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Coast to Coast: Southern Region

By Howard M. Bloom and Patrick L. Egan
  • April 13, 2002

Teamsters Troubles, Overnite

The Teamsters’ long-running dispute with Overnite Transportation Company, which has some of its largest terminals in the South, including Atlanta and Memphis, has spilled over into other workplaces. Teamsters hand-billers have targeted unionized and union-free entities doing business with Overnite. Union-free employers should take preventive steps to ensure they do not get caught in the cross-fire of this (or any other) labor dispute.

In recent years, the Teamsters have engaged in strikes and ambitious organizing efforts at Overnite, where the Teamsters currently represent a minority of the company’s employees. Coordinated efforts are underway to induce Overnite to agree to Teamsters representation for more of its employees. As part of the Teamsters’ corporate campaign to pressure Overnite’s suppliers and customers, the AFL-CIO is supplying money, manpower, and public support from President John Sweeney. Carrying out Sweeney’s threat "to tell Overnite customers and the public about the anti-worker, anti-community behavior of Overnite," Teamsters agents have targeted properties during shift changes, stopping employees’ cars and distributing handbills to customers and suppliers. For example, one handbill states, "Why are some businesses like ______ doing business with Overnite – a company that has illegally discriminated, intimidated, and retaliated against AFRICAN-AMERICAN and other workers?" and "Would YOU Do Business with the Oppressor?"

The Teamsters’ strategy of targeting Overnite’s union-free customers has yielded some unexpected – but pleasant –results, such as organizing drives at those companies. Union-free employers doing business with Overnite should be prepared for possible Teamsters activity. Preventive measures include instituting and enforcing lawful rules restricting access, solicitation and distribution by employees and non-employees. Management also should be trained how to communicate lawfully and effectively with employees regarding union activity and the disadvantages of union representation. Additionally, employers should assess their vulnerability to unsolicited union organizing, for example, by evaluating whether employees feel they are treated fairly and with respect, and judging if wages and benefits are competitive in the employer’s industry and area. Once union activity has begun, it may be too late to implement pro-active policies and procedures.

©2002 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Reproduction of this material in whole or in part is prohibited without the express prior written consent of Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm that built its reputation on providing workplace law representation to management. Founded in 1958, the firm has grown to more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide serving clients across a wide range of practices and industries including government relations, healthcare and sports law. More information about Jackson Lewis can be found at www.jacksonlewis.com.

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