With the Teamsters strike against United Parcel Service moving into its second week and negotiations at a standstill, Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman said Sunday that she will personally ask leaders on both sides what it would take to bring them back to the bargaining table.
“We’re digging in to urge the Teamsters, to urge UPS, to show a willingness to compromise. We want them to show greater flexibility,” Herman said on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press.”
President Clinton “recognizes these are serious issues - the nature of part-time work, pension protection for American workers - these are all issues that we care about,” Herman said. “We continue to monitor this situation every day.”
But Herman maintained that the shutdown of the company that handles more than 80 percent of all package deliveries in the country still has not reached the level of a national emergency, the requirement for Clinton to invoke the almost 50-year-old Taft-Hartley Act and order strikers back to work for a cooling-off period.
The struggle between the union and UPS officials dominated the Sunday interview programs after bargaining talks broke off Saturday. UPS Chairman James Kelly said on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” that he would welcome involvement by Clinton because both sides are “so far apart” on many issues.
And he predicted once again that strikers would approve management’s latest offer if given a chance to vote on it.
Teamsters President Ron Carey said on the same program that he opposes presidential intervention and rejected the idea that rank-and-file members would side with the company in such a vote. “We have done our polling. … They stuck with us by voting 95 percent for us to take whatever action we see necessary,” he said.
White House senior adviser Rahm Emanuel said the Teamsters’ switch from being longtime supporters of the Republican Party to being a big Democratic contributor in the last election has “nothing at all” to do with Clinton’s reluctance to get involved.
“The solution is not going to be both of them turning to us. The solution is turning to each other and finding the solutions among themselves at the bargaining table. … Roll up your sleeves and get to work,” Emanuel said on “Face the Nation.”
UPS’ Vice Chairman John Alden, answering questions on ABC-TV’s “This Week,” said he was not sure whether Clinton’s decision against invoking the Taft-Hartley Act at this time is “political or he doesn’t understand the ramifications on the economy and on the jobs. We have many, many customers who are … telling us they have to lay off people, reduce their work force.”
But, on the same program, Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin said the act “has very high standards” of damage to the national economy that must be met before a president can intervene.
“It hasn’t been invoked in over 20 years. In fact, the last time a president tried to use it, he was rebuffed by the courts,” Rubin said, referring to President Carter’s use of the act in an effort to end a strike by coal miners in 1978.
In their TV appearances, leaders of both sides would not say how Herman could get them back to the table, and the two sides seemed to differ on what is preventing them from returning to the bargaining table.
Alden contended that a pension fund issue is “a deal breaker” for the union, with the company wanting to pay into its own fund rather than the union-run, multiemployer fund, in which the delivery company is the largest company participating.
Carey, on the other hand, emphasized UPS’ shifting to “low-wage, part-time jobs” and expanding its use of subcontracting to perform work formerly done by UPS employees.
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