Strike takes financial toll
At first glance, the group gathered on a D Street lawn on Friday looked almost like neighbors sharing a picnic.
Those lounging with sodas and watermelon – UPS employees, spouses and children – were taking a break from walking the picket lines.
The food came from sympathetic members of the community who periodically drop off drinks, donuts, even pizza and hamburgers.
The UPS Teamsters strike, now in its third week, is a family affair both on the front lines and behind the scene where cupboards grow bare and bills get deferred.
On Friday, the Lake Tahoe UPS branch workers received their first union check during the strike; $55 from which union dues will be collected leaving $9 to fill gas tanks and buy food.
Even if the strike ended today, it will take weeks for the UPS employees to return to financial normalcy. Bank accounts are depleted and UPS business may take weeks to build up enough to put everyone back to work.
Phil and Kacy Stricker took turns walking the picket line and caring for 4-month-old Andrew Philip. Phil has worked at UPS for eight years. It was the couple’s only paycheck.
Even with family helping out, the credit card and car payments have been deferred. If the strike continues another week, the new car goes up for sale.
“We’re trying to keep the benefits we have now (which now excludes immunizations),” said Kacy of their reason for sticking out the strike. “We want to keep what we have, not get less.”
Bob Colan, a single dad with two young daughters and eight years with UPS, had 78 cents left in his checking account after paying the mortgage.
He tried to get unemployment or food stamps to help feed his children. Because he’s on strike, he doesn’t qualify such benefits.
“We still have canned goods like soup, stuff we don’t normally eat,” said Colan as he patted ground beef into hamburger patties for grilling. A local grocery store employee dropped off the meat.
UPS managers suggested he cross the line and come back to work. They say there’s some organization that will protect his job, Colan said. The union says that those who cross the picket line will loose their Teamsters card. Without Teamster membership, they can’t work when the strike ends.
A few people are thinking about crossing and taking their chances.
“I’m going to stand by the Teamsters Union,” Colan said. “I’ll be danged if I’m going to cross the line.”
Pam Tonarelli will start looking for another job today. She’d prefer the strike to end.
“(Working at UPS) is fun, it’s physical work and great people work here,” said Tonarelli who works part time for the insurance benefits for her four children ages 5 through 11. Her husband has a good position as a plumber but no health benefits.
“God forbid anything happens, especially with soccer starting,” she said.
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