More than 1,100 workers at the DHL Express global air cargo hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport went on strike Thursday after months of failed negotiations with the carrier.
A group of DHL hub workers 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 since filed more than 20 complaints of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the company of retaliating against organized workers. Teamsters Local 100, which represents unionized workers, voted to authorize a strike Sunday.
“The company forced this work stoppage, but DHL has the opportunity to right this wrong by respecting our members and coming to terms with 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, so it must contract out those services and instead focus on handling international shipments.
A DHL spokesperson said the company “was fully prepared for this advance tactic and had contingency plans in place” such as rerouting shipments to avoid Cincinnati and adding replacement staff.
The company noted that approximately 4,000 employees at the facility were still at work. It said it does not “expect any significant disruption to the performance of our service.”
“Unfortunately, the Teamsters have decided to attempt to influence these negotiations and pressure the company to accept unreasonable contract terms by taking employment action,” the company spokesperson said in a statement.
The DHL strike comes at a time of growing tensions in the sector between companies and organized labor.
The Teamsters on Thursday threatened to go on 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 firing administrative workers who had just voted to unionize. The union has also threatened to strike at UPS if “it does not reach an agreement” by Monday.
UPS narrowly avoided a strike over the summer after contentious negotiations with the Teamsters, who threatened to disrupt operations for the country’s largest package service.
The facility where DHL workers are striking is located directly across the street from Amazon’s Air Hub, where a unionization effort is underway. Workers accused Amazon of illegally hindering organizing efforts.