Teamsters union General President James P. Hoffa today sharply criticized YRC Worldwide Inc. for launching a "secret effort" to acquire Arkansas Best Corp.'s less-than-truckload (LTL) unit, ABF Freight System Inc., in the midst of intense negotiations between ABF and the union over a new collective-bargaining agreement.
In a statement, Hoffa called it "unconscionable" that YRC would move on a possible acquisition of ABF at such a critical juncture for both ABF and the Teamsters. "This interference in the collective bargaining process is an affront to all of the hardworking men and women at both companies," Hoffa said.
Hoffa said the union would demand from YRC a "full accounting of the calculations and decisions that went into their latest misstep." The Teamsters represent workers at YRC and ABF.
On May 3, Teamster international leaders and ABF agreed on a tentative five-year contract. The compact must now be approved by local leaders representing ABF workers and then by the rank-and-file itself. YRC CEO James L. Welch and Judy McReynolds, president and CEO of Arkansas Best Corp., ABF's parent, met March 22 at Arkansas Best's Fort Smith, Ark., headquarters to discuss a possible deal. Arkansas Best said Wednesday night that it was not interested in discussing a transaction with YRC at that time. Welch said yesterday, however, that he thinks a combination of the two companies remains in the best interests of all stakeholders.
"Before YRC begins looking for acquisition targets," Hoffa said. "They should first restore our members' wages and pension contributions." In mid-2009, YRC and the Teamsters agreed to a series of agreements calling for workers to take 15-percent pay cuts and for management to forego pension contributions for 18 months. The contributions were restored at the start of 2011 but only at one-fourth the levels they were at before.
Those and other actions by the Teamsters were widely credited with saving YRC from bankruptcy and possible dissolution as well as preserving the jobs of 25,000 or so Teamsters.
"We thought they had finally learned the lessons of past management catastrophes. Unfortunately it appears they have not," Hoffa said.