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 PORTLAND, Ore., Dec. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters issued the following:
 At Pony Express facilities in Portland, Salem, Medford and Springfield, Ore., drivers hoisted picket signs today instead of packages. A strike was called by more than 230 workers who recently voted to become members of the Teamsters Union. The workers are uniting over a growing frustration with difficult and unsafe working conditions and poverty level wages, according to the union.
 "Pony Express drivers are paid near the minimum wage and often receive no benefits, and yet they are asked to safely transport valuable and hazardous cargo on rigid time schedules," said Teamster Local 162 Secretary-Treasurer Alfred Panek. "It's time for the company to treat them with fairness and respect."
 During the past year, Pony Express workers at 58 locations across the country have voted to have the Teamsters Union represent them at the bargaining table. However, the company has engaged in a series of stalling tactics designed to deprive the drivers of their democratic right to organize and bargain collectively, according to the union.
 "The drivers are asking for fair treatment from Pony management. Unfortunately, the company has responded with disrespect and inaction," said Panek. "We have helped make Pony profitable. In return, we're asking for a decent wage, some benefits and a safe place to work."
 The workers cite OSHA violations and major fines as an example of Pony management's carefree attitude. Pony's violations include lack of training in icy driving conditions and in handling of hazardous materials and having no safety committee. "Drivers have also had to deal with sexual harassment and generally lousy treatment by the company," said Panek.
 According to Panek, the demanding time schedule placed upon the drivers has caused a great deal of stress on the job. Last winter alone, Pony drivers were involved in 13 serious accidents.
 "Workers are fed-up with this kind of treatment," Panek said. "Pony drivers deliver important services in this community. We deliver blood to hospitals, bring prescription drugs to local pharmacies and transport checks from businesses to banks, all with little compensation."
 Many Pony employees are required, as a condition of employment, to lease their own personal vehicle to the company at rates too low to cover their operating expenses. "Pony's leasing requirements have financially hurt many drivers, most of whom are already living at the poverty line. One driver had to quit to file for bankruptcy, and now Pony is denying his unemployment," said Panek.
 Most Pony drivers hold down two jobs, or rely on other subsidies to provide for their families. Less than 20 percent of drivers in Oregon have company health insurance and fewer than that have family coverage.
 "We've tried to bargain in good faith, and the company has not. This strike has occurred because of Pony's failure to negotiate while continuing to change drivers' working conditions for the worse," said Panek.
 The drivers have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. The striking workers are represented by Teamster Locals 162 (Portland), 57 (Eugene, Springfield, Coos Bay), 324 (Salem), 58 (Vancouver and Astoria) and 962 (Klamath Falls, Medford, Redmond and Roseburg).
 -0- 12/7/93
 /CONTACT: Scott Treibitz or Eric Rosen, 703-276-2772, or Alfred Panek, 503-257-0162, all for the Teamsters/

CO: Pony Express; International Brotherhood of Teamsters ST: Oregon IN: SU:

KD-DC -- DC012 -- 1320 12/07/93 13:29 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Dec 7, 1993

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