Both Overnite Transportation and the Teamsters Union say they were pleased at how a hearing went last week in Overnite's appeal of a National Labor Relations Board ruling.
Overnite appealed last November's NLRB ruling that overturned the Teamsters representation elections from four terminals in 1995. The union lost the elections, and claimed that the loss was because Overnite had "poisoned the water" with a pay increase just before the election and with threats against union supporters. The labor board agreed, and ordered Overnite to bargain with the union as the employees' representative at those four locations: Norfolk, VA; Bridgeton, MO; Louisville, KY; and North Atlanta, GA.
Overnite spokesman Ira Rosenfeld says he was encouraged by the questioning of the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA. One of the key lines of questioning pursued by the judges was the fact that the union won six elections in eight other cities during the same time as the contest elections.
According to Teamsters spokesman Dave Cameron, "just because Overnite polluted the water and a few terminals happened to win a majority doesn't mean the water wasn't polluted." Cameron says if Overnite had not engaged in the activities it did, the union would have won the terminals it did by a far larger margin. The Teamsters union issued a press release Friday saying Overnite had been "hammered" in the appeals court hearing.
The judges also asked why the elections could simply not be re-run. The union and labor board lawyers contend that even five years after the elections, the atmosphere is still so tainted that a fair election would be impossible.
"Having heard all the arguments and the questioning, I would say Overnite was very pleased with the way the haring went and that we'll get it overturned," Rosenfeld says. "We'd like to have people have the right to vote; we think it will turn out exactly the same way it did five years ago."
The court's decision is expected to be handed down within six months.
The Teamsters have been waging an unfair labor practices strike against Overnite since last October. Last week marked the 172nd bargaining session, according to the Teamsters, with little progress. According to published reports, Overnite has received several buyout offers, but executives at Overnite and parent company Union Pacific characterize the suitors as "bottom feeders" who are trying to capitalize on Overnite's labor problems.