Yellow, union locked in war of words

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Updated Mar 31, 2023

Citing "egregious falsehoods and baseless insults," Yellow (CCJ Top 250, No. 6) Senior Vice President Trucker Relations Bryan Reifsnyder, in a letter sent Thursday to John Murphy, National Freight Director International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), laid bare that the carrier intends to move forward with its network consolidation plans, painting the union representing more than 22,000 Yellow employees as an obstacle that to-date has acted in "bad faith."

Yellow last week met with union leadership to discuss a proposed change of operations, which would consolidate its YRC Freight, New Penn and Holland linehaul network and terminal operations as part of the Overland Park, Kansas-based carrier's efforts to create a "super regional carrier." Based on discussions with more than 100 local unions and with Freight Division leadership over the course of several months, Reifsnyder said he thought the purpose of the meeting would be to iron out several remaining issues prior to a scheduled hearing next week. 

"Unfortunately, rather than discuss any additional modifications and clarifications to the proposed change, the Teamsters chose gamesmanship and saber rattling," Reifsnyder wrote in his letter, a copy of which was obtained by CCJ, "using the hour-long meeting as a photo op and a platform to try and derail the change and launch a public campaign to spread misinformation about the One Yellow transformation."

Yellow is in the second phase of its One Yellow strategy to improve efficiency, speed, choice and value for its customers. Phases 2 and 3 of One Yellow, which include aligning operations in the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast and Central regions, are set to take place this year. Phase 1, integrating the linehaul networks of YRC Freight and Reddaway in the Western region to support both regional and long-haul services, was completed last year with union approval. 

In a memo to union members Wednesday, Murphy said Yellow's proposal seeks to "force road drivers to work on the dock, to modify and merge seniority lists, and to alter established dispatch and work rules. The proposal violated various agreed upon local union agreements concerning the use and protection of 'dock-only' workers," and the changes violate National Master Freight Agreement.

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Reifsnyder contends that the plan does not violate the agreement and cited "Yellow’s contractual right to complete its One Yellow merger" in his communication to Murphy Thursday, adding "that it is incredible for you to even make that suggestion because the change scheduled for hearing next week was crafted based on IBT feedback. As you well know, the change simply builds on an existing agreement that has an outstanding track record of success over the course of the fifteen years it has been in operation, and merging seniority lists (where applicable) significantly increases follow-the-work opportunities."

The union last week canceled the hearing next week; another sticking point for Reifsnyder.

"The IBT has sought unilaterally to cancel that hearing without justification – again, to derail this change," he wrote. "The change was mailed to the local unions and scheduled for a hearing, all in complete compliance with Article 8, Section 6 of our contract. The Union has no right – contractual or otherwise – to unilaterally cancel that hearing."

IBT said in a statement last week that Yellow sought to ram changes through without a vote from union membership, but Yellow claims that was never the case and last week called on the IBT to allow employees to vote on its proposed changes and "let employees make their own decisions about Yellow’s continued modernization efforts and their future job security."

"Though Yellow disagrees that such a vote is required, we readily agreed to submit the change to a vote," Reifsnyder wrote Thursday. Murphy himself, in his memo to members Wednesday, noted that there is no agreement on the part of (Teamsters National Freight Industry Negotiating Committee) to put Yellow’s proposed change of operations out to a membership vote. Rather than a vote, Murphy said, Yellow's proposed changes would constitute a complete rewrite of agreements between the union and the carrier. 

"It was communicated to the company that due to the significant contractual changes it seeks, the appropriate way for Yellow to pursue such changes would be to reopen the current agreement; engage in legitimate, transparent, and full bargaining with TNFINC; and, ultimately, if a new tentative agreement is reached, submit such a TA for membership ratification. These steps would be in accordance with Article XII of the Teamsters Constitution," he said. "It goes without saying the Teamsters Union would have its own demands in the event bargaining were to occur."

Reifsnyder noted the completion of One Yellow was of "vital importance of Yellow’s successful transformation into a super regional carrier," and scoffed at the union's suggestion that Yellow proposed the change to dupe investors.

"The company’s sole goal is to modernize its network to meet our customers’ needs and position the company for the long-term success that is necessary to preserve 22,000 good paying Teamster jobs," Reifsnyder penned. "We have discussed this many, many times with the IBT at all levels – and in not one of those meetings did anyone on the Teamsters side of the table ever challenge the necessity of the proposed network modernization. Not once."

CCJ reached out to the ITB Thursday afternoon for comment but it did not respond by Friday morning. 

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].