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The Bargaining Process – How Collective Bargaining Works

UPS has been working with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) since the 1930s and is now the largest union employer in North America with about 260,000 Teamster-represented drivers, loaders, unloaders, sorters, clerks and others.

For 2018, there are two National Master Agreements (NMAs) under negotiation, one for UPS Small Package and one for UPS Freight. The current contracts are in place through July 31, 2018.

A typical negotiation cycle has two phases: negotiation and ratification.


  • During a typical negotiation cycle, “economic” issues (e.g., pay and benefits) and “non-economic” issues (e.g., work rules, seniority rights, grievance procedures, time off, safety, equipment, etc.) are discussed.
  • UPS and Teamster representatives negotiate the issues; the process normally takes place over several months.
  • It is typical for a union to ask members for a strike authorization vote during collective bargaining before the expiration of the current contract.  The union’s leadership will typically publicize the members’ authorization to strike as a mandate for their bargaining position and as a signal to the company that there is membership solidarity to strike, if necessary.  The strike vote should not be misconstrued as evidence of a breakdown in the talks, nor that a strike is imminent.
  • The first goal is to reach a handshake agreement. If a handshake isn’t reached on or before July 31, 2018, both sides can agree to an extension.
  • Once a handshake agreement is reached, UPS and the Teamsters typically issue a press release and make a public announcement.
  • It is not unusual for a contract to expire and for negotiations to continue and conclude after the expiration date.


  • For the NMA to be officially ratified after the handshake, 50 percent plus one of the votes cast must be ‘yes’ in favor of ratification.
  • The union sends the contract offer to UPS Teamster-represented members for approval, which can take several weeks. In the past, ratification has been done through paper ballots mailed to the homes of voting UPS Teamsters, but there have been discussions about using electronic voting during this ratification period.
  • Once the contract is ratified, UPS and the Teamsters will release a public announcement.