Court okays Teamsters strike at Yellow, labor org says members don't have to participate

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The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas denied Friday Yellow's (CCJ Top 250, No. 6) request for an injunction that would block its Teamsters member employees from kicking off a work stoppage that could begin as early as Monday.

YRC Freight and Holland failed to make a payment to the Central States Health and Welfare Fund and the Central States Pension Fund due July 15, and the Central States Board of Trustees voted Monday to suspend health care benefits and cease pension accruals effective Sunday. In response, Teamsters said they would prepare for a possible strike as early as Monday, July 24 if the payment is not made. 

“Yellow thought they could scheme the system, but the law was on the side of workers. Teamsters have emerged victorious,” Teamsters General President Sean M. O'Brien said via statement Friday. “The company has two more days to fulfill its obligations or we will strike. Teamsters at Yellow are furious and ready to act. They are done with the mistreatment and mismanagement.”

The ruling, which Yellow said Friday night it planned to appeal, clears the way for a potential financially crippling strike at the Overland Park, Kansas, LTL giant. 

"The court, recognizing a strike would likely kill the company, resulting in the loss of 30,000 jobs, cautioned the Union – that while it won today’s battle, it could very well lose the war," Yellow said via statement. 

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation on Friday issued a special legal notice to employees of the trucking company as the likelihood of a strike grows by the hour. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization. Its mission is to eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs.

The legal notice informs Yellow workers of their right to resign union membership and continue working despite Teamsters officials’ strike order, as well as how to cut off funding for unwanted union activity.

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“Many Yellow employees are likely questioning whether the hardline stance of Teamsters President Sean O’Brien and other Teamsters bosses is really in Yellow employees’ best interest,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “As O’Brien himself has acknowledged on social media, a strike could result in Yellow folding and a loss of work for 22,000 truckers – workers that Teamsters chiefs claim to ‘represent.’”

Mix further charges that Teamster brass could be playing hardball with Yellow with eyes on a much bigger prize: securing a better deal with UPS (No. 2). 

"More likely than not, O’Brien and the bosses atop the Teamsters union are playing such games with Yellow workers’ livelihoods in order to maintain a façade of strength for upcoming contract talks with UPS management,” he said. 

Yellow and the Teamsters are warring over implementation of the carrier's 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. 

Teamsters have blocked further rollout, citing that the changes violate the union's current labor agreement with the fleet – a charge Yellow has denied and claims the IBT roadblock has cost the company more than $137 million over the past nine months. The current collective bargaining agreement between the Teamsters and Yellow expires March 31, 2024.

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]