Yellow Corp. has accepted a challenge by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to negotiate its proposed network overhaul changes with the union during contract bargaining.
The LTL carrier’s board of directors voted Friday to open the National Master Freight Agreement, which governs its employment of 22,000 union-represented workers across the country, Yellow spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement. The vote was first reported by FreightWaves.
“Completing One Yellow is essential to our company’s modernization efforts and is necessary for us to maintain and strengthen jobs while we compete against non-union carriers,” Nauert said. “Opening the contract early requires agreement from both parties. We have notified the IBT of that board decision and await a response.”
A Teamsters spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
If the union agrees, the move would allow talks to resume regarding the carrier’s plan to sell 28 terminals, merge seniority lists and create utility employee positions, in which drivers also work Yellow’s docks. The existing contract ends March 31, 2024 and bargaining over a new one had been expected to begin later this year.
The company has said the overhaul, which seeks to combine its four separate operating companies by closing smaller, end-of-line terminals and consolidating operations at larger regional facilities, is critical to its survival.
But Teamsters National Freight Director John Murphy noted on a member call last week that the union gave the carrier “literally billions of dollars in wage and pension concessions” in the last round of contract bargaining in 2019.
Worker wages remain lower than at Yellow’s competitors, despite executive bonuses, and the company has at least a $5-per-hour-per-employee labor cost advantage over ABF Freight, the union’s other legacy carrier, Murphy said.
Among the company’s requests in bargaining before the pandemic were dock-only positions that would allow drivers to remain on the road, the union leader said on the call.
When COVID-19 hit, the company neglected to pay health care or pension contributions for four months, until receiving a $700 million bailout loan from the federal government, he said.
“Bottom line, members: We have given, and given, and given, and this company has not demonstrated that it can do a good job managing itself,” Murphy told members. “The concessions stand is closed.”
Moving up the timeline for contract bargaining would contribute to an already busy year for the Teamsters. Beyond the recent blowup in talks with Yellow, the union is simultaneously negotiating new contracts with ABF Freight and TForce Freight this year. It has promised to “fight like hell” for its combined 15,000 members at those carriers.