Local Companies Seek Ups Alternatives Strike Uncertainty Disrupts Shipments
Bargaining talks continued Friday, but even the threat of a Teamster strike sharply cut deliveries at the United Parcel Service branch in Spokane. Some local businesses delayed shipments or used other ways to ship their goods.
Meanwhile, UPS and the Teamsters resumed negotiations in Washington, D.C., under the guidance of a federal mediator. The company’s contract covering nearly two-thirds of UPS’s 302,000 U.S. employees expired at midnight Thursday.
Nationally, UPS spokeswoman Gina Ellrich said the company “lost (delivery of) hundreds of thousands of packages” as customers shifted to rival carriers. UPS carries about 12 million packages and documents daily.
On Friday, UPS was running at just 15 percent of its normal delivery volume in statewide, said Al Rapp, human resources manager for UPS in Seattle. “In Spokane, it has resulted in seven actual layoffs and a number of vacation days taken (by other workers),” Rapp said.
The laid-off employees simply took a day off without pay, Rapp said. They will return when the volume of packages coming through the Spokane UPS plant increases, he said.
The drop in volume may be due in part to customers like Sid Ketchum, owner of Great Oak Enterprises, a furniture maker in Coeur d’Alene.
“We haven’t shipped anything with UPS since Monday,” Ketchum said. “We’re just holding those shipments up to see what happens.”
Bill Bland, a salesman at Two Wheel Transit in Spokane, said he asked his UPS delivery man Friday morning about the chance of a strike.
“Approximately 85 percent of my stuff comes in through UPS,” he said, adding that he ships a number of his products through the company. “If they strike, we’ve got plans for dealing with it.”
Bland, like many others, plans, if needed to use Federal Express and the U.S. Post Office to make his shipments.
Coldwater Creek, the Sandpoint-based mail-order retailer that sells clothing and gift products, uses UPS for about 20 percent of its deliveries.
“It’s based on rates and zones,” said Karen Reed, vice president of catalogue marketing for the company. If UPS strikes, Coldwater Creek would just move to other carriers, she said.
Key Tronic, the computer keyboard maker in the Spokane Valley, ships some of its products with UPS, but has also turned to alternatives.
“We’re trying to divert as much as we can,” said Barbara Haugen, manager of corporate traffic and distribution. “Still, there’s nothing we can do with regards to those products that might be stuck in the UPS system.”
On Friday, the phones kept ringing at Teamsters local 690 headquarters in Spokane. Staff there was working to keep the UPS workers informed, though even the union organizers had little news to share.
“From what we get, it says that they’re still negotiating,” said Rick Stone, a business representative with the union. “To me, the fact that they’re talking is a good sign.”