The effects of the Teamsters' unfair labor practices strike against Overnite Transportation, now in its fifth day, are hard to gauge. It varies greatly depending on whether you talk to the trucking company or the union.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, the Teamsters said that 126 Overnite terminals in 36 states were on strike. The union hopes to spread the strike to all 166 Overnite locations.
However, Overnite says operation remain normal, with no interruptions. About 95% of the company employees are coming to work, according to the company. The vast majority of picketers, it says, are not affiliated with Overnite.
"There are reports out of California that the Teamsters are resorting to paying people off the street to man their picket lines," says Gordon Mackenzie, senior vice president-operations.
As part of its strike contingency plan, Overnite has diverted traffic from four terminals, says Overnite spokesman Ira Rosenfeld. "We've added security at all of the facilities, and you can save a little bit of money by taking the people that want to work to a neighboring facility. This way you can put a lock on the gate until the job action is over." The four facilities affected are New Orleans, Little Rock, Milwaukee, and Rockford, IL. The company may also close the Laredo, TX, terminal.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that in the case of the Little Rock terminal, the facility had to be closed because most of the workers joined the strike. At least 27 of the 38 employees at the terminal are represented by the union.
In addition to consolidating operations, the company has deployed employees from a pool of more than 1,000 volunteers from other Overnite service centers to man the affected areas.
Union officials say that several picketers have been injured by trucks crossing the picket lines. In addition, the Memphis Commercial Appeal Online yesterday reported that according to union officials, some "rolling pickets" in Osceola, AR, were threatened with jail time by local police. These rolling, or ambulatory, pickets consist of picketing Teamsters following Overnite trucks and picketing at delivery destinations.
Union and company officials also disagree on the reason for the strike. The union says it's about unfair labor practices at Overnite. Overnite says it's because the Teamsters want to get their hands on its pension fund.
Analysts say the job action is not a "killer issue" for Overnite or its parent company, Union Pacific.