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UPS drivers cross line in Pa.

August 18, 1997

From staff and AP reports

Between 15 and 30 United Parcel Service workers in the Chambersburg, Pa., center crossed the picket line this morning and reported to work as a nationwide strike entered its third week.

In Hagerstown, no workers crossed the picket line this morning, according to Marty Price, a 15-year employee with UPS. "There are between three and four people on the picket lines this morning," Price said.

Mark Johnson, operations manager of the Chambersburg UPS terminal, said approximately 40 other drivers continued to picket that terminal today.

"We don't agree with what's going on," said a veteran Chambersburg employee, who asked not to be identified. "The company has offered a good proposal and we have the right to vote on it and we are not getting that right.

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"We are not being represented," he said.

That sentiment was echoed Friday in Washington County, when two dozen Hagerstown UPS employees met to express their displeasure with their union representation.

The employees were concerned that they hadn't seen a copy of the proposed contract and that they hadn't been given a chance to vote on the proposal.

Efforts to reach representatives of Teamsters Local 992 this morning were unsuccessful.

UPS has been on strike since Aug. 4.

At least two UPS employees in Hagerstown said they would be "watching to see what happens up there, and there might be some movement here."

The center in Hagerstown employs about 140 full-time and part-time workers, an employee said.

Between 60 and 80 full and part-time employees work at the center in Chambersburg, which covers Franklin and Fulton counties, he said.

"We had planned to go in Friday morning, but (the Teamsters union and the company) started talking again Thursday," the veteran employee said. "We thought they would get this thing settled.

"(Going back to work) seems to be the only way we can get a message to them," he said.

He predicted workers all over the nation would report back today, "from what I am reading on the Internet," he said.

Talks in recess

The Teamsters and UPS recessed intensive talks until later today, apparently contradicting President Clinton's prediction of an imminent deal to end the union's 15-day-old strike.

Labor Secretary Alexis Herman canceled a planned trip to California so she could continue to monitor the negotiations.

But there was a sense that momentum had been lost when, at midnight Sunday, Herman and all the parties left the hotel where federal mediators had guided 76 hours of talks over four days.

Hours after he urged them to ''redouble their efforts'' to reach a deal, Clinton, who was briefed on the status of the talks, predicted an agreement was near as he arrived Sunday night for a vacation on Martha's Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast.

''It's my gut feeling they'll settle,'' the president told reporters. He held out his thumb and forefinger and said, ''They're that close. It's a good deal. It will set a precedent for unions.''

But Matt Witt, Teamsters communication director, said late Sunday that Clinton's optimism was unwarranted.

''It's unclear whether real progress will be made,'' Witt said before the sides broke for the night.

A Labor Department spokesman said the talks recessed about midnight and were set to resume at noon EDT today. Herman canceled plans to address the American Federation of Government Employees convention in Anaheim, Calif.

It was unclear whether in his comments Clinton was being optimistic or was trying to prod negotiators to end the nation's largest strike in more than two decades.

But there were signs earlier in the day that a deal was not a sure thing.

Teamsters President Ron Carey took a break from the talks for a teleconference to give union locals a status report.

He credited Teamsters pickets with forcing the company to begin serious bargaining, but added that many issues were under discussion and no agreements had been reached, according to union officials who heard the call.

Carey also urged them to continue plans for strike rallies in 30 cities on Thursday.

The walkout has revolved around the union's demand that more part-time workers be given full-time jobs and the company's desire to have its own pension plan with the Teamsters, replacing the current multiemployer one.

A company spokeswoman, Kristen Petrella, said ''UPS' position is that since talks are ongoing, that's a good sign,'' but another company official said ''no real progress'' had been reported.

Yet leaders from both sides agreed Sunday that there had been more bargaining over the weekend than there had been in previous face-to-face sessions.

''There has been movement,'' Carey said on NBC's ''Meet the Press.'' UPS Chairman James Kelly said on the same show, ''The fact that we're continuing to talk is encouraging.''

''We were at a make-or-break point last week, perhaps we are at another one right now,'' Kelly said on CNN's ''Late Edition.''

The strike by 185,000 workers has greatly inconvenienced small businesses that use UPS like their own shipping departments.

On a normal business day, the company delivers 12 million letters and packages. The strike is costing UPS up to $300 million weekly, and the Teamsters owe picketers $10 million in strike benefits.

The government said it lacked the legal authority to intervene and end the strike, and the Clinton administration was relying on Herman to keep the parties talking. Two earlier rounds of mediation ended inconclusively.

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