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Year in Review: 1997

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Re-rank the list of top news stories of 1997

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Princess Diana's death stuns the world

Weld steps out -
Cellucci steps forward

Mother Teresa is laid
to rest at age 87

Chinese rule returns
to Hong Kong

Supreme Court strikes
down 'Net decency act

UPS strike disrupts thousands of firms

Heaven's Gate cult commits mass suicide

Mars Pathfinder explores Red Planet

Ellen comes out, marking a first in TV

For the first time, a mammal is cloned


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Glee by the bundleful

Customers welcome back UPS drivers with exuberance

By Diane E. Lewis, Globe Staff, 08/21/97

UPS driver Joyce Williams gets a greeting from customers in Brookline. (Globe Staff Photo / David L. Ryan)
UPS driver Joyce Williams gets a greeting from customers in Brookline.
(Globe Staff Photo / David L. Ryan)

ROOKLINE - Nearly everywhere she went yesterday, UPS driver Joyce Williams received the kind of effusive welcome generally accorded a long-lost relative.

As Williams rolled a cart stacked with packages into Boston IVF at One Brookline Place, a group of employees near the reception desk applauded.

''It's great to be back, but where's the roses, where's the roses?'' quipped the 40-year-old Williams.

At Thiel, Rubin, Wang Inc., office manager Kathy Wood cheered and greeted Williams with: ''She's here! Yea! Oh, I'm psyched.''

Joyce Williams is no celebrity. But after a 15-day Teamsters strike that left thousands of businesses stranded, customers of United Parcel Service of America Inc. seemed delighted yesterday to see her stride into their offices dressed in the company's brown shirt and shorts.

Across the country, 185,000 Teamsters who load, sort, deliver, and pick up packages for UPS returned to work, after the company hammered out a five-year agreement with the union late Monday night.

Yesterday, Williams and about 140 other drivers from the UPS plant in Norwood delivered 19,000 packages, down from the normal load of 34,000, said human resources manager Al Dimick.

The package shortfall stemmed from the walkout, but it also meant that only 20 percent of the plant's full-time drivers and 50 percent of its part timers returned to work yesterday. Because of decreased volume, 1,200 part-timers were laid off in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

''There really wasn't enough work for the drivers to do just eight hours of delivery and pickup in Norwood,'' said Dimick. ''So we had them come in and load, too. But as the pickup volume increases, and that should occur in three or four days, they'll be doing a full eight hours, and we'll be bringing people back.''

UPS estimates it lost about 5 percent of its business because of the strike, though it will not be able to fully assess the impact until the end of the month. In all, daily volume at UPS plunged from 12 million packages to about 1.2 million during the work stoppage.

During her 15 days of absence, Williams gardened when she wasn't on the picket line.. ''I did a little bit of yard work,'' she said, adding, ''My mother always said, `Save for a rainy day.' So I put away some funds for a few rainy days, though I don't know what I would have done if the strike had gone on for three or four months.''

Shortly after 10 a.m. yesterday, inside UPS's vast, dimly lit Norwood distribution center, managers dressed in suit and tie urged Williams and her coworkers to do their best to help regain customer confidence and recoup any lost sales.

''Our one objective, our main objective, is to get volume back and get our customers back,'' operations manager John Fleming told a group of serious-faced drivers.

An hour earlier, Williams had loaded more than 100 packages into her truck after spot-checking the vehicle to make sure there were no defects.

Then, after boarding truck No. 60297, the self-described ''jock'' swung the vehicle into line and joined the procession of familiar brown trucks as they rumbled out of the UPS parking lot onto University Avenue.

By lunchtime, Williams was standing in the lobby of New England Surgicare delivering packages, among them a manila folder for Marie H. Prevost, a surgical scheduler and building coordinator.

''Oh, you've been missed. Really missed,'' said Prevost as she took the package from Williams and exclaimed, ''My business cards. Yes!''

One of only a handful of female drivers at UPS's Norwood plant, Williams acknowledged the job is demanding and physicially taxing. Injuries are high, though the company holds health and safety classes, and workers are expected to meet strict deadlines.

''It takes a certain type of person to do this job,'' Williams said as she hoisted a package off the truck and loaded it onto a two-wheeled steel cart. ''All through the strike, there were people saying that all we do is deliver packages. They don't know the whole picture. ''

Still, Williams said, working as a full-time UPS driver for the last five years has given her more job security, something her former job as a construction foreman couldn't provide.

''I wanted a future - pension, health benefits, good pay.... UPS, for 90 years, has been the number one carrier. I figured I couldn't go wrong.''


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