UPS workers eager to get back to work

August 19, 1997



Staff Writers

After more than a decade of working for United Parcel Service, delivery driver Doug Stone said he wasn't surprised when his union went on strike earlier this month.

"You could hear the saber rattling for a couple months," said Stone, 35, who works out of the Hagerstown UPS center on Oak Ridge Drive.

The Teamsters - who represent nearly two-thirds of the 302,000 UPS employees in the United States - went on strike Aug. 4, four days after their contract expired.


Stone said his family of five hasn't really suffered financially without his paycheck, because his wife, Theresa, has a job, and they had saved money in anticipation of a strike.

Stone said he has been more concerned about the damage the strike has caused the company and how it will affect his and others' jobs.

"My biggest concern is getting work back from our competitors," he said.

In the wake of an announcement that UPS and the Teamsters reached an agreement to end the strike, Stone and other area UPS workers said Tuesday that they're anxious to go back to work. They know they'll face a battle to win back business and goodwill lost during the strike, they said.

The two sides agreed late Monday night to a five-year deal that includes the creation of 10,000 new full-time jobs from existing part-time positions, a raise for full-time workers and an agreement to keep a multi-employer pension plan.

The union's 50-member national bargaining committee officials from more than 200 Teamsters locals unanimously endorsed the contract Tuesday night, sending it to members for a vote and authorizing a return to work.

UPS said it expected workers to begin returning to their jobs Tuesday night and planned to make all of its pre-strike services available to customers on Wednesday.

But UPS officials warned Tuesday of a possible 15,000 layoffs as the company struggles to rebuild business lost in a strike that idled 185,000 workers.

Only two strikers were stationed outside the Hagerstown UPS center on Tuesday afternoon.

They said others scheduled to come out Tuesday mistakenly thought the picket line had been disbanded when the agreement was reached.

From the little she had heard Tuesday morning, UPS worker Judy Reese said she thinks she'll support the agreement.

It appears to benefit part-timers and to allow the union to retain control of pensions, Reese said in a telephone interview.

A full-time driver at the Hagerstown center, Reese said she's anxious to get back to work.

"The sooner the better so we can get out to our customers, get those deliveries done," said Reese.

Doug Stone said he's worried he and other full-time workers could be dropped down to part-time until the work load builds back up.

All the negative publicity during the strike will make it difficult to face customers, many of whom seem to have the wrong idea of what strikers were trying to achieve, Stone said.

"I think the drivers have been portrayed as greedy and money-hungry," he said. "We weren't out for money, it was for pensions."

Two United Parcel Service workers were picketing the Chambersburg center on Industrial Drive Tuesday afternoon, a stark contrast to Monday morning's scene when 25 workers crossed the picket line formed by nearly 40 strikers to report to work.

"We're extremely happy we've reached an agreement," said center Manager Mark Johnson.

The workers who crossed the picket line Monday did it as a way to protest against the Teamsters union because it would not let them vote on a contract, Johnson said.

With the news that UPS and the Teamsters union had reached a tentative agreement, they chose not to report to work on Tuesday, he said.

UPS managers in Chambersburg made some package deliveries and pickups on Tuesday, filling in for regular workers as they have been since the strike started Aug. 4.

"I think this agreement is a lot better than the last and final proposal UPS made. I feel like I got more out of it. I think everyone got more out of it," said Gene Brown, one of two picketers at the Chambersburg center.

For Brown, who's worked as a full-time delivery driver for almost 20 years, the issue came down to his pension.

"The ones that deserve it got it," he said.

As a part-time pre-loader, Derek Stevens said he'll be included in the pension plan, get better pay and the chance to work full time under the new agreement.

It was possible that strikers would return to work this morning and Johnson said the Chambersburg center already has operating plans in place.

The center was inundated with phone calls Tuesday from customers who have a backlog of packages to be picked up, Johnson said.

But they shouldn't expect UPS to be back on track with service guarantees for at least several days, he said.

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