BusinessDriver issuesNewsTop StoriesTrucking

Small group of workers vote to decertify Teamsters in California

Third vote in just a few months pushes union out; contracts at all 3 had never been finalized

(Editor’s note: The word “not” was inadvertenly dropped from the sentence about the decertified unions not making “adequate progress on securing a contract.” That has been corrected.)

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters might agree with the adage that “bad things happen in threes.”

For the third time in recent weeks, the union has been decertified at a transportation-related company. The vote was for a small group of workers, just 20. The employer is Harbor Distributing LLC, which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) report on the vote says does business as Allied Central Coast Distributing. It is located in Santa Maria, California.

The vote was narrow, according to the NLRB data, with 10 votes in favor of ditching the union and seven votes in favor of keeping it. Three voters apparently did not cast a ballot given that there were 20 eligible voters.

The vote at Harbor Distributing comes after earlier decertification votes at a small Los Angeles delivery company that does work primarily for DHL Express and an XPO facility in New Jersey. 

One aspect of all three votes: a lack of a contract between the union and the company. While members had voted in favor of establishing the union in all three locations, a contract covering them was not in place at any of them, according to a spokeswoman for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRWLDF). 

The lack of a contract raises several questions and scenarios, including the possibility that the companies in question were able to drag out the contract negotiation process enough that the rank and file, when presented with a chance to decertify the union, chose to turn 180 degrees and vote against the same union it had voted for not all that long ago. A possible reason: the union had not made adequate progress on securing a contract, but the degree of company resistance to the negotiations would be a subject of dispute.  

At the center of all three of these efforts, and the group giving publicity to these votes, is the NRWLDF. 

In its statement on the Allied Central vote, the NRWLDF said it had given “free legal aid” to the drivers there. It said it also had given assistance to the workers who voted out the Teamsters at the DHL-affiliated union and XPO in New Jersey.

The foundation, in announcing the results, again cited a change in labor law under the Trump administration that it said had made it more difficult for an ousted union to challenge the results of a vote to decertify. It cited that change when it touted its success in the earlier decertification votes. 

“Union officials’ ability to use this tactic to block or delay votes has been limited by recent NLRB rulemaking, finalized in 2020,” the foundation said in its statement. “Under the NLRB’s new policy, which draws on comments filed by the National Right to Work Foundation, union charges cannot indefinitely stall employee votes, and in most instances votes occur without delay.”

The Teamsters has declined comment on the decertification votes. 

The first three months of the year have not necessarily been all bad for the union. According to NLRB records, the Teamsters have won two certification votes this year at transportation-related facilities.

One was at Sierra Transport in Bakersfield, California, where in a 15-10 vote, drivers voted in favor of unionization with the Teamsters Local 87. Sierra describes itself on its website as a biosolids transportation firm. 

The other was at Diversified Transportation, a logistics company, in Lancaster, California. There, in a 23-2 vote, drivers voted in favor of Teamsters Local 848. 

However, as the example of the three companies that have recently decertified show, voting in favor of union representation is not the same as getting management to sign a contract with that union. 

More articles by John Kingston

Second California court rules key federal law doesn’t preempt AB5

Pro Act with its ABC test set for House vote this week

Dynamex ABC test can be used retroactively worker classification litigation

John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.