BUSINESSES THAT depend heavily on United Parcel Service are now finding the disruption in delivery more of a disturbance than a debacle, but the work stoppage could profoundly affect commerce over the long haul.
The company controls s 80 percent of the nation's parcel delivery business, a stunning market share considering its competition from the private sector and the U.S. Postal Service.
This labor dispute with the Teamsters over the critical issue of part-time workers threatens to ripple through the nation's commerce. The enormity of UPS makes this strike somewhat reminiscent of those in an earlier era involving railroads.
UPS is an important common carrier that greases the nation's economic activity. Its daily load of 11.5 million packages is too heavy a burden for other delivery services to shoulder; Federal Express, Roadway Package System, DHL Worldwide Express and the postal service don't have package delivery operations nearly large enough to fill the void. Already they are struggling to meet even part of the increased demand.
Few companies can afford the hefty expense incurred by Diamond Comic Distributors, which rented a fleet of trucks to ship 25,000 comic books to get its super-hero publications to clients in 25 major cities "before the ink dries." Diamond president and CEO Steve Geppi is unlikely to consider operating as a "mini-UPS" a long-term delivery solution.
We hope the Teamsters and UPS management resolve the dispute soon, but the issues are critical to both sides.
The once-mighty union realizes that organized labor would suffer another devastating blow if it backs down from its tough stance against the company's broad use of part-time workers.
Meanwhile, even though UPS has agreed to create more full-time jobs, it is also determined to continue hiring part-timers for fast-paced, four-hour shifts, promoting them to full-time positions only as those jobs become available.
Unlike many employers, UPS provides full benefits to part-timers. But the union is concerned that its members who are part-timers are shut out from earning incomes that will support a family.
As both sides wrestle over part-timers and over who will control pension funds, much more is at stake than timely delivery of packages. The outcome could help tip the scale between corporate flexibility and job security in a significant way.
Pub Date: 08/07/97