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Strikers eager to get back to work

USPS, FedEx satisfy local shipping needs

Balmy weather and a box of doughnuts comforted pickets outside UnitedParcel Service in Medford as the Teamsters' strike entered its 10th dayTuesday.

Neither side has budged, driver Terry Wilson said outsidethe Mason Way building. It hasn't changed a bit. And nobody's triedto cross the picket line.

About 100 Teamsters members are striking the Medford operation ­44 full-time drivers and the rest part-time package handlers.

The idled workers have had time to speculate on how long the strike maylast and to gnaw on rumors with their doughnuts.

We know the labor secretary's talking to Clinton this morning,driver Kevin Snyder said Tuesday.

The company's hoping Clinton will intervene, or that the memberswill pressure the union to call a vote, Wilson said. They knowthe part-timers would pass their offer. He said part-timers wouldget a bigger raise than full-timers under the company's proposal.

While the use of part-time workers for up to 35 hours a week is a concern,pensions are the overriding issue for Wilson and Tom Ward, also on the lineTuesday morning.

We'd take such a hit on that pension it would be pathetic,Ward said. The way it is, I could be eligible to retire in two yearsunder the `80 and out.' If this went through, I'd have to work another 20years. (The 80 and out provision enables workers to retirewhen their age and years of service add up to 80).

The strikers are eligible for $11 a day in strike benefits starting thisweek.

Wilson said they're trying to get picket-line participation evened outinto four-hour shifts.

Some guys are doing four, some six, some eight, some are just showingup to get the information and going home, he said. I'd justlike to go back to work next Monday. I'd like to go back to work tomorrow.

The Postal Service and other carriers are stepping up service to fillthe void left by UPS workers.

They're doing a great job for us, said Al Bessin, vice presidentof operations at Musician's Friend. The Medford-based mail-order music gearcompany relied on UPS to ship several thousand packages a day.

We're just hoping that things get resolved quickly, he said.

Other shippers echoed the sentiments.

Bear Creek Corp., which shipped with the Postal Service before the strike,is not being affected, said Bill Ihle, vice president for corporate communications.

It's not like this was Christmas, he said.

It would have been horrible if this happened at the holidays,said Jan Lajoie, president of Northwest's Best Inc., a Medford mail-orderbusiness featuring the work of Northwest artists and designers.

She said the Postal Service and Federal Express have accommodated herseveral dozen packages a day.

FedEx had five planes out of here on Friday instead of their normaltwo, she said.

The local post office handled about 6,000 parcels a day under normalcircumstances; UPS handles nearly 20,000 a day.

Local UPS strikers Charlie Lewis, Dan Hall, Terry Wilson, Kerry Hofsess and Shane Clark keep up on the news in the shade on Mason Way in Medford. - Photo by Bob Pennell</P