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It’s Hot And Sticky For All Concerned

Tue., Aug. 5, 1997

It was hot Monday.

From Teamsters picketing outside United Parcel Service centers and managers overwhelmed by packages inside to companies that couldn’t send or receive parcels vital to business, everyone felt the heat.

About 30 sweaty strikers paced the pavement in front of the Spokane UPS plant on Bradley Road, stopping to jeer managers who sped by in delivery trucks.

In Coeur d’Alene, pickets nosed their pickups into the UPS lot on Ramsey and stood on their tailgates.

About 40 Teamsters have crossed the picket lines in Washington state, though none have in Spokane, UPS officials said. According to the Teamsters Union Local 690, no one crossed the line in Coeur d’Alene or Sandpoint.

While UPS tries to make do with managers and nonunion employees, delivery has slowed and volume is down, said spokesman Al Rapp.

UPS is giving priority to international shipments and air delivery packages. It stopped accepting drop-off packages at the Spokane plant, where 15 managers tried to do the work of more than 100 striking drivers.

“Those management guys are sweatin’ it,” said one Teamster. Making the managers’ day even more of a challenge, the strikers followed the trucks through Spokane, jumping out to picket when they stopped.

Still, the company has no plans to hire people to replace the sorters and drivers who went on strike across the nation at 9:01 p.m. Sunday night, Rapp said.

On Monday, pickets hung outside the front gate sustaining themselves with Gatorade and soft drinks and stopping for shade under beach umbrellas. “Overall the picketing’s been pretty peaceful,” Rapp said. “Though it’s a tough situation for everybody.”

The pace of package deliveries across the nation has slowed while other shipping companies try to cope with extra packages and panicked customers.

“They’ve been just banging on our door, begging us to take their stuff,” said Christie McKee, customer service representative for UniShippers Association, a Spokane airborne delivery service.

Spokane-based City Parcel Delivery Inc., is enjoying the rush. “It’s having a positive effect with us,” said supervisor Dave Apperson. “What they can’t deliver, we’re doing.”

A clerk at the downtown Spokane post office pointed to a dozen bulky mailbags and said they were all new shipping orders from downtown department stores that generally use UPS. The overwhelmed clerk said the Postal Service doesn’t have the staff or space to handle the extra work.

“As far as turning people away, I don’t think it has happened too much yet,” said Bob Hammerstad, customer relations coordinator for the Postal Service. “But we are trying to schedule them appointments to drop off packages at the main plant.”

Regional businesses are hungry for more shipping options.

“It really does affect our wholesale operation,” said Kim Crosby, general manager of Rings and Things, a bead and jewelry supplier in Spokane. “There’s not much we can do except ship through the post office and Federal Express.”

But Federal Express isn’t opening new accounts until after the strike and the U.S. Postal Service will only accept four packages per customer.

“We haven’t really discovered a way (to deal with deliveries),” said Don Craft, assistant manager of Black Sheep Sporting Goods in Coeur d’Alene. “It affects a number of our special orders.”

Still, Black Sheep is one of the lucky businesses to already have an account with FedEx.

Merchants are also wondering whether packages already en route with UPS will make it to their destinations.

“If they’ve already sent it, it’s off in lala land until God knows when,” said Susie Matteson, owner of Peters and Sons, a Spokane flower and gift shop.

Things could be worse, said Penn Fix, vice president of Dodson’s Jewelers in downtown Spokane. It could be the holiday season. “If it was Christmastime, it would be horrendous.”

UPS has made medical deliveries a priority, but Spokane hospitals are still planning for delays. Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital and Medical Center last week started switching to other carriers for the few deliveries handled by UPS.

Holy Family Hospital and Sacred Heart Medical Center are looking into finding other carriers. Sacred Heart usually receives 120 UPS deliveries a day. On Monday, it got 16.

Though no one knows how long the strike will last, local Teamsters predict the contract dispute will be resolved soon.

“It will go a week,” said Buzz Adams, a full-time UPS driver who works out of Spokane. “We have too much of the market and it will hurt too many people if it lasts longer.”

Striking Teamsters were warned by the union to prepare for a period of no income.

“Several weeks ago at the union, they said we should have a few weeks of income set aside,” said Ellen Thomas, a part-time loader. Thomas said she could weather the strike for a few weeks. “But there are people here that don’t have that luxury.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Shippers compared

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Hannelore Sudermann and Alison Boggs Staff Writers Staff writer Kim Barker contributed to this report.

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