More than 1,100 workers at DHL Express’s global air cargo hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport went on strike Thursday after months of failed negotiations with the package carrier.
A group of DHL workers at the hub who load and unload the plans voted in April to unionize with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has been negotiating a contract with the company since July. The union has since filed more than 20 unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the company of retaliation against union workers. Teamsters Local 100, which represents unionized workers, voted to go on strike Sunday.
“The company caused this work stoppage, but DHL has the opportunity to right this wrong by respecting our members and reaching a strong contract,” Bill Davis, president of Local 100, said in a statement.
DHL Express is the U.S. subsidiary of the world’s largest logistics company, Deutsche Post, but represents only 2.3% of the U.S. market in terms of package volume, according to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index. As a German company, it is unable to ship between domestic airports in the United States. It must therefore outsource these services and instead focuses on managing international shipments.
A DHL spokesperson said the company “was fully prepared for this anticipated tactic and had contingency plans in place” such as rerouting shipments to avoid Cincinnati and adding replacement staff.
The company said about 4,000 plant employees were still on the job. It said it “does not anticipate any significant disruption to the performance of our services”.
“Unfortunately, the Teamsters decided to try to influence these negotiations and pressure the company into accepting unreasonable contract terms through pressure tactics,” the company spokesperson said. in a press release.
The DHL strike comes at a time of heightened tensions in the sector between companies and unions.
Thursday, the Teamsters threatened to strike at a United Parcel Service facility in Louisville, Kentucky, accusing the company of engaging in “similar practices designed to disrespect and abuse our members in the same state” by firing administrative employees who had just voted in favor of unionization. The union threatened to strike at UPS as well if the company “does not get its act together” by Monday.
UPS narrowly announced a strike over the summer after contentious negotiations with the Teamsters, which threatened to suspend operations of the nation’s largest package service.
The facility where DHL workers are striking is directly across the street from Amazon’s Air Hub, where a unionizing effort is underway. Workers have accused Amazon of illegally obstructing unionizing efforts.