Yellow accuses Teamsters of ‘gamesmanship and saber rattling’ in proposed One Yellow change of operations talks

The Teamsters union and Yellow Corp., the union’s largest employer in the less-than-truckload (LTL) sector, are continuing their jousting ahead of their labor agreement expiring on March 31, 2024.

After the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) announced that it was cancelling a scheduled April 7 hearing over restructuring operations that Yellow says is “vital to the future of our company,” the company has fired back with a letter to Teamsters National Freight Director John Murphy accusing the union of “falsehoods and baseless insults.”

In a March 30 letter obtained by LM from Bryan Reifsnyder, Yellow’s senior vice president for trucker relations, the company accused the Teamsters of “egregious falsehoods and baseless insults” in a “bad faith effort” by Teamsters leadership to try to walk back its demand for a vote of its members in a contentious reorganization effort to create its “One Yellow” super-regional operations change.

If the proposal were put to a vote by the more than 22,000 Teamsters employees at Yellow, the company says it would be “overwhelmingly in favor of the One Yellow network transformation” efforts.

“Throughout this entire process, the company’s single-minded mission has been—and continues to be—to modernize its network to meet our customers’ needs and position the company for the long-term success that is necessary to preserve 22,000 good paying Teamster jobs,” Reifsnyder’s letter says.

Yellow says the Teamsters’ attempt to obstruct that modernization—the first phase of which has already been approved by the Teamsters and implemented in the Western region—would “irreparably damage and destroy the company” and cost 22,000 members their jobs.

“Notwithstanding Yellow’s contractual right to complete its One Yellow merger, it has tried to negotiate in good faith with the IBT to implement the necessary operational changes in a way that will minimize disruption to its workers,” Yellow said.

In late March, Yellow was preparing to meet with Teamsters leadership to discuss the proposed change of operations. The Teamsters invited Yellow to the March 23 meeting.

“Based upon its extensive discussions with more than 100 local unions and with (Teamsters) Freight Division leadership over the course of several months, Yellow thought that the purpose of the meeting would be to iron out several remaining issues prior to our scheduled April 5-7 hearing on the proposed change.

Instead, the company said, rather than discuss any additional modifications and clarifications to the proposed change, the Teamsters “chose gamesmanship and saber rattling, using the hour-long meeting as a photo op and a platform to try and derail the change and launch a public campaign to spread misinformation about the One Yellow transformation.

The One Yellow strategy is essential to the success of its business, its customers and its employees, Yellow said.

“Your leadership’s last-minute attempt to block the proposed change, and its refusal to let those employees vote on that strategy speaks volumes about how they believe those employees will vote,” Reifsnyder’s letter said.

Yellow said it also “categorically rejects” the union’s suggestion that the proposed change is flawed and violates the National Master Freight Agreement.

“As you well know, the change simply builds on an existing agreement that has an outstanding track record of success over the course of the 15 years it has been in operation. Merging seniority lists (where applicable) significantly increases follow-the-work opportunities,” Yellow’s letter said

The Teamsters have said it is time for Yellow “to put its money where its mouth is.” But the company said it is up to the IBT leadership to do what it has challenged the company to agree to and allow its membership to vote.

“Though Yellow disagrees that such a vote is required, we readily agreed to submit the change to a vote,” Yellow said in its letter.

In a recent tweet, IBT General President Sean O’Brien characterized Yellow’s proposed change as “despicable.”

“What Mr. O’Brien is absurdly and irresponsibly describing as ‘despicable’ is, in fact, a well thought out, comprehensive plan for unifying and streamlining Yellow’s network and accompanying technology systems to enable the company to provide customers with the excellent service they require,” Yellow said.

Though the change will require some employees to work differently, Yellow said it will result in many improvements. Among them are the ability to deliver more over-the-road runs to be bid and enable more drivers to return home every night to sleep in their own bed.

“Enabling the company to thrive and grow provides opportunity and job security—the best kind of job security—to our employees,” Yellow said.

“It is truly unfortunate that a major union leader would be interested in making irresponsible ad hominem attacks that imperil the jobs of his members, muzzle them from voting, and seek to destroy their loyal employer, all for the sake of scoring a few political points or a perceived advantage in unrelated negotiations,” Yellow’s letter said.

“What is, in fact, despicable is the IBT’s abrupt reversal to pull out all the stops to block the proposed change at the 11th hour,” the letter added.

Already the change of operations has been put into effect in the Western region where Reddaway, Yellow’s former West Coast regional operation, has been merged with long-haul unit Yellow Freight.

At issue are similar changes in the Midwest at the Holland regional and in the Northeast at the former New Penn Eastern regional carrier.

“We have had meeting after meeting, over the course of many months, to explain the vital importance of Yellow’s successful transformation into a super regional carrier,” Yellow said. “Our customers demand it, and the continued success of the business depends on it.”

Approval of the first phase of the three-phase transformation in the Western region last year demonstrated the Teamsters’ understanding of the importance of our One Yellow transformation, the company said.

“To have the Western portion of Yellow’s network operating on the One Yellow platform, while the IBT now appears intent on thwarting completion of the transformation in the East, Central and South regions makes no sense,” the company said. “Worse, it’s a crude attempt to sabotage the company and it violates the Company’s right to determine the operational requirements of its business – a right that is expressly reserved in our contract.”

Yellow said it was “equally absurd” to accuse the company of the inaccurate suggestion that Yellow is proposing the change to somehow dupe investors.

“The company’s sole goal is to modernize its network to meet our customers’ needs and position the company for the long-term success that is necessary to preserve 22,000 good paying Teamster jobs,” Yellow said.

“We have discussed this many, many times with the IBT at all levels – and in not one of those meetings did anyone on the Teamsters side of the table ever challenge the necessity of the proposed network modernization. Not once,” the company added.

The Teamsters call Yellow's proposal an attempt to “jam through operational changes” without a vote of the Teamsters' freight membership. The union says that’s a “clear violation” of Article XII of the union's constitution as the company's request would change the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement.

At the direction of General President Sean M. O'Brien and General Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman, the Teamsters cancelled a change of operations Committee meeting with Yellow planned for April 5-7.

Yellow’s goal is to have 290 terminals once the sell-off is completed. Its most recent move involves closing terminals in Akron and West Chester, Ohio, and offering transfers to employees as part of its network overhaul.

Article Topics

Motor Freight
Yellow Corp.
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