Communication Is Key: Lessons Learned From The Landmark UPS Labor DealIt was a shining example of success in a year defined by picketing workers. Shutterstock
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2023 has been a banner year for unions, with strikes in the automotive and entertainment industries prompting some significant concessions that have resulted in some significant concessions.
But one deal was unique in that it didn’t come after a long period of picketing and tense negotiations. Both UPS and its workers seemed to emerge as winners, and that’s why the entire process is now being dissected as a template for future union disputes to follow.
What both sides did right
It’s easy for corporations to appear greedy and unsympathetic if a dispute is dragged out for weeks or months. But UPS avoided that by addressing concerns and working toward a new contract in good faith.
Genny Bowman, the company’s vice president of reputation management, said the negotiations focused on a) avoiding a strike by reaching a deal before the prior contract expired, and b) protecting the company’s reputation with the public as the negotiations went forward.
In the end, workers received some serious benefits and UPS came out of the process without any real reputational damage. In fact, the company probably attracted even more goodwill as a result of its strategy.
Embracing the partnership
While many companies are actively hostile toward unionization efforts, UPS communications executive Glenn Zaccara said his team “focused on finding ways to reduce that perceived tension by demonstrating that UPS is actually more aligned with the Teamsters than not.”
That played out in a few important ways:
- Establishing a non-confrontational narrative from the start
- Emphasizing areas of agreement and shared goals
- Being open about areas where the company can improve
- Offering transparency with public updates along the way
And with roughly 1.7 million views on the company’s negotiations website, it seems clear that both employees and UPS customers were invested in securing a positive outcome.