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Court reinstates ABF suit against YRCW, Teamsters

A $750-million lawsuit that was dismissed in April has been reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in St. Louis.

A $750-million lawsuit that was dismissed in April has been reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in St. Louis. The suit, filed by less-than-truckload carrier ABF against YRC Worldwide (YRCW) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), claims that YRCW and the Teamsters violated the National Master Freight Agreement (NMFA) through the agreement of concessions to assist YRC in its restructuring.

ABF, the largest subsidiary of Arkansas Best Corp., issued a brief statement following the court’s decision Wednesday stating that it “is very pleased with this decision and looks forward to further proceedings on its lawsuit seeking to level the playing field for all parties of the National Master Freight Agreement.”

Originally filed in November 2010, the suit claims that the defendants violated the NMFA in 2009 and again in 2010 by entering into concessionary side agreements with YRC companies to the exclusion of ABF and other carriers that are signatories of the NMFA.

Named in the original suit were IBT; the Teamsters National Freight Industry Negotiating Committee; Teamsters Locals 373 (Fort Smith, AR) and 878 (Little Rock, AR), individually and as representatives of a class of all Teamsters Locals that are parties to the NMFA (National Master Freight Agreement); YRC Inc.; New Penn Motor Express Inc.; USF Holland Inc.; and Trucking Management, Inc.

In April, a lower court dismissed the claim, indicating that ABF did not have legal standing to bring the suit. The appeals court reversed that decision.

ABF also sought an award of monetary damages estimated to be approximately $750 million.

Legal proceedings in the case can be followed here.

The Teamsters and YRCW have reached several agreements in recent years that have adjusted wages and benefits for members in an effort to keep YRCW in compliance with debt covenants.

ABF, which reached a separate concession agreement with its union leadership only to see the rank-and-file members reject the deal, is claiming that the agreements reached between YCRW and Teamsters should apply to all carriers in the NMFA since it is a change in the NMFA contract.

At the time of the original court filing, ABF said that the concessionary agreements were “unlawful, unfair and inconsistent with the plain language, intent and purpose of the NMFA and that they resulted in a substantial competitive disadvantage for ABF.”

Kathy Fieweger, a spokesperson for ABF, told Fleet Owner in November that the suit is in response to the inability of ABF to successfully negotiate with the Teamsters, which then struck a separate agreement with YRC. ABF has about 8,000 union employees.

“No one is supposed to have a [separate] agreement” under the NMFA, she said. “There is no one company that is supposed to have a side agreement.”

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