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Teamsters advance on UPS Freight

June 28, 2006
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and UPS Corp. have secured a “card check” agreement that would allow UPS Freight—formerly Overnite Transportation— employees to vote for union representation

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and UPS Corp. have secured a “card check” agreement that would allow UPS Freight—formerly Overnite Transportation—
employees to vote for union representation. UPS would recognize the union if over 50% of its Freight employees agree to representation.

According to a Teamsters news release, it intends to “organize one group, negotiate a strong contract and then build on such a victory to organize other terminals.” Teamsters was contacted but had no information as to which terminal it will attempt to organize first.

“[Teamsters has] always had the right to come in and try to organize at a UPS Freight location,” Ken Sternad, UPS spokesman told FleetOwner. “We thought it was prudent from a business perspective to agree with [Teamsters] in terms of the process and communication and transparency [of their organizing efforts].”

Under that agreement, Teamsters will share with UPS information on where and when it is campaigning, as well as the communication materials involved.

“We’re coordinating with Teamsters so [the organizing process] doesn’t become unnecessarily contentious and so we could focus on serving our customers and growing our business,” Sternad said. “In turn, we’d take a neutral stance.”

The management team of UPS Freight is comprised of mostly the same people who headed the former Overnite Transportation—the same team that prevailed against a bitter three-year Teamsters strike over organizing efforts. The strike ended in October 2002 after certain decisions by the National Labor Relations Board and Overnite still managed to stay profitable.

Then-Overnite president & CEO Leo Suggs said in a statement after the strike ended that taking care of employees “has allowed Overnite to thrive even as the Teamsters have tried to hurt this company and its people.” Suggs is currently the president of UPS Freight.

According to a Teamsters news release in May, UPS Freight employees received anti-union DVDs via mail sent by UPS Freight executives who formerly headed Overnite. According to the news release, UPS Corp. CEO Mike Eskew responded in a letter to Teamster president Jim Hoffa that the DVDs were sent without his authorization or knowledge.

“We feel [this] has been resolved,” Teamsters spokeswoman Leigh Strope told FleetOwner. “We’re focused on the work ahead of us. We appreciate Eskew’s letter and UPS’s willingness to make this agreement and we feel it says a lot…on the future.”

“The UPS Freight management team is just as interested as we are on staying focused on serving the customers and growing the business, as opposed to being by distracted by Teamsters activity,” Sternad said. “[The UPS Freight team] would agree that the smoother the process, and the more focused they are the more likely it is that everybody would win.”

No details have been set as to when or which terminal the “check-cards” will be distributed to employees, but the Teamsters indicated it will pursue unionization efforts aggressively.

“For more than half a century workers at Overnite have been trying to form a union,” Teamsters Freight Division director Tyson Johnson said in a statement released yesterday. “We have the upper hand now.”

“[The check card agreement] is great for Teamsters to even get this kind of concession,” Satish Jindel, president of S.J. Consulting told FleetOwner. “UPS is a great company at managing union relations that they must have gotten something in return from Teamsters to give this leverage away.”

For previous coverage, read UPS deal sparks Overnite-Teamsters uncertainty

To comment on the article, write to Terrence Nguyen at [email protected]

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