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UPS, Teamsters to resume talks

UPS Strike

Clinton won't intervene yet in strike

August 6, 1997
Web posted at: 7:45 p.m. EDT (2345 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Just hours after President Clinton said he wouldn't intervene to end the strike by the Teamsters Union against United Parcel Service, the company and union agreed to meet Thursday afternoon.

Federal mediator John Calhoun Wells, in a statement released in Washington, D.C., asked leaders from both sides to end the three-day walkout. Thursday's talks will be the first direct negotiations since the strike began Monday. UPS and the Teamsters had been under pressure from the White House to return to the bargaining table.

On Wednesday, Clinton was urged by several business groups to intervene and order the strikers back to work. But the president told a White House news conference in the afternoon that he could only halt the strike by invoking the Taft-Hartley law on industrial relations.

That law authorizes the nation's chief executive to stop strikes that threaten health and safety. Clinton said the dispute has not yet risen to that level.

"There has to be a severe damage to the country. The test is ... very high before the president can intervene," Clinton said.

Fallout from the strike has touched millions of individuals and companies from coast to coast, with everyone from health-care giants to surfers in Florida facing delays in shipments.

Dozens of people have been arrested for picket-line confrontations, including 11 Wednesday morning in Somerville, Massachusetts. One UPS truck was shot at in Ohio.

UPS, which normally delivers 12 million parcels and documents a day around the country, was running at less than 10 percent capacity after the strike by its 185,000 Teamster employees in a U.S. force of 302,000.

AFL-CIO head joins strikers' rally

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney

In Chicago on Wednesday, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney appeared at a spirited rally with Teamsters President Ron Carey and other top labor leaders in a show of solidarity with the striking UPS workers.

"They picked up the gauntlet on behalf of all American workers and their families," Sweeney said. "Their struggle is now our struggle."

One of the issues at the heart of the UPS strike is the use of part-time and temporary workers, as opposed to offering full-time positions. Sweeney noted that one in four American jobs now falls into that category, which he termed an "ugly trend."

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, Teamsters president Ron Carey and UPS employees speak at a rally Wednesday afternoon in Chicago
icon 14 min. VXtreme streaming video

"American workers have full-time obligations to their families, their creditors and their communities," he said. "The Teamsters have it right -- part-time America just won't work."

Sweeney also indicated that the national labor federation would be willing to provide monetary support to striking UPS workers, by giving loans or grants to the Teamsters strike fund. The fund is set to begin paying out at least $55 a week to the 185,000 strikers beginning at the end of next week.

"They haven't made any specific request," Sweeney told Reuters. "But whatever they need."

Business groups: Strike could hurt economy

On Wednesday, the National Retail Federation, an industry group made up of some of the nation's largest retailers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce both called on Clinton to intervene, saying the strike against the nation's largest package-shipping firm was impacting businesses across the country, especially small ones.

"The economy, which is enjoying unprecedented sustained growth, could experience a sudden downward spiral if this strike continues for an extended period," said a letter from the retail federation to Clinton which called for "immediate presidential intervention."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned of "irreparable harm and massive layoffs" for small- and mid-size firms if striking Teamsters were not ordered back to work. UPS said at least 50,000 letters seeking Clinton's assistance in the strike had been mailed to the White House by customers, members of Congress and state governors.

Although Clinton intervened swiftly to stop the American Airlines pilots' strike last March, that labor dispute was governed by the 1926 National Railway Labor Act, under which airlines' labor relations are regulated.

In contrast, the dispute between UPS and the Teamsters is covered by Taft-Hartley, under which the standard for government intervention is much stricter than that of the railway labor act.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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