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September 30, 2003

Bad, bad boys

Today's WSJ has an interesting editorial (link expiring October 7th) shining a light on the often ignored subject of union violence and intimidation.  

Union violence gets little media coverage. So we'd like to share a new posting on the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' Web site about a settlement it recently reached with the National Labor Relations Board.

The case stems from a nasty -- and ultimately unsuccessful -- strike against Overnite Transportation Co., of Richmond, Va. The strike was marred by intimidation that the company says includes more than 50 shootings at its trucks or drivers since 1999. What follows are excerpts from a notice the Teamsters are required to post at their locals:

"WE WILL NOT use or threaten to use a weapon of any kind, including but not limited to guns, knives, slingshots, rocks, ball bearings, liquid-filled balloons or other projectiles, picket signs, sticks, sledge hammers, bricks, hot coffee, bottles, two by fours, lit cigarettes, eggs, or bags or balloons filled with excrement against any non-striking Overnite employee or security guard in the presence of any Overnite employee...

Here is the link to the full notice (which includes 17 paragraphs specifying prohibited conduct, e.g. "WE WILL NOT....).   Check it out, it really is an extraordinary document.   While the settlement stipulation contains the usual disclaimer that it "does not constitute an admission" of wrong-doing, if the union supporters did a small fraction of the things that they agreed not to do in the future, then they are a bunch of thugs.

For those of you who want to dig deeper into this can of worms, here is a link to the Teamsters homepage for the dispute with Overnite Transportation, which contains a number of interesting documents laying out the Teamster's side of the ten year long effort to unionize Overnite.   There is less available on-line about Overnite's side of the story, since it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Union Pacific and does not appear to have a webpage.   However, Union Pacific, which acquired Overnite in 1986, recently announced that it intends to sell its entire interest in the company via an initial public offering and has filed a draft prospectus with the SEC.   This prospectus includes the following discussion of their labor situation in the "risk factors" section:

Currently, the Teamsters union represents approximately 3% of our 12,600 Overnite Transportation employees at four service centers. Employees at two of our Motor Cargo service centers located in North Salt Lake, Utah and Reno, Nevada, representing approximately 11% of the total Motor Cargo work force at 34 service centers, are covered by two separate collective bargaining agreements with unions affiliated with the Teamsters. On October 24, 2002, the Teamsters ended a three-year nationwide strike of Overnite Transportation, our principal business unit. While the Teamsters ended their strike without obtaining a contract or any concessions from us, the strike did cause us to incur significant expenditures for the protection of our employees and property, and diverted the time and attention of our management from our normal operations. Although we focus on maintaining a productive relationship with our employees, we cannot ensure that we will not in the future be subject to work stoppages, strikes or other types of conflicts with our employees or organized labor. Any such event could have a material adverse effect on our ability to operate our business and serve our customers and could materially impair our relationships with key customers and suppliers. Accordingly, any future labor conflict could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

At the height of the Teamsters’ campaign to unionize Overnite Transportation employees, the Teamsters had petitioned to gain representation rights at over 60 of Overnite Transportation’s 170 service centers, and they ultimately gained certified representation rights at 26 of these service centers. Since July 2002, the Teamsters have been decertified as collective bargaining representatives at 22 of these service centers. Except in one case where the Teamsters disclaimed representation rights, the decertifications were the result of elections initiated by our employees. As a result of the decertifications and the successful resolution of the Teamsters’ strike, the Teamsters’ campaign to organize the employees of Overnite Transportation has become almost entirely dormant.

September 30, 2003 at 10:14 AM | Permalink


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