UPS drivers’ new $170k per year deal shows that unions (and Joe Biden) may just save the middle class after all

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Dogs might not be so happy to know that their sworn enemies are about to make salaries in the high six figures. After contract negotiations this summer, full-time drivers for UPS saw their salaries boosted from $145,000 to $170,000 annually including benefits, according to data shared by the shipping company on a recent call. 

While not everyone is winning as much as these UPS workers, this represents a symbolic triumph for unions, the middle class and the labor-friendly White House (excluding German Shepherds, in the case of Joe Biden’s noshing pet, “Champ”), as it’s a testament to collective efforts to boost the middle class for the first time in a generation—or two. The public has noticed—jobs site Indeed reported a 50% surge in searches for “UPS” or “United Parcel Service” within a week of the new contract, Bloomberg reported.

Biden’s famous adoration of ice cream has really only been paralleled or eclipsed by his love for this middle class. His campaign premise to revive the average American quickly led to a new word: Bidenomics, a portmanteau (much like Obamanomics, Reaganomics before, or Hobama as of late), that refers to, in Biden’s own words: “building an economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down.” 

In that vein, Biden hasn’t just been governing in opposition to his former opponent President Trump, but also the Republican hero Ronald Reagan, the onetime union leader during the last Hollywood dual strike who decades later slashed taxes for the wealthy as part of what became known as trickle-down economics. Tax breaks to the rich helped the rich, of course, but data has progressively mounted that they didn’t help the middle class whose wages stagnated for decades, barely keeping pace with inflation.

Now it’s Biden’s turn at the wheel, and drivers are getting paid famously. Rather than building from the top down, Joe’s strategy of bottom up and middle out, which can be seen in his push to invest in manufacturing jobs and record-breaking wage growth for those in historically lower-compensated positions. Of course, this doesn’t come without accusations from the now neglected rich, which was faring quite well the last time fanny packs were big. The waning glory days of the wealthy is deemed the “richcession,” where the economy may be growing overall but just doesn’t feel so good anymore for those at the upper echelon. Those with six-figure incomes sometimes report feeling like they need more to be financially comfortable, and even if they’ve continued to win the economy by nature of their riches, they sometimes feel anxious—but that dog won’t hunt these days.

Biden and unions deliver on their promise

The largest union in the nation, Teamsters, recently bargained for a historical contract on behalf of UPS. While not every worker is getting that hefty salary, part-time workers also won a pay raise of around $21 hourly, and employees were finally able to have better conditions like air conditioning. “This contract sets a new standard in the labor movement and raises the bar for all workers,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien in a statement.

This UPS victory might be the clearest sign yet that Biden’s plan to invest heavily in the middle and lower class has a real-life impact on wage gains. But the success is not Biden’s alone, rather it’s also a signal regarding the influence of a strong union backing. Threatening to strike if their demands were not met, the increasingly consumer-dependent America could not stand to be without its millions of packages every month. 

To be sure, one historic contract does not by itself correct the long-term trend against union membership—or a middle class shrinking for decades. Despite increasingly favorable sentiment for unions, actual union membership is the lowest on record. But it does show that unions can get the job done, and signals to vulnerable, oft-unionized workers in white-collar fields that protections can get them the benefits they are looking for.

But there is reason to believe in a turning of the tide. The hottest summer in 100,000 years has also been named the summer of strikes, as multiple unions in the entertainment world have joined the fight for better wages (and A.I. regulations). Next up could be a historic triple strike in Detroit as the United Auto Workers, a historic union that has brand-new leadership after a series of scandals, is determined to win a new contract from the Big Three automakers.. 

While UPS projects low revenue this quarter, their new salary for workers has attracted many workers. Blue-collar jobs have recently struggled to attract Gen Z employees and others due to poor working conditions and a lack of fair pay. The future for the middle class may have arrived at America’s doorstep, and they wear brown shorts and sometimes spar with your dog while bringing you the package you’ve been waiting for. 

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