When your union president writes to you that “it may or may not be that some modifications to the contract are necessary,” then sit on your wallet, because someone may be reaching for it. On Jan. 9, Teamster President James Hoffa wrote that to 3,700 U.S. carhaulers who work for Allied. Many more Canadian Teamsters work for Allied, where it is not in bankruptcy.
Any possible concessions agreed to by the IBT would have to be approved by carhaulers in a referendum vote, per our union constitution.
At the same time, the investment group Yucaipa and investor Ron Burkle have been playing an active role in developing a plan for Allied’s future, and also purchased much of PTS’s debt. PTS (Performance Transportation Services) owns three carhaul carriers: Leaseway, E&L, and Hadley. If Yucaipa acquires both companies, the combined operations would include some 70 percent of the unionized carhaul industry.
With Yucaipa possibly ready to take on hauling the majority of all cars in North America, it seems the wrong time to be offering concessions to Allied, which has been struggling for years and operating in bankruptcy for the past 18 months.
Allied is asking the bankruptcy court for an extension of time for its plan to emerge from bankruptcy.
We asked a number of Allied Teamsters why they thought that the IBT leadership might be ready to give concessions at this time. Detroit Allied driver J. D. Jackson summed it up: “The IBT election is over, and the next one is five years away.” Jackson was formerly an International rep and once headed the IBT Carhaul Division. Several other Allied Teamsters told us pretty much the same thing.
Last month, Forbes magazine’s online edition reported: “This spring Yucaipa paid $100 million to buy a controlling stake in Allied Holdings, a trucking outfit in bankruptcy proceedings. ‘(Former President) Clinton got it to the point where Hoffa actually helped us with that deal, something I couldn’t have gotten on my own,’ Burkle says.”
Why would Hoffa help Ron Burkle take over Allied at a bargain price, only to turn around and give Burkle concessions?
Members in the Dark
The International Union is keeping the rank and file in the dark about plans. In Hoffa’s letter, he gives a website address for members to get “the latest information.” Unfortunately, it’s a wrong website address that leads nowhere. When you do find the right address, the latest posting on it is from last June.
We need a plan to save our union in carhaul and organizing to defend this strong union sector, and we need membership involvement to make it work.