UPS workers may cross picket line

August 18, 1997

From staff and wire reports

As many as 40 United Parcel Service workers in the Chambersburg, Pa., center said Sunday they would cross the picket line and report to work this morning, two weeks after a nationwide strike.

"We don't agree with what's going on," said a veteran 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.

"We are not being represented," he said.

UPS has been on strike since Monday, 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 and part time men and women, an employee said. Between 60 and 80 full and part time people 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," he 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.

As President Clinton urged both sides to ``redouble their efforts'' to settle the two-week-long strike, the Teamsters union and the company said Sunday there was movement at the bargaining table.

``This strike is beginning to hurt not only the company but its employees and the people who depend on it,'' Clinton said at the White House moments before leaving on his summer vacation. ``I think they ought to redouble their efforts and settle this strike and they ought to do it today.''

Labor Secretary Alexis Herman continued to play an active role in keeping both sides at the table before a new work week began. Negotiators spent more than 74 hours in mediation from Thursday through Sunday evening.

Talks continued as nightfall approached Sunday, although Teamsters President Ron Carey planned to take a break for a teleconference to brief local union activists on the status of the meetings.

``There has been movement,'' Carey said on NBC's ``Meet the Press.'' United Parcel Service CEO 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.''

Clinton, standing on the South Lawn, said he had talked with Herman about the talks, adding, ``I'm pleased for the progress that's been made and I hope they'll just stay there and settle it today.''

Neither the Teamsters nor UPS suggested an agreement was a sure thing, and the union dampened enthusiasm further with a statement.

``No agreement has been made on any area of the contract, and it is unclear if any progress will be made,'' the union said.

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.

In addition to the mounting financial costs of the strike to the union, the company and the workers, Herman's continued participation elevated the talks in the public eye and kept up the pressure for a resolution.

But after four days of talks in a hotel near the Labor Department, Herman planned to fly this morning to Anaheim, Calif., to address an American Federation of Government Employees conference.

Carey said the fact that the company was discussing alternatives at the table showed the union was right to dismiss UPS' demand that what it called its ``last, best and final offer'' be put to a membership vote.

``There has been some movement, so it's pretty clear that our position, our strategy ... is the right way to go,'' Carey said on NBC. ``We're not going to permit an employer to shove a contract down the throats of our members."

Kelly said he was surprised when Carey called on local union leaders Friday to spread their strike actions this week.

He declined to predict when a deal might be reached, but indicated the latest round of mediation - which he had not participated in - had been more productive than earlier sessions in which he participated.

``Unfortunately, not much happened during negotiations until very recently,'' Kelly said.

For the Teamsters, the sticking points have been the company's unwillingness to commit to more fulltime positions, limits on subcontracting and increased wages.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, appearing on CBS' ``Face the Nation,'' called the Teamsters strike ``very popular'' because ``workers all across the country identify with these issues.''

The company wants out of the Teamsters' multi-employer pension and health plans.

``There are two or three issues that have been discussed a lot, but this negotiation is about dozens of issues that are still unresolved,'' Kelly said.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said the UPS strike could be the first in a series of standoffs between workers and highly profitable companies.

``What's happening here - and it's happening in a lot of other companies as well - we have now very high corporate profits,'' Reich said on ``Fox News Sunday.'' ``We also have very tight labor markets and we have a long expansion in which many blue collar workers have not seen their pay and benefits go up, and this is an incendiary combination.''

The Herald-Mail Articles