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UPS not ready to pack it in

By Karen HillAssociated Press Published: August 5, 1997 12:00 AM

With no talks scheduled today between the Teamsters union and the nation"s largest package delivery service, President Clinton refused to get involved to end the nationwide strike.

"I hope they"ll go back to the table, but at this time I don"t think any further action by me is appropriate," Clinton said.

Customers who got UPS packages Monday often had to wait for deliveries the company admitted were slower than usual because the drivers were unfamiliar with the routes.

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"It"s not an easy job for anybody," said Dallas Zander, a striking UPS driver in Des Moines, Iowa. "It"s hard if you"ve got a regular service to keep up."

The UPS managers, traditionally promoted from within the company, delivered about 10 percent of the company"s usual packages, spokesman Robert Godlewski said. UPS plans to empty the distribution centers of packages already there before accepting any new shipments.

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"You name it," UPS spokesman Ken Shapero said of the substitute drivers, "everyone from accountants to industrial engineers. We may even have a public affairs guy in there."

About 185,000 union workers, two-thirds of the company"s 302,000 employees in the United States, walked off the job at midnight Sunday after contract talks between management and the union stalled.

The two sides were unable to reach compromises on pay, pensions and the use of part-time employees.

Although no negotiations were scheduled, a UPS representative met Monday with presidential aides and "made a case for intervention," a White House official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The 12 million packages delivered daily by UPS _ 80 percent of nation"s total package deliveries _ represent 6 percent of the nation"s gross domestic product. UPS normally does $80 million in business a day but couldn"t say how much money it has lost so far.

The Independent Pilots Association, which represents UPS" 2,000 pilots, honored the Teamsters" picket lines. Some management pilots were available to fly, however, and UPS also uses chartered planes for some deliveries.

The strike, however, left companies like Trans-Star Inc. of Atlanta, which ships about 100 packages of car parts daily to mechanics throughout the Southeast, struggling to find alternate carriers.

"One problem is that we"re having to use carriers who don"t accept cash payments and some of our customers are having to use their personal credit cards to pay for deliveries," said Andy Lucky, operations and finance director for Trans-Star.

UPS" chief rival, the Postal Service, imposed a limit of four parcels per window customer.

In suburban Pittsburgh, the Diabetes Medical Supply sent a few urgent orders of glucose-test strips via Airborne Express rather than UPS, at about triple the usual $3.50 cost.

"We will have to pay the air rate just to send it local," said manager Jim Gavin. "That"s just the way it works. It"s the same thing with Federal Express. We"re trying only to do it for orders that are urgent."

At the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, curator Barry Levenson mapped out a route among the Dane County, Wis., post offices to try to sneak around the limit.

"It"s kind of a minor crisis for us," said Monica Goldsby, a condiment counselor at the museum, which has a 24-page catalog that sells mustards from around the world.

For FedEx, however, it was Christmas in August. The Memphis, Tenn.-based company expected to surpass its all-time handling record of 4 million packages, set last December.

It made no plans to cancel workers" vacations, said FedEx spokeswoman Darlene Faquin. However, FedEx temporarily ended its money-back guarantee for on-time deliveries and refused to accept new accounts.

Little trouble was reported on picket lines nationwide.

Seven pickets were charged with disorderly conduct _ one in Rhode Island and the others in Massachusetts _ for blocking trucks as they rolled out of distribution centers.

In Philadelphia, strikers said they allowed about 20 trucks to leave the distribution center because they were carrying important medical supplies.

"The last thing the Teamsters want to be responsible for is someone having difficulty in the hospital," striker Philip Loverde said.

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