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NewsTrucking

Three YRC units could disappear if labor contract is rejected, Teamster executive warns

Will they be running on empty? (Photo:Shutterstock)

Less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier YRC Worldwide’s (NASDAQ:YRCW) long-haul unit and its two key regional units could go out of business by the end of May should unionized workers vote down a tentative five-year collective-bargaining agreement early next month, the head of the Teamsters union’s freight division has warned.

Ernie Soehl told the rank-and-file on a nationwide conference call on the evening of April 10 that customers will pull their freight from the three units should members vote down the contract on May 3, the date when the results are to be announced. If customers react in such a manner, long-haul carrier YRC Freight and regional carriers Holland and New Penn Motor Express will likely not last until May 31, the date a two-month extension to the existing agreement is set to expire, Soehl said.

YRC’s shippers are closely monitoring the status of the contract talks, Soehl said. Should the tentative agreement be rejected, “it is my personal opinion, and the opinion of the (negotiating) committee, that we will not make it to May 31,” he said. Shippers threatened to pull business in the days leading up to the tentative agreement at the end of March, and some accounts have already defected, Soehl added. The extension was designed to keep the business stable while the rank-and-file reviews the proposal and votes on it.

Soehl’s blunt assessment means that for the third time in less than a decade, YRC’s unionized workers will vote on an agreement as if the company’s fate depended on it. In 2010, faced with the strong prospects of YRC going out of business, the rank-and-file ratified a contract calling for punishing pension cuts and 15 percent wage reductions. Then in 2014, the members approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which effectively extended the terms of the 2010 agreement, although it did call for wage increases, albeit off the reduced base. The members rejected management’s first proposal, leading the company to warn that there “was no plan B” and that liquidation could be the result of a “no” vote. YRC’s lenders had conditioned future financing latitude strictly on a successful extension of the 2010 compact.

Now the threat of a contract rejection leading to the company’s dissolution comes from the union’s leadership. A rejection would be tantamount to the members authorizing a strike against YRC, Soehl said. But a strike would likely never come to pass because there would be no business left by the time a walkout took place, he added.

Neither YRC nor a spokesman for the union’s freight division responded to requests for comment.

About 24,000 Teamsters are employed at YRC, according to company estimates. (other estimates put it as high as 30,000 members. That includes members in a fourth unit, Reddaway, which is governed under a separate labor contract. YRC is one of the last – and the largest – truckers that were part of the once-mighty Teamsters’ freight division. At its peak prior to deregulation in the late 1970s, the division boasted more than 500,000 members. Since truck deregulation occurred in 1980, mergers, bankruptcies and the advent of non-union carriers have decimated the union contracts. The division has around 50,000 members today.

The contract proposal, which has received near-unanimous backing from local leaders, calls for a $4 per hour wage increase for most workers, spread out over five years, with a $1 per hour increase that would be effective immediately. The contract would be retroactive to April 1, 2019. That translates to an 18 percent increase for most workers over the contract’s life. The contract eliminates the current MOU, and no longer pegs wage increases to the lower thresholds. “A dollar is a dollar, not 85 cents,” Soehl said on the call.

YRC agreed to increase its annual contributions to the members’ health and welfare fund. The current pension levels would remain the same; the 2010 agreement froze pension contributions for a couple of years and resumed them at about 25 percent of prior levels.

The proposal restores one week’s paid vacation for workers that had earned four weeks vacation or more. That concession was made in 2010 and extended in the MOU. All unionized workers will get the additional one week’s pay, which will add 14,000 hours of pay per year, Soehl said.

The agreement establishes a class of non-Commercial Driver License driver who would handle local cartage rather than having YRC contract out the work to a non-union vendor. It also protects the higher wage for a CDL driver performing non-CDL driver functions. The pact prohibits the use of autonomous vehicles or drones for transporting freight. It allows, for the first time, the Holland regional unit to use purchased transportation, but caps the utilization to 8 percent of Holland total annual miles driven. It also empowers union negotiators to unilaterally curb or eliminate the purchased transportation programs at Holland and YRC Freight, where it has been in effect, on a limited scale, for five years.

Soehl said the union has extracted all the financial juice it could squeeze out of Overland Park, Kansas-based YRC. The company, Soehl said, doesn’t have another penny to spend beyond what it has agreed to in the five-year pact.

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Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.

48 Comments

  1. I worked at the corporate HQ in IT. The executives may make a lot, but not as much as you’d expect in a multi-billion dollar company. YRCW only has so much money.. It’s not fair to expect them to squeeze every ounce of money out when they’re trying to keep afloat a pension plan UPS bought out of.

  2. YRCW has not paid in to a pension plan in the west for almost a decade. They are giving us a 401k that is worth 25% of what they were paying in our pension. It is a 401k not pension. So when they are saying they are giving us a 25% pension, that is 100% false. So we are not asking too much if we are asking at the very least we want the 15% back that we SACRIFICED for the last 9 years to keep the company afloat so someday ( that someday is now) they would give us back what they owe us for standing with them when they asked us to. I don’t think they should run out of money when it is time to pay us, after they have been spreading it between eachother for the past many years. So we know what the market is like, the earning is like, and what we are worth for this company and what the company owes us, no matter what they say. We know what we are asking for John Doe.

  3. Yeah great idea, pay up or close up right? They don’t have the money like you think they do, that 15% is gone, and when you exact revenge over it you also put out of a job the thousands of non union workers that depend on their paychecks to feed their families. Don’t like the contract, vote yes then suck it up and find another job. Don’t drag everyone else because you are pissed off. None of your reasons are good enough to do that.

  4. Because of weak Teamsters like you, we lost our pension and pay. It is sad to see how much faith you have in your voting power. You are not going to lose your job Rob, you are going to gain a fair wage for a days work day. So sad for the way you think and how you have given up.

  5. Who said I was a teamster, Joshua? If I was, I would be smarter than to believe in the delusion that a Corporation is going to give back money they took to stay afloat. Yeah you got screwed, and so did the non union employees who also lost payments into their retirements and had their salaries slashed. Trust me guys, your voting power doesn’t hold so much power that you can get them to bend on that. It is powerful enough though to get a little more than what you have now, while keeping the doors open for company that employs thousands.

  6. Thank you for confirming my suspicion Rob. I wasn’t 100% sure I had a feeling you are a either an uneducated Teamsters or group of a management who is brainwashed in thinking we should believe what a company says. If I ca convince enough of them, we will show you the power we hold in our vote. Like I said on my earlier comment, If we vote it down I GUARANTY A PLAN B. VOTE NO AND GET WHAT IS COMING TO YOU TEAMSTERS BROTHERS.

  7. "…uneducated Teamsters or group of a management who is brainwashed in thinking we should believe what a company says."

    Haha, ok sport. Sit there in your tin foil hat spinning conspiracy theories and not even consider that I am instead neither one of those but has enough sense to see reality. Go ahead and vote no and see just how much better it gets. It won’t be much, if even at all.

  8. That’s ok Rob. I don’t expect you to understand what goes on at YRC because you said you are neither a Teamsters or part of the incompetent management. I guess that tells me that you are playing a guessing game while we are trying to ask for what we think is a fair deal. I made sure all the Teamsters believed that if they voted NO on the last conclusion, the company will come back with a plan B even though they said a NO vote would run us out of business. Guess what they had a plan B. You know why? Because we make the profits happen. It is as simple as that and they know it. The question is, does enough of the Teamsters know it call this company’s bluff just like we did last time. Come on Brothers we can do this. A No VOTE IS A BETTER FUTURE TO US AND TO THOSE WHO COMES AFTER US. UNITE AND BE STRONG!

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