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UPS drivers and supporters rally in S.F. as strike threat looms

With strike looming, UPS drivers and supporters rally in S.F.
With strike looming, UPS drivers and supporters rally in S.F. 03:40

SAN FRANCISCO -- With a possible nationwide UPS strike less than two weeks away, both sides say they're hoping for a quick resolution to contract negotiations. Saturday afternoon in San Francisco, a group of activists rallied in support of UPS drivers' demands.

The rally began in front of San Francisco City Hall then moved downtown. Demonstrators placed support posters in sympathetic businesses.

The strike deadline is Aug. 1.  After that, if there is no agreement, Teamsters say they will bring a halt to delivery of nearly one quarter of the nation's commercial goods.

"We've built a strike threat. We've been having practice pickets all over the country. Members are engaged and they're willing to fight for what we're asking for," said Emil McDonald, a Teamster and UPS driver from Richmond. "So, we're going back to negotiations in the last week and, if they don't pay up, we're gonna shut 'em down."

The company may be feeling the pressure. In a statement on their website, UPS said, "With the contract expiration less than two weeks away, we need to work quickly to finalize a fair deal that provides certainty for our customers, our employees and businesses across the country."

The Democratic Socialists of America, who sponsored Saturday's San Francisco rally, are ardent supporters of worker rights. They said the size and leverage of the drivers' group could produce the largest work stoppage in the country since 1959.

"We see the Teamster strike as a pivotal strike in this moment," said Katy Scott-Smith, DSA's labor press secretary. "If it happens, it would be, I think, 340,000 workers on strike -- the largest private sector contract in America right now. So, basically, this fight will have shock waves for the whole labor community."

East Bay economist T.J. Connelly said the effects of a UPS strike would go far beyond just home delivery. The entire Bay Area economy could be impacted.

"We have a major port so it may not be that you have UPS workers at the Port of Oakland, for instance, but it's really hard to measure how many different components of the overall transportation sector are in some way affected by UPS," Connelly said. "When I think about it how do you get goods from the Port of Oakland to the warehouse in Tracy, things along those lines? Very hard to measure and could be significant and probably bigger than other places in the U.S."

Because of how important the fast delivery of goods has become to the economy, one Michigan-based think tank is predicting a UPS strike could be the costliest in the U.S. in a century, topping $7 billion in losses for just a 10-day work stoppage.

As of Saturday, the biggest issue on the table was a pay increase for part-time drivers. The Teamsters were demanding a living wage, the company said it had nothing more to give. But, if agreement isn't reached by the end of the month, the public will begin feeling full-time pain as a result.

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