South Shore strikers keep it friendly |

South Shore strikers keep it friendly

Sally J. Taylor

Tahoe’s striking employees of United Parcel Service feel caught in the middle of officials arguing a continent away.

“I wish I was working,” said Bob Cook, a 22-year South Shore UPS employee. Cook is serving as spokesman for union picketers who began walking at the Shop Street UPS office about 4 a.m. on Monday.

Along with the others, Cook tried to understand the information they were hearing from each side.

“There’s two translations (of the conflict),” he said. “I wonder what the bottom line is.”

The South Shore picketers maintained a friendly atmosphere, chatting with well-wishers and waving as passing motorists shouted encouragement.

“This is a smaller area,” said Dave Sommerfeldt, a 20-year UPS employee. “We’re more in touch with the community.

“We feel bad that we’re not out there serving our customers. They’re our friends too. … I wish they (union and corporate officials) would solve the problems and keep talking and we’d keep working.”

The strike, which triggered hostile feelings in some parts of the country, maintained a peaceful stance on the South Shore.

When managers drove two UPS trucks filled with emergency deliveries from the lot on Monday, the picketers did not interfere.

The manager of the South Shore UPS office, Jack Watkins, could not pause to comment on the strike. Other managers fielded a deluge of calls from anxious customers waiting for packages.

Looking for a package of trophy supplies, Gary Shidaker, owner of Lake Tahoe Sporting Goods, made several trips to the office. “It should have been here Thursday,” he said.

The package had been tracked to the South Shore office, but, in the rush to get as many packages delivered on Friday as possible, gaps were left in the record keeping.

Receiving packages was not Shidaker’s only problem. He was also having trouble finding a delivery company to take packages.

“It’s a hassle,” he said.

Other delivery companies geared up for increased parcel business, including the United States Postal Service.

Callers to the Postal Service’s new 800 number endured long holds as inquiries overwhelmed available operators.

Calls to the South Lake Tahoe post office were referred to Reno.

“We do have contingency plans in place to handle any influx of parcels,” said Reno Postmaster Jack Wilkins, who expected the Postal Service to gain some permanent customers and revenue as a result of the strike.

Despite confusion about what officials in Washington were doing, the picketers felt the issues were important.

“It’s everybody’s livelihood were fighting for,” Sommerfeldt said. “You can’t support a family on a part-time job.”

Nearly two-thirds of UPS’ 302,000 U.S. employees are considered part-time, though many work full schedules. Reliance on part-timers and subcontracting are two of the union’s complaints against the company.

Other union issues include pension and health funds and a company offer of bonuses over pay increases.

“This is a really good company to work for,” said David Cunningham, a UPS driver for 11 years. “I hope the union and corporation come together again. We’ll all win then.

“Nobody wins in a strike.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.