2022 was the year of quiet quitting (which, let's be real, was just people taking back work-life balance and not really "quitting" in any meaningful sense of the word). But in 2023, labor unions are on the rise. Between the writers and actors strikes in Hollywood, a potential United Auto Workers union strike on the horizon, and other strikes around the US, some have dubbed these last few months "Hot Labor Summer."
It's not hard to see why organized labor is having such a moment. Prices of basically everything have been going up, but for the average person, wages haven't risen accordingly. Plus, low unemployment rates mean that workers have more leverage in this moment to demand better conditions and better pay. And for many workers, this has been a long time coming.
One of this year's biggest labor stories was the historic contract the International Brotherhood of Teamsters negotiated for workers at UPS, averting a strike. UPS reportedly said that this five-year contract will result in the average driver making about $170,000 a year, a figure that's led to some online chatter from people claiming that UPS drivers are being overpaid.
But that's not the whole picture, and recently, 33-year-old UPS driver Skyler Stutzman went viral on TikTok for the way he explained what this deal actually means for drivers. In a video that's been viewed over 18 million times, Skyler says, "$170,000 a year is a bit of an exaggeration here, but let me break it down for you. Now, I don't know about you, but I love factual information. So I'm going to do my best to just be transparent about the wages that we make."
Speaking before the new contract was voted on, Skyler explained, "Under current contract, our wage is $41.51 an hour. Now, this contract that has been seen all over social media, once that contract ratifies, which is in the voting process right now, we'll be making $44.26 an hour. Now, if you do some quick math here, if you were to take $44.26 an hour times 2,080 hours, which is 40 hours a week, that comes out to about $92,000 a year, but that's not including overtime, and it's also not the important part that we're missing here."
Skyler continued by explaining how the medical insurance and pension he receives as a driver add up to this total: "Now, our pension, don't quote me, but it's roughly somewhere between $11 and $13 per hour that's paid into our pension at the 2,080 hours, which comes out roughly about $25,000 a year. Now, you can figure the medical insurance at whatever you want, but you can quickly see that it would actually take about a $170,000-a-year job to replace this one for me. Now, while the media is making it a little more profound than it really is, they're really not that far off of how amazing it is to work for this company."
Basically, the $170,000 number represents total compensation, which is an important thing to take into consideration when you're looking at your pay or comparing salaries. Without a strong benefits package, you could end up in a situation where you make more on paper than you actually end up holding on to after shelling out for necessities like health insurance.
Watch the whole video here:
@skylerleestutzman / Via tiktok.com
Most of the top commenters were supportive of Skyler's message and really appreciated the transparency. One commenter wrote, "People, get mad at the corporations, hospitals, and businesses that are UNDERPAYING, not at an employee who has a living wage now."
Another commenter chimed in, "If you're making less in another field and upset, don't bring these workers down, find out why your field isn't willing to offer you a livable wage!"
Other commenters referenced the less-publicized fact that the new UPS deal will also make air conditioning in UPS trucks a requirement for the first time, after more than 100 UPS workers have been hospitalized for heat-related illness in the last few years. (I genuinely can't believe that UPS workers have been driving around in the heat without AC in the year 2023.)
Some gently roasted UPS drivers, like this person who wrote, "$90k I would expect my package to be on time and delivered to my door and not the neighbors."
Some fellow UPS workers also pointed out that the $170,000 figure doesn't apply to everyone. One person wrote, "I'm a loader at UPS, I make $19.20 per/hr and only get 4.5hrs a day. There is a HUGE disparity between drivers and everyone else."
And others praised the power of unions and half jokingly requested a little bit of help. One commenter wrote, "Can the UPS union come help out teacher unions?"
Another commenter added, "The only reason why it's amazing to work for UPS is the Union. Which fights against corporate executives and against the shareholders."
While others rightfully pointed out that delivering packages is so much harder than it looks (most jobs are, tbh). As someone who regularly lost my temper while doing much lighter food delivery shifts, yes, I can say this absolutely checks out. Driving all day is tiring and can be dangerous at times, not to mention the heavy lifting involved in some UPS deliveries. And to do all that without air conditioning in this heat? I wouldn't last an hour.
There were also quite a few commenters who liked seeing that Skyler showed himself clocking out to make the video, then clocking back in when he was done. If you're gonna post about work on social media, this is a great way to do it.
But some commenters were not so happy to learn about how much UPS drivers make. One commenter wrote, "I'm sorry, this is ridiculous. Most RNs don't make that much." In a video made in response, Skyler said, "I never said that I should make more than anybody in the medical industry. Now, this might be a little bit of an unpopular opinion, but I don't think I should make less. I think they should make more."
@skylerleestutzman / Via tiktok.com
Skyler told BuzzFeed that he's been working for UPS since 2008, and in another video he said, "I've actually been with the company for 15 years now. And to be able to say that at such a young age, I feel very blessed."
In a statement, Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien said of the deal, “Teamsters have set a new standard and raised the bar for pay, benefits, and working conditions in the package delivery industry. This is the template for how workers should be paid and protected nationwide, and nonunion companies like Amazon better pay attention.”