More than 1,100 workers at DHL Express’s global air cargo hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport went on strike on Thursday after months of failed negotiations with the parcel carrier.
A group of DHL workers at the hub who load and unload planes voted in April to unionize with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has been in contract negotiations with the company since July. The union has filed more than 20 unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board since then, accusing the company of retaliation against organized workers. Teamsters Local 100, which represents the unionized workers, voted to authorize a strike on Sunday.
“The company forced this work stoppage, but DHL has the opportunity to right this wrong by respecting our members and coming to terms on a strong contract,” Bill Davis, president of Local 100, said in a statement.
DHL Express is the U.S. unit of the world’s largest logistics company, Deutsche Post, but accounts for only 2.3 percent of the market in the United States in package volume, according to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index. As a German company, it is not able to ship between domestic airports within the United States, so it has to contract out those services and instead focuses on handling international shipments.
A DHL spokesman said the company “was fully prepared for this anticipated tactic and has enacted contingency plans” like redirecting shipments to avoid Cincinnati and adding replacement staff members.
The company noted that roughly 4,000 employees at the facility were still on the job. It said it did not “anticipate any significant disruptions to our service performance.”
“Unfortunately, the Teamsters decided to try and influence these negotiations and pressure the company to agree to unreasonable contract terms by taking a job action,” the company spokesman said in a statement.
The DHL strike comes at a time of increased tensions in the industry between companies and organized labor.
On Thursday, the Teamsters threated to strike at a United Parcel Service facility in Louisville, Ky., accusing the company of engaging in “similar practices to disrespect and abuse our members in the same state” by laying off administrative workers who had just voted to unionize. The union threatened to strike at UPS as well if it “doesn’t get its act together” by Monday.
UPS narrowly averted a strike over the summer after contentious negotiations with the Teamsters, which threatened to halt operations for the country’s largest parcel service.
The facility where DHL workers are striking is directly in front of Amazon’s Air Hub, where a unionization effort is underway. Workers there have accused Amazon of illegally impeding organizing efforts.