The Teamsters union and Yellow Corp., the union’s largest employer in the less-than-truckload (LTL) sector, aren’t wasting any time throwing shade on each other.
The Teamsters’ labor agreement with Yellow does not expire until March 31, 2024. But hard feelings over the “One Yellow” terminal reorganization may be poisoning the waters well before negotiations even begin.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) announced that it was cancelling a scheduled hearing over restructuring operations that Yellow says is “vital to the future of our company” and the jobs of Yellow’s more than 22,000 union employees.
“This is an unfortunate attempt to halt Yellow’s modernization efforts, known as “One Yellow,” which has been in the works and well-publicized since 2019,” the company said in a statement.
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 is attempting to merge the operations of formerly regional carriers New Penn in the East, Holland in the Central States and Reddaway in the West with long-haul carrier Yellow Freight, which long has operated nationally as one of the largest LTL carriers in the nation.
The One Yellow network transformation into a super-regional carrier will involve closing and selling more than two dozen smaller, end-of-line terminals and consolidating them into larger, regional terminals and distribution centers, Yellow officials have said.
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. It affects about 256 workers.
“Fred Zuckerman and I have been all over this country meeting with our freight members, who repeatedly tell us the company's proposed changes to the contract are unacceptable. We have heard them loud and clear,” O'Brien said in a statement.
The Teamsters claim Yellow doesn't want to put this to a vote because “they know the Teamsters Constitution and they know our members will unanimously reject” their proposal.
“This company doesn't get to run around and ignore workers' rights,” Zuckerman said. “We're not playing games.”
Yellow, represented at the meeting by Vice President of Trucker Relations Bryan Reifsnyder and others, admitted that 104 Teamster locals would be impacted by proposed changes, but the Teamsters claim as many as 100 local unions have already objected to it.
“Our members need to participate in every step of the process regarding their contract. The Teamsters will not allow Yellow to railroad workers on any issue. If any changes are going to be made to our contracts, they'll be made on our terms and no one else's.” - Fred Zuckerman
The Teamsters claim Yellow’s proposal fails to address serious concerns raised by the union. The Teamsters demand that established work standards and contractual protections be maintained, that primary lanes be preserved and traditional road driver classifications and dock workers be protected.
Meanwhile, Yellow executives say the One Yellow modernization effort is “vital” to the jobs of more than 22,000 employees and long-term success of their nearly 100-year-old company. The One Yellow modernization already has begun with the former Reddaway operations and the company says it “is succeeding” in the West.
“As we have listened to our employees, we have also listened to our customers who have determined what they prioritize: speed, reliability and competitive pricing,” the company said in a statement.
“With One Yellow in place, we are providing this enhanced service in the West and intend to continue building on our success nationwide. We must. We have a responsibility to our 250,000 customers and the Americans who rely on our capacity to keep the nation’s supply chain and economy moving each day.”
The company says the union has been “mischaracterizing” its statements and positions. For months, Yellow says it has worked in good faith with more than 100 local unions as well as Teamster leadership to address the questions and concerns of our employees.
“Maintaining an open line of communication is essential,” Yellow said. “Today’s trucking industry is predominantly non-union, yet Yellow has always been a proud IBT employer. Our One Yellow strategy will help preserve more than 22,000 well-paying union jobs.”
Yellow wants the IBT to allow employees to vote on the proposed changes. “Let employees make their own decisions about Yellow’s continued modernization efforts and their future job security,” the company said.