September 15, 2014

Con-way Freight workers vote to organize in Laredo

Teamsters to represent 113 workers; vote marks establishment of first union shop at LTL carrier.

By DC Velocity Staff

Con-way Freight workers in Laredo, Texas, agreed on Friday to unionize under the Teamsters union, the first time in the company's 31 years of operation that it will have to work with a bargaining unit.

The 113 drivers and dockworkers employed at the less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier's terminal in the Texas border city voted by a 55-49 margin to join Teamsters Local 657.

Frank Perkins, president of the San Antonio-based Local, said it requested representation elections at Con-way's Laredo terminal because of its visibility as the nation's busiest inland port, with 7,000 trucks crossing the Mexican border every day. Under rules established by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an election for union representation can be held if more than 30 percent of workers at the prospective location request one. In a related development, the Teamsters last Wednesday filed with the NLRB to hold elections at Con-way terminals in Los Angeles, Santa Fe Springs, and San Fernando, Calif.

"This is a great victory for the workers at Con-way, and we hope this campaign spreads," said Perkins in a statement, referring to the Laredo vote. A spokesman for parent Con-way Inc. was unavailable for comment.

Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law governing labor relations in the trucking industry, organizing must be done on a terminal-by-terminal basis. Con-way has more than 300 terminals.

In 1983, Consolidated Freightways Inc., which at the time operated a long-haul union carrier called CF Motor Freight, created a regional nonunion LTL unit and named it Con-way Freight. The move was enormously significant in the early days of trucking deregulation because it was the first major case of a company that owned a unionized carrier establishing a nonunion operation under the same corporate umbrella. The strategy was known as "double-breasting." The move was also a harbinger of the growing role that regional LTL services would play in U.S. transportation.

As Con-way Freight flourished over the years, the old CF Motor Freight, which was eventually rebranded Consolidated Freightways Corp., went into decline in the 1990s. It closed its doors on Labor Day in 2002 after failing to make adequate insurance payments. Stories abounded at the time of customers' freight literally being dumped along the sides of roads as the CF system shut down overnight.

The victory in Laredo may not be the last for Teamster organizing efforts in LTL trucking. According to published reports, more than 30 percent of nonunion carrier FedEx Freight's 250 drivers have requested a vote on union representation. Local 135 in Indianapolis will file an election request with the NLRB in the next 60 or 90 days, according to these reports. The Teamsters are also seeking representation elections at FedEx Freight terminals in Philadelphia and Cinnaminson, N.J., according to these reports.

FedEx Freight is a unit of Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx Corp. It operates 355 terminals.

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