UPS workers hold 'practice' strike in Gardena

UPS workers held a practice picket at the facility in Gardena Thursday to send a message to UPS that they mean business. 

It was also to fire a warning shot, showing what might happen if a contract isn’t reached.

Contract negotiations between UPS and the union representing 340,000 of the company’s workers broke down early Wednesday with each side blaming the other for walking away from talks.

The bargaining deadline is on July 31 - and if a contact isn’t reached by then, they’re prepared to stage what would be the largest Teamsters strike in American history.

The two sides have been trying to reach a deal to keep UPS customers from moving their business to rival delivery services.

Today’s practice picket lasted less than an hour. 

Workers say they’re ready for a real strike if needed. 

The Teamsters have imposed several deadlines for United Parcel Service negotiators to make their "last, best and final" offer to its unionized workers in recent days. Union officials said Wednesday that UPS "walked away from the bargaining table after presenting an unacceptable offer," specifically with regard to the economic package.

The Teamsters say any tentative agreement would need to be endorsed by its national committee before being disseminated and voted on by membership. The union has said it will not negotiate past the expiration of the current contract.

Shares of United Parcel Service Inc. fell more than 2%. Shares in rival FedEx rose slightly.

The Teamsters represent more than half of the company’s workforce in the largest private-sector contract in North America. If a strike occurs, it would be the first since a 15-day walkout by 185,000 workers crippled the company a quarter century ago.

UPS has grown vastly since then and become even more integral piece of the U.S. economy, with consumers relying on swift delivery of most essential home items. Small businesses who rely on UPS could also be left looking for alternative shipping options if the company’s remaining workforce wasn’t able to meet demand during a strike.

Last month, the union and the company reached another tentative agreement to equip more trucks with air conditioning equipment. Under that agreement, UPS said it would add air conditioning to U.S. small delivery vehicles purchased after January 1, 2024. Existing vehicles wouldn’t get that upgrade, but the union said they will have other additions like two fans and air variants.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.