USPS: Delivery Unaffected by Striking Truckers

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Mail delivery is not being hampered nationwide by striking truck drivers who work for Mail Contractors of America, the U.S. Postal Service said yesterday.

MCA, Little Rock, AR, is one of the nation's largest over-the-road mail haul trucking companies. It is the largest highway contractor for the postal service.

About 100 truck drivers represented by the American Postal Workers Union of America Local 44 covering the Des Moines, IA, area went on strike March 22 in a dispute over a new contract with MCA. The local represents drivers who work out of terminals and offices in about 20 cities.

Workers are picketing truck terminals operated by MCA in Des Moines and Kansas City, KS, as well as bulk mail centers there.

Also, more than 70 Jacksonville, FL, truck drivers walked out March 24. They are represented by APWU's First Coast Local. Strikers are picketing four Jacksonville locations: the MCA terminal, the USPS bulk mail center and at two rail yards where MCA picks up and drops off mail.

MCA imposed a contract on its workers Sept. 1, 2004. Collective bargaining agreements covering workers in Des Moines and Jacksonville expired Sept. 30, 2003. The drivers in Kansas City had never negotiated a contract with the company.

Lance Coles, president of the Des Moines-based local, claimed that during contract negotiations late last year, MCA made an offer and then walked away from the table. The company sought major concessions from drivers, including loss of previously negotiated benefits and an increase in cost for health benefits as well as income reductions, he said.

"We just would like the company to come back to the table," he said. "They put the economic package on the table and said, 'Take it or leave it' and then walked away. We never had an opportunity to discuss it."

MCA spokesman Jeffrey Pagano said the previous contract with the union made the company uncompetitive in bidding for mail contracts.

"We have been the high-cost operator in the industry," he said. "And even after our final offer goes into place we still will be the high-cost operator. For us, it's being competitive with our competitors."

The industry has 10,000 contractors, Pagano said, "and it's our goal to become more competitive and, as a consequence, create job security, as opposed to what the union wants: short-term gains."

Coles said some mail delivery is being affected by the strikes, but representatives of the USPS and MCA said the strike is not delaying mail delivery because of contingency plans. For example, MCA transferred workers from Greensboro, NC; Atlanta; and Los Angeles to do the work of the strikers in Jacksonville.

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