May 1, 2008: Roadway, Yellow and Holland have all submitted changes of operations that mark the beginning of the new “utility driver” model. Hundreds of road and city jobs would be eliminated and converted to the utility employee classification. No doubt more will follow this initial change.
Each of the three changes establishes 12 “velocity centers” throughout the East, South, and Midwest aimed at reducing transit time for up to 25 percent of all shipments.
Reportedly, ABF will submit a utility employee change soon.
The hearings will be held in mid-May, where the union can approve, deny, or approve with modifications. The time to get reasonable protections for Teamster jobs is now.
Many Teamsters have reacted with anger, since the International Union sold the contract proposal by arguing this kind of change could not happen. The January 15 Teamster Freight Update states that: “The UE will handle next-day and second-day freight exclusively, in a designated part of the terminal.”
But now the carriers seem to want no restriction on what is UE freight.
“The UE will not replace ‘meet-and-turn’ runs or existing long haul turn runs.” But now this change would replace turn runs with UEs.
“The UE will not be used to replace or eliminate employees in the existing LTL operations.” But this change calls for many existing employees to move or take a layoff.
Other contract bulletins issued by the International Union repeated these same claims.
Unfortunately, the actual UE contract language in Article 3, Section 7 gives wide latitude to the employers. Now is the time, with the first of such changes, to get the language clarified in a way that gives some protection to Teamsters and local unions.
If the companies get complete freedom to designate any and all freight to be UE freight, any contract protections may be impossible to enforce.
Time to Push for Limits
Dock workers at breakbulks could be sitting at home while UE employees are working the dock. Locals could be played against one another.
What does it mean for foreign power courtesy, when road drivers may be in bed where UEs are dispatched to run into the road driver’s home terminal?
Without any limit on what is UE freight, in the future road drivers could be an endangered species.
There are many issues to address. It’s time for the union leadership to take a hard look at our ability to enforce the contract and protect jobs in the future. By sitting down the carriers now, and getting some written guidelines Teamsters can live with, we can go a long way to protect our members and contract, while allowing the carriers to implement their changes.
If YRC doesn’t want to negotiate reasonable guidelines, there is no reason to rush to approve their proposed changes. They’ve wanted to break down Teamster classifications for many years. They can wait another month if that is what it takes for our union to get reasonable guarantees that freight Teamsters need.