The Teamsters, who have been trying to organize Overnite since 1994, say the company has responded to organizing efforts "with one of the most horrific anti-worker, unlawful campaigns in recent memory," says Teamsters spokesman David Cameron. "Intimidation, harassment, unlawful discharge, unlawfully withholding wages, unlawful bad faith bargaining."
The union faces an unusual challenge with this strike, because the Teamsters do not represent all of Overnite's workers. While the company and the union disagree on the exact numbers, it is no more than half. To overcome this handicap, the union has been taking its battle to customers and potential investors, and is using a new strike tactic, the "ambulatory" picket line.
Strikers will follow Overnite trucks and set up picket lines at the customer while the truck is delivering its load. Cameron says no union vendor will cross the picket line. The Teamsters used the tactic for the first time in July during a limited strike against 11 Overnite terminals. Cameron says the tactic was very successful; Overnite officials say it had only a minimal effect.
Key issues at stake include control of the workers' pension fund, as well as pay and work rules. According to the Teamsters, Overnite wants a seven-year contract that does not call for wage increases, but rather would require wages to be renegotiated each year. Last week, Overnite refused an offer of mediation.