As Teamsters members and supporters picket at 109 Overnite Transportation terminals in protest of unfair labor practices, a former Overnite supervisor has come forth with testimony to the National Labor Relations Board about how the country's largest non-union less-than-truckload carrier systematically tries to get union supporters off of its payroll.
Dale Watson was operations manager at the Memphis, TN, terminal, where the strike started Sunday. Under Terminal Manager Danny Warner, Watson wrote up union supporters for "Mickey Mouse" infractions that other employees were allowed to get away with. After enough write-ups, these "troublemakers" were fired.
"My boss ordered me to get something on these guys, because he hated them with a purple passion," Watson told reporters during a press conference Tuesday. "I went out of my way to hammer Teamster employees. Unless it was an outright, safety-related violation, I would not bother company supporters." Watson says there were "hit lists" of mostly union supporters that he was supposed to target.
Watson also says he was discouraged from hiring union supporters. After union LTL carrier Nations Way went bankrupt earlier this year, Watson alleges that in a conference call with the home office, "we were discouraged from hiring Nations Way people or anyone affiliated with a union."
After a brief stint at union LTL carrier Yellow during 1998, Watson says, he changed his mind about the union and stopped being so vigilant about "busting" Teamsters supporters when he returned to Overnite after three months. He's convinced his more lenient attitude was why he was fired earlier this month.
Overnite officials, however, say Watson is simply a disgruntled employee trying to get back at the company because he was fired.
Teamsters spokesman Dave Cameron says more Overnite managers will be coming forward with similar stories.
Meanwhile, Overnite says the strike is having a negligible effect on its business. No shipments have been delayed or halted as company trucks crossed through picket lines. More than 90% of the picketers are not Overnite employees, according to the company. The carrier has, however, spent a lot of money bringing in replacement workers. Overnite plans to use only three of its four Atlanta-area terminals, and probably will route shipments out of New Orleans through its Baton Rouge, LA, terminal.
Overnite says more than two-thirds of Overnite's 1,800 Teamster-represented employees crossed the picket lines Monday. For instance, it says, all 80 workers at its Richfield, OH, terminal showed up for work Monday, even though there was a picket line outside the gate. On the other hand, the Teamsters say that only about 20 of the 260 workers at Overnite's Memphis terminal crossed the picket line.
The Teamsters hope to spread the strike to all 166 Overnite terminals.