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Labor secretary urges strike talks

By Kevin GalvinAssociated Press Published: August 12, 1997 12:00 AM

With no talks scheduled toward ending the work stoppage, now in its ninth day, the union was unveiling important new support today for picketers and UPS was promoting its contract proposal to the public.

In other developments, a United Parcel Service truck plunged off a Tennessee highway ramp Monday, killing a manager substituting for striking drivers. And police in Miami said they arrested four suspects and were searching for two others in connection with the non-fatal stabbing of a UPS driver who crossed the picket line Thursday. Two of those arrested were striking workers.

Herman held separate meetings with both sides Monday. Today she was traveling with President Clinton to St. Louis and was using the opportunity to discuss the UPS strike with him, officials said.

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"I think she intends to brief the president in some greater detail about her discussions," White House spokesman Mike McCurry said.

Herman described her meetings with Teamsters President Ron Carey and the chief UPS negotiator, David Murray, as "candid, wide-ranging and useful."

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"Our talks today were serious and each side will be conferring with its representatives and will get back to me about next steps," she said in a statement.

UPS stepped up its campaign for White House intervention, issuing a letter to members of Congress and calling on them to pressure Clinton.

But the White House has maintained that the work stoppage wasn't a threat to the nation's safety and health _ the standard for government intervention under the Taft-Hartley Act. Herman underscored that position Monday.

"The administration is seriously engaged in bringing both parties back to the table, the only place a solution will be reached," she said.

Federally mediated talks broke off Saturday.

As of Thursday, the cash-strapped Teamsters will owe some 185,000 strikers $55 in weekly strike benefits.

In a public address planned for today at Teamsters headquarters, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney was to announce financial support for strikers. Sweeney was on the phone to other union presidents Monday night, lining up support.

"We are urging our members all across the country to support the picket lines," Sweeney told reporters earlier in the day. "We will support them in every way we possibly can. It's safe to say that includes financial resources."

Meanwhile, UPS was publicly promoting the pension offer it says is the key sticking point at a National Press Club event.

The Teamsters originally dismissed as a bargaining ploy the company's proposal to withdraw from multi-employer health and pension plans and establish separate funds for UPS workers.

But Carey has taken on the proposal seriously in recent days, characterizing it as an attempt by the company to seize the investment income generated by its employee's pension and health funds.

"This is a multimillion-dollar pension grab," he said.

UPS insisted that the union's demands for more full-time jobs was not a "deal-breaker," just an effort by the union to avoid the pension proposal.

Leaving his meeting with Herman, Murray thanked her for taking a personal interest in the standoff.

"However, we still believe the correct solution to this is for the Teamsters to put our people back to work and our offer out for a vote," Murray said.

Carey said he had hoped the labor secretary would urge the company to bargain on the union's key issues of full-time jobs, subcontracting and increased wages.

UPS has estimated 7,000 union members crossed picket lines, a number the Teamsters say is greatly exaggerated.

The company usually handles 12 million parcels and letters daily, but it has been reduced to 10 percent capacity and admits it lost hundreds of millions of dollars last week.

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