They’re in the same boat for different reasons. Anchored together by the Teamsters Union, the full-time and part-time United Parcel Service employees are striking for themselves and each other. The full-timers want the union to keep control of their health and pension benefits. The part-timers want more money and a better chance at full-time jobs.
“It’s sort of an all-or-nothing type of deal,” said full-time driver Kent Fleming. He was sipping an iced coffee outside the UPS center gates in East Spokane Tuesday afternoon instead of cruising the same rural route he has driven for the past 21 years. “What happens to them can certainly affect me as a full-timer and what happens to me will affect them.”
While full-time UPS workers have their own reasons for striking, they empathize with the part-timers. They’ve been in their shoes.
Ken Adebayo, a soft-spoken driver, worked at UPS eight years to get to full time. When he started, he was earning $9,000 a year. Now he’s up to $13 an hour. It was a long haul to get full-time status, he said.
Though Barry Groll, who has been with UPS for seven years, works 10- and 12-hour days, he’s not yet a full-time employee.
He can use the hours of overtime pay, but he also desires the benefits of a full-time job. “I like the extra money, but I’d rather have a pension,” he said.
Heidi Tessier, another part-time worker who regularly averages 45 to 50 hours of work a week, said she doesn’t like the public statements she’s heard from UPS management.
“My issue is they say there’s no full-time work when I’m basically abused working 50 hours a week,” she said. Her days usually start at 3:30 a.m. and end around 5:30 p.m., she said. She works between three and five days a week doing everything from sorting to delivery.
She’s paid between $13.11 and $13.25 an hour and $19.29 an hour for overtime. “Full-time drivers, after eight hours a day, are making $30 an hour,” she said.
On average throughout the country, it takes part-time UPS workers about four years to reach full-time, said Al Rapp, spokesman for UPS in Seattle. UPS workers in Spokane said it takes part-timers nearly eight years to gain full-time jobs here.
About 60 percent of all UPS employees are part-timers, Rapp said. “We hire many college students who work night shifts and go to school during the day,” he said.
“The feasibility of making all those (part-time jobs) full-time jobs would be very difficult,” Rapp said. “It would be very expensive.”
While UPS and the Teamsters are facing off, businesses are left stranded. Though not yet in dire straights, many local merchants are feeling the pressure rise after the second day of the strike.
“Our poor little brides,” said Connie Tobler, owner of The Wedding Shop in Spokane. No one has had to wed without a dress, but Tobler was expecting a few gowns to arrive via UPS. And some brides-to-be on pins and needles have called Tobler to check on their gowns.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Tobler said. “But most of our brides order well enough in advance that the dresses are already here.”
In Coeur d’Alene, Fourth Street Auto Parts is waiting for equipment that one mechanic needs for his job.
“We’re waiting on a part that came out of the coast last Thursday,” said Art Goodale, a worker in the shop. “It’s the stuff we get, the parts and pieces from all over the United States that we need from them.”
Rapp said 50 Teamsters have crossed the picket line to work so far in Washington State. A staffer at Teamsters Union 690 said no one has crossed picket lines in Spokane or Northern Idaho.