In a letter to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, less-than-truckload carrier Yellow Corp. called on union officials to “dispense with the posturing” and engage in a “serious discussion” about a planned change of operations (COO).
The Thursday letter, obtained by FreightWaves, from Yellow’s head of trucker relations Bryan Reifsnyder to Teamsters National Freight Director John Murphy, cried foul on a recent communication from Teamsters leadership to the rank and file. A Wednesday letter from Murphy to local unions accused Yellow of spreading “misinformation” about details of the changes.
That letter from Murphy notified union members that an April 5-7 hearing on the proposed COO had indeed been canceled; that the proposed COO is an attempt to “significantly rewrite current contractual language without engaging in legitimate negotiations”; that the IBT had no intention of putting the COO out to members for a vote; and that given magnitude of the changes Yellow is seeking, “the appropriate way for Yellow to pursue such changes would be to reopen the current agreement; engage in legitimate, transparent, and full bargaining.”
“It goes without saying the Teamsters Union would have its own demands in the event bargaining were to occur,” Murphy’s letter read. “Please remember that Yellow cannot violate our contract to obtain improper unilateral changes under the guise of a change of operations.”
Yellow’s (NASDAQ: YELL) proposed COO would consolidate terminals and operations in its East, Central and South regions. A similar transformation was agreed upon and implemented in Yellow’s Western network at Reddaway and YRC Freight terminals last year.
The financially struggling company said the overhaul is required for its survival.
However, union brass maintains the changes would upset work rules, requiring road drivers to work on the docks and at terminals other than their home facility. The changes would also merge seniority lists at affected terminals, requiring some workers to rebid for jobs.
Reifsnyder’s letter to Murphy claimed the union’s communication was “filled with egregious falsehoods and baseless insults, and seems to be nothing more than a bad faith effort by Teamsters leadership to try to walk back its demand for a vote of its members which the leadership realizes would be overwhelmingly in favor of the One Yellow network transformation.”
Reifsnyder characterized a March 23 meeting between the two parties held at Teamsters headquarters “as a photo op” and “a platform to try and derail the Change” by spreading misinformation “to the detriment of the Company and the more than 22,000 Teamsters and their families who depend on the Company for their livelihood.”
“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,” Reifsnyder said.
The same day the Teamsters rejected the COO and canceled the hearing.
Another shot was fired a few days later when Murphy sent a 30-day notice to Yellow informing the carrier it would no longer be able to utilize purchased transportation to haul its shipments.
The use of purchased transportation is common at LTL and truckload carriers. Most large carriers depend on outside capacity to fill coverage gaps in their networks.
“The Teamsters’ bad faith 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,” Reifsnyder said.
He said that the need for the overhaul has been discussed often with the union and “not once” did union officials “challenge the necessity of the proposed network modernization.”
Yellow said it has met with more than 100 local unions in recent months and that the hearing was modeled on the feedback it received from union employees. Yellow has challenged the IBT to put the COO to a vote.
However, Sean O’Brien, Teamsters general president, said members would “unanimously reject” it following the March 23 meeting.
“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 said.
Yellow said it has been negotiating in good faith over the last few months to address worker concerns and that the IBT has made an abrupt reversal in negotiations “to pull out all the stops to block the proposed Change at the 11th hour.”
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