After more than 150 negotiation sessions between the two parties for the past four years have yielded no contract, Teamsters officials say the union is on the brink of a nationwide strike. In rejecting the mediation offer, Overnite said while it hopes the Teamsters union doesn't carry out its threat of a strike, the company can continue to operate without serious disruption if a strike does occur. The Teamsters accepted Friday's offer from the mediation service.
According to the union, Overnite wants a seven-year contract with no annual wage and benefit increases. Instead, the company wants to negotiate wage increases each year. Teamsters officials say that not only does this mean there is no guarantee that there will ever be a wage or benefit increase over the next seven years, but that the company could even use these negotiations to take away existing wages and benefits.
Since the Teamsters began their campaign to organize Overnite in 1994, the union has won elections and bargaining orders at 37 terminals. The trucking company has countered with decertification petitions and legal challenges. Earlier this month, workers at Overnite's Detroit terminal received notice from the National Labor Relations Board that their 1995 election for Teamsters representation has finally been certified. Overnite challenged the election - and those at other terminals - because workers were taking pictures during the voting, claiming that was intimidation.
If the Teamsters do call a strike, in addition to urging Overnite drivers and dock workers to walk off the job, the Teamsters may follow Overnite trucks and set up picket lines at delivery sites. The picketers could not turn away trucks at the delivery sites, which would be illegal.
Meanwhile, the Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training is targeting the union for alleged violence. Three Republican senators on the committee, including chairman Michael Enzi of Wyoming, have written a letter to Teamsters President James P. Hoffa asking him to explain recent acts of violence during the Overnite campaign.