Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ups Strike Is a High Stakes Battle for U.S. Industry

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ups Strike Is a High Stakes Battle for U.S. Industry

Article excerpt

United Parcel Service delivers 12 million packages a day nationwide, and employs 185,000 Teamsters.

In St. Louis, 3,000 union members work for UPS, and thousands of businesses and residents regularly use its services.

There are more than 30,000 Teamsters in St. Louis and a quarter million in Illinois and Missouri.

So nationally and locally, the UPS-Teamster showdown matters to many.

The practical impact ranges from inconvenience for many customers to business snafus for some and temporary loss of work for others.

But the potential importance of the showdown - which involves the largest union contract to be negotiated this year - transcends all this. The outcome could help shape two key forces in U.S. economic life - UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

UPS says it depends heavily on the flexibility of part-time workers to handle bursts of activity such as pre-dawn package loading.

The IBT counters that the company simply wants to save money by using part-timers, who earn lower wages. The union's risking much by going to the mat, because a loss here would be read by other employers as an invitation to take on the self-described "New Teamsters Union."

The ramifications are likely to extend to U.S. industry in general, gi ven the national trend toward part-timers. If a highly profitable company can use tens of thousands of part-time workers, what's to stop any firm from doing so? On the other hand, if the Teamsters can beat a powerful foe on this issue, other unions may tackle their employers.

With so much at stake, what type of Teamsters union is entering into this battle, what strengths and weaknesses does it bring?

On one hand, the IBT is smaller, and arguably weaker and more divided, than before. Its membership has dwindled to just over 1.4 million, from a high of nearly 2 million in 1974.

It no longer has the same reputation as a behemoth to be feared. Nor, with internal divisions rampant, does it possess the monolithic unity it once did. And its president, Ron Carey, has been weakened by charges of campaign-finance violations in the recent election. …

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