DHL air hub workers strike during holiday rush

More than 1,100 newly organized Dalsey Hillblom Lynn (DHL) Express workers at the delivery company’s main U.S. air hub went on strike on Thursday to protest unfair labor practices and stalled contract talks. The strike threatens to delay packages during the critical peak holiday shipping season when package carriers like DHL, FedEx, and United Parcel Service see volumes spike. It also comes as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters intensify organizing activity in the wake of this summer’s closely watched contract deal at UPS, the world’s biggest delivery firm.

The workers, who load and unload DHL Express airplanes at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), voted to organize with the Teamsters in April. They have been negotiating their first contract with the company since July. The company was fully prepared for this anticipated tactic and has enacted contingency plans to ensure that service is not disrupted.

Those plans include using replacement staff at the hub and moving flights and volume away from CVG to other DHL locations throughout the Americas.

The company, a division of Germany’s Deutsche Post, said it expects the strike to garner “sympathy support” at various pickup and delivery locations across the U.S. and that it is prepared to deploy replacement staff. As a result of these contingencies, DHL does not anticipate any significant disruptions to its service performance. The union said it has filed numerous unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) during and since organizing the campaign, including for retaliation against pro-union workers.

It also said the NLRB is prosecuting the company civilly. DHL’s repeated acts of disrespect leave workers with no choice but to withhold labor. The company said the Teamsters are using the strike to pressure the company to agree to “unreasonable” contract terms. While there is no agreed deadline for these contract negotiations, the company is committed to working in good faith at the December negotiating sessions and have offered further negotiating dates in January to conclude this matter.

Workers at DHL’s air cargo hub walked off the job Thursday, a move that affects one of the parcel carrier’s largest logistics facilities during the busiest shipping season of the year. The Cincinnati hub is one of the company’s three so-called global superhubs, with the others in Hong Kong and Germany. The Midwestern hub handles an average of 350,000 packages a day with 130 daily flights and a fleet of 60 aircrafts.

The Teamsters union represents more than 6,000 DHL workers across the United States.

Union leaders have filed unfair labor practices complaints against DHL alleging workers at the Cincinnati hub were punished or fired for engaging in union activities. A local NLRB general counsel later added allegations that the company surveilled workers discussing the union off-site and interfered with workers’ efforts to unionize. The company declined to comment on the allegations, citing ongoing contract negotiations.

It has previously said DHL recognizes employees’ right to unionize within the confines of the law and that it is committed to the agreements it has with its local, national, and international labor partners. Workers have called for better pay and recognition for showing up through the covid pandemic when other employees could work remotely. A series of labor agreements reached this year has delivered big wage increases, including for auto workers, airline pilots, and dockworkers at West Coast ports.

The Teamsters, which represents more than 1,100 DHL employees who load and unload freighters at CVG, announced Sunday that members overwhelmingly authorized leadership to call a work stoppage if there is no progress on demands for better pay, safety, and an end to unfair labor practices. The company is lining up supplemental staff at CVG and temporarily moving flights and volume away from its hub to regional terminals throughout the Americas to prevent shipping delays.