Con-way Freight (CCJ Top 250, No. 5) has improved its batting average to .500 after going to 2-for-3 against a Teamsters effort to organize workers last week in Southern California, but with a couple of recent wins at Con-Way and FedEx, the union will continue the push to revitalize its trucking presence, industry observers suggest.
In union representation elections Oct. 23, Con-Way Freight employees in Santa Fe Springs and San Fernando Valley voted to remain union-free. In downtown Los Angeles, a “very narrow majority” of employees voted in favor of union representation.
“We were gratified that our employees in Santa Fe Springs and San Fernando Valley, after hearing all the facts, chose to maintain their union-free status and voted to reject the union,” Greg Lehmkuhl, president of Con-way Freight, said in a statement. “We continue to believe that our company can best meet the needs of our employees by maintaining an open, respectful and direct relationship with our employees, without the interference of a union.”
Lehmkuhl added that the company was disappointed with the results of the election in downtown Los Angeles, and is currently investigating whether any unlawful or other conduct occurred that may have interfered with the employees’ right to make a free and uncoerced decision in the election.
“These elections have no effect on other locations of Con-way Freight and will not affect the company’s overall ability to continue delivering reliable, high-quality service to our customers,” Lehmkuhl said.
The company did not include vote totals in its statement, but according to a forum on teamstersonline.com, the vote in downtown L.A. was 22-20 for the Teamsters, while San Fernando Valley voted 17-16 and Santa Fe Springs went 78-56 against union representation. The Teamsters have not offered a formal reaction.
The Teamsters’ first success at Con-way Freight was Sept. 12 when drivers and dock workers at the Laredo, Texas, terminal voted 55-49 to join the union.
Then on Sept. 30 Con-Way Freight announced a new driver compensation package that provides an increase in current pay rates while reducing the time it takes for drivers to reach top pay scale. The package is also designed to align pay rates across the network to be “competitive for their geographic market.” Those changes take effect Jan. 4, 2015.
But the Teamsters’ push continues: Also last week, the union filed for a representational election at the Miami Lakes (Fla.) Con-Way Freight terminal. And, according to posts on changeconway2win.blogspot.com, the Irvine, Calif., and Harlingen, Texas, locations have filed as well. These could not be immediately confirmed.
In a Monday note to investors regarding the Teamsters’ efforts at FedEx Freight, Stifel analyst David Ross notes that the union has been losing members in the trucking industry for 35 years “to the point where trucking barely registers as a segment within the organization.”
“Oddly, unions would have a more appropriate role in truckload, where worker wages have trailed inflation for decades, but the industry is too fragmented with too much churn to make any inroads there,” Ross says. “In LTL, the main difference between union and non-union companies is not worker pay, but rather, number of workers. Union companies have been failing for decades, and even though YRC is still standing, it had to eliminate around 30,000 Teamster jobs just to have a chance at surviving, in our view.”