April 20, 2017

Teamsters, YRC Freight and two units agree to mid-course change in contract

Measure to boost wages of certain workers; dissident group says move violates union constitution, creates unprecedented wage differential within company.

By DC Velocity Staff

The Teamsters Union, less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier YRC Freight Inc. and two of its regional units have modified their existing contract to provide wage raises to certain full-time dockworkers. However, the change has drawn the ire of the gadfly Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), which said the action violates the Teamsters' constitution that calls for a full rank-and-file vote on any mid-contract adjustment.

TDU also said the increases only apply to a small group of YRC workers, while many will receive no adjustment at all. For the first time ever, freight Teamsters working at the same company will receive different wages at different terminals, the dissident group said.

The agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding (MOU), was signed April 4 by officials of the union's freight division, and by executives at YRC Freight and regional companies Holland and New Penn Motor Express. The raises apply to full-time dock employees who don't have a commercial drivers license (CDL). New "non-CDL employees" would start at $16 an hour, while existing workers who had not reached that threshold but were on a path toward achieving it would see their wages raised to $16 an hour, according to language in the MOU. Many of these workers started at $13.60 an hour, according to TDU.

The higher wages earned by the non-CDL employees will not be subject to the 15-percent wage cut that workers accepted in 2010, when Overland Park, Kan.-based YRC was barely able to stay in business.

In the MOU, the union and the companies acknowledged the problems in hiring labor at the prevailing wage rates. At certain locations, the companies have been forced to use a cartage provider to service the freight because there weren't enough in-house hands to do so, according to the document. Neither YRC nor the Teamsters responded to requests for comment.

TDU said the inability to recruit and retain workers has been due to the "pitiful" wages that have been offered. The group, which is almost always at odds with mainstream Teamster leadership, said that while some terminals will get raises under the measure, most will be left out.

Ken Paff, TDU's national organizer, said in an e-mail that the Teamsters constitution requires a company's rank and file to vote on any mid-course change in a contract's language. YRC's unionized employees ratified in January 2014 a five-year contract extension.

In an e-mail, Paff said YRC "has a duty to bargain" with the Teamsters union, especially before implementing what he called "differential rates." Paff speculated that Teamster leadership believes it didn't have to call for a vote since the measure represents a pay increase for some workers.

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