to disrupt the U.S. economy. We are proud of the proposals we have put forward that deliver wins for our people.”


Cassi Brooks, a co-owner of Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness, supports the UPS workers’ right to strike but is concerned about how a disruption in deliveries would affect patients. The pharmacy receives about 80% of its medication ingredients and supplies via UPS.

Cassi Brooks, co-owner of Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness, helps a customer on Friday. Brooks said the store gets at least one UPS delivery a day, if not two, and the business relies heavily on the service for needed supplies. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“If we can’t get (the deliveries), we can’t function,” Brooks said Friday. “We’re at the mercy of who the vendors choose to ship product to us. We can’t make that decision.


“It would potentially impact patient outcomes if we can’t provide them needed medications, or if we can’t provide people nutraceutical supplements they want to continue. It’s huge. Not good at all.”

Brooks said she was going to spend much of Friday afternoon making calls to suppliers to see about backup delivery plans and to order more stock than usual.

“Which isn’t optimal – but if that’s what we need to do to make sure that our patients and customers have what they need, we will,” she said.

At Print, co-owner Josh Christie said in the event of a strike, the bookstore too would find workarounds to keep operations going.

L.L. Bean did not respond to questions about how it might respond to a strike by UPS workers.

Clothing designer Jill McGowan, whose eponymous shop in Portland’s Old Port also relies on the delivery service, remembers the last Teamsters strike at UPS. It occurred in 1997, just three years after she had launched her brand. She had to turn to other shippers, but none had the capacity that UPS did at the time. Her costs went up, threatening her fledgling business.

Now, McGowan predicts it would take far less of a hit – but said she’s still a little concerned.

“This time around, it’s going to really hurt (UPS), I think, because there’s so many other options.”

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